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The Institute

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We are not interested in the exercises, the sets or the reps that you perform, Mr. Drapeless; that you squat and practice deadlifts is cute, but of no importance to us profound thinkers. What makes you tick is the subject of our study and it’s the weird things of your unhinged mind we wish to uncover. We at the Institute believe we are close to determining the X-Correlation between man and baboon. Your input is significant.

And, as always, Mr. Dripler, we thank you for you contribution -- or, as your primate counterpart would say, “Whoop, whoop, whoop.”

Please remit you answers to the following scientific questions:

Query: What motivates you to seek excellence?

Survival, for starters: If I don’t aim for excellence regularly, my arrows land in the thicket. To be exact my twin motivators are the dread of diminishing and the fear of mediocrity. I’d rather be more tomorrow than I am today, not less. Excellence, whether you play with marbles, rockets or weights, is a fulltime mission and has its exasperating moments -- especially as the road stretches out before you.

Certainly there are many more motivators; the company of the characters I meet along the way and the hope of a glimpse of the supreme quality should I approach it. Reaching for excellence, the stretching and the striving, feels good in the limbs and the mind and the soul. It’s an invigorating experience, unlike solitaire or Friday nights at the laundromat. I’m motivated by the challenge and the fulfillment of a day well lived, or you might say, a workout that ripped. There are days I don’t know the difference.

What inspires you on a daily basis?

You got me there. Hope. Good. Overcoming evil? After the smell of fresh roasted coffee and the morning songbirds, the towering redwoods outside my front door and the love in wife’s eyes, my bag is empty. The offerings are true, but who really cares?

I’m certain the inspiration you allude to is something more original and “real world” substantial. May I approach the question from the less-used rear door -- a test of optimism -- and see if anyone can relate? Inspiration can be found in the shadows.

I seldom wake up to inspiration. It’s there, yet I miss it at first light. My immediate task is to right my body and fight off the demons. The fight is a good one and the demons don’t have a chance. As they topple I stand taller and thank God for the strength. Herein lies my inspiration. It’s not so much the good I might achieve; it’s the bad I ably discard -- the aches, the doubts, the procrastinations, the guilt, the stress... those familiar bedfellows. Get ye behind me.

It’s a tough world, a struggle, and resistance is encountered at every turn. My inspiration comes with every positive blow I land on the negative forces that would otherwise hold me down. The junk, the debris and the clutter under my feet and in my mind must be removed lest they become insurmountable obstacles. Dump them. The lies and liars, the cheats, the contemptuous, the troublesome, the jerks, the one in 10 thousand that would destroy rather than build up, these I do not invite in and make comfortable. I greet them, expose them or walk them to the exit. It can be a long day.

Finally you get to the gym and there it is: the refuge, a hard-earned peace, the promise of tranquility in a set and in a rep, the friendly and familiar sounds of metal meeting metal, the sure grasp of the bar and the positioning of the body and the sudden and determined thrust of muscle against steel. There’s order in weight lifting and order is what I need, what I crave. Chaos reduces me to a cross-eyed fool while the abrupt but tidy regulation of lifting restores my sanity and good spirit. In 90 minutes, or whatever it takes, I will be whole and fulfilled and grateful; inspired, maybe inspiring, if only to myself.

Query: Did you concern yourself with learning much about physiology and nutritional biochemistry or did you just go by what others told you?

I wouldn’t mind having formal background in these areas, but I don’t. Not having been educated in any real depth has not interfered with my regular progress. It has not once frustrated me or left me wondering what the heck I was doing. Both nutrition and physiology are fascinating subjects and must be important to doctors and healers, but they remain 90 percent a mystery to me. I know my hip bone’s connected to my leg bone and my leg bone's connected to my foot bone.

What I know I picked up from listening, observing, reading sufficiently, applying and experiencing. I strongly believe that concern about these areas would have interfered with my straight-forward thinking, logic and personal trust -- my instincts -- and frustrated my muscular growth. Spare me the details and take me to the gym. I’ve got work to do. Have you asked Sergio Oliva this question? Just curious. What would Steve Reeves have to say?

Query: You say you started lifting as a boy and as time went by almost by accident your body took shape. At what point did it become a real science for you or do you feel weightlifting is more about instinct than science??

Science is for scientists.

I don’t regard weight training any more a science than the ordinary act of growing from infanthood to adulthood. You naturally gather and assimilate information from your environment and apply it in a positive direction -- crawling and growing up, maybe squats and curls. You practice it, organize it, observe and expand it, improve it and grow. The more I intellectualized, the less I understood my training. The more I questioned what I did, the less confident I was. The more I researched, the more tedious the act became. “Do it,” is my credo. It doesn’t work, do it again... another way.

I learned about protein and its importance from my mother, and everybody with a brain knows sugar and junk food is bad for you. I was a kid. I lifted weights and my muscles grew. I was in high school. I lifted harder and my muscles grew bigger and stronger. Science 1A.

The Muscle Beach dungeon was the university of superior learning and the characters who trained there were the instructors and professors in ragged t-shirts. It was 1963. I was 21 and supersetting intensely. The crash course took a few years and I’ve been active ever since -- modifying, adjusting, tuning by ear.

Query: 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/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 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 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 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.

Query: Do you believe genetics plays an important role in body shaping or is it all hard work and dedication?

Of course, genes are significant determining factors in our muscle-building potential. All the training and determination an adult might rally cannot add one inch or one-tenth of an inch to his height or change his hip-to-shoulder ratio. However, the real musclebuilder comes from the heart, and his hard training and impervious determination decide the grand total of his possibilities. You can beat a rug, but you can’t beat a bodybuilder with heart.

I dare say there are one or two giant muscle guys walking across the stage who don’t have the heart, but they do have a dandy pharmacist.

Query: You have said that nothing you possessed in the way of large bone structure or body chemistry was outstanding. If this is true then what do you believe was the most important element to your accomplishments?

I can’t complain about being six feet tall and having bones like clubs and that I wasn’t shaped like a pear when I was a kid. Big relief. But somewhere along the way I got the desire to be muscular, strong and respected. This desire was girded by determination.

In one word, determination, we have single most important element. Yet, attached to that single element, like tin cans strung to an alley cat’s tail, are perseverance, commitment and hope. Discipline and patience come later as the tug and rattle of tin has you ripping forward.

Query: You often speak of weight lifting as glorious. What do you mean by this? 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 always smart. It’s time consuming, obsessive and often boring. You never seem to improve no matter what you do; it’s either too much or not enough. That’s nothing, you miss a work out and you get nervous, you miss two and you can’t talk civilly with anyone and if you miss three it’s best you don’t go out in public or near a ledge.

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, actually muscle building, fat eliminating and bone strengthening. It’ll take a broken person and fix that person, body, mind and spirit, and I’m not making that up or repeating what I heard or read. Lift long enough and I notice arrogance is replaced by humility and fear by courage and selfishness by generosity and rudeness by compassion and caring. It demands, teaches and instills respect and responsibility. It’ll bring you to your knees.

Yes, come to think of it, weight training is a religious experience.

End of interview.

Dave here, AKA the Baboon Bomber, wondering where those people come from. I would like to take them for a spin and dump them in a jungle... or Gold’s Gym. They’d be lunch.

February already and the sky is clear. Keep your eye on the altimeter... and your glorious training.


Post Script: The above is a compilation of two neat interviews I did for one commendable magazine and one ebook. I hope they don’t hit me with a high-carb wet noodle for offering the material to you.

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