First Things First

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More’s Not Better,
Few’s Not Enough


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It’s the last signal before the freeway onramp. I could be rude and hustle the yellow light, but I calm the aggressive character within. It’s like calming raging piranha in a river of wild boar. I brake to a halt and thrash around until I note the gal behind the wheel in the adjacent vehicle. She’s got a cell phone lodged between her ear and shoulder as she applies mascara, her head straining toward the rearview mirror. Steady conversation, precise application, total focus.

Tsk, tsk! These scatterbrains should be cited for doing a dozen different things other than driving while on the road and behind the wheel. If she looks this way, I’ll throw her a combo glare and scowl.

Something on the passenger seat gains her attention and the mascara is shifted to the left hand, which is momentarily removed from the steering wheel. Her right hand now holds a baby’s bottle at a tilt as she gauges its contents. I’m transfixed. The ambidexterity and multitasking are exceptional, almost dazzling, and she still manages to smile, chuckle and talk at a steady stream. Suddenly, she tosses the bottle in the general direction of the unseen baby, positions the mascara between her teeth, reassuringly pats a fluff of blankets, grasps the wheel with both hands and floors it. Her blinker’s blinking, she’s around the turn and her SUV assumes my position in the traffic advancing onto Highway 1. She’s gone. A horn blares behind me and I fumble for first gear wondering what just happened. Where’d she go? The light is green and counting, the guy behind me is furious and I’m red... and by myself. Zoom.

Recovering, aware of my surroundings and speeding down the fast lane (secretly hoping to overtake Wonder Woman), I consider time and how we manage the valuable commodity. Days and weeks, months and years come and go, oh, boy! As youngsters, who cares where or when, how or why? Hello, goodbye, see ya later. Well, not exactly. We see them later only as momentary memories and lost opportunities and grand mistakes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know; mistakes from which we learn and grow stronger, if they don’t kill us, thank you. Phooey... but it’s true.

The days fly by when you realize their pricelessness and limited supply. And this tarnished realization comes later than we expect. Stop there, bombers. That next rep is a wild flower, that set a bouquet. Breathe deeply, hold tightly. The burn is its fragrance, the pump a touch of its petal.

I like this time -- 20 isolated minutes -- before the gym appears in my vision. Apply the brain and make some sense before the muscles take over and I go on autopilot, guided by the mechanics of instinct and intuition. Wonder Woman could have worked out by the time I enter the gym, privately bow in reverence and unload my gym bag. Where she would have stashed the kid I dare not consider. She’d work arms and legs in the same set, as she focused on midsection and shoulders. Daffy. I’m having fun as I visualize her supersets and dietary habits. What a tangle.

Some things you can’t abbreviate, rush or combine. Time takes time. Healthy musclebuilding, like birth, can’t be accelerated. The process moves along at its natural designated pace. You just apply the physics and go, little darlin'.

One day a week at the gym and under the iron is not worth much. If you’ve trained before it will keep you in touch and prevent a nasty training gap from becoming an abyss, and, thus, surely save your bottom. It can also be a fun and fulfilling blast of time, but as far as building real muscle -- forget it.

Training twice a week has better possibilities; you might say twice the possibilities. Given the right structure and chemistry, knowledge and drive, the infrequent trainer can build a worthy body with strength to match. And the established lifter can easily maintain his trustworthy strength and health. But you’re hanging by a thread and we’re dealing in metal. Miss one workout and you miss half of them.

Reminder from Heaven: Eat right always.

Directing three days of smart, hard work to the task of musclebuilding will indeed build shapely and powerful muscle. The every-other-day approach with the weekend off for rest and recuperation is as old and reliable as the iron weights themselves. The trainee choosing a three-day routine seldom misses. He’s devoted and lifts with confidence and gusto till the end of time.

Four days out of seven and we have a lifter who is on the hunt and showing symptoms of true training dedication. He or she is not simply appearing at the gym for a cursory workout. He’s got a plan, she’s got the bug; they’re hooked, they’re bitten. No junk in the kitchen, the fridge and cupboards are clean. Supplements line the shelves, fresh fruit and vegetables fill the bowls and protein is available within hand's reach.

Is that a jug of Bomber Blend on the counter by the coffee pot? Sho 'nuff... and a bottle of Super Spectrim. Yes!

The few men and women training five days a week are on a mission: Muscle and might and lookin' just right. Obsession is not a fair word to describe their dedication, but looking closely you’ve gotta admit their interest is, like, huge. They are either very healthy, or a tiny bit sick. Let’s call it passionate. Their workouts are methodologies, their eating is a science, the gym is a temple of sorts and somewhere there’s a balance to it all. They’re happy. Ask them and they probably know who won the Arnold and the Olympia, and who came in last and why.

Or maybe they could care less and just love to train because it’s the greatest expression next to speaking or screaming or making love.

He who trains six days a week might consider himself an authentic bodybuilder. If he doesn’t, he ought to cuz that’s what he is. Ask anyone. Who else reads Flex, carries a quart of milk wherever he goes, owns a gym bag the size of a Volkswagen and hangs his tanktops in the closet next to his shorts and sweats, under which a row of sneakers are carefully placed? They tend to share little time with folks outside their favorite interest. Who could understand them?

Garp, protein, me... murf, reps burn, woot... narkle phoop, muscles, cool... fribble bop... huge, ripped... nip nip... tuna...

The pros preparing for a contest get in the gym twice a day throughout the week. These guys and gals have years behind them and are living for this workout and the next, tomorrow’s contest and the photo session to follow. They carry a cooler at all times. Life’s a sequence of sets and reps. Their purpose, mission and goals are grand and all-consuming. They’re huge. Their lives are set aside for one thing: to play the game well, to win.

No one trains seven days a week. And if they do they shouldn’t. Even whales occasionally come up for oxygen, flop their tails and take a look around. They may not be cut, but they’re huge and powerful and have a great shape.

As always, I offer myself as a reference to help us understand... whatever. I’m down from six workouts in the '60s, five in the '80s and '90s to four in 2006. Three workouts will do it for the body, but my blithering mind calls for four. I’m sure most of you understand; it’s the mad "whatever" I referred to earlier in this paragraph.

Some clues: The harder I train the more I ache. I love to train hard and expect to wrestle with that capability, or capacity, as time goes on. Will I reduce the number of days I train to allow more recuperation? Will I ease the training intensity to avoid the level of pain? Will I get a job? What uninspired, dull-witted questions to be considering. Gag! I expect I’ll finesse my training, convinced I will not submit to the easy path, and back off when I ache excessively or skip a day if I’m unable to move. That’s the best judgment I can offer this day from this point of view. Maybe it’ll improve, maybe it won’t.

Next week’s newsletter is titled, "Building 20-and-a-half Inch Arms at 65."

Hard to tie down a bomber in prevailing winds. They’re made to fly.

Go... DD

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