davedraper.com home

First Things First

Before you get distracted by all the great options you're about to find here, please sign up for Dave's free weekly newsletter so he can continue to encourage and motivate you toward your fitness goals.
Chris M writes:
"You blend plain-spoken wisdom, motivational fire and wry humor into a weekly email jolt that leaves me itching to hit the gym. Whether I'm looking for workout routines, diet tips or a friendly kick in the butt, the Bomber comes through every time." ... Read more...

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.

dd


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.

dd


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.

Dave


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


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.

Badly!

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


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.

Dave


Protein requirements for an older lifter

I am a 47-year-old bodybuilder and have been working out on and off since my teens. Are the older bodybuilder’s protein requirements the same as for a younger bodybuilder? Or are they less than younger bodybuilders’ due to the slower metabolism that comes with age?

I suggest musclebuilders of all stages and ages accentuate their protein intake to assure muscle development and tissue repair. The muscle you’ve achieved over the years and your spirited efforts to continue to grow hard and strong depend on a plentiful supply of those amino acids.

As the metabolism is not firing away as it did as a kid, it follows that the system is not as efficient at absorbing and utilizing amino acids to satisfy our bright and hopeful needs. The overall volume of food intake might require down adjustment, but let’s keep the protein high, the nutrient-packed carbs and the good fats fortified with essential fatty acids medium. Get stronger every day.

Note: Protein is not toxic; you can’t get too much and certain amino acids combine to provide energy.

dd


Over 40, lost the ability to grow?

As a man over 40, have I lost the ability to grow? I continue to train, but the “packing it on” stage seems to have left me. I lift about the same weight. In fact, a bit more, but the size doesn’t seem to come.

Two truths should be revisited and underscored at this point: that’s life and everyone is different.

A third truth can be added: 40 to 50 are still very good growth years.

“That’s life” tells us we do slow down in muscular growth as we age. Yet if the basic training precepts are followed — workout consistency, hard training, smart eating and plenty of rest and relaxation — muscular size and quality can be improved perceptibly into our 60s.

That “everyone is different” part — genetics, health, training acumen, drive, toughness and such — tells us some will flourish more than others. Some will flounder.

Sufficient exercise will keep us in shape. Swell. Those who are suited to progress as they age need to be aggressive with their training, while at once retaining commonsense, care and attentiveness to overtraining and system abuse.

Finesse, passion and creativity are three major qualities that determine and assure a trainee’s continued distinct advancement. They separate the ordinary from the special.

Certain muscles that have not been overtrained or training-saturated — rear delts, forearms, lower lats, thighs — can surprise us and respond especially well to specific exercises, and restore our confidence and delight in training and growing.

Finally, the over-40 lifter must be careful not to be dominated or intimidated by the over-40 rhetoric. It’s specious, spurious and insidious with tentacles reaching the subconscious that will defeat a person before age 41.

dd


Older guy training

A word from the wise, please. I am rapidily approaching 75 and will have weight trained for 60 yrs and dare I say I am still in reasonable shape. The big lifting days are over and if I can do a cable exercise to supplement real weights then I will do it. But for all those years of training, I am now starting to scratch my head for the best routine I should now start to follow that will keep me well toned and perhaps more pain free.

– – General ‘older guy’ training tips for fun, satisfaction and maintenance – –

The aim is to get plenty of muscle action and effort from fewer exercises, lighter weights, at a slower pace and with less force. No straining and no huffing and puffing. Nice and easy does it.

These are modifications you’re already making. Embrace them, you’ve built what muscle you can healthfully build. Smart and satisfactory maintenance is not hard to achieve… until it is, further on down the line… next week, next year, when you’re 80?!

My choice of 5 exercises:

Seated DB Curls and Lying Triceps Extensions
DB Incline Press and Stiff-arm DB Pullover
Widegrip Pulldowns
Squat (some version thereof)

> 2 to 3 sets per exercise

> 12, 10, 8 reps or 10 reps throughout

> Light weights wisely chosen to achieve smart, sweet stimulation. Here’s where your judgment and will must shine.

> Mix and match exercises to suit you (I like the arrangement indicated above)

> 45 minutes is enough time in the gym with the iron. So is 30 minutes on some days. Don’t let the gym time become ‘ugly’…if ya know what I mean. But, then, you like it there. Me? A lifetime of enter gym, get to work in a focused and timely fashion, smile and exit gym.

> Focus and order and even pace are especially important to me. Use your instincts to guide you when disorder occurs.

Eat right, rest plenty and thank God Almighty… …

Dave


Not as big as I once was

What do you do after one of those days of depression when you, the Blond Bomber, realizes he isn’t as big as he once was?

I hadn’t noticed till you mentioned it, but I obligingly thought about it.

Greetings, Cheerful One,

It is good to have choices when confronted with the revolting truth.

I sit trembling on the edge of an abyss and stare into the darkness. Moaning doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Or I crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. (Getting smashed is no longer an option.)

Or I have a donut. Hot dogs work.

Or I go to the mall and watch people shop, eat and grow large.

Or I go to McBigGulps and watch people sit, eat and grow large.

Or I make a few minor adjustments and thank God for what I have.

At just the right moment, we can go to the gym and play hard. We’re practiced.

Godspeed… The battle-scarred Bomber


My face is looking old

How can I make my face look as young and powerful as my body?

A strong visage often comes from the look of authentic confidence that accompanies training and the qualities one acquires through the training process. Strength in back, the courage to gain it and the humility knowing someone around the corner is stronger and bigger exudes a powerful and impressive glow of its own.

I’ve heard of facial isometric and isotonic exercises, but have not seen a program outlined or demonstrated. You could design your own routine with a little creativity — cheek-crunching and jaw-stretching and eye-widening for x sets of x reps every other day for 15 minutes. I really doubt these are worth the time and effort. Just think of the tense facial expressions (exercises, essentially) we make throughout a tough workout or within any given day. Our faces should be ripped.

Leanness, a goal of bodybuilding, is eventually realized in the face, accentuating the bone structure and often translating into a rugged look. Seek leanness through hard training and right eating.

In other words: Train hard, eat right and look tough.

dave


Starting up training after 40

How do I begin exercise safely over 40 without risking health and unnecessary strain?

The best way is to be a kid again… with an adult brain. Revive your curiosity, playful spirit and willingness to jump right in without painful self-consciousness and binding pride. Have fun and trust in your efforts.

This doesn’t mean make a fool of yourself or charge forward with unbridled eagerness. It means use your energy, enthusiasm, heart and common sense.

There are different ways to begin your over-40 training program. You can power-walk in your neighborhood daily. As you are able, go longer distances and add jogging to your walking regimen. Learn and practice simple rules of smart eating behavior and consider future training plans that include resistance exercise.

Join a gym, hire a knowledgeable personal trainer for three basic sessions and apply the teaching regularly. Continue your wise investment, knowing time and consistency will certainly bring you to your fitness goals.

Training and eating right are not rocket sciences, and instincts, sound thinking and simple observation will guide you along the way. Safe and wise steps will unfold. Eventually, you’ll know yourself and your limits and have the will and means to surpass them. Risk and strain and the over-40 mentality will evaporate like steam from an old kettle on a potbelly stove.

Dave


What exercises are wrong and should be eliminated?

What exercises are wrong and should be eliminated?

The ones that hurt the most.

The longer we roam the planet’s surface, the greater the potential for accident, overuse, abuse, disability from illness and general wear and tear. And, there are some of you young guys and gals who know more pain and rough terrain than any of us born before Sputnik. Our bodies and sometimes our doctors tell us what to discard and when. Pain dictates our moves and pain deserves respect.

You’ve heard me commend pain as if it had life and personality, the stern instructor, teaching, directing, humbling and protecting. Take advantage of the brute; listen closely.

Having been knocked around a bit, I found myself running out of moves that didn’t threaten the old bone pile. I gave up flys ‘cuz they pulled at my biceps; after shoulder surgery, bench presses were removed from my memory through repeated electro-shock treatments; reverse curls for biceps and forearms became impossible years ago and sidearm laterals refused to cooperate after the earthquake in ’89. Front presses eluded me in the same year but the deltoids held on through traditional dips and some sneaky lightweight dumbbell presses.

Rejection is gruesome. Revenge is sweet. Out of need and desperation, I occasionally dragged each retired movement from the heap and with determination, patience and time reinvented them one by one. Experiments will take you a long way.

dd


What do you recommend for getting the mind back into the game?

What do you recommend for getting the mind back into the game?

Exercise isn’t exactly a thrill a minute. Too often it smacks of monotony, fatigue, work, obligation and sacrifice. Swell! Let’s work out!

This is wrong thinking — negative input — and must not be entertained and allowed to take root. The work begins with establishing your commitment and training attitude at the starting block. And only by knowing your goals and purposes can these prerequisites be considered.

I suggest you review your training goals: why you train and where you want to take it or where you want it to take you.

The list is as long as Route 66. And, as you review your purposes, take the time to invigorate them. Increased strength, lean muscle, fat loss, improved health and self control must not become vague, slumbering stirrings of your mind. They must be bright and crisp urges, full of life, color and animation. Be grateful for their presence, and well-pleased you are capable and know how to achieve them. Few people are as blessed and aware.

You’re free. You can walk into the gym and work out according to your wants and needs and abilities. You can push and pull and lift, and greet and know yourself in the process. Step back for a minute; revive your workouts by doing what you please to do and when. Go for your favorite exercises; go for the pump and the burn, go till you want to stop, go for the smile. Who cares if you get the last rep, the total sets, that hoped-for poundage? It’s the act of being there with spirit and enthusiasm that counts.

When that old time feeling suddenly returns — and it will if you let it — you can crank up your training and add just enough control to keep it rolling… smoothly.

When all else fails, think of life and what it would be like if you let the weights go. If that doesn’t get your mind back into the game, nothing will.

Something I read in an ancient how-to book revisits me often: Be strong and courageous… full of hope. Good advice.

Dave


Did you always love training?

Through all your years of training, did you always love the deed?

Not once have I not loved the idea of weightlifting.

The practice itself holds other experiences. The early attempts to move the iron are novel and exciting, curious and mysterious and inventive. Continued applications of force against steel yields rewards that multiply and are most desirable. Don’t you love the pump, muscular growth and regular increases in strength, the designing of workouts, their smooth execution and the last engaging rep?

Obstacles and plateaus be leveled by cannons; they test the body, mind and soul. Enduring them lifts us to new levels of completeness, physical, mental and spiritual. Who among us doesn’t appreciate endurance and its plentiful fruits?

Appreciation borders on love.

Beyond the early days of play, struggle and the horizon of plateaus, we one day, sooner or later, come to the tantalizing engagement of muscle and might, the tuneful rhythm of exercise and pace, the slow release of doubt and fear and the gratefulness for one’s time and place amid the steel.

As if these delights were not enough, there are more: the comfort of expression and freedom and the understanding born of discipline and purpose, compromise and patience, no matter the abundance or scarcity indwelling your bones. These joys are difficult to distinguish from love.

Dave


Alcohol and lifting

I lift hard and party hard with my friends. What I mean by that is I lift 5-6 times a week hard, but I drink heavily 1-3 times a week as well. I know it can’t be good for my training, as you said one of the things you most regret is drinking alcohol when you were younger. I would like to know some of the effects of drinking and weightlifting, how it hurts me and what it actually does to my body.

I’m not a doctor who can tell you in detail the degenerative effects of excessive alcohol in the bloodstream from over-consumption. I hope it’s sufficient to say that alcohol, a basic ingredient in appropriate minuscule amounts, is basically poisonous when disproportionately present. It is generally toxic to the entire system, exhausting its antioxidants, attacking the stores of B vitamins, straining the immune system and overworking the kidneys, liver and other organs and glands on down the line.

The damage is done beneath the skin amid the organs and their vital functions. This is to say nothing of the damage it does to the brain and central nervous system, the mental processes and the emotions.

Few are successful at forewarning or convincing another person of the damage or potential strife of excessive drinking. Seems one must discover the problems on one’s own, sooner or later, and fix them if it’s not too late and if he or she can.

Consider cutting back as you grow older and wiser and as you envision the joy of carrying a strong and muscular body, the fulfillment of training, the inspiration of a healthy and disciplined lifestyle.

Alcohol made me dumb.

dd


Have I lost the ability to grow?

As a man over 40, have I lost the ability to “grow”? I continue to train, but the “packing it on” stage seems to have left me. I lift about the same weight. In fact, a bit more, but the growth (size) doesn’t seem to come.

Two truths should be revisited and underscored at this point: that’s life and everyone is different.

A third truth can be added: 40 to 50 are still very good growth years.

“That’s life” tells us we do slow down in our muscular growth as we age. Yet, if the basic training precepts are followed — workout consistency, hard training, smart eating and plenty of rest and relaxation — muscular size, shape and quality can be improved perceptibly into our 60s.

“That everyone is different” — genetics, health, training acumen, drive, toughness and such — tells us some will flourish more than others. Some will flounder.

Sufficient exercise will keep one in shape. Swell. Those who are suited to progress as they age need to be aggressive with their training, while at once retaining commonsense, care and attentiveness to overtraining and system abuse.

Finesse, passion and creativity are three major qualities that determine and assure a trainee’s continued distinct advancement. These separate the ordinary from the special.

Certain muscles that have not been overtrained or training-saturated — rear delts, forearms, lower lats, thighs — can surprise us and respond especially well to specific exercises, and restore our confidence and delight in training and growing.

Finally, the over-40 lifter must be careful not to be dominated or intimidated by the over40 rhetoric. It is specious, spurious and insidious with tentacles reaching the subconscious that defeat us before we’re 41.

draper


Serious lifting without injury?

Is it possible to be careful enough to get serious results in lifting without being injured on the way? How bad were the injuries you got and how do you deal with them?

I’m sure a lifter could avoid injury by training sensibly, pushing it toward the limits without excess, never overtraining, always resting sufficiently and eating right.

But…it would be like getting a hole-in-one with a putter or running a 100-yard touchdown in high heels. It’d be tough. Injury is a great humbler and instructor; just think what you’d be missing.

Those who lift weights successfully tend to be driven. They push beyond the red zone and pull till they pop their tops. You can’t stop them, they can only stop themselves… torn rotator, strained hamstring, tendonitis of the elbow.

Great instructors, lousy companions.

Two open surgeries, one on the right elbow and the other on my right rotator and biceps, were the only surgeries I had due to training overload. Minor injuries are mean and ongoing and you moan and groan and work around them… like using a soup spoon to dig your way out of the rubble of a small earthquake. You see light and hear sounds and guess, and you dig… carefully… slowly… persistently.

In fact, that’s the way my training evolved as I got older: look, listen, guess and dig-in with care and patience.

Bypass and quadruple laminectomy since age 65 made me less frisky than usual.

dd


Life’s obstacles

Have things usually associated with success ever interfered with your training?

I’ve tripped over the usual obstacles in life and none of it had to do with anything in particular.

Here’s something many readers might understand: I drank far too much vodka in my life, and it wasn’t a pretty sight by the time I was done. I paid my dues for drinking the booze. That was heading toward 40 years ago now.

Somehow, through the thick and thin and ups and downs, the weights, the iron and the workouts have kept me from sinking to the bottom or drifting too far away.

Dave


Training output for aging athlete

What level of training output do you recommend for an aging one-time athlete?

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

Many of the over-40 members of our gym trained with an intensity that is agreeable, healthy and sufficient for maintenance. They were lightyears ahead of their neighbors. Some of my buddies are pushing it to keep that hard edge, outwit the injuries and foil the stooped stalker.

Train with heightened senses to blast it most every set without explosions and devastation to the surrounding real estate. That is to say, apply the intelligence of warming up, then move continually but without haste. Grasp the weights and assume your lifting position precisely to protect the prickly joints and other odds and ends, and proceed lifting with cautious aggressiveness until red lights come on.

Then, regroup, oxygenize and move on with attention and resolve. You want all you can get without breaking.

bomber


Next Page »