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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.


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.


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

Best time to train?

In your experience, when is the best time to train?

In my later years, I shifted to stronger, more energetic, more mentally receptive, less prone to injury and, thus, more productive in the early afternoon, rather than my formerly scheduled early morning timeframe.

The initial decades were always early morning — get it done before the distractions of the day. That is my suggestion for anyone who can live with that schedule because consistency is greatly enhanced if you can get the work done before things go haywire.

Alternatively, if you have power or strength goals, afternoon or even after work is better performance-wise.


Draper training philosophy

What can you tell us about your personal philosophy of training?

After years of telling the same story, you run out of ways to present it. So, it’s the same basic story with flourishes of body language, goofy faces, mild sound effects and finesse.

Intuition, necessity and understanding become your master teachers: a shift of grip here, a change of angle there, an abbreviation of range of motion and a novel groove instigated by an injury, which demands the clever rerouting of the weights around the pain and inflammation.

Discipline, high hopes and courage get you to the gym. Involvement, focus of mind, muscle and action is your training companion. Perseverance drags you across the metal to the gym’s far side, while desire redefines pain.

Fulfillment, a friend indeed, joins you as you leave.

Can I have a cookie now?


How to get started

I’m interested in any motivating thoughts and specific suggestions you might have people like me who want to make improvements in their health and fitness but might seem a bit overwhelmed or intimidated about how or where to start.

My thoughts:

To successfully improve our wellbeing we must understand and embrace the following concept: Our health and fitness is our life in our cupped hands before us. It is the most precious yet neglected treasure we possess, and attending it is simple and should be eagerly pursued.

What needs to be done is summed up in one weighty guideline: Exercise and eat right regularly. There you have in five words the best prescription for a long, happy and productive life. Start today taking small steps to restore your health and strength.

Eating right, a list of steps to choose from:

Make the commitment to press toward your fitness goal in one or more ways each and every day. Take your time and apply no pressure. Add this ‘n that, here ‘n there until a life-giving habit is formed. When we try too hard, we set ourselves up for disappointment and early defeat. Try and try again.

Begin by sweeping your refrigerator and cupboards clean of the foods you know are wrong: soda pop and chips and candy and cake. They are bad for you. This is a major and painless move — out of sight, out of mind. Eliminating.

Make fewer trips to the fast-food joints and eat less when you’re there — half the chips, half the pop, half the goop. Weaning.

Sugar kills, protein gives life. As you decrease your intake of empty foods (foods high in sugar offering no nutritional value), increase your consumption of protein-rich foods: meat, fish, poultry, milk products, some nuts and legumes. Exchanging.

Make it a plan to eat in a more sensible, orderly manner: smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, and begin with a small protein-high breakfast. Arranging.

Avoid random sugar-high snacks. Replace them with mini-meals of yogurt, cottage cheese and fruit or a meal replacement shake. Replacing.

Add living food to your menu. Plenty of fresh salad and steamed vegetables and ample amounts of fruit daily should be eaten for vitamin, mineral, enzyme value and roughage. Adding.

Your health and fitness reflect who you are and play a decisive role in where you’re going. It’s your responsibility to exercise daily to prepare your body and mind for the ordinary yet demanding routine of daily living. Fail to exercise and we age and weaken sooner and more certainly. Exercising.

brother dave

Motivation over the years

I meant to be training well coming into this new year, but I can’t get motivated. What causes you to stick to the training over all these years?

You have to lift for yourself, love it, even when you hate it, and never give up.

We’re all different and have different training needs. Consider personality, metabolism and body chemistry, genetics, structure and goals. You’ll discover yours through patient and attentive trial and experience. There’s no failing when you lift weights sensibly, only lifting, learning, living and growing. Press on always. Be consistent.

You’re building more than strength and muscle; you’re building strong character — courage, discipline, perseverance, patience and understanding — which exhibits itself daily and commends you highly to the world around you. You are more than surviving, you are aspiring.

Remember, part of your training is to eat right (no junk, no gorging, no skimpy meals), live a moderate lifestyle (have fun, don’t beat yourself up) and get your rest and relaxation.

If you’re in a hurry, you’ll burn out. I’m not saying slow down; I’m saying you cannot hurry.


January’s here, can’t get started

I had every intention of hitting January workouts hard, but here we are and I’m already floundering. I can’t get going. Can you help?

The time to make an assessment of who and where you are has arrived. Often both the trainer and the training are in a muddle at this time of year, a condition indicated by a slump in spirit, energy, direction and progress.

We want to go forward with vigor, but have yet to define the urge clearly or develop a plan to match. Stop, look and listen.

Refresh your goals, reestablish your commitment, upgrade your workout and invigorate your disciplines. Remove the junk from the cupboards and fridge, and restock the empty space with goodness and vitality.

Imagine and think positively. Apply the solid, bold and mighty attitude of a lifter who knows, understands and engages the 10 Truths about training:

~ Consistency
~ Hard work
~ Creative workouts
~ Perseverance
~ Patience
~ Basic movements build
~ Protein builds
~ Eat right
~ Sleep, rest and relax
~ Positive attitude

Now you’re talkin’. Spread your wings and fly…

The Bomber

Deployed and coming home soon

I’m a deployed Sergeant First Class and have been a soldier for 20 years. I am going home to see my wife of 22 years in mid-May and want to shape up. I am currently 45 and weigh 205 at 5’6″ and, though heavy, am in good shape. I need to lose the bodyfat and add some muscle. I would greatly appreciate help with a routine and a simple diet plan.

You’ve got four months to do your thing and you have a number of great advantages in your favor. The first and foremost is your incentive — to return home to your family after a long tour with a renewed and invigorated body. Further, being in good shape, healthy and strong, will serve you well.

Having a background that includes regular weight training is a big plus. And, of course, that you’re military, possessing the courage and dedication that is part of the force brings it all together.

Here’s what you do:

Start putting in the miles on a track or around the base. Do what you are able, as you recall the familiar routine common to a soldier’s conditioning. Your goal should be a brisk one or two miles, three or four days a week.

Get to the gym four or five days a week and plan on 60 minutes of work with the iron. Keep the routine basic, the pace steady, the time uninterrupted and the effort sufficiently intense.

Don’t think in terms of heavy lifting and maximum muscle size. Save that for another time when you have different goals and a different schedule. You want to drop bodyfat while developing lean and healthy muscle.

The big changes will be most evident by your drop in bodyweight through healthy eating. I’m sure this can be done if you apply willpower and keep your eye on your premise.

The basics work every time: smaller meals of high protein foods while keeping the sugar-high, nutrient-low foods in check. Foods containing good fats will serve you well, retaining energy and system health. Drink plenty of water regularly. Reminder: If you get low energy mid-workout, slip in a simple pre-workout meal for energy and endurance, tissue sustenance and recuperation.

Here’s a simple and efficient routine I’d follow. It’s basic and flexible and includes supersets, which I highly recommend.

Begin or end each workout with 10 minutes of vigorous crunches and leg raises.

Day 1) Chest and back and shoulders:

Press and widegrip pulldown
3-4 sets x 8-10 reps

Steep dumbbell inclines and seated lat row
3-4 sets x 8-10 reps

Sidearm lateral raise
3 sets x 8-10 reps

Bentover lateral raise
3 sets x 8-10 reps

Day 2) Forearms, biceps and triceps:

Wrist curls and stiffarm pullover
3-4 sets x 10-12 reps

Standing barbell curl and lying triceps extension
3-4 sets x 8 reps (bis), 12 reps (tris)

Low incline curl (30 degree) and machine dip or pulley pushdown
3-4 sets x 8 reps (bis), 12 reps (tris)

Day 3) Legs, low back

Leg press
3 sets x 15 reps

3 sets x 8-12 reps

Toe raise
6 sets x 12,15-20 reps

Stiff-leg deadlift
3-4 sets x 10-12 reps

There you have it.

Carry on the mighty work of this wonderful nation. Let’s get the world back. You guys and gals are the greatest.

In appreciation,


Beginner mistakes

What are the biggest mistakes you see beginning trainees making?

Bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting have many components, and the new participants come in all shapes and sizes. The mistakes made are numerous and various. Off the top of my head, let me list the top six mistakes I see in the beginner’s section.

1) Jumping into training without a clue. This worked for me and pre-historic man, but some basic knowledge picked up from an honest-to-goodness coach, be that a friend or professional, is not a bad idea. Get the basics down and start pounding away, learning as you go with focus and self-awareness. Once you learn the basics in exercise, muscle action and muscle grouping, sets and reps, your mistakes will become your guide.

2) Not working legs, like they were totally disconnected from the shoulders and arms. Another way of saying this is that they don’t do squats — gasp — the single most important builder of the body (next to the bench press, I guess one might say, if they were locked in a gym with a bunch of bench press-crazed physical culturists). Get with it.

3) Not addressing the training component of sound nutrition and right eating. Lots of protein, breakfast, frequent feedings, no junk food, things like that… lots of water. You are what you eat.

4) Expecting and looking for too much, too soon, and a quick submission to disappointment. Not giving the training a chance, the real test and thus not applying or developing discipline, patience and perseverance or muscle and might.

5) Doing bench presses that are too heavy, too soon and ferociously wrong in form. You know, the severely arched back, the big bounce, the right goes up followed sometime later by the left. Your shoulders will hate you for the rest of your life.

6) Seeking information like it was gold — the real answer, the hidden truth, the secret, the faster way, the better way, the pro’s way.

Along with that is believing in the magazines and studying their advertisements. Research more, train less, learn less, go nowhere, go home.

It’s in you, it’s in the iron, it’s in the work, hard consistent work. That’s also where the joy is stashed, where fulfillment overflows.


Not seeing fast enough results

I have been training for almost a year and want to enter a contest next summer, but I’m not seeing fast enough results. What kind of exercises do you recommend? I’m 14 years old.

Wanting fast results? Welcome to the club.

My advice is to train with high hopes and strong purpose and for fun. If that includes competing at 14, fine.

The fact is this muscle-building sport takes years and years of hard work and proper eating, and there is no magic. Some months go by and, though healthy things are happening, we see little or no progress at all.

Do not be discouraged, young bomber; you’re way ahead of the mob if you stick with it and be strong on the inside. It takes guts to lift weights, now and for good.

Training for a contest interrupts the healthy cycles of muscle growth as we tend to become highly stressed, eat less as we seek cuts and train too hard as we look for quick growth. These conditions are adverse to building muscle, creating a catabolic environment whereby muscle tissue is sacrificed. Further, muscle-building time is lost and logical, free thinking is frustrated.

What’s the rush? Take your time, be smart and enjoy the action. You’ll be bigger and better by next year and the year after than if you train for competition now.

Eat regularly throughout the day: lottsa protein (meat, fish and poultry, milk, eggs, cottage cheese) and no sugary junk food and lottsa fruit and vegetables and drink lottsa water. Don’t smoke, don’t drink and don’t do drugs.

Train hard, don’t miss, be happy and positive. You’re on your way.

Exercise for golfers

What exercise do you suggest for a middle-age golfer getting in shape for the greens and for life?

I’d train to be overall fit, conditioning you for all aspects of life. Train with the weights three times a week alternating the following whole-body routines: 1) dumbbell press, medium-wide-grip pulldown, barbell curl, machine dip, leg press plus calves 2) dumbbell incline press, seated lat row, alternate dumbbell curl, pulley pushdown, lightweight deadlift.

Here we have one basic exercise per muscle group for three sets x 8 to 10 reps. Recall your golf form, focus and purpose as you apply your might to each set and repetition of exercise. Discover your own intensity as you proceed and progress. Like your golf game, it will come to you. It’s all about practice.

One’s power in golf, I understand, is translated through a practiced effortless swing and finesse and not necessarily brutish muscular power.

Eat right — plenty of good protein and carbs and essential fats from nutrient-high foods, lots of water and no junk.

Complement your weight training on your off days with vigorous walks combined with mild jogs totaling 20 to 30 minutes. Add some rope pulley work and leg raises for torso and midsection strength and tone. You’re smart to train for life.


Help me get back on track

I am 63 years of age and a member of a gym that for various reasons I have not been able to frequent. I now feel stiff all over, my shoulders ache, the neck’s gone east, my lower back is, well, really low! Please advise on how to get back on track.

This is a very important thing you are doing for you, your life and for your friends. Bravo!

Do not make your return to exercise and the gym a ‘major project.’ Just get yourself to the gym with a feel-good smile on your face and an energy meal in your stomach.

All you need to do for the next days and weeks is a set of arm swings and leg raises to warm up the system (A to Z) and a few sets (2-3 x 10-12 reps) of dumbbell curls and lying dumbbell presses and flys…. more good to come in good time…

The combo is agreeable, simple and worthy. It also sets you in motion, affords a dandy pump and burn and builds muscle and strength.

You’re in there, doing the best you can and time is on your side.

In a few weeks, you can add a favorite exercise to complement your routine and continue the good fight. No hurry, nowhere to go… but forward and onward with improving muscle and might and perseverance and wisdom.

WOW! You’re rich! And only 63 years old.

God Bless US… Dave

> B-76 Bomber from New Jersey <

Is your workout an obligation?

Is your exercise time an obligation, a responsibility?

I’d call it more of a habit as the years pass. Good habits are very good. In the door, to the weights, sets and reps, sweat and strain, hi-goodbye, out the door and home. The workout doesn’t have to be a ritual, a production, a ceremony, a major project. Just do it.

It’s the emotionless blanks who need a nudge. I know people like that. They’re zombies walking heavily through the gym with their arms extended, mouths open and their eyes like galvanized quarters. “Take me to your exit.” From the stationary bike, magazine in hand, they make a lap around the gym floor before sitting on the leg extension for an extended length of time thinking of cookies.

If only we could inspire them to grasp a barbell, dumbbell and pulley. They would come alive, their vacant eyes would see and they’d grunt audibly with their once-silent open mouths.

Here’s to strong habits.


How to get a hasbeen back aboard

I am a former 25-year-old, 225-lb devoted bodybuilder (or musclebuilder, as you say) with things pretty much together. Today I’m a 28-year-old, 337-pound fulltime working (2 jobs), fulltime student, fulltime family man. I don’t know myself. How does one get back on track when one’s fallen so far? How does someone make time when there is none? When I do get to the steel, it reminds me more of what used to be than what can be now.

You’re busy and responsible and obligated in a multitude of directions and your purpose now is to contain your health by right eating and sufficient exercise. This of course includes losing weight and building — at least maintaining — muscle. These reach toward your goals of three years ago, but they are modified to suit your current circumstances.

Much of what we practice in our lifting experience is in our minds — attitude, confidence, appropriate goal setting, expectations, understanding, clarity — and this might upright and ease your exercise approach.

Exercise for fun and diversion with a few favorite, convenient and gratifying push-pull basics; walk regularly (great exercise), eat right and apply yourself to your deeds with the joy accompanying service and sacrifice. Seek to unburden your daily workload (too much and we collapse, short out, become sick in all systems) and your musclebuilding expectations, until the way clears and there’s light.

Stress (frustration, disappointment, haste, lack of fulfillment) is a killer and triggers cortisol production. Sit, reassess, prioritize, eliminate junk and put that revised workout time aside daily (earlier to bed and early AM workouts for a 28-year-old is the way to conquer a world of woe).

Adapt slowly, steadily, surely to the entire process suggested and watch it evolve. Your training is not an extra pastime; it’s a necessary main concern. It will energize everything else, your tasks, your relationships, your mood, your aspirations. Get your loving wife on board; influence the young ones.

Go… Be Strong… You’ve got it in you, already proven.

Brother Dave

What makes weight lifting glorious?

What do you mean when you say weight lifting is glorious. Is weightlifting a spiritual experience for you?

Not exactly. It’s wonderful hard work; it hurts, it’s irritating and can be harmful if you’re not smart, and we are not all that smart. It’s time consuming, obsessive and can be boring. You never seem to improve and are rarely pleased with the results and no matter what you do, it’s either too much or not enough.

That’s nothing: You miss a workout and you get nervous; you miss two and you can’t talk civilly and if you miss three, it’s best if you don’t go out in public.

No, come to think of it, weight training is not a religious experience.

The strange thing is — and I’m not a lone maniac — we love it. It’s absolutely amazing, soul energizing, irresistible and addictive, character building, mind clearing, stress reducing, honestly muscle building, fat eliminating and bone strengthening.

Training will take a broken human and fix that person, body, mind and spirit, and I’m not making that up or repeating what I heard.

Lift long enough and arrogance is replaced by humility, fear by courage, selfishness by generosity and rudeness by compassion and caring.

We all need some of that, don’t we?


Is weightlifting instinct or science?

Do you feel weightlifting is more about instinct than science?

It’s a mix of the two and I suppose it depends on the personality or mentality of the willing and able individual. Give me instincts and a dash of science.

There’s plenty of science if that’s what fascinates you and makes this business of building muscles more understandable.

I know this: When I won Mr. America and Mr. Universe, I had never heard of the techniques and terminology and ingredients that are being propagated or advertised in the magazines and on the internet today. If I was stepping into the arena of bodybuilding for the first time now and thought it was as complicated and scientific as it appears, I’d give it up and become a nuclear physicist instead.

Do not be led astray. This wonderful sport is built on basics and simplicity, hard work and devotion. And, yes, brains, but the brains of a mother or a miner, carpenter or store clerk, pastor or cop.

Yeah, you need to know carbs from protein and supersets from single sets, but after that, it’s hard work, involvement, consistency, focus, discipline, courage and prayer… on the gym floor. Never give up, never doubt and be strong.


Want to build muscle fast

I just started training two months ago. I would like to grow my muscles in six months. Is it advisable to take steroids to achieve my target and what is the effect of taking it? I hope I can get your answer quickly.

You need to think this through and realize there is NO quick way to build muscles. It is a and and slow process requiring fortitude, hard work and mature commitment. Most of all it takes heart [unshakable desire].

If you possess these qualities to even the slightest degree, read the davedraper.com more thoroughly to get a more complete picture of your endeavor…with honest solutions to and encouragement for many problems, large and small.

The answers to all your questions are here. Read and apply.


Back to the good life

I found your website and it’s great! You were my big hero back in the late 60s and early 70s. As you may have guessed, I’m an oldster who is interested in starting lifting again. I’ve started walking 1 hour daily. After I have done this for several weeks, I plan to resume weight training after many years of being away from it. My current plans are to split training as follows: Monday and Wednesday — Push Muscles, Tuesday and Thursday Pull Muscles. Each bodypart will have 2 exercises (4 sets of 10) with abs being done each day along with the walking for cardio health. Does this sound reasonable?

You’re on your way to the good life. Welcome home.

Ease into your workouts with order and control and enthusiasm. The outline you propose is right on if it is appealing to you. You need to look forward to it, stick to it and trust it.

Train each muscle group twice a week, two or three exercises per group and four or five sets of each in the 15, 12, 10, 8, 6 rep sequence. Ease into this.

Estimate this input according to your ability to recover. We change with the seasons, moods, time on hand, stress etc. Four workouts a week is just right…TOO MUCH IS TOO MUCH…ya gotta love it.

Choosing your exercises, try this combo sometime in the future:

Chest, back, shoulders – day 1, arms and legs – day 2, day 3 off, chest, back, shoulders again, legs – day 5, and arms – day 6, day off and so on. My absolute favorite.

Develop whatever program you choose over 6 to 8 weeks at least.

Thanks for your enthusiasm of our good old days.


Common time wastes in the gym

Of all the years you’ve spent in gyms, what are the most common ways you see people wasting their time there?

Too many people spend their valuable gym time going through the motions as if that was enough. They stand apart from exercise like it was a thing and not the wonderful movement of the body.

They touch exercise, poke at it and nudge it with a stick from a safe and comfortable distance. Fine. Reservation at first is understandable — caution, unknowing, fear — but this must be replaced by courage and active control in spite of one’s personality if one is to aspire.

Training is an aggressive act toward physical and personal peace. Thoughtful intensity should be applied to gain the attention of the body and mind, and thus realize physical and internal fulfillment.

What I’m saying is, let’s get to work if we seriously want to get the job done.

Eliminate distraction: less talking, reading and TV, less daydreaming, yawning and moaning on the gym floor. Keep your eye on the goal, your focus on the exercise and your hopes high.

Take charge and, as it is wise, push hard during your committed training time. It’s much more fun and productive.


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