First Things First

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Greetings, bombers. Glad you could make it. Sit anywhere. Sorry, the hangar’s a little drafty this time year... there’s hot coffee on the bench in the corner. First, my spiel, until we get settled:

IronOnline forum participants are, among other fascinating things, in the middle of the End of the Year Challenge. 35 or so registered, countless ride the wave. They keep training logs online and talk about their routines, menus, progress and lack thereof. Learning, support, fun, excitement and growth inside and out are borne of the sharing and comparing. Muscles and pounds and ounces, proteins, fat and iron are flying in every direction.

Fitness covers a lot of territory on IOL: weight loss, muscle gain, body tone, improved energy and endurance, re-establishing body balance and mobility, posture and flexibility, repairing injury, reducing pain, 500-pound bench press for reps, 21-inch guns and longevity.

The challenge is open to all and requires nothing more than a musclehead and a fitness goal. Tune into the forum and watch (read, see, respond) the action unfold. There are no losers, only winners, and the prize is the journey of your life and your consistent approach to your goal.

Curiously, my goal remains the same as I get older (hang on for dear life), but my approach varies workout to workout. I employ the time-proven basic exercises with a few modifications to match my encumbrances, and choose a path of agreeable resistance. Some days, one or two out of 10, that path is the path of least resistance. The remaining days I travel with sufficient burden, occasionally too much.

The lighter, softer workouts are still barbed and hard-edged, just shorter, cooler and less demanding. They’re almost cuddly. Time crunch, lost interest, fatigue, the blues and nagging injury: these are typical contributors to the choice of the kinder path.

Those occasional workouts that are ‘too much’ fall into the red zone. They are exactly as reported, too much: too much time, weight, exertion and intensity; too many sets, reps and exercises. The results are overtraining, compromised insertions, exhaustion and training ennui.

The workouts between are solid and rugged, yet they don’t rage or cause combustion. They get heated, but they don’t blister. They don’t enter the red zone.

Compared to years ago, they’re grenades. Three-ton bombs are out of stock, inventory has been cleared. Damage control is in place, no more territory to capture. Routine target practice -- serves to steady the hand and mind... pop, pop, bang... clank.

Okay... Good... Let’s get down to the business of the day, bombers.

What’s that? No, you don’t have to give us your name. Just stand and call out your question... loudly, clearly. I think everyone can hear you.

Q) What do you think about 'negative' training? I want to bust through plateaus with two movements: Close-grip lat pulldowns and bench presses. Do I use maximum weight plus 10%, have someone assist me in positioning the weight and allow me to perform the slow eccentric action, and repeat 2 or 3 times for several sets?

A) The combination of exercises is fair enough, but I’m guessing short-lived. You are about to punish the region without conscience. We demonstrate greater strength in the eccentric action (the negative) than we do in the concentric, or positive. The result is overload beyond construction load. You might call it the destruction load. Beware.

No negatives for me, thanks. They’re murder on the joints, and sooner rather than later, as most lifters discover. Recovery is a mean lady.

Be strong, be sensible, push and pull hard; form and focus trump super-heavy weight for the long-term, non-competitive musclehead with brains and a smile, and without inflamed, throbbing and battered muscles, insertions and joints.

Though the price is dear, most driven plateau-busting ironheads go for it -- negatives or whatever -- to get it out of their system. Nothing like firsthand experience.

Steady and surely as she goes, mate...

Q) I am a former 25-year-old, 225-lb devoted bodybuilder (or musclebuilder, as you say) with it 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.

A) 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.

Time to fold up the notebooks, bombers. Class is out. But before we climb into the cockpit, adjust the gauges and prepare for takeoff, there’s something I’ve got to tell you. It’s about Bat and Joey after a tough night on the streets. You remember them, don’t you: New York City, Y Street Gym, low-profile crime-busters, drugs and dirtbags?

Call it the beginning of Chapter 10... 10’s a nice number:

Morning came early as morning always does. Dawn was wide awake, Bobbie B was churning protein drinks and the gym floor rumbled with muted clunks and thuds. I stood behind Joey as he knocked out press-behind-necks. Something about counting reps for your partner that mysteriously forces them up.

“Good set, man. Put on a five.” Didn’t take much to encourage each other, ease the pain and keep the flow and pace. We were supersetting PBNs with sidearm laterals, counting and spotting as we went along. Big delts scared criminals, unless they had big guns.

Talk about what went down last night -- bullets fired at Liberty Park; losers lost -- would wait 90 minutes twixt six and eight AM. First things first, and the rest fall in place. Steep-incline dumbbell presses with bentover laterals kept us focused and pumping and counting and flowing. Neglect one and the rest fall flat.

The rules aren’t in the head; they’re in the moment. They’re in the heart. No one teaches them to you; you know them. Life is like that.

We bombarded the platform with deadlifts and rows. Pulling cold iron from the floor is empowering, unless you think about it. If you think about it, it’s just plain dumb. Like, get a job, dude. No time to think, we have bad guys to catch, crimes to stop... pull, pull... one more rep... lookin’ good... lookin’ good.

We were done. Crazy and the Bat, sometimes known as the Craze and Batty...

So are we, bombers. Fly high, land safe.

Draper here... Godspeed

Soak yourself in a taste of bodybuilding’s Golden Era with Dick Tyler’s on-the-scene record, written in his easy-going, one-of-a-kind style, West Coast Bodybuilding Scene.

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BILL PEARL/DAVE DRAPER LIVE SEMINAR DVD

The  Package includes a one-hour-and-fifteen-minute tape of the July seminar, two muscular slide shows, plus a 32-page booklet outlining the subsequent interview between the mighty one, Bill Pearl, and me in which we discuss some favorite subjects untouched by the seminar. ~Dave

Cut through the confusion! Grab your copy Brother Iron Sister Steel to make your training path clear.

Readers agree: Dave new book, Iron On My Mind, is non-stop inspirational reading.

Our IronOnline Forum will answer your training and nutriton questions right here, right now.

Golden Era fans will rejoice in this excerpt from West Coast Bodybuilding Scene.

Are your shoulders tight? Do your shoulders hurt when you squat? It's practically a miracle! Dave's Top Squat assists squatters with shoulder problems.

Here's Dave's previous week's column.