Be It Ever So Humble, There’s No Place Like Home

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Remember us? It’s been a long five-day furlough. Apart from packing and unpacking stuff I barely recognize (turtle neck pullover... what the...?) and will never use again (button-down silk dress shirt... I don’t think so...) in preparation for mixing with self-made millionaires, there was the stop and go of interchanging five-lane freeways through Los Angeles and the 80-mph chases along stretches of Interstate 5. Road trips are an assortment of sore butts, pit stops, reflective silences and adjustments of seat backs, sun visors, radio stations, windows, attitudes and moods.

I’d rather drive than fly anytime. Unless I take my blimp.

In a word, the trip -- adventure, mission -- was super. It was by no means a casual trek to visit friends and see the sights. It was a challenge of preposterous proportions. One might say we stepped from the cool charcoals of our familiar lives to the blast furnace of the unknown. Like most mortals, I’d rather eat worms than speak before an audience greater then two, and when dressed in anything more formal than jeans and t-shirts, Laree and I feel like the great imposters. Given the circumstances, our days were wonderful and full of wonder.

It’s the anticipation -- the time to doubt -- that kills ya.

At noon on Friday, as the good folks digested their lunches and prepared to eat a range of delectable desserts, I was introduced with great fanfare to address their investments in health and fitness. I was already at ease cuz our brief time together -- we arrived the day before -- was amazingly comfortable and interesting. They sipped coffee, nibbled on goodies and listened with unflinching attention to the forecast and instruction I offered. They nodded -- a good sign.

It was great fun and I, with the enthusiastic support of Laree, answered questions the rest of the weekend. We made friends, shared serious and homey conversations, learned about the critical monetary and geo-political situation across the globe and were honored with every personal introduction. We ate superior food.

And then there was the great gym experience. The Hyatt Regency is a grand and bright hotel in a park-like setting exuding richness, tranquility and optimism. Attached and associated with the Hyatt is a circular three-level gym boasting the latest in equipment design and luxury amenities. You know the kind -- the kind you avoid. The weights and equipment were arranged like piles of metal, cold and lifeless, not ready allies to allure you and assist you in your warm and meaningful pursuit. I automatically lost my Santa Cruz pump. I felt like a visitor, a city inspector, a guy waiting for his wife at a woman’s clinic, a dad about to speak to a coach at the high school gymnasium, "How’s Tommy’s jump shot?"

"Yeah, we can do this," I said to myself as I perused the makings of a gym. John Mauldin, my bud and host, agreed to train with me in the afternoon to establish the ideal routine to suit his complaining back and busy Texas schedule. This was important, as important as hedge funds, stocks and bonds. We were stoked. In an hour we’d meet, enjoy each other’s company and solve some big problems.

As I pointed out the importance of a strong midsection by demonstrating crunches in the corner of the nifty keen gym, a fellow in his aging 20s came over to tell us I was not permitted to give instruction on the premises. Did I mention his shoulders were as wide and sloping as Daffy Duck’s?

"Oh, but we’re old friends taking a workout. I’m not an instructor. I’m not giving instruction." I was relieved to be a paying day member, unimposing, anonymous, openhanded, smiling and kind.

"We have instructors working for the gym and no one is allowed to give instruction but the designated instructors." The lad was a manager of resolute convictions.

"Oh, I’m not instructing my friend; we’re discussing exercise technique." I’m feeling oppressed and irked.

"Sorry, if anyone sees you talking together as you are it will disrupt our company policy." Unmoving, automated and pale.

"Surely you understand. Mr. Draper and I are here between conferences at the Hyatt. We’re here to relieve tension and share our training experience. He’s neither instructing nor being paid as an instructor." John’s smooth.

"I understand, sir. Is he telling you how to exercise?" Simple question posed by factory-operated, money-back-guaranteed Bobby One-Note.

"Yes." Wrong answer, John.

"Then he’s instructing you." Now the kid is looking like a dirty rat and I’m consciously withholding my odd-shaped meat hooks from reaching up and grabbing his pointy little ears and dragging him around the dumbbell rack.

"Do you mean my friend and I (my arm is now draped over John’s shoulder like we just returned from serving a year in the Sunni Triangle) can’t talk as we work out unless it’s about subjects other than exercise?"

"We have strict company policies."

"I’m making observations and suggestions."


"We’re comparing points of view, sharing insights."


"Friendly recommendations? This is what I would do if I were John."


"Dave owns two notable gyms in central California." Go, John. Say nothing about my being the Bomber or they’ll open fire.

"I don’t care. Company policy."

This went on until a female manager observing from the sidelines broke all the rules and said, "Gentlemen, it’ll be okay for today, if you’ll confine your conversation to whispers." Swell! Who can argue with that? We bowed obligingly to the lady in leotard, raised our noses at the twit in the polo shirt and marched off in shallow victory.

We went on to boldly motivate each other under our breaths and perform powerful muscle-building movements under the veil of crowded, oversized equipment. They’re watching us... no pump allowed.

The weekend was amazing, the individual conferences like gems in settings of gold. The interlude with the sap and his tiny world was a telling contrast to the brilliant minds who offered their worldwide experience, understanding and insights -- priceless thoughts that shaped and were shaped by global civilizations.

We returned to our neck of the woods late Sunday. There by the front door was a cardboard box the size of a bale of hay: the handles from Odis. I couldn’t have been happier if it was dollars in small denominations. After unpacking and reassuring Mugsy of his importance, we tore open the box of thick, knurled-steel handles of various design, six in all.

They were roughed out last time I visited Odis and his Torque Athletic manufacturing facility in Indiana about a three weeks ago. Laree and I and some buds at the gym used them yesterday and today. They are generally popular, and I have determined they are somewhere between amazing and fantastic. The knurl and the increased thickness offer control and comfort on all the bars. Ordinary handles are typically one inch in diameter, and a rubber grip affords an extra eighth -- inch-and-an-eighth total. The Bomber Power Handles are an inch-and-three-eighths to an inch-and-one-half across the great divide. Baboom!

These thicknesses suit gals just fine -- Laree, no Joe Palooka, prefers a thicker bar for hefty action. The knurl gives the user a sure, one-more-rep feeling. We’ve decided to offer the bars in an un-knurled, slightly textured powder-coated (black) finish for those with fewer Neanderthal genes.

I know. You’ve been reading and reading and there’s not a hint of training advice, no inspiration, an absence of motivation and no clues to eating to lose fat and build mounds of shapely muscle. What gives?

Okay. Here’s a weekly routine suggestion for those who are up to their ears in their current exercise arrangement and are ready, willing and able to try anything for a worthy change.

Here goes:

The usual 15-to-20 minutes of aerobic (HIIT and steady pace, alternated or combined -- your choice) when you please three or four times throughout the week, and don’t neglect your midsection, ever -- any combination of crunches, leg raises, hanging leg raises, rope tucks and hyperextensions for 10 minutes. The more gut you do with regularity and aggressive pace, the less cardio required -- make this your own private agreement. And remember, tight contractions at the peak of every exercise. We’re here to build muscle and might and rock-hard abdominals.

Day 1
Chest, shoulder and lat combination with the usual biceps and triceps overlap:

Low-incline Smith Press (30 degrees), medium-wide grip (3-4 sets x 6-10 reps)
Superset with
Wide-grip overhead pulldown, bar to chin (3-4 sets x 6-10 reps)

Steep-incline Smith Press (75 degrees), medium-grip (3-4 sets x 6-10 reps)
Superset with
Wide-grip pulldown behind the head, base of skull (3-4 sets x 6-10 reps)

Cable crossovers (3-4 sets x 10-12 reps)

One-arm dumbbell row (3-4 sets x 6-8 reps)

Day 2
Forearms, biceps, triceps and various support muscles -- back and traps, minor pectoral, some deltoid:

Seated wrist curls (3-4 sets x 8-15, 20 reps)
Superset with
Lying triceps extensions (3-4 x 8-15 reps)

Standing straight bar curl -- thick bar, if available -- medium-grip, slight thrust
(3-4 sets x 6, 8, 10 reps)
Superset with
Pulley pushdown (3-4 sets x 12-20 reps)

Low-incline curl (3-4 sets x 6-8 reps)
Superset with
Machine dips (3-4 sets x 12-15 reps)

Day 3

Leg extension (3-4 sets x 10-15 reps)
Superset with
Standing calf raises, machine (3-4 sets x 10-15,20 reps)

Leg curl (3-4 x 6,8,10 reps)
Superset with
Seated calf raise (3-4 sets x 10-15 reps)

Leg press (3-4 sets x 12-20 reps)

Squats (3-4 sets x 6-12 reps)

Day off

Day 4
A blend of exercises to work the whole body, directly and indirectly

Over-grip deadlift (for conditioning and grip) (3-4 sets x 10-12 reps)
Superset with
Stiff-arm pullover (3-4 sets x 10-12 reps)

Incline dumbbell press -- 45 degrees, (3-4 sets x 6,8,10 reps)
Superset with
Seated lat row, AKA low-pull, (3-4 sets x 6-12 reps)

Hammer shoulder press (3-4 sets x 6-10 reps)

Lying side-arm lateral raise (3-4 sets x 8-10 reps)

Wide-grip bent-over barbell row (3-4 sets 6-8 reps)

Two days off

Well, this is not unlike my regular training routine day in and day out. I handle five sets of everything, increment the weights and adjust the reps and resistance applied (forceful) accordingly. Something feels good, I pour it on. Something feels bad or wrong, I pull back, make an appropriate substitution or go home. I haven’t gone home yet. Workout meaningfulness is beyond the chosen exercises and gym preparation. It’s in the concentration and mood, the intensity and finesse of application, the attitude and purpose, the bones and the immediate surroundings. It’s in you.

Good to be alive. Time to stick this note in an airmail envelope and send it to the faithful recipients, AKA bombers. They’re a busy bunch -- chins and dips, protein shakes, pumping and flexing and applying oil -- and forget what day it is if they don’t get their weekly reminder. Hello. It’s today, bomberino, the first day of your marvelous, muscular life. Look sharp! Fly high! Thank God!

Capt’n D. Diaper


We have thick bar handles for sale, ironblasters. Pictures, descriptions and prices will be on the website next week. Break out the piggy bank, turn in those recyclable beer cans and plastic water bottles, beg for spare change at the mall and your favorite street corner, babysit, wash cars, search under the couch pillows -- you know the routine. When we have a vital cause we become very creative.

The Bomber Power Handles make lifting weights a breeze. You’ll grow muscles overnight. I carry one wherever I go just for the fun of it. Be the first one on your block to own all six of these knurled-steel beauties. Girls think they’re way-cool!

The Draper Dungeon is being powder coated as we speak. Stay tuned.

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