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Stiff arm and bent arm pullovers

Can you explain the difference between stiff arm and bent arm pullovers, please? Also, what is your favorite biceps exercise?

Stiff arm pullovers can be done with a single dumbbell, grasping the inside plate with the hands flat and spread or with a bent bar, most commonly the close grip. These were long-time standard in my workouts; lats primarily. Because of the extended arm position acting as a lever and subsequent huge load on the shoulders, elbows and related insertions, a truly heavy weight cannot be used.

The bentarm pullover, because it is done with the arms bent, cannot be performed feasibly with a dumbbell. Got something to do with the skull and nose. Thus, the bar.

Barbell curls are the all-time best biceps builders. Sometimes it’s fun to superset them with dips when you feel like hitting arms only for the sheer joy of it. Try 10 sets of 10 without pausing. Cyclopean upper body pump, man. Gotta love it.

God bless . . . . . . . . dd

Most important muscle group after 40

What is the most important muscle group to work after 40? I think it may be the legs since that is what hurts me the most.

You don’t want to neglect any muscle group, but it’s true, legs get us from place to place and contribute to our independence.

Something else: A decent leg workout provides systemic benefits. That is, due to the mass of the muscles under load and the vast amount of blood moved through the system, comprehensive enzyme and hormone activity takes place and the entire muscular system is urged to respond, to grow, accordingly.

Bingo. Leg training hits the jackpot.

Throw in some supersets — chins and dips, dumbbell inclines and seated lat rows, bench presses and lat pulldowns to keep a grin on your face.


When you began bodybuilding…

When you began bodybuilding, did you have any idea you would go on to win the Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe titles and essentially set the standard for the Arnolds and Ronnies of this world? What were your intentions at the time?

Me? Mr. America and a “standard setter?” In a word, no.

To elaborate, I hadn’t a clue. I was a 20-year-old welder in a factory snuggled in the swampy meadows of New Jersey, 30 minutes from cozy Newark. Swell place to swat mosquitoes in the summer and unbury your car from snow in the winter and raise my then-six-month-old daughter.

One day, while picking up a pair of 45-pound plates at Weider Barbell Company in neighboring Union City, Joe Weider offered me a job at his new California outlet in Santa Monica. Visions of bright sunshine and blue skies and clean, clear water filled my imagination. Six weeks later my imagination became a reality.

My intentions were to make it from one day to the next, train and work and learn and grow and grow up with my family. Ambition wasn’t absent. It was wrapped up in survival and always has been.

Thank God for hard work, determination and perseverance. Thank God for God. My life mostly happened. I learned how to put one step before the other by noticing with acumen where the last step had been. Still do.

I call this singular methodology “learning from my mistakes.”


40s, 50s, 60s and beyond

You kept an astounding form well into your 60s. Have you had any psychological problems with getting over the fatal 40-year-old mark and all the consecutive ones?

Age 40 was tough, as I was at the wobbly peak of too much vodka and tuna…and not enough water. I was sober by 43, and 40 had already come and gone.

I may have missed a few years of my life, but I never missed a workout. I was in commendable shape at 45 and managed to train with vigor, mass and muscularity through my 50s.

While I pressed on faithfully, 60 sneaked by me like a thief in the night, and it wasn’t till age 63 that I felt the clouds of… ummm, maturity gathering overhead.

Past the late 60s, for me — not for you! I beat myself up more than necessary and you hopefully won’t do that — it’s been a maze of passing time with a compass and a big stick. The compass is for some sense of direction and the stick is for whacking rivals that get in my way, and for leaning on at the end of the day.


Your competition and lifestyle diet

Could you describe your lifestyle and your bodybuilding competition diet, please?

Here I shine as brightly as a tarnished relic might.

I followed the high-protein, medium-carb, medium-fat, no-fad bodybuilding diet. I ingested quantities of lean red meat, followed by fish and poultry and backed sufficiently by milk products and eggs.

Fortify the menu with lots of fresh vegetables and enough fruit for all the good reasons — carbs, vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes and roughage. Add grains and nuts for some fun and nutritional needs, and avoid sugar and salt and weird chemicals.

The eating could be divided into six agreeable meals throughout the day, as needed. Lots of water and probably too many supplements fill in the spaces.

This was my year-round eating scheme for 40 or 50 years. As I got older, outside of pre-competition days, my diet got tighter and more in-tune than ever, thanks to habit, preference and the fact that it works, sprinkled with discipline and fear.

Pre-contest would have had me tuning up the training and food choices and quantities over the last weeks. For example: The milk would go first, then fish took a primary position over the red meat, and the carbs would completely leave the table.


Your acting history

You had a promising acting and TV career in the late ‘60s, then it suddenly stopped. Why?

I think of the movie and TV experiences as one of my accidental good fortunes. I could have made more money had I gotten a steady job at GM in Detroit than what happened at MGM in Hollywood, but the experiences were priceless. Behind the scenes is where it’s at: large, exciting, elite, expectant, thrilling and smart and tough.

Bottom line: I didn’t have what it took and it would’ve taken what I had. I think I was meant for natural light and not spotlight.

Oh, well… I am always a day late, or one too early.


Most important muscle group after age 40

What is the most important muscle group to work after 40?

You don’t want to neglect any muscle group, although it’s true that legs get us from place to place and contribute to our independence.

Something else: A decent leg workout provides systemic benefits. Due to the mass of the muscles under load and the vast amount of blood moved through the system, comprehensive enzyme and hormone activity takes place and the entire muscular system is urged to respond, to grow accordingly.

Bingo. Leg training hits the jackpot.

Throw in some supersets of chins and dips, dumbbell inclines and seated lat rows, bench presses and lat pulldowns to keep a grin on your face.


Getting rid of arm fat

Can you get rid of cellulite on the arms by doing aerobic activity every day and lifting weights? Does this stuff really go away if one works hard and long enough on a daily basis?

Let’s just say that no other plan of attack will work better… or at all.

You face a monumental problem if the loose skin on the back of your arms becomes your only focus and reference for achievement. Your regular smart training and right eating will continue to improve your health day by day. Be confident of this.

Building muscle is our most important exercise achievement. Train to build muscle, and fat burning will follow. Sometimes training intensity has to be increased if we want to see more impressive improvements take place. Where moderate exercise is healthy, it might not be enough to affect the changes you seek.

You might consider increasing your set-to-set pace or the amount of weight you use in each exercise or the level of input in each set and rep. Supersetting exercises is a most effective training method for muscle building and fat burning. Try HIIT-style aerobic training (High Intensity Interval Training) for more dynamic fat burning and cardio health.

As the triceps change in shape, the muscle will help fill the space in the back of the arms. I think that will change the feeling for you and should help you enjoy your arm shape.


Description of Draper one-arm dumbbell rows

I’ve heard your method of dumbbell rows is unusual and I wonder if you could give us some details.

Whereas pulldowns and chins add width to one’s back, dumbbell rows add power and muscle thickness. Start with a reasonable weight for 10 to 12 reps and work your way up the rack to four or six reps for the final set, sometimes doubles and singles when the stars are right.

To satisfy our musclebuilding quests, where muscle fullness is a prime target, I find the moderate rep-range most effectual. Therefore, heavy weight gives way to moderate, manageable weight. Reps go where you direct them for maximum muscle effect, not anywhere any way you can.

Assume a three-point equi-distant stance with the upper body leaning forward of the legs and the forearm resting on a handy dumbbell rack. Kneeling on a bench for support is a no-go. Before affecting any of the various rowing motions, you want to secure a grip of steel. Strengthening the grip and developing the forearms should always be included among your purposes for lifting the iron and moving the steel.

The first action is pulling the dumbbell with vigor from a hanging position to a place high and above the deltoid. This is a sweeping motion that resembles a one-arm bentover lateral raise. Sounds ambitious, but the back and torso are engaged simultaneously, giving thrust to the dumbbell, yet always demanding muscle control. This is not an arbitrary weight toss. At the peak of the movement, contraction is directed to the upper back and rear delt region; a controlled negative adds muscle exertion to the upper back and the entire length of the lat. The fact that one side of the body at a time is being engaged allows this grand action, and exertion of force and energy. Five is the outside number of reps for this phase.

The second action is the old-fashioned lawnmower pull. However, our lawnmower is hunky and requires a full forward extension of the dumbbell and a magnificent tug, bringing the dumbbell to the vicinity of the… um… armpit. Contract big-time. Four, five or six reps will start anybody’s grass cutter. We just concentrated on the deep muscles of the back, the ones that give ridges and lumps and might to the broad sweeping expanse.

Pulling the dumbbell straight up and down with a minimum of thrust is the wisest expenditure of the remaining energy, will and consciousness. This mass-building motion exerts the upper-back muscles with no energy or force lost to defining lat length or rippley stuff. Do what you can in these culminating three or four reps. I don’t have the nerve — the audacity — to define rigid requirements moments before you pass out.

Now for the other side. Hehe…


Why did you drop out of competition?

You won Mr. America in 1965, Mr. Universe in 66, and went on to win Mr. World in 1970. You say you sensed a shifting of the gears in bodybuilding and stepped out of competition. What had changed for you?

I was out of step with the competitive world of sports. What has popularly become known as bodybuilding over the years has to me always been an activity about lifting weights and building muscle and strength. Title holding never entered my mind, while wanting to have big arms and a powerful back have never left. The Mr. America title, Mr. Universe and Mr. World are cool companions that have never left my side, but they were not my passion, not my driving force.

I won the titles and I was honored and grateful. I still am. But in the short time I competed, the world around me warped.

Lifting weights, building muscles and building strength lost their identity in the confusion of the competitive world. Poses and posing, posing music and posing trunks, oil and lighting, the drama, the judges. Okay, fine. On top of that, the humble, relatively unfettered and wholly original diversion was being rapidly redefined by big selections business. It was becoming an industry. Big, cluttered and greedy.

Excuse me, conductor, wrong train. No need to stop, I’ll just jump off here.


Is 12 years old too young to start training?

You say you started weight training at 12 years old. Some personal trainers feel that may be too young for developmental reasons. What are your feelings on this?

Pushups, chins and dips, leg raises and crunches, running and jumping are great conditioners for kids as soon as you can get their attention. Encouragement from generous adults to properly engage the rascals helps them understand the purpose of the activities, instills priceless disciplines and directs the safe and effective execution of the exercises without diminishing the playfulness. Oh, boy, do we need some of this. Take the smart phones and video games to the dumpster, and don’t forget the soda and chips on the way out.

When weight training comes into the picture, wouldn’t it be nice if they were already prepared for the activity with the above healthy fortification? A little thoughtful coaching goes a long way for a 12-year-old who stands before a barbell for the first time. Teaching the basic exercises to a healthy youngster with an earnest heart is okay in my experience.

The kids will listen as you caution them against poor form, over-straining, injury and goofiness. You can direct them toward moderation in effort, focus on exercise performance and the action of the muscle. They won’t be growth-halted, bent-boned or joint-separated if they’re instructed favorably and encouraged to eat well.

What an opportunity to mold a fine young person. Why, he or she may grow up to be the governor.

The trouble begins when the movements are done with too much weight, really poor form and very little focus on the purpose of each exercise. We usually see this in adults who should know better, but it seems they never learned. Nobody took the time to teach them.


Antique statues

You and your peers looked like some antique statues while modern-day athletes are more like comic book characters. Despite this, they continue their scary progress along with bodybuilding itself. What’s the future of bodybuilding: Will it grow even bigger or will it burst? What has been gained and what’s lost by our sport as a result of this growing?

By ‘antique statues,’ I’m assuming you mean graceful yet rugged works of art chiseled out of granite or carved from mahogany or teak. I, of course, was etched by laser beam from a block of Titanium 90.

How can we not be impressed by the unbelievable hugeness and incredible muscularity displayed by the bodybuilding champions of this era? Some have sought size and symmetry and achieved a certain degree of beauty, or interpretation thereof. But so many have packed, stuffed and piled on as much muscle as they can with the wares at hand and have become odd bundles of ad hoc flesh, veins and bone. Measured by outrageous size, they win; measured by authentic beauty, they don’t.

They are rare creatures, indeed, and I don’t mean that derogatorily. God bless them and their friends; they have achieved such proportions as to set them apart from the rest of mankind. They are a subculture within a subculture to be awed. And we are in awe. Inspired, thrilled? Maybe not so much.

I think the mega-bodies will continue, as long as they have an audience; like NASCARs coming around the turn and into the straightaway. Cars and spectators roar… until they crash, run out of fuel or lose their spark.

Natural bodybuilders should think of themselves as musclebuilders, healthy, strong and fit; down to earth, real and naturally passionate men and women with purpose, sensibility and commonsense. Add courage, perseverance and honor to the list.

Today’s bodybuilders, like 90 percent of mankind, are the products of our excessive times. More is better, now is too late. I don’t subscribe to the philosophy, I suspect you don’t and I hope our friends do not.

It’ll all sift itself out in time. That one-liner sounds like a copout, but it’s my best guess. Life is getting real weird lately. One more rep…


Entering a bodybuilding show in June

In June, I plan to enter a local bodybuilding contest. I’ve never done one before. Do you have any tips for me at this point?

You have the remaining weeks to pose, get color, stimulate and coax the body with sensible and lovable training. Don’t beat yourself up. Almost everyone gets nervous and overtrains 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 gaunt and whipped on stage, and then look like vibrant champions three days after the show’s completion. They’ve eaten, rested and relaxed. They’re bigger, harder, healthier and happy.

Feed yourself, sleep, train for fun and pump, relax and visualize your success. Apply the functional miracles of positive thinking: Imagine — visualize — enthusiastic pre-contest prepping, robust workouts, exciting muscle responses, growth in body, mind and spirit; the completion of hard work well done and your personal competence in achieving your goals; a strong body, well-constructed and conditioned, capable and disciplined.

No judging, just compare yourself to yourself and recognize your worth. Visualize in reasonable detail an exciting time onstage, connecting with the audience and hitting your poses with might and pleasure and confidence. The audience can sense your love and strength, and the absence of fear and doubt.

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


Can’t stick to my desires

I’m in my early 20s and have been lifting for a couple of years at 110%. But I like to go out for pizza and a beer once a week and an occasional fast-food burger. I miss a workout every three or four weeks. Maybe I just don’t have the determination or drive to stick to serious training. How can I make myself stay true to my desires?

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

Be devoted and wise and don’t chase away a growing relationship with the iron by unreasonable austerity. Relax. You’re aware of your imperfections and you’re confronting them; this indicates they will not gain control and overcome you. 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 minor dilemma in time as you persist in 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.

Train hard, eat right and don’t worry.


What is “moderate” weight?

I’ve been lifting a little over ten years, twice weekly, full-body, approximately one hour sessions. I do other stuff, e.g., stretches, crunches, push-ups every day, but do the iron only twice a week. In a recent newsle,tter you mention liking “moderate weight.” To get to a question here, what do you think a 145-pound, 69-year-old guy might reasonably be pushin’ and pullin’?

Reducing the weight one uses in workouts doesn’t necessarily mean lessening intensity or letting up and letting go. Great workouts can and do emerge from less weight and more focus, form and control.

You sound like you’re being appropriately cautious. The light-to-moderate weights allow a savvy lifter to crawl into the movement and appreciate all its good work. You can direct the bar or dumbbell or handle where you want and need for effect and to avoid injury or pain without being bullied by a heavier weight.

Heavier weights are, obviously, fantastic for muscle mass and strength building, but not so much for form articulation and concentrating on muscle engagement. Have you ever noticed there’s a sort of explosive chaos in chasing the heavier reps? Ba-Boom! The bar goes up and down, or not, without a clear and complete understanding of ‘how.” Urgency and desperation and sometimes blood rule the action. Injury and overload become incidental to achieving the goal.

Sorry, I can’t help you estimate your pulling effort because we pull differently (body-thrust, bar and handle variations) and at the ends of different cable equipment with differing advantages and resistance. Work between 6 and 12 reps with 75% output (room for another rep with no body contortion or sacrifice of worthwhile groove).

Walking is good for everyone, especially those who might be considering hearing aids, glasses, cutesy hairpieces and pacemakers. Who’d a thunk it? Go to the hills and the stairs for tough, functional leg and cardiovascular workouts.

Mass- and might-building may not be the smartest goals in the world, whereas solid muscle maintenance and general health certainly are. Eat smartly throughout the day; valuable protein, fats and carbs only and lots of fresh, nutrient-dense living foods. Drink water freely. Get plenty of rest. Be productive. Don’t worry about anything. Never give up.

Godspeed… Dave

Young son just getting started

My oldest son has joined the iron game. His freshman year of football has passed and now he’s training regularly at a local club. He wanted me to ask you what to concentrate on during the off season, sets, reps, good exercises to increase his bench and squats. This kid wants to be in the 700 Club (bench/squat/incline).

His smartest and most beneficial training approach for overall strength and performance and long-term training interest is to choose a good routine with moderate weight, hitting each body part two times a week with two or three exercises for four sets (sometimes three) and the reps ranging the pyramid of 12, 10, 8, 6.

Stay with the basics and go for some power sets/reps every three weeks. Don’t be brutal on the bench press or the shoulders will surely pay. Stick with the squats and throw in deadlifts once a week for body power and muscle thickness.

In other words, the basics for total musclebuilding will assure a ready and healthy skeletal/muscular structure for all seasons and reasons.

Remember: Train hard, eat right and be confident.


Membership sales

Did your gym have personal trainers who worked for you? When it comes to the membership, did it include personal training for those who may not know how to really work out well? Was it sales oriented with the sales staff to the degree that the only question asked is “Did you sell them?”

Our gym was small (7,000 sq. ft.), clean as a whistle, not oversold and thus was never crowded. Unfortunately, it’s now closed, so this information is dated.

It served the members as a serious training gym and a refuge. No clubby atmosphere, no social boy-meets-girl scene and not a tough-hardcore obnoxious freak house. It was not perfect but close.

Most times of the day we had one staff person on the clock at a time, although there was often at least one other staff member on the gym floor doing their own training, so there were always a couple of friendly people around to help. There was no sales pressure whatsoever (in fact, none of us were very good at selling, which is actually a bad thing because we ended up having to close and a lot of people who would have been well served by us having a bit of sales skills instead went away to join a different gym with better sales people).

We had a few personal trainers for hire (our capable friends) and we all gave training advice as asked or needed. The mingling on the floor usually takes the form of sharing gym knowledge and co-training.

The major chains dig deep for the bucks and I view them as creepy exploiters of good. Man in his search for fitness can be misled and soaked by these factories. This style of gym has been around since the chains formed 60 or more years ago (Vic Tanny’s, American Health Studios). Our neighborhood style of gyms need to sell and make a dollar to keep the doors open, but they are nothing like Bally or 24-Hour Fitness… grrrrrr.

Carry on… Dave

How do you deal with father time?

I’m now 48 years young and acknowledge my best physique years are behind me. I bomb and blast with gusto on a regular basis, but see more sagging skin and excess fat in the midsection than l would like. I eat clean (water, high protein, moderate carbs and fats) and cardio is part of my program, yet the desired results are no longer in my mirror. Just wondering how you dealt with the reality of father time knocking at the door.


First of all, time is not our father; he’s not even our long-lost cousin. He’s a creepy thief who takes what he wants as soon as he can get it. Early on, I ignored the shadowy character as any red-blooded citizen might ignore a cop car following him on the freeway. I slowed down hoping he’d pass me. Not. Brazen, I ran like a bandit with his pants on fire, but the hands of time snagged me before I could fence my booty. Desperate, I tried to hide, but the hooded stalker never left my side. Backed into a corner, I fought with all my might, while he snarled and sneered, snickered and smacked me silly.

It is the ultimate dilemma, bombers: how to deal with getting old and letting go? Hard enough for a retired lawyer or librarian, linguist or Lilliputian, but an iron-bound builder of muscle and might? Horrors!! I can tell you for sure what does not work: pounding your head against a squat rack, howling as you spear an Olympic bar across the gym floor, smashing a locker-room mirror with a 45-pound plate or glaring at the wide-eyed and naturally muscular 18-year-old who enters the gym for the very first time.

I have a list of purposes: sanity, survival, security, stress reduction and saintly suffering; long life, daily joy, fulfillment, responsibility and curiosity.

I’m not done yet: huge and ripped, 450 bench press, squat and deadlift. The lattermost are not purposes; they’re daydreams and pipe dreams interspersed with hallucinations and bed wettings.

I have the feeling I’m not offering you the answer you want to hear. In fact, I present no answer at all. I dodge the question as one dodges a sharp sword in the hand of a stealthy opponent. ‘Getting old’ for anyone, man, woman or dog, is a trick, trial and trek none of us is prepared for. One day we look ahead, around and after us and there we are, up to our ankles, hips or eyeballs in time.

Here’s the trick, the secret (as if I know any tricks or secrets): Train hard, eat right, be strong and smile; lift, live, learn and grow. Be happy and be grateful for yesterday, this day and the days to come.

brother dave

Realistic goals

Can you give me a realistic goal for an older beginner?

Training over 40, 50, 60, and so on, can be and should be a treat, a highly regarded undertaking, a thrill, a commendable robust challenge, a cool and courageous endeavor, a productive diversion, a favored sport of action and purpose and a fulfilling release.
It is so healthful as to make you want to burst with pride and thanksgiving. You are fixing, restoring, replenishing and reviving; you are adjusting, exacting, developing and improving; you are polishing and brightening and readying and preparing.

Why do people think exercise, good eating and fair care are a painful, unthinkable labor?

Okay, so lists are fun.

You will build muscle
You will build strength and overcome weakness
You will add tone and shape to your body
You will improve cardio-respiratory action
You will improve energy, endurance and well-being
You will control your body weight
You will channel stress
You will improve the function and harmony of your internal system
You will improve hormonal balance and productivity
You will think more clearly (and positively and creatively, no doubt)
You will glow and laugh when others dimly groan

Set your goals high enough to be noble and low enough to be humble.

Set your commitment in concrete.

You probably won’t win Miss or Mr. America.

You probably won’t bench press 450 pounds.

You probably will exercise, eat right and be happy for a long time.

brother dave

Training output for older lifters

What level of training output do you recommend for older lifters?

Train as hard as you are able or as hard as you want according to your limitations.

Many of over-40 gym members train with an intensity that is agreeable, healthy and sufficient for maintenance. They are light years ahead of their neighbors. Through my 40s-60s, I trained with heightened senses to blast it most every set without explosions and devastation to the surrounding real estate. That is to say, I applied the intelligence of warming up; I moved continually but without haste; I grasped the weights and assume my lifting position precisely to protect the prickly joints and other odds and ends, and proceeded lifting with cautious aggressiveness until red lights come on.

I would then regroup, oxygenize and move on with attention and resolve. I want all I can get without breaking (this is a lifelong goal too).

Excuse me… I counted 10 “I”s in that paragraph, hopefully to make a point.


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