First Things First

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About Weight Training:
What, Where, When, How and Why


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Last week we shuffled through a stack of fundamental whole-body exercises. I offered candidly and without detail the top of the heap, the cashbox, the treasury, the primary movements for building muscle mass, shape and strength. Do these and you will achieve your musclebuilding goal, I said. I’ve been singing the same tune for years and practicing it for decades. Do, re, mi, curls, presses and squats.

Many of you nodded rhythmically, picked up the beat and began to hum along. Others, like me at church, stood there appreciating the music but were reluctant to raise your voice in chorus. Some said beneath their breath loud enough to be heard two pews over, where’s the methodology, the technique, the trick movements, the exercise and muscle-group combinations and other deep truths, pray tell? More than a few bowed their heads and simply said, get me to the gym on time.

I might miss the training topics vital to you, but at least -- here comes a laughable presumption -- I stir up your thoughts. In hopes of being more specific, let’s begin our brief time together from another angle. What is it about your training that bothers you the most? That is, what perplexes you, distresses and disturbs you, disappoints you? What gets in your way, slows you down, prevents you from making progress -- losing weight, building muscle, increasing strength and gaining shape. How about energy, endurance and general conditioning?

It’s always those in the front row who raise their hands frantically before the question is completely asked. They say, guys are always staring at my butt (train at home, Bob), or the weights are cold in the morning (wear mittens, Bob), or I’ve been lifting till I drop for three weeks and nothing’s happening -- nothing, nothing, nothing, I tell you and I want to scream!!! Jane, have you met Bob?

Having spent considerable time in the gym in the pursuit of physical development, I’ve paused, scratched my head and devised a random yet comprehensive list of problems I suspect represent us all. And considering the troublesome deterrents, perhaps we can whittle them down or reshape them into little more than annoyance to attend, not problems to perplex and suppress.

Note: Though I often use the second-person pronoun "you" to make a point; do not take it personally.

Problem List:

1) Purpose, the lack thereof

You’re lazy. You procrastinate and you’re unmotivated. Correspondingly, you have no energy, endurance or drive. Beyond that, you are without spirit or enthusiasm. You feel no excitement or desire. Why bother, you say rhetorically. You just don’t get it.

In the '60s we said you were a bummer on a bad trip. Today I say you are without purpose. If your purpose was strong and well-defined, none of the aforementioned negatives would materialize or develop. They would not survive. They would, like pesky mosquitoes, appear and be swatted before they could light.

Laziness is a physical vulgarity. It afflicts those to whom the notion of lifting weights and being strong does not occur. Life without purpose is not life at all; it’s existence -- dead man walking. And procrastination is a blight no musclebuilder who’s built any muscle dares to endure. Putting off one’s training enters the right ear and exits the left swiftly without tweaking the brain. To skip a workout is blasphemous, illegal, treasonous and immoral. Thou must not cancel thy workout. No man or woman who has truly experienced the iron desires to avoid it. Their purpose is too deep, too high, too wide and too grand.

Motivation is never in question, it never wavers and it endures supremely, as long as your purpose is clear. Purpose is the heart of the matter, the spark, the fuel and the fire. Where there’s fire, there’s heat, therefore, energy and force and drive.

We are not a physical being apart from our spirit, and when purpose is intellectually determined, the spirit is aroused; and when the spirit is aroused, purpose takes on greater dimension and intensity. The body responds with enthusiasm, excitement and desire. The package is complete.

Purpose must be held high and strong and in clear view to succeed day by day. Let it falter and fade and you fail proportionately. Without purpose you have nothing.

2) Discipline, the callous taskmaster

I’ll be kind. I won’t dwell on the topic. Discipline develops by our side, and by its side we develop. Discipline is seen in our eyes when we look in the mirror, it’s noticed by the way we walk and in our posture, but mostly it’s observed in our nature. He insists, persists and perseveres; he’s disciplined. She refuses to give up, makes no excuses and endures the pain; she’s disciplined. They’re heroes in a life where freedom has been confused with anything-goes, debauchery before control and tolerance of weakness rather than the development of strength. Love discipline like a brother or sister, father or mother, spouse or best friend. Without discipline you’re out of control.

3) Time, the imaginary gatekeeper

What can be said about time except we have neither enough nor can we manage what we have. Slightly optimistic adult-life scenario: Have a family, secure the job, grow fat, weak, sickly, ill-spirited and die early. Poor design. Go back to purpose and review discipline and get out your little black book. Somewhere under "urgent appointments" simply write: Work out at the gym for the purpose of good health and muscle and long-life; engage discipline and perseverance to perform the heroic physical act. Good! Done!! Do not dilly-dally!

Onto the next pressing appointments: Growing and learning, respect and responsibility.

5) Gym facility, inadequate and inconvenient

Let’s face it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. We can work out in a bedroom, garage, basement, backyard or park, any space where we can do pushups, dips, chins, dynamic tension, crunches and leg raises. With purpose, time and discipline we can do it.

But there’s nothing like a great gym just the way you like it. Give me a clean gym with meaty equipment, sufficient space, enough people, no jerks, some jolt-free sounds and plenty of air. Around the corner with my own personal parking space out front would be nice, but I’ll go cross-town and walk if I have to.

Anything worthwhile is worth working for. Be strong, be courageous. No wimps allowed. That goes for jerks, too.

Another thing we must face, while we’re facing things. As the world turns we are running out of such marvelous places. Neighborhood gyms have been perverted by the "scene." They’re being replaced by no-heart corporate chains, "facilities" with acres of slick late-model treadmills, trick machines and personal trainers wearing Pampers. Head 'em up, roll 'em out.

It’s a good day for those who are building their own home gym. Hang in there!

6) Training knowledge and methodology -- what to do, how, when and why

Once you’re past the fundamentals, there’s nothing more confounding than determining the proper exercise routine. And once you survive the frustration of managing intermediate training, how on earth do you design the workout scheme exactly suited for your metabolism and genetic makeup and evolving lifestyle? You read the mags, reference the books, ask online and guess. No two answers are the same and it’s been two years, maybe three. The methodologies are endless, complex and conflicting.

Beware! They might be mythology, not methodology. How about little white lies, exaggerations, mistakes, car-salesmanship or none-too-rare ego-espousing hype?

Put knowledge aside; it confounds understanding. Let the intellect be still; it inhibits the soul. Think less; it thwarts focus. Be consistent, work hard, apply common sense, but don’t take night courses in building muscles and power, biochemistry or nutrition. Eat lots of protein and get plenty of sleep instead.

A personal trainer with muscles, experience, humility, compassion and conviction, and ears that listen and a mouth that speaks kindly and wisely can be worth his weight for three one-hour training sessions and an occasional follow-up consultation.

Training’s personal.

Greet yourself with respect and appreciation, the best training partner you’ll ever have, and the best source of personal information, straight talk and insight this side of davedraper.com. Trust the hearty companion you are and, thereby, impart encouragement to your lockstep mentor -- yup, you. As he grows, so do you. Count on it.

He or she is certainly an advocate and, no doubt, wiser than you think.

7) Eating right or menu, diet and nutrition

About eating: You know what to do, don’t you? You just don’t want to do it. High protein, medium low-glycemic carbs and medium essential fatty acids and no bad, greasy fat. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and pure water. Smaller well-balanced meals more frequently (5 to 6) throughout the day, starting with breakfast. Be consistent. Supplement sufficiently. Don’t forget your Bomber Blend and Super Spectrim vitamins.

This is as basic as weight lifting, which doesn’t necessarily make it easy or fun. Go back to purpose and discipline before you order your next pizza.

Don’t spread graffiti or bite the mailman.

8) Drugs for muscle enhancement

One of the biggest problems with steroids and their associates is they are there. We’re a weak bunch and shortcuts are popular in this day and age. Excuse me. Shortcuts and instant riches have been popular since Adam and Eve and apple pie. But before you start downing the pills, injecting and stacking generously, remember this: They’re illegal; they’re an admission of weakness; they’re a lie, harmful to the physical system and destructive to the emotional system. They’re financially draining, hard to get, sources are uncertain, quality is dubious, gains are temporary and they’re a monkey on the back. Dependency is a cruel and unrelenting animal. I inhaled once.

As a user you unconsciously walk in shadows, withhold an uncomfortable secret in your regular world and unwillingly become part of an ignoble subculture you’d rather view from a safe distance. They say 'roids make users angry. Maybe it’s their personal disappointment that makes them angry.

Time is flying but I’m not. The sun’s gone down and I haven’t left the runway. Heads, I take to the sky. Tails, I taxi back to the hangar. Let’s see... where’d I put my handy two-headed coin?

Go, bombers... God’s speed... DD

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