Dave Draper

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Answers to common weight training questions
Updated: 33 min 54 sec ago

Overweight and out of shape

September 18, 2017 - 18:51

I’m 34 and quite a lot out of shape and very heavy at 225 (female, 5’4″). I’m looking for a bit of encouragement or suggestions that may help me get started.

I understand your dilemma and you can fix it, but you must not hesitate. Things will get a lot better as you put the basics of exercise and eating right into motion; they will get a lot worse if you don’t. There are no shortcuts despite our advanced technology and the promises made by so many deceptive advertisements and promotions. Don’t waste your time and hopes looking in that direction.

Getting in shape takes work, time, commitment and discipline. It takes courage and determination. It also saves your life and makes you a better and more capable person in absolutely every way. Exercise approached with a healthy attitude is a wonderful diversion and great fun. It needn’t be the “thing we have to do,” or an intrusion in our day and life.

The treasure is in the digging.

I’ll bet you need more protein, less stress, more love for your self (not that you don’t like the neat person you are), a membership in a small local gym (you’ll get over the self-consciousness in 30 seconds or less), the exhilaration and oxygen and welcome body motion of your first week of exercise and sugar-free eating.

In a month just think how great you will feel. You’re at an age where muscle strength and tone will progress with your regular and eager assistance, bodyfat will diminish and your health in body, mind and spirit will soar. It’s fun being tough and it will take toughness.

God’s speed… Dave

Hernia surgery

September 18, 2017 - 18:51

A few months ago I had surgery for two hernias one in my groin and a second under my belly button. Do you know of suggestions that can help me get back in the Game of Bodybuilding?

Sorry for the dilemma… time heals. Until then, I’d:

  • Use the machines for stimulation
  • When straining, keep my knees tucked to the midsection comfortably to protect the vulnerable area
  • Do no cleaning of dumbbells to press position for a safe time
  • No heavy work

I’d use my instincts and sensors to approach exercising the area by contracting the involved muscles while lying with my legs on the bench… slight tuck contractions, slight extensions of the legs and slight bent-leg leg-ups… all to assess, investigate, familiarize and prepare for some physical therapy… go from there.

I’ve never experienced this on my own, so tune into the forum for more ideas from the mouths of experience.

God’s speed… DD

Deads three times per week?

September 18, 2017 - 18:47

At 53, do you think hitting the legs two days straight with heavy deadlifts is developmental? Or at least twice to three times a week?

The above training strategy is something you might apply periodically or for several weeks at a time. After that I expect you’ll want to revise your approach as the body becomes fatigued or unresponsive or you get tired of it.

I always felt good for one super-hard leg workout a week (squats, leg press, extensions and curls), with a hard session of bentover barbell rows or deads later in the same week. This was my regular and preferred method of operation throughout my development. Works great.

Carry on, buddy… DD

Does nitric oxide work?

September 11, 2017 - 17:18

What do you think of nitric oxide? Does it work?

There have been plenty of studies on NO and many are positive. The supplement seems to work for those who need the ingredients and no dif is noticed by those who don’t. I experienced no changes. I was also taking creatine and eating a lot of red meat at the time I tested it (when it first came out), so that may be why it didn’t work for me.

Give it a try and see for yourself.


Still a few pounds overweight

September 11, 2017 - 17:16

At age 32, my training is going great and has been for years. However, I’m still a few pounds overweight and have been unable to get rid of them. Do you have anything that worked for you that might work for me?

Striving bodybuilder types are, by and large, a self critical, introspective group and their training is therapeutic and enlightening. Much of who we are visits us as we press on; the planning, the goal, the focus and order and flow of exercise, the significance of our purpose, the fulfillment of the collective sets, the honesty of the effort, the discipline applied that is so sadly lacking in our neighbor, the respect and responsibility that we struggle to foster in our selves and in one another.

These silent, unsung exertions mold and fashion us in ways far beyond muscle size and shape.

However, a slick trick I saw that worked for a friend was to carefully and honestly jot down at the days’ end exactly what she had eatten. She found it took dismal effort to list some of the items and this helped her eliminate the need to do so. Truth . . . she dropped to her lowest bodyweight ever and her spirits found a new high.

Strive on,


Triceps out of balance

September 11, 2017 - 17:11

I was just wondering if you knew why the day after I blast my triceps, my left triceps is sore (muscle sore, not pain sore) from the top to my elbow, and my right triceps only hurts on the top inside part. Am I working my left harder than my right?

We are all a little (or a lot) out of balance in structure and it is reflected physically in a variety of ways — more or less.

You might be going through a natural balancing process, one side of the body or one set of muscles exhibiting overload apart from or different from its counterpart.

I’d ignore the enigma and continue to push forward. I bet it fades like so many other conflictions.

Carry on the good fight … Dave

Carbs, protein and training volume for musclebuilding

September 4, 2017 - 19:04

What were/are your protein and carb levels? And what is your favorite musclebuilding routine?

There was a two-year stretch in the mid-sixties when my carb intake was near zero and protein was in the 500s. I was working with a 22+ year-old-body weighing some 240 pounds. The carb intake came from low-fat milk products (milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese), which I sort of neglected to count.

Through the years, the carbs have come up somewhat, in the form of vegetables and fruit and some low-gylcemics, the protein went to the 300s and the bodyweight to around 220-225. I finessed my food intake to match my workouts and daily activity, including sleep.

Throughout my history, protein was (and continues to be) my number one priority in diet. Pre-workout carbs should be dialed in to satisfy energy and appealing pump and to prevent tissue catabolism.

Nothing’s changed, really.

The volume, 80% supersets driven by your own hands-on-the-wheel, the basics, some heavy workouts (power style, low reps on deads, squats, rows, dumbbell inclines, barbell curls) throughout the month, generally twice a week per muscle group, a 12, 10, 8, 6 sometimes 4 pattern of reps, 3X 20 minutes cardio in a 6-7 intensity range, fuel to train and feed to build, positive overviewing without obsession, consistency, time, confidence (don’t be deflected by the new-age thinkers born early this morning) and spirit equals muscular.


Your greatest career memory

September 4, 2017 - 19:04

What was the greatest moment in your bodybuilding career and why?

When asked to recall the greatest moment of my life as a muscle builder, I realize the whole panorama can be tucked into a thimble with plenty of room left for excitement. Let me rummage through my spare pickings and choose an occasion worth mentioning.

There was a time when I spent a summer — 1966 — making a film with Tony Curtis and Sharon Tate called “Don’t Make Waves.” That in itself is way up there in the “Great Moments” category, and the fact that I won Mr. Universe during its shooting doesn’t diminish the experience.

But the moment I’m thinking of began when I was invited to appear on the “Johnny Carson Show” to promote the release of the movie the spring of ’67.

To be live before millions on national TV with Johnny for 15 minutes talking about this and that, being his comedic straight man, demonstrating exercises and feats of strength (the grinning host sitting on my back like a jockey as I knocked out reps of pushups) was splendid. We had met only briefly backstage and he chose to trustfully, respectfully and eagerly engage me in his spontaneous nighttime entertainment. I felt like a professional helping the classic original with his favorite skit.

Probably viewed by the rest of the world as less than amazing, but for me, it was one of my greatest moments as a muscleman.

Good luck and God bless you, emphasis on the latter… Dave

Due to a job change, I no longer have a

September 4, 2017 - 18:57

Due to a job change, I no longer have a place to train and almost no equipment at home, so I’ve been doing a lot of pushups mostly. My main concern is my upper back and rear delts. How do I work that area?

To recruit the rear delt and that area of the back, you need to pull toward you rather than push away.

A thought: Lie on the floor with a bar arm’s length overhead supported by stable chair backs. Grasp the bar with a wide grip and pull upward chest-to-the-bar with the contraction directed toward the rear delt and upper back region.

Do this any way you can at first — whatever assist you can devise — till strength and ability improve. It’s a great lat exercise to use until the day you can do chins behind the neck.

Dips — again assisted — between chairs is another super move to add to your scheme to work delts, tris, pecs and upper back.

With that 30-pounder, do one-arm bentover rows for upper back and rear delt regions. Practice and focus will teach you ways to implement the dumbbell for rear delt advantage.. sort of a lone-arm lateral raise.

Hope this works.


Need to lose 100 pounds

August 26, 2017 - 18:30

At 5’8″, I’m over 300 pounds now and things are getting scary. I just don’t know what to do about it! Everything I have tried has failed. I’m ready to do something about it and want to lose 100 pounds before next summer.

No news to you, but you have some serious corrections to make to assure you live a long and happy life. The weight, of course, must be approached through exercise and proper eating.

There is no other way short of crazy surgery and if possible, you don’t want to go there. What you need to do is basic and requires will power, consistency, devotion and time. I sum it up in six words: Eat right, train hard, be strong.

If you don’t have the time or, I dare say, the energy — and possibly, the enthusiasm — to apply yourself to the deeds, it won’t happen. You want to drop 100 pounds, though 50 would make a big difference. It can be done with your long-term attention.

Your diet must be corrected and you’ll apply both medium-input aerobic exercise and hard-input weight-bearing exercise. Train consistently three to four days a week with weights and three to four days of aerobic exercise on any days.

Train to build muscle, not to lose fat. In time, with your attention to a quality diet, the fat weight will diminish and the muscle will increase. The wonderful plan takes hard work, discipline, courage and purpose… worth every penny and minute of investment.

I wrote a book titled “Your Body Revival,” with a sub-heading, “Straight Talk for the Overweight.” Take a look if you’re willing.

God’s might… Dave

HIT training or volume?

August 26, 2017 - 18:29

Can I realistically expect to continue to make gains, given my age (53), or will I have to be content from here on in with holding on to what I have? After my workouts (usually one set of squats, bench, chins, preachers done intensively to failure), I’m bushed for the next few days. Should I modify things at all?

Your training scheme appears to follow a HIT design and application — very few sets and total intensity per set. I’ve always advocated volume training for muscle shape, size, definition and energy.

To me, that means some variation of three muscle groups per workout, two exercises per muscle group and three to four sets of each exercise for 6 to 12 repetitions. The intensity should range from 80% to 100% depending on a dozen variables, including goals, risk factor, desire, fatigue, health, particular workout, lifestyle demands, time etc.

This style of training is healthy and conditioning and has a long and productive life span. I note your training is limited in action and pumping and burning and oxygenizing. You might want to re-think your training methodology.

You should still be having fun and productive workout sessions four days a week. There may be a rocky road ahead where you have to drag yourself from the gym, but you’re up to the compromise.

I noted gains still throughout my 50s. There are the ups and downs and limitations common to all of us as the years pile up, but you should do fine.

Keep a high protein anabolic environment and adopt volume training techniques to condition, detoxify and energize your body.

Carry on the good fight… God’s might… Dave

Conflicting diet advice

August 26, 2017 - 18:29

I’m just getting back to the gym after a move to a different state and want to lose weight. One trainer tells me to say on a diet balanced with carbs, protein and so on. The other tells me to omit carbs as much as possible until the fat is gone and then start on a bodybuilding diet. What do I do?

Resume your training with confidence and lean toward intensity with resolve.

I favor the advice of trainer #2. Pack in the protein as you assure your intake of living food from lots of salads and cruciferous vegetables and some fruit daily.

Eat regularly and frequently, as is a musclebuilder’s plan. Train to build muscle rather than concentrating on losing fat. You’ll be happier with the proactive reconditioning approach and respond better day by day.

Enjoy your new home and the resumption of your workouts.

God’s speed


Broken hand

August 22, 2017 - 11:41

Things have been going great with my training, and I even lost weight this summer. But I broke my wrist last week and can’t do anything. I’m afraid I’ll lose all my muscle gains and gain the fat back instead. I’m so bummed!

No fun losing hand ability for awhile, but you’ll make it okay. Just watch the quality and quantity of food you ingest — sufficient amounts of high protein foods mostly, some good carbs that come from your favorite vegetables and maybe some fruit. Stay away from junk food and sugars.

I’d be working the legs with extensions, curls and leg presses and calf machines. I’d also be jogging and doing sprints for the fun and value of the exercises. Do midsection regularly — crunches, Roman chair and leg raises.

One odd thing to consider is one-handed work. You might be afraid of working once side and becoming unbalanced, but my theory, which worked for me after a long shoulder surgery recovery, is that the brain’s attention on one side and blood flow between sides of the body really helped retain muscle during the down time. I really think it worked.

The hand will be functioning soon as you insist upon light, improvised curls along with your doc’s recommendations.

Go — heal –stay lean — God’s speed… Dave

Squats on a Smith machine

August 22, 2017 - 11:38

The Smith machine squat — Your thoughts???? Also, what can you tell me about the Smith machine. I heard a weightlifter named Smith invented it back in the 1940s or something.

The squat performed on the Smith machine resembles a sissy squat, a popular exercise for burning, shaping and muscularizing the quads. They certainly have benefits as an adjunct to squats, but they don’t provide the same mass or power.

However, thigh mass and power often must move aside when injury or limitations step to the foreground, or training goals don’t call for the bigger moves. Therefore, when the time is right, go for them with gusto and confidence.

I heard the same story about where it came from and I think it’s true. While unpopular among many, I think the Smith machine is a valuable piece of exercise equipment, especially when injury or limitations prevent free-weight movement. The grumblers might be purists who refuse to accept anything that corrupts the true bench press, press, squat or deadlift.

The up-down rigid action of the Smith prevents the natural groove the body seeks in the free squat, thereby exposing the back and knees to injury — forcing against the machine’s mechanics. Knowing this, you can modify your Smith exercises to avoid the conflict. Don’t go real heavy and don’t imitate the real squat movement.

The use of the equipment is up to the user, his or her wits and commonsense. Focus, digging in, trial and practice are the instructors.

Be inventive and let your muscles guide you. Go… Dave

Pyramiding weight scheme

August 22, 2017 - 11:37

When you recommend pyramiding weight (say in the bench press), is each set taken to positive failure?


As an example of a program for general muscle and strength building, you would start with a fixed weight for 5 sets X 8 reps on day one. The weight you choose is 80% output (personal judgment). On the following workout complete 4 sets X 8 reps and add 5 pounds total to the bar for your final set X 8. Continue this last-set addition workout to workout until you have progressed to an intense 5 sets of 8 reps with an added 10 pounds.

The same approach can be practiced shifting the focus to reps instead of pounds. That is, follow day one by completing 4 sets of 8 reps and adding a rep — so…9 reps — to the last set. Continue this until you complete 5 sets of 10 reps with the original weight. At this point, increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds and continue the process.

Here you have two systems of progression that teach you your training ABCs as you develop physically.

The pyramid is done with your own creative scheme based on the above approaches. I used to go to failure or near failure with each set, based on the muscle risk factor, pain or injury, the training day’s mood, the fatigue factor, the composition of the entire workout, what I did the day before and what I am planning in the days to come.

The pyramid serves as a repetition mechanism to feel your way through according to variables that are clear to you at the time of training.

I define my schemes but not exactly. Give each rep and set all you have all the time.

The above info characterizes my long-lived training style. The first paragraphs are reasonably clear and straight forward. The last paragraph indicates why answering the questions below is difficult: I have never been exact in training and am thankful for the freedom. I’ll bet you’ll figure it out on your own. You are, after all, a bomber.

Keep the weights rolling and clanking… allow no rust to gather.

Friend Dave

Routines and age

August 12, 2017 - 18:22

I trained for about 10 years up until my late 30s, but then fell away from training until recently at age 44. I’m happy to be back in the gym, but am having a hard time getting back to my old routines. A guy I grew up with says it’s age and I’ll never get back to the old training. Is he right?

Listen to the guy you grew up with, recognizing that you are returning after a substantial layoff and are an older man. You trained through your 30s and, no doubt, noticed that you became less flexible and more injury-prone as you aged. Perhaps your metabolism changed and weight control required more attention as you approached 40, and aches and pains surfaced where they never before existed…the usual stuff that happens to others and we shrug our shoulders. Then they happen to us we feel stricken.

You’re back and everything is very cool. You’ll need to make some attitude adjustments, part of growing up and older (my mamma said), and review your priorities, schedule and focus to accommodate the brand new guy you’ve got in the palms of your hands. Energy, fatigue, recovery, injury, aches and pains, motivation as well as your routine are under your control; you are just working under different conditions.

To be progressive in your strength and muscle development, you’ll need to have an agreeable consistency in your eating and training. (Duh. Big bulletin there, Dave.) We have less margin of leeway as we get older. Rest — night sleep, naps and relaxation — become more important for tissue repair as our systems … er… mellow.

Be prepared to crank up your training as you recondition and re-familiarize yourself with your training.

Recall your old training know-how, but don’t expect to repeat it; you want to keep the workout-abating injuries to a minimum.

I’ve seen the training methods change with the times and I scratch my head and blast it for another 10 sets. More oxygen uptake, cellular energy, muscle density, vascularity, shape and size comes with mixed-reps, volume deliciously fortified with the biweekly power workouts. It’s a matter of adapting or conditioning to this blood-intense, heart-pumping training technique over time (call it “Bombing”) and through what appears to be overtraining.

Put a fire under your instincts and let them simmer. Stick to the basics with a big grin and don’t be afraid of daily creativity within 25% of your workout.

Heck, you’re a child. Some of my best power and hardness gains were made between 44 and 50. Just don’t give up for a minute. You’re being watched.


Bomber Blend question

August 12, 2017 - 18:12

I’m interested in your Bomber Blend protein powder, but am wondering about milk allergies. What can you tell me about your protein?

I don’t think there have been ten consumers in the past 17 years who have had an allergic response to the mixture. Give it a go — we’ll take it back for a refund if it doesn’t work for you. Most of the powders on the market are some form of milk product, although there are a few egg white proteins. Here’s one from Super Spectrim.

I made it for me, personally, with input from a doctor and several protein scientists, to get the best ingredients for muscle building and health in a protein powder. It is a combo of casein, a long chain milk protein for slower absorption, and whey, a short chain protein for quick absorption. This assures more efficient protein, amino acid, usage — immediate energy and steady muscle repair.

There’s lactase to offset the small amount of remaining lactose, and that’s probably why some people with mild milk allergies are able to use it. It’s high in B-complex and added BCAAs for muscle repair, enzymes for assimilation and digestibility, antioxidants and grape seed extract, necessary vitamins and minerals and colostrum. Sucralose is the sweetener we chose.

The cost was never an issue. Bomber Blend is the result. Everyone loves the flavor and digestibility. Were we to sell it on the retail market it would be at least $20 more per tub once advertising and distributing costs were added.

It’s great for added valuable protein, breakfast, pre- and post- workout drinks. Super convenient and inexpensive food when you calculate how many meals you get from a jug (20 servings). I just add the very mixable (instantized) vanilla powder to water in a shaker and presto.

God’s speed and strength… Dave

35 years old and too thin

August 12, 2017 - 18:03

I’m 35 years old and have always been too thin. can I expand my chest muscles and develop a good chest, if I start weight training now?

Sure you can. How much you can develop depends on many factors, particularly your genetic makeup and body chemistry, present physical condition and health, structure, body fat content, training background and ability and willingness to learn and apply yourself.

Certainly you will improve your health, strength, energy, character and quality of life with appropriate weight training and right eating.

Muscle mass will increase, though often not to our high hopes. This dilemma is universal and not limited to age.

Get into the good habit without delay. It’s a great and rewarding and entertaining diversion and life support.

God’s might… DD

Working on gaining muscle

August 4, 2017 - 19:53

I feel like I’m making good gains, but with all this work, it seems like it should be working a little faster. Should I be eating more?

You can only gain so much before you gain fat, overload the system and set yourself up for unhealthy responses.

Eat regularly throughout the day, always high protein with an accent on red meat, milk products and eggs. Of course, lotsa salads and vegetables. Avoid sugar.

Hit the basics in the gym, especially squats, deadlifts, cleans and presses, some heavy barbell curls, bentover rows and medium grip bench presses. Beware — don’t overload the shoulder and get a common injury with the bench press.

In your favorite routines, hit each exercise once or twice a week for 4 to 5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 reps.

Get proper rest and use a good protein powder for pre and post workout and feeding for energy, power and repair, plus weight gain. Bomber Blend is my fav.

The long haul is underway and you will notice your growth and gains come in spurts, fits and starts. Flow with them all.

Get the basics in diet and training down and don’t ever swerve from them and you cannot fail. Read Brother Iron Sister Steel and all your questions will be answered as if by a friend who knows you.

Add another meal of cottage cheese and tuna (3-4 oz of each) and/or another protein shake – 1/2 before and 1/2 after your workout — each day. Another banana and loads of fresh vegetables and at least a few red meat meal each week. Eggs and milk are good muscle growth stuff.

God’s speed… Dave

Looking for shoulder width

August 4, 2017 - 19:48

I’ve been training for 5 years and am pretty happy with my results so far, except for should width. I feel like I have dense shoulders, but haven’t gained any width. Do you have any suggestions?

Keep training and don’t despair. Wide shoulders have a lot to do with bone structure, and thick shoulders might just be your specialty instead.

Overhead front presses with the bar or dumbbells are the best for power and shoulder muscle size, standing or performed on a steep incline.

Press-behind-necks with a bar and the back supported is a good alternative to the front presses.

Side-arm lateral raises will add to the side delts or anterior deltoids. Add bentover laterals as well to develop and secure the rear shoulder and upper back areas — 4sets of 6-8 reps is a good working range on these exercises.

Add widegrip chins or pulldowns to your routine and widegrip bentover rows for back width (lats).

This will keep you going for a while.

Carry on… Dave