All Aboard... The Train is Leaving the Station

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Laree’s all smiles. The metallic-dynamo is up to her ears in her latest project, a comprehensive and voluminous book on advances in functional training. Huh? What happened to grab the weights and bang ‘em around? You know what I’m saying: You see a pair of dumbbells and you pounce on them and toss them wildly about the gym. Same with a bar; you load it up, slap it around and heave it without mercy in various directions.

Works for me... Comin’ ‘atcha.

Mike Boyle, a colleague of Dan John, is the strength and conditioning coach professionals go to when seeking the first and final word on sports strength training. He’s Boston University’s strength and conditioning coach for hockey; he knows how to prepare a body for athletic battle, and how to restore it after it’s checked and mal-functioning.

The towering stack of material on Laree’s desk composed by Mike over the years suggests there’s more to superior athletic conditioning than bench presses, squats and curls, and 20 minutes on the Lifecycle three times a week.


Makes me nervous. Take me back to the good old days when muscles were muscles and brains were brains and the two didn’t get in each other’s way.

Why, I remember when I was no higher than a 10-pound dumbbell standing on end: Tommy Levigne and I would go down to the basement after we had our Brewer’s yeast and wheat germ oil and roll out our Weider 110-pound barbell set. A poster of Steve Reeves hung on the wall next to the charts of the fabulous Brunet brothers demonstrating exercises.

We had fun. Our favorite exercise was barbell curls... pull till you explode... dips between chairs... red in the face... chins... kicking and quivering... a board across cinder blocks... we’d press... count... on an incline... sets... reps... burning... Tommy, then me... clanging... THUD... Sorry, Ma... jingle, where’s the wrench... more plates, 5s, 10s... push each other... what’s this? A pump!... big muscle... strong... clank, clank.

Those were the good old days.

Dave Draper Q'nA , interviewed by Chris Colucci, Part 2
(If you have not yet read it, here's part 1)

Q: How did you end up not being featured in the film Pumping Iron?

A: I was out to lunch, up to my ears in sawdust and not at all interested. I was also comfortably shabby, invisible and disconnected from the scene. I came and went among the benches and racks without seeing the cameras roll, or the rolls being played. I was 215, strong and contentedly distant and preoccupied.

A workhorse with blinders, I missed the distractions about me. I plodded on tenaciously, faithfully wherever I pointed my nose.

Hmmm... Some of my answers sound cynical as they echo in my mind. They’re not, scouts honor. Like a flipped coin, I occasionally land on my edge.

Q: Back in the day, were there any certain competitors or training partners you turned to for training or diet advice?

A: We all learned from each other as we worked out and observed one another. Oddly, when not in the gym, our conversations did not turn to shoptalk, or muscle-talk. You know, like, what do you do for your shoulders, Don... from whence doth thou achieve symmetry, Master Zane?

From Howorth and Scott at Gironda’s to Frank, Franco and Arnold at Joe Gold’s to Zabo and Shuey and Eifferman at the Dungeon, we never spoke of workouts and bodybuilding. We trained and ate as we did, applying the basics, guess work, instincts, commonsense, adequate intelligence, prayer and tacitly sharing understanding, knowledge and magic. We knew and respected what each other did and enjoyed each others’ company immensely.

Bill Pearl was the only champ I sought advice from. Should I or should I not enter Mr. America? How do I behave and train when traveling out of the country for exhibitions? Can I borrow your posing trunks for the Mr. America contest next week? Which way is the front? He was generous, forthcoming and right-on 45 years ago and has practiced and perfected the rare art form since.

Q: You've had a bunch of great lifting partners, but is there any single workout from back then that still sticks out in your mind?

A: I learned most of what I know (have a tin cup handy?) about training and nutrition during my first year at the Muscle Beach Dungeon working out with Dick Sweet, Mr. California, five years my senior.

I think of early morning press-behind-necks with a slightly bent Olympic bar upon a squeaky, shaky upright bench engineered and erected by eager and carpentry-handicapped muscle guys with 2x4s and 2x6s and spikes. The splintery PBNs were supersetted with sidearm lateral raises with my backside snugly fitted for support into the crumbled plaster of a heavy duty column substructure of the eroding 1920s hotel.

You had to have been there. Perfection, pure and simple.

Q: You've written pretty adamantly against steroid use for recreational lifters. When you were taking them, what did a doctor's-supervised cycle consist of? Would competitors use them year-round or only pre-contest? Pros today seem to have a "more is better" philosophy, but was it like that in the '60s and '70s?

A: I know as much about steroids as the captain of Primrose High’s Varsity Debating Team (Yeah, right). However, let me take a wild stab after some reference to the skeletal archives. In the period between 1965 and 1970, I just betcha a reasonable outline would consist of a 12-week cycle of Durabolin injectable (1 cc per week), plus Winstrol or Anavar or Dianabol in pill form (4-6 tabs a day). Levels would be higher or lower, according to results, or need, or the rascal’s daring, carefree-ness, ignorance, innocence, desperation, madness, ingredient availability, ego, mood and so forth.

Every six weeks during the non-competition season, a short and light cycle might be engaged to sustain muscle and strength and ingredient effectiveness.

I don’t have the slightest clue what the bodybuilders are involved in today. I haven’t cracked a muscle mag since Lee Haney was on a cover in 1990. I thumbed through the pages. Wow... Cool... Far out... You know how it is. I just know the concoctions have become exceedingly generous and complicated, outrageously expensive, immensely effective, not exactly law-abiding and questionably healthy and possibly deadly.

Today’s pros are a subculture amid a subculture in a wild and crazy world.

Q: What's something lifters today should absolutely learn from the pros of the Golden Age? What's something today's crowd needs to stop asking or wondering about?

A: Don’t compare yourself to the pros and want or need to be like them. Pro bodybuilding is a remarkable involvement and the participants astonishing, staggering and near incredible. Be open to inspiration, let it pour over you; seek it, even, but train for yourself. Set your realistic goals, but realize and train for the larger vision of training itself. There’s far more to the daily workouts than muscle and might. You’re applying and developing character and health of the mind and emotions and soul at once.

There are no secrets, no short cuts. But there is always the search, the hunt, for another good workout, another appealing way, another stimulating combination of food and exercise. It’s the basics, kids; simple, but not easy. You’ve got to blast it, sensibly blast it. You’ve must love your workouts, though you might hate them. A good workout is not an outline of exercises, sets and reps only. It’s a voyage of focus and form, pace and rhythm, exertion and feel, instincts and knowing that come with time and practice and guts and understanding.

Hey, you can always take a truckload of pharmaceuticals and avoid all of the above.

In a word... make that two: Never quit!

Q: Over the years, you've dealt with a combination of health issues and injuries. Are injuries unavoidable for bodybuilders (competitive and recreational)? Is there anything they can do to stay healthy and lifting for the long-term?

Injuries are avoidable, if the lifter is sensible, cautious, controlled and mildly motivated. The lifter with these personality traits generally lasts 7 to 10 days, weeks or months under the iron before he escapes. A determined bodybuilder is driven and daring and intense (slightly mad) and injury-bound... comes with territory.

It’s the last rep and the extra plates that must be done that kill ya. These are also the ones that build large, powerful, dense and well-shaped muscle. What’s a lifter to do?

Eat right, rest a lot, warm up plenty, focus on muscle engagement, maintain proper form, take exertion to 99 percent -- not 101 percent -- and learn from the inevitable injuries that strike you down. Don’t overtrain or overstrain, if you can figure that out.

One main clue from the modern world: Add joint mobility to your warm-up.

Q: You've worked a lot with Bill Pearl and you once wrote he told you, "You've got to get out of shape to get into shape." What's your take on the whole "bulking and cutting" situation for recreational lifter?

There’s a season for bulking and getting strong and a season for trimming and getting ripped. They both work well as the lifter makes his way toward his goals. There’s the need and enjoyment of change in menu and training methodology and there’s the education gained from experiencing the different approaches. The various schemes are productive and the variety stretches the trainee’s understanding of himself and the sport.

The recreational ironhead will experiment less and be content to eventually find a middle ground of training output and a desirable year-round bodybuilding development. Less stress and strain and easier to maintain and appreciate.

Q: What would today's Bomber want to tell the little Bomber back in 1962 before he won Mr. New Jersey?

Possible choices:

Q: If someone wanted to know more of your ideas on life, lifting, and everything else, should they start by reading Brother Iron, Sister Steel or Iron on My Mind?

Brother Iron Sister Steel is a balance of personality, facts, fiction, guess work, tips, hints and clues. The book offers the basics I followed from a small pile of weights stashed under my bed to the tons of iron spread all over the world. Those simple, commonsensical, heart-felt and intuitive basics are a cheerful and credible guide to lifters of all ages, levels and purposes. Fun and encouraging and packed with photos from the day.

Iron On My Mind is a revisited collection of my IronOnline newsletters designed to entertain, inform and motivate. Muscleheads of all shapes and sizes say it gets them to the gym when they least want to go. Each chapter forestalls the dreaded training gaps and overcomes the musclebuilding blues.

West Coast Bodybuilding Scene is an ironman storybook and picture guide that takes you back to the Golden Era of muscle and might. It’s a refreshing and warm reminder of why we lift weights in the first place... and cannot put them down.

Well, if you’ll excuse me, the next stop is mine. Been swell talking with you. See you around.

God Bless Us... D


Save your shoulders, be nice to your back, improve your squat, delight in the action and build thunder thighs. Grasp the handles of a Top Squat, settle the padded bar across your back and lower yourself safely, comfortably and precisely to your favorite depth, and in the same way lift yourself up.

You can’t squat -- you will. You squat poorly -- you’ll squat properly. You hate squats -- you’ll adore them. You like squats -- you’ll love them. You love squats -- you’ll marry them.


New Dan John Book: Never Let Go
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Are you ready? We'll ship your order today.

Did you know Bomber Blend will provide the least expensive and most nutritious meals in your daily eating regimen? It’s not an added extravagance to your food budget; it reduces your budget and improves your nutritional intake. It builds lean, strong and shapely muscle. Regular servings of Bomber Blend raise your IQ and enable you to time travel. Made into a poultice and smeared on the scalp will prevent baldness and kill tics. Good stuff.

Scoop the blend into a glass, stir and drink with pleasure and satisfaction, when you need to, want to or should. All the time.

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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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.

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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.