Dave Draper

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Answers to common weight training questions
Updated: 2 hours 41 min ago

Arm shot and Zabo question

February 17, 2017 - 18:23

Would you say your arms were about 21 inches “cold” in this photo? Also, do you think the Zabo used steroids in the 1950s?

Zabo never used any steroids or drugs, but he liked his Mary Jane.

That picture was taken in Joe Gold’s Gym in the late-60s. My arms were rarely measured… I’d guess 19+ inches cold. Bodypart measurements are notoriously exaggerated.

To the good old days… Dave

Night shifts and bodybuilding

February 17, 2017 - 18:22

I’m a nurse who works 10 or sometimes 12 hour shifts, and often get switched to night shifts. I want to pursue bodybuilding. I try to change my training and food intake around the long days, but can you give me an idea of how many calories to eat daily?

Your training on top of your nursing schedule is commendable. Stay strong. I hesitate to bounce the ball back in your court, but I’d approximate your food intake and play things by ear. Your consistency in eating is important, but you have margins of flexibility.

You want to serve your body and its health: as long as your training is satisfactory and your moods and energy are agreeable, *experiment* with your eating plan commonsensibly.

It’s tough to seek bodybuilding features when working under stress and changes, but your training is valuable and productive. Seeking as you are will direct you to the best choices, of this I’m certain.

You are dialing in your training and eating patterns to suit your serious work schedule… and on the right track.

The only thing stronger than a nurse is bomb shelter. Carry on the good fight.


Santa Monica, Parks, Scott and Sheffield

February 17, 2017 - 18:18

In the mid-60s I visited Santa Monica Beach a few times. On one of those times we saw Dave at an indoor gym we were visiting. Do you know what gym that might have been? I also met Reg Parks, Larry Scott and a bodybuilder I think was named Sheffield. Do you happen to have an update on where they are today?

The gym was either the old Muscle Beach Gym moved to a basement at 4th and Broadway, Santa Monica. It was affectionately called the Dungeon. Or, it was Joe Gold’s very first Gold’s Gym on Maine Street in Venice. Joe built it himself – the best ever.

In brief, those men found joy in their training, lived productive lives and died in time.

George Sheffield is the full name. He sorta left the scene in the early ’60s.

Reg traveled with his adoring family and settled in Johannesburg, South Africa. Successful business man and great guy. Died 2007 at 79.

Larry Scott settled in Salt Lake City with his own successful fitness company and died in 2014 at 75. Another good man.

God Bless Us and sweet curls ‘n presses


Which bar for curls?

February 12, 2017 - 18:45

Which bar do you prefer for curls, a straight bar or and EZ curl bar?

I have used both bars successfully and enjoyably over the years. In time, the straight bar becomes difficult to wield if (when?) the wrists lose flexibility. For many years I’ve used a thick handle (1 1/2 inch) bent bar and love it. It’s powerful and comfortable and safe.

The difference in action is subtle but significant to the long-time lifter.

Either bar, along with dumbbells, good food and hard work will do the trick.

Go… God’s might… Dave

Working bodyparts once a week

February 12, 2017 - 18:44

I’ve been reading about a training program that works each bodypart once a week. What do you think of that? Should I try it? I don’t have much time to work out these days and thought this might be an answer.

You can devise a routine that appears to work one bodypart a week, but in fact works each muscle group twice or more, just less directly. Most basic exercises do not recruit one muscle group exclusive of other associated muscles unless extreme isolation is exerted.

A few examples:

Bench press for chest recruits front delts, triceps and associated torso mass

Pulldowns for back and lats engage biceps and grip, possibly minor pec

Barbell curl with legitimate thrust works torso and upper body associated muscle — traps, back/shoulder/chest tie-in

Pulley pushdowns with thoughtful and worthy thrust engage more than triceps only, but much of the upper body’s lesser mass for shape and muscularity and athletic strength

Careful planning and full-body action — legitimate thrusting and complete range of motion — in exercise performance can condense your training and make it more enjoyable and motivating.

Working one muscle a day, and a total of once a week is weak. Sounds wimpy, trendy and new-age, like less is better, which it isn’t. Ya get what ya pay for.

Go… Godspeed… dave

Preacher curls

February 12, 2017 - 18:41

Do you advise against using preacher curl machines with cams or preacher curl machines in general or neither?

Preacher curls in general are a suspicious exercise. It’s the hard extension at the bottom of the movement (upper arm rigid against the pad) that overloads the biceps attachments, and our determined vigor in the execution of the exercise that risks biceps health.

The exercise is not intended for developing biceps mass, but biceps peak and muscularity and should be done with focused isolation and moderate weight — not heavyweight thrusting. The latter is often hard to control for the eager musclebuilder.

You’d be wise to remove the preacher curl from your arm-building repertoire. Dangerous, mediocre and not worth the risk.

Go… God’s strength… Dave

Bodybuilding magazine workouts

February 6, 2017 - 18:45

I’ve been training for two years and have been reading all the bodybuilding magazines. I sometimes have a hard time trying to decide which workout routines to follow after reading them. The workouts are really hard, which I like, but will they all work or should I be doing something else?

Be careful of what you read in the muscle mags. There are many on the market and competition for readers is fierce. Truly valuable material — the
meat we need to get us where we are going is limited and so becomes rehashed, reduntant and unexciting [unsalable]. Hence, the publishers fill the pages with fascinating, [perhaps] and abstruse scientific research 95% useless to us, as if what we do and seek here were deeply profound.

The remainder of the mag is filled with articles about the champs and their routines. The editors often embellish upon the submitted material to offer entertainment and visual aids to sell and hype stuff. Buy. Buy. Takes a couple of reads to learn how to glean, but it won’t take you long.

Beware. Don’t compare yourself to the heroes of the Olympia. We’re talkin’ tractors, cranes and bulldozers here. What they do and how they do it works for them. Appreciate it, register it and be inspired. Can you even imagine the different chemistry they have than you? Be yourself.

This, of course, takes some discovery. Still at it myself.

Mid volume, moderate-weight training provides training familiarity, needed practice of form, muscle and attachment conditioning, muscle molding and sensible focus for early trainees. Heavy stuff should be a grand choice as one’s mental-physical structure and training personality emerge.

I like an instinctive mix. That comes to one as a dividend from time invested. A good n hard road to travel. No short cuts.

Keep it alive. Train on.


Become your own training partner

February 6, 2017 - 18:40

I used to train with a partner every day after work, but when he moved away, I lost my momentum and never regained it. Do you have any suggestions on how to find a training partner?

You need to become your own training partner. You’re not lazy, the motives are clear, you have time — you need to slowly and surely invest in yourself and build up a sort of savings account. Day by day a little more distance in your walking and resistance exercise, the conjuring of little plans of training attack, a little more reference to the supportive and informative pages of davedraper.com, perhaps lurking on the forum for shared experience, regularly improved or attentive smart eating and assessing your input with approval and self-encouragement.

With sufficient reference to our past, we need to look most closely and clearly at our present position. That we care about our health and well-being is huge, that we have these resources at hand is enormous, that we apply them is magnificent.

I pray a lot to God almighty…


Congestive heart failure

February 6, 2017 - 18:38

I have congestive heart failure and don’t know how to build my strength back. I understand you have that also and wondered if you have any ideas for me.

I endured severe CHF in 1982 (excessive drinking — I was 40), admitted myself to the ER and spent some 3 weeks in the hospital recovering. I lost 45 pounds in those weeks. I took another three months from weight training to re-right myself.

From there I slowly began to rebuild my strength and health and muscle applying the same training and eating techniques I learned over the years. Doctors were opposed to my weight training, encouraging only walking and other aerobic exercise only.

Tough road, but improved over the next two years. Doctors changed their thinking (seriously) about weight training as an approach to recovery after seeing the results.

I used common sense and instincts and prayer (Thank God). Step by step, building week upon week is what works. If you haven’t started yet, that’s what you need — no more information, just get started.


Can’t get going

January 29, 2017 - 15:50

I need some advice. I have a gym at home AND a gym membership and still can’t seem to get in the grove of getting back to my workouts. Not the greatest plan. Any advice?

Sounds like you have the mid-winter training blues. Don’t take it all too serious… just get in 20-30 minutes of your favorite, doable stuff so you don’t develop a training gap (hard to recover) and let your head go haywire.

Some crunches followed by 3 or4 supersets of curls and triceps, the next day do leg raises and another push-pull combo.

All the time, remember you’re doing a good thing, a smart thing for the mind, body and spirits – an agreeable and healthy retainer till you sort things out.

When the iron gets dull, we can’t let go or we’ll be sorry. Inspiration hides under the rug until March and April. Of course, I pray about everything. Dear God, help me…

God Speed… Dave

Uncrowned Mr. Olympia

January 29, 2017 - 15:50

Dave, I just wanted to say that I (and many others) think you should have won the 1970 NABBA Universe. I would have liked to have seen you go on to win the Mr. Olympia a few times too. Uncrowned Mr. Olympia!


Let no one include me in the desperate ranks of “has been,” “never was” or “uncrowned” this or that. Let me always and forever remain your humble friend, “The World’s Strongest Youth.”

Your Majesty, King David, WSY

Wide dumbbell flys

January 29, 2017 - 15:47

I’ve seen people in the gym doing a real wide include dumbbell fly. I tried it and am not able to use very much weight with it that wide. What do you think of wide open flys?

The wide reaching fly is a high risk technique threatening the rotation cuff that is already enduring excessive overload, long head of the bicep [twang], and scapular abuse.

Love those stretch marks.

I’m big on nasty training but this action can take out the biceps in a blink and contribute to shoulder

There goes your lawn bowling.


Invisible training partner

January 22, 2017 - 14:55

I was wondering if you can tell us more about this “silent invisible partner” you sometimes speak of in your writing. Truth be known, I’m more dazzled by the thought of it rather than the actual practice, but if you could share some tips or share any thoughts about it at all it would be greatly appreciated.

The “silent invisible partner” is my imaginary companion who has always played a most positive role in my training when I’m in an imaginary playful mood. It’s a “he” and is a shadowy composite of a former training partner from the musty years long ago, sometimes, or myself, mostly, as I am today—an advocate, a confidant, a buddy. Not so much a constructed figment of the imagination as memory or the other half that takes on form and fondly encourages or aggressively commands me on.

We all talk to ourselves… er… don’t we? You’re at the market alone by the ice cream freezer and you say to yourself brightly, “I think I’ll get some Chocolate chip mint.” Then you say to yourself austerely, “Oh, no you don’t. None of that stuff, missy.”

Same thing in your training. Alone in the corner of the gym standing before the squat rack, third set with 10 reps on your mind. It’s gotta be done but the bar is looking heavy. “Come on, girl, you can do it. Get your breath… get your footing… focus… get comfortable… let’s go…big breath and down… easy, down, easy… come on and up.. come on, up, up…easy.”

The conversations can be endless if you’re both in a chatty mood or just having yourself nearby can be comforting.

You’ll have to excuse me now. It’s time for my medications. Nurse, can you loosen my restraints a teensy bit? … Pretty please?

Dave and dave

Trap bar

January 22, 2017 - 14:52

I want our gym to buy a trap bar. I have been reading the thoughts of others about trap bars and some indicate that this is a kind of a squat/deadlift combo. What say ye about the trap bar, or about squats and deadlifts in general?

The trap bar was popular at our gym for a variety of reasons and purposes. I prefer the standard oly bar for deadlifts and practiced the movement with a customized regularity to exercise… strengthen… condition… protect the recruited muscles (especially the lower back) and once every three or four weeks with the focus on power (doubles, singles). The thighs do a lot of the work and deads can interfere with, as well as assist, the squats. Timing and intensity of the workouts need to be practically calculated.

Squats and deads back to back, same day or well-spaced will all work nicely if you know what you’re doing. Ahha. I remember once before going to London I intentionally trained squats and deadlifts back to back to make up for anticipated missed workouts while on the trip and whimpered like a mangy mutt. DOMS lasted through the summer into the fall. I endured what is called the “I’ll never do that again” injury common among most lifters I know.

The trap bar is an excellent apparatus for thigh resistance and development. My first experience with the bar resulted in excessive thigh fatigue which tossed me a bit ‘cuz I was thinking “traps and back.” The position of the resistance in relation to the torso throws a lot of the load to the front of the quads with a scalding burn to the teres majores (or whatever that high outer thigh knob is).

You know, it’s all in the action and mind of the trainee. Anyone who has trained a while can do some standard man-picks-up-weight reps and discover how to position the feet and legs, and how to posture the descent and ascent… back erect here and shift forward there…and come up with a working substitute for squats when there are no racks (basement dwellers, crowded gym), when squats are looking downright ugly, when the shoulders are wrecked and can’t handle the bar, when curiosity strikes and a change of pace is due.


Travels with Elvis

January 22, 2017 - 14:49

I read your bio and it said you toured with Elvis Presley. I was quite surprised about that, because it isn’t mentioned in any book about Elvis. Could you tell us a little more about your tour with Elvis? When did the tour take place? Which places? Were you part of the entourage? Any stories about the tour you might want to share?

Elvis did a three-week tour of the States from New York to New Mexico in 1971. I worked as the assistant to the producer in a six-man crew that filmed his concerts, his travels and the behind-the-scenes action. They were one-night stands of his Vegas show at large venues (dome stadiums, football arenas) in 20 different cities in a dozen or so different states.

Elvis and his entourage had their own jet and we, assorted Elvis backup folks, the roadies and tons of equipment traveled on a prop jet that lumbered through the friendly skies. Madness in the air, craziness on the ground and insanity back stage and on stage. No time to eat, no time to sleep, no time to work out. The miles of exposed film became a documentary called “Elvis On Tour” that won an award and a two-paragraph write-up in Time Magazine, no box office smash.

Let me recollect… we were in Albany, Memphis, Nashville, Albuquerque, Trenton, Denver, Atlantic City, L.A., San Antonio, Little Rock, New Orleans… That’s half of them and probably not entirely accurate. The sights and scenes were in continual supply.

As the aircraft reached for the sky from LAX, I asked the producer, Pierre, my good friend who gave me the job as I had none, “What do I do”? The crew — a two-man camera team, a sound man, a lighting man and Pierre and me — all laughed at once at my absurdity. I think that was the last time I laughed until our aircraft made its final landing three weeks later. I was to coordinate sleeping arrangements, morning wake-up calls, food for the gang, car rentals, drive, acquire releases from anyone on camera or interviewed, act as the producer’s liaison, keep notes and make sure everyone was on the right aircraft right on time. HA. I’ve never been good at any of those things, especially keeping track of time.

It was incredible. Elvis, packed screaming audiences, mostly women who were once kids, night after night, front row, back stage, in the balcony with a walkie-talkie setting up camera angles and gear.

“Elvis has left the building,” the end of the show for Elvis and the fans, was the beginning of the show for the roadies and the Cinema Associates film crew.

I survived and the story goes on. Two weeks later we did 10 days in Las Vegas and Detroit filming “Rock ‘n Roll of the Fifties.” Chubby Checker, Shirelles, Platters, Bo Didley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and those fine folks. Another gas.


Delts won’t grow

January 15, 2017 - 13:20

I hope you can help me with a big problem I have with my delts. They just will not grow. I have tried many different exercises and routines with no success.

My favorite shoulder exercises are: press behind neck, steep dumbbell incline press (60 degrees, 75 degrees), sidearm and bentover lateral raises.

Warm up always, set the groove and perform four sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps.

Focus always, perform clean reps, work for power as you increase weight each consecutive set.

Choose two or three exercises, hit shoulders twice a week or every 4 days.

Coordinate wisely with chest routine, as pressing is redundant.

No secret — hard and consistent work — vary as needed between the 4 exercises.

Go… Godspeed… DD

Dan Lurie

January 15, 2017 - 13:20

Do you have any memories of Dan Lurie? Did you know him?

I met Dan only on a few occasions many years ago. He asked me to guest pose at a major show he was promoting at the Old Town Hall in NYC. I remember him as an All-New Yorker who loved the sport of musclebuilding, worked hard to expand the activity and benefit the guys who poured their hearts into it. Having grappled his way to fame and recognition in the strongman world gave him a special appreciation of the role and needs of the participants.

I’ll always remember Dan sitting down with me and asking sincerely, “Dave, how can I help you?” Very cool! I was used to most folks in business scheming, “How can he help me?”

Dan Lurie was a survivor and hero of many tough worlds: a wrestler, a strongman, a muscleman, a showman, a businessman, an entrepreneur and a family man. He was no stranger to struggle and blazed a path through rugged terrain with villains in the shadows.

Villains beware. The east coast builds them strong, New York City with rebar and concrete. Long live Dan Lurie.


Meal planning

January 15, 2017 - 13:19

Could you give me some help with meal planning? I train regularly and hard and am pleased with the training, but don’t know when to eat for optimal results.

This varies among people, but for me, smaller meals throughout the day are better than fewer larger meals.

I’d feed myself a small high protein meal after my late workout to supply the nutrients for post-workout repair during sleep. Something easily digestible like a protein shake, maybe a small can of tuna and water, yogurt and protein powder—just not a full meal of meat or the like.

Also, try Bomber Blend, a delicious and well-planned protein powder with added enzymes, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals for tissue repair and energy. Great for pre- and post-workout meals or breakfast or a fast meal when time is short.

God’s speed in your strong endeavors… DD

Low carb diet and muscle building

December 31, 2016 - 13:49

I’m getting frustrated with both building muscle as well as losing fat. What do you think of low carb dieting? I’m getting ready to give up on all this stuff.

A low-carb ketogenic diet works on paper, often works at first, especially for the extremely overweight, is a fascinating study and has provided volumes of material for popular books, but in my mind, applying it is like building a prison and calling it home.

I’m all for discipline and hard work and a menu high in protein and balanced with medium GOOD fat and complex carbs (living, as in fruit and vegetables). Leave the calculator, gram counter and comparison charts in the closet. I think real and wholesome muscle building is bigger than that… like barbells and dumbbells and lifting with passion.

We get small inside when looking for gains on the outside. They come in time if we are consistent in attitude, work, eating and resting… and playing.

Giving up is like turning off the oxygen. Be strong, be grateful, carry on the fight and don’t doubt. The muscle might not be worthy of top honors, but the heart and soul and character are awesome. See ya… dd

Gene Shuey

December 31, 2016 - 13:45

Did you know Gene Shuey, Mr. America in 1960, and can you tell me anything about him?

The name Gene Shuey brings back old Dungeon memories. I met him only briefly on a few occasions, probably cuz I trained in the early AM, and he in the afternoon. I remember he was hit by a car waiting for a green light, and his back was broken. I was stunned when he told me after his long absence from the gym, and felt badly for his loss of health and sound body.

I didn’t see him after that… 1963-64 probably. Nice guy, great physique, early hero.