Dave Draper

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Answers to common weight training questions
Updated: 2 hours 24 min ago

Overweight, lose weight, gain muscle?

July 9, 2017 - 17:50

I am overweight (male, 300 pounds at 5’8″) and I know it is so difficult trying to gain muscle while losing fat. My doctor is concerned because of high blood pressure and triglycerides, and suggests 75 grams of protein per day, which is a struggle because I am a vegetarian. I eat plenty of pasta and grains.

Without meat, you will still find substantial sources of protein in eggs and milk products and Bomber Blend (my fav),. I’d be looking to get 200 grams a day, but at least try for 150. Your doc and I don’t agree about protein intake… the research doesn’t solidly support either of us, as is often the case with nutrition, unfortunately.

Lower your useless carbs. Drop 10 pounds slowly — save the muscle — after any initial water weight is lost.

There are numerous diet alterations, medicines and even supplements you can take to lower blood pressure and triglycerides. I have no expertise in that area, but I suspect weight loss will take care of this with no need of medicine.

It is possible gain muscle and lose weight at the same time, particularly at this bodyweight. Choose a favorite four-day-a-week bodybuilding routine and train with zeal. Don’t look for power gains, and don’t train to get ripped either. Be strong and patient. With added attention to diet and consistent hard-yet-no-pressure training, things will fall into place — more muscle, less body fat, lighter, improved chemistry and lower BP.

Chicken and fish is nice…. lotsa salads, remember the salads…

Motivation and encouragement is the key to all this stuff once you have the basics down.

Go… God’s speed… DD

Bulking cycle

June 23, 2017 - 14:06

I’m starting a bulking cycle. I’m trying to do 8 meals a day and have just about run out of menu ideas. I’m coming off of a diet that helped me to drop quite a bit of fat, and I got ripped for the first time ever!

Stick with your training plan with the periodic and day-by-day variations that suit your needs and desires. Push but don’t stress or fret over gains. Consistency and enthusiasm rule. Invent and create based on the basics you know and love.

About the menu: Coming off a diet that got you ripped, you might be too preoccupied with cuts and muscularity to gain mass.

In my opinion, for your menu options, red meat adds muscle mass (and workout drive) more aggressively than fish or poultry. You want some mass to grow on, start eating less judiciously and more powerfully.

Add some variation of the following: a quart of reduced fat milk, 3 to 6 eggs, 6-8 ounces of red meat, more cottage cheese here and there daily and add a can of tuna daily.

As you are upping the protein, I’d remove by instinct some of the items that don’t have “muscles” written all over them.

Eight meals a day is a difficult habit to maintain and a little nuts. Try a dedicated 5 or 6 in seeking your mass. Bomber Blend makes for a handy meal to cover one of them.

This is work. You’ll grow stronger, still hard, but might sacrifice definition — too often a limiting factor in musclebuilders seeking size and power. Definition will easily return when the time is right.

Have fun, Dave

Elbow tendonitis

June 23, 2017 - 13:59

I seem to have developed elbow tendonitis. From what I’ve read, it’s probably from preacher curls. Do you do preachers and have you had problems from them? Do you have any suggestions?

Tendonitis is a drag. Work around it by avoiding those movements that excessively aggravate it, by altering the groove of exercises to accommodate the injured and painful region, by warming up extensively and using lighter weights when you must, and by wrapping where and when you must (wrist, elbow or knee)

Use dumbbells instead of a bar for pressing.

The preacher curl is notorious for instigating this condition. Lose the preacher curl and go with standing bentbar curls and dumbbell work (inclines, seated alternates).

Be careful not to hyperextend the arms in triceps work. Warm up with light weights (a lot) and consider wrapping the elbows during triceps work and pressing. Use dumbbells or a bent bar when curling instead of the straight barbell.

That about covers it. Wish I had more.

God’s speed… Dave

Tricks for arm size

June 23, 2017 - 13:54

I just can’t get my arms to grow, no matter what I do. Do you have any tricks for me? What kind of curls do you like?

Keep training with all your might and don’t despair. My tris lag, I’m bummed and continue to search for the solution, but structure and tendons and muscle attachment often define the shape of the biceps and its fullness.

If standing heavy barbell curls (full range of motion, resisting concentric movement), done regularly and with monster effort and a degree of acceptable body thrust, does not bring the biceps into fullness, no trick curl will.

Do this, perhaps on a non-biceps day: Work the forearms by tri-setting very attentive wrist curls (4×12-15 reps) with hard-working thumbs-up dumbbell curls or bentbar reverse curls (4x 6-8 reps) and dips or pulley pushdowns for a little triceps action (4×12-15 reps).

This will add to your arm impressiveness, help fill in gaps and add to the weekly arm load for bigger and better arms.

Thank God… DD

A dozen favorite exercises

June 18, 2017 - 13:03

Are there a dozen exercises you like best? Would you tell me what they are, please?

There aren’t many more than a dozen favorites.

1) clean and press — overhead press
2) press behind neck
3) any degree of incline dumbbell press
4) dumbbell stiffarm pullover
5) wide grip bentover row
6) one arm dumbbell row
7) seated lat row
8) wide grip overhead pulldown, + close grip and under grip
9) standing barbell curl
10) seated dumbbell alternate curls, + various degrees of incline curl
11) squats
12) deadlifts…

There are, also, pulley pushdowns, wrist curls, and don’t forget dips…

See ya… Dave

Muscle Beach icon

June 18, 2017 - 13:03

Who was your favorite Muscle Beach icon?

The greatest of all bodybuilding heroes, most appealing, commercial, interesting, participated extensively in the Muscle Beach scene and about whom there are tons of information and excellent photos throughout his life (including Muscle Beach) is Steve Reeves.

Happy Days… Dave

Getting ready for a contest

June 18, 2017 - 13:02

As we get into the summer months, I’m getting ready for a bodybuilding contest in late August. I’ve really invested a lot of time and money into this sport and can’t turn back now. But at 2-3 weeks out I start to lose my motivation and just want to say “hell-with-it” and have quit the other times I got ready to compete. Lifting is easy…diet is toughest part. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing this. Any suggestions?

I’d consider heart and soul and hard work the most valuable investments you’ve made, and certainly not wasted if you don’t enter a bodybuilding contest. Time is wasted regularly on empty games and schemes and temporary satisfactions, and money is spent on toys and junk and falls through the cracks. Seldom are either smartly invested in one’s strength and health, well being and character. You’re rich.

The last weeks are the toughest because the goods are either there or they’re not. What’s beneath the remaining few pounds and defined by the last few reps and sets will be revealed soon… usually way too soon for the contender. Relax at this point. You don’t have to compete if you don’t want to. It’s entirely up to you (with a little help from one or two confidants). Approach the days ahead with this freedom.

Train for the show, and, if ya feel like it, enter it. If not, don’t, but at least you tasted the experience of training for one.

You have the remaining weeks to pose, get color, stimulate and coax the body with sensible and lovable training. Don’t beat yourself up. Most everyone gets nervous and overtrains during the last weeks, trying too hard to build last-minute muscle and definition, causing stress and catabolism, fatigued muscles and a depleted spirit. They’re whipped on stage, yet look twice as good three days later after the relief of the show’s completion is assimilated and they’ve eaten, slept and relaxed. They’re bigger, harder and healthier and happy.

Feed yourself, sleep, train for fun and pump, relax and visualize your success.

Apply the functional miracles of positive thinking, imagining or visualizing the completion of hard work well done and your personal competence in achieving your goals: a strong body, well-constructed, conditioned and capable, and disciplined. No judging, just comparing yourself to yourself and recognizing your worth in this endeavor. Visualize a great time on stage, connecting with the audience and hitting your poses with might and excitement and confidence — the audience can sense your love and strength, and the absence of fear and doubt.

It all makes you stronger, win or lose or walk away.

God’s strength… Dave

50 pounds overweight and ready to get started

June 11, 2017 - 14:25

I’m about 50 pounds overweight and have been for at least 10 years. I’m sick of it! I’m ready to do something, but how do I get started?

You’re not the only one with an overweight problem. The fact is, almost everyone you encounter today faces the dilemma. They’re either a little or a lot overweight and probably under-muscled and under-conditioned. The grand and outstanding difference between you and them is you’re courageous, motivated, energized and enthusiastic. You’re doing something about it.

You are ready, willing and able to take the tough steps… so… um… what’s in your refrigerator that shouldn’t be? What’s on your pantry shelf and behind cupboard doors that does not deserve space or accommodation? Pull out a large garbage bag from its handy dispenser and fill it with those items of regret, threat and destruction. When the job is done, drag the bulky plastic container to the neatest garbage pail or homeless center. Let your conscience be your guide.

Squirming throughout the process is part of the exercise. These are desperate little demons of appetite and gluttony and self-satisfaction being exorcised from your body. Once the junk and the devilish habits and desires are exposed and eliminated, you’re free. The way before you will be less difficult, less dangerous and less exasperating.

Now you can turn your undivided attention to the good things of life: weights, protein and the pursuit of happiness.


Personal training

June 11, 2017 - 14:23

What to you think of personal training?

Personal training can be valuable in the beginning, when people need guidance on exercise form. Getting a training session once a month for a new workout program is quite useful for beginners too. But hesitate to endorse it because the trainee begins to rely on another, rather than developing that internal strength to show up, and to finish a workout.

I once watched a coach and his client at a gym, and after the trainer handed his trainee the weights, he proceeded to count the reps like they were eggs in a basket: one egg, two eggs, three and so forth until the completion of the set, only he didn’t call them eggs. I guess they could have been jellybeans or all the red cars on the freeway — hard to tell by the tone and cadence of the string of numbers.

The coach said, “Good set,” as he relieved his insufficiently affected athlete of the burdensome objects. They continued to talk about the numbers—not the sets, reps and poundage, but the ball scores, the stock prices and the cost of a five-day cruise to Jamaica.

After a brief silence, as if struck by a whim, the coach returned the foreign cold steel devices to the drowsy man languishing before him on the incline bench and said, “We’re almost done, big guy.”

Let me at them was the smiley lifter’s unspoken response, absolutely inspired by the decisive conclusion of another exhausting, all-consuming bout with the impervious iron and steel. Phew!!

Focus, dedication and enthusiasm, the essentials of effective training. Discover them, develop them, never let them rest.


Thick bar training

June 11, 2017 - 14:19

Where did thick-bar training come from and when do you use it?

Thick-bar training goes back quite a few years, to the strong men days of yore, with thick-handle dumbbells of specific weight for feats of strength. Then came the Apollon Axle and Buffalo Bar from IronMind.

Our gym had an Apollon Axle (2′ x 84″ hollow steel bar weighing just over 30 lbs) for pressing, curling, cleans and deads. The thickness is tough to grip and changes the mechanics of the exercises performed and thus the muscle recruitment by virtue of the bar’s altered center of gravity. Cool.

The Buffalo Bar is a one and five-eights-inch curved Oly style bar weighing 50 lbs for stable squatting. Also very cool.

Any thick-handle dumbbell work should be specific and not practiced regularly throughout one’s training routine.

The bars are popular in clubs and gyms where training is embraced by an involved membership. Sometimes the handle thickness accommodates sensitive hands due to injury or arthritis.

That’s about all I can think of right now. God’s speed… DD

What could I be doing better?

June 5, 2017 - 18:35

I am 36 and have not been weight training consistently since high school. I went from a svelte 200 pounds to 272 in four years. I recently started eating a little better and started a regular program of walking several times a week and stretching and went from 272 to 240. Then I decided (thanks to you) to give some serious weight training a try. I have been lifting two times a week consistently and I can see and feel the improvement. I have been a little frustrated because after the initial weight loss, my weight creeped back up between 255-259 and has remained there for the last couple of months. I lift on Tues (biceps and back) and Thurs (triceps and chest). I also walk briskly for just over a mile three times a week. What can I be doing better?

You’re on the right track and have come a long way toward restoring your health and reviving your standards for right living. However, to advance further physically and in your disciplines, you need to increase your focus on exercise and menu. This might sound radical, but it is the only answer.

Your training scheme is sufficient for maintaining a fit body of an appropriate bodyweight, but does not serve to build the muscle mass and leanness you desire. Were I you, I’d train to build muscle by increasing my weight training to three to four days a week, while keeping the walking or jogging at three. I also note that you have no leg work in your current training plan. You would want to fix that gap, and make sure you get shoulder work on one of the upper body days.

If this increased training is approached with confidence and suitable aggressiveness, it can be uplifting and inspiring and fun. It will work because it does work.

If your attitude is compromised by guilt, lack of enthusiasm, doubt, procrastination or other hesitations, your quest will whither with the sun-baked grass.

Your eating habits must be followed with continuing certainty: Eat more frequently, smaller servings, more protein, more salads and raw vegetables, less sugar, enough EFAs, no junk.

Get familiar with pop top cans of tuna, tupperware and food preparation.

This all sounds impossible, but take your time. Take two steps forward and one step back. Carry on till the good and smart and right become habitual, enjoyable and the only way to go.

This should not come as an insult or harsh statement to the serious-minded person: A loser is one who gives up on a good thing too soon… or ever. Boy, there’s a lot of that going around.

This serious stuff, but it’s also wonderful.

Carry on the good fight. God’s speed… Dave

Rib Cage Expansion

June 5, 2017 - 18:24

How can I expand my rib cage?

The popular MO for building a voluminous chest is heavy deep breathing squats supersetted with stiff or bentarm pullovers.

Of course, heavy dumbbell flat and incline presses are my favorite pec muscle builders, better than the bench press and safer for shoulders.

Time and consistent training are key ingredients.

God’s strength… Dave

Full body workouts with supersets

June 5, 2017 - 18:22

When doing supersets do you perform a full body workout in one day and if so how many days a week would you recommend? Are supersets the best weight training system to lose fat?

You can if you understand your training and want to.

I would break the workouts up something like this:

Chest and back
Shoulders and arms
Day off and repeat

A mix of supersets (75%) works best for me for muscle mass and muscle density and definition. More interesting, spirited and athletic.

Go… DD

50-year-old powerlifter

May 26, 2017 - 15:58

I’m a powerlifter moving into my 50s next week. I was wondering how many years strength gains you think I might have. My current goal is a 300-pound bench.

Based on my experience (iffy at best), if you train smart and eat right, you have 10 to 15 years of progressive weight training in you. That is, you can absorb the typical pains that accompany aging and the minor injuries you can expect to sustain in pursuit of your healthy, aggressive workouts.

Be aware that pushing the heavy weight on the bench is notorious for causing shoulder injuries that make the grand sport of musclebuilding a misery and a disappointment to many a good person. Be wise and diversify your chest and shoulder exercises, using dumbbells and cables regularly, for growth, shape and strength. I’ve always loved to blast it, but that bench press and those single-rep personal records are a risk.

For the above reason, how to strive for the 300-pound bench is no longer part of my repertoire of counsel. There are powerlifters older than you on the Irononline discussion group who could direct you toward greater power on the bench.

Carry on and take good care of yourself… DD

Lagging progress

May 26, 2017 - 15:55

At age 39, I’ve been training for about 10 years. I rarely miss a workout, but haven’t made any progress the past couple of years. What am I doing wrong?

You are experiencing the same dilemma 9 out of 10 of us face periodically. The workouts go along and the time goes by, but the gains in this or that or something else seems to lag.

Without knowing more about your goals (gain weight? lose weight? big bench?), it’s impossible to make any suggestions.

The only thing to do is dig deep, dig in and keep going with all your might, common sense, creative risk, stoicism and the joy of eternal hope.

Be brave, dd

Don’t have the drive to stick to it?

May 26, 2017 - 15:53

I’m 22 and have been lifting for a couple of years at 110% effort. I have pizza and a soft drink once a week and an occasional fast food burger. I also miss a workout every three or four weeks. Maybe I just don’t have the determination or drive to stick to my serious training. How can I make myself stay true to my desires?

Know this: You will train regularly and always for a hundred terrific reasons. You would quit for no good reason at all.

Be devoted and wise and don’t chase away your cool relationship with the iron by unreasonable austerity. Relax. You’re aware of your imperfections and confronting them; this indicates they will not gain control and expand. You’re stronger than they are.

If a thing becomes too serious in our mind, it can appear bigger than us. Appearances are deceiving. You’ll work out this dilemma in time as you continue your musclebuilding pursuits.

Here’s the big bonus: As you develop muscle and power in your body, that which you perceive as weakness in mind and character will become your strengths — perseverance, patience, courage, self control and understanding. Because here’s the thing: Pizza, a burger and an occasional missed workout is no big deal.

Train hard, eat right and don’t worry.


Tuna and water diet

May 21, 2017 - 14:07

I gained too much weight last winter and now I’m in a jam with a lot of summer things coming up soon. But I can’t seem to get myself on track with my diet! So I was thinking about trying your tuna and water diet. How much tuna do you eat per day and can I add something to it each day? Also,
how much weight will I lose on it?

Guess it’s that urgent time of year again.

The extreme application is to think of the tuna and water as a fast without cutting food out entirely. Therefore eat as much or as little as your intuitive, disciplined and hungry (disappointed and irritable … grr) heart desires.

The tuna and water ‘only’ diet is effective in breaking the sloppy habits that weigh us down from time to time. For that reason, strictness is required, almost worshipped to stop the madness. Thus, no margins of leeway are permissible.

The tuna and water diet sets you on the right track and in motion. How you broaden your menu to include more good foods is up to you according to your response and the diet’s effectiveness, your fortitude and your goals. You’re the captain in charge of the craft — try feelings and finesse or guesswork. Although the tuna diet is only for a few days, the real goal is to find a clean eating plan appropriate for you so you can stick to it forever.

Lighten up on the tuna only and bring in the salads-a-plenty and add chicken to the menu. How much one can lose depends on fat to muscle ratio, hormones and other factors, but you should know that loss is mostly water weight and the loss is temporary. This diet is a jumpstart, not the real deal.

Listen to yourself — common sense and intuition are the captains of your craft…

Push that iron with God’s strength… Dave

Sergio Oliva

May 21, 2017 - 14:02

I know you and Sergio Oliva were from different parts of the country, but how much time did you spend with him. Did you know him well and do you have stories to share?

I have too few occasions to draw upon that supply me a detailed knowledge of Sergio, but I know enough. We’ve competed together, gone through the backstage ritual of pumping up and endured a number of photo shoots — life in the trenches.

He was to me, as he was to so many long-time bodybuilding fans, an elevated legend. No other champion satisfies the defining term “awesome” as did that powerful man.

Courage, spontaneity, loyalty, joy, compassion and generosity — aspects of love — comprise Mr. Oliva.

I know this for sure, were I in trouble he would have protected my back from harm.


Need protein advice for 13-year-old son

May 21, 2017 - 14:01

I am a powerlifter with a 13-year-old son. I don’t know if he is eating the right protein. He is about two years behind his age from what the doctors say, with his being bones still so far apart, though he is extremely strong for his age and weight. Anything suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

It’ll make all the difference in the world if you can get your guy to eat 5 to 6 meals regularly from breakfast to a pre-bedtime snack with high protein. Protein from meat, fish, poultry and eggs and dairy products plus carbs from fresh vegetables and fruit and added fat from an essential fatty acid supplement. Keep him away from sugar and junk food. Killer! This menu is good for you and him and all your loved ones.

Protein powders are great in a shake with milk, a banana and ice as one or two of those six meals I recommend (breakfast or pre-workout or bedtime meal).

Don’t encourage heavy weight training on the bench or any specific movement at this stage of his life, as it may provoke damage to joints and discouragement to the spirits. I have a protein, Bomber Blend, that can’t be beat for taste, absorbability, quality of ingredients and popularity for general energy and tissue repair.

Give him tough training with intensity and form to enhance his structure and his understanding of smart training.

The old school is the good school.

God’s speed… Dave

Understanding trisets

May 16, 2017 - 18:26

When you talk about trisets, do you mean to complete three sets of each bodypart, than go to next three sets of the second body part, etc? Or do you mean do one set of each body part, then repeat the cycle until three sets of each body part is complete?

The latter — do one set of each exercise, then repeat the cycle until three sets are complete.

Carry on,