Interview with Dave Draper as seen in Iron Man on 7-10-03
Q-1) CAN YOU TELLS US ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR ON SEASON TRAINING DIET AND OFF SEASON TRAINING AND DIET?
Dave Draper A) My diet is pretty much the same year-round, high protein, low carb and medium good fats. Remember, I’m 61 years old and though I train harder and more effectively in many ways than I did during my developing and competitive days, my needs are different, my capabilities and possibilities limited. I no longer have an on- and off-season. It is one season and mostly on.
I do, however, hold extra bodyweight by choice as part of my smart training scheme. This is done to assure my body of an anabolic environment and allow me to train harder and heavier. (I’m no striking powerhouse, of course; time and injury redefine your training.) Carrying an extra 5 or 10 pounds, I’m more resistant to injury, less restricted in menu and less critical of a finished-physique look. The latter is a stress and stumbling block in itself, as if hoisting the iron wasn’t enough.
The serviceable bodyfat is personally acceptable. I feel tight and I can button my pants.
Something of interest: My diet is the same now as it was when I was training hard to gain mass and power in the ’60s and ’70s. I just ate more, lots more. No fast or junk foods, though ice cream reached my plate and eventually my obliques during those formative years. That’s gone and the smorgasbord eating is gone. Lots of beef, fish, chicken and dairy, plus heaps of salads and steamed cruciferous vegetables constitute my menu now as then. I depend more and more on a good protein powder (love my Bomber Blend) for important protein feedings throughout the day (breakfast, pre- and post-workout meals and pre-bedtime feeding) and a super vitamin and mineral. I also take creatine and EFAs these past years.
Pre-contest dieting for me consisted mostly of eating less in general, dumping the dairy the last weeks as I gauged hardness and cut the carbs to a minimum. There are individual tricks to dial in muscularity and fullness the last weeks and days, but you get the idea.
Today we have an extreme sport with extreme measures about which I know nothing.
Q-2) WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR A YOUNGER LIFTER WHO WOULD LIKE TO BE A BODYBUILDING CHAMPION?
A) Think twice about the champion part and fall in love with the lifting of iron and steel. The goal can get in your way causing you to trip over your feet before you learn how to squat. Train hard, eat right, find joy in the disciplines and practice them consistently. Grow up and into the sport day by day and, thus, avoid setting yourself up for disappointment, expecting too much, being ever critical and trying to satisfy an image.
The real deal is in the training, the struggle, the perseverance, the self control and the determination. The champion will rise up from these qualities.
Goals are important to me. I prefer direction and am most productive when they are clear before me. But the top floor is too far away and I get dizzy looking up. Step by step, one floor at a time with guts and persistence. That’s the certain way to the top.
You, dear reader, have chosen a fantastic sport to build your life around. It requires hard work, thank God, and only basic knowledge as your education. The rest comes from you, your diligent practice, your sacrifice, your strong will, self-awareness, trust and patience. You see there are no shortcuts, no secrets. It’s you, the weights, the awesome gravity and the clang of metal, deep breathing and sweat and pain and joy.
Encouragement from each other is priceless, like oxygen to a drowning mate.
Too much information and seeking it endlessly is a dead end. We’re all different with different needs. Who are you? Train long enough and you’ll find out. It’s the basics, man, in working out and eating right.
Unless, of course, you choose pharmaceuticals to support your cause.
Q-3) WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE BODYBUILDING MOMENT?
Dave Draper A) I won Mr. America in 1965 and Mr. Universe in 1966. Things in bodybuilding were moving fast in those days and the sport was taking its first steps toward the moon. Onstage and winning those titles with the competing champions was nothing short of sensational. The contests were held in the Opera House of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the audience was brand new, standing room only. They didn’t know what to expect, they had no previous exposure to the likes of the new champions and they were completely uninhibited. You’d have to have been there. The roar of the crowd was almost frightening. Never had I expected so much honest emotion to erupt from a bunch of happy-go-lucky bodybuilding fans. The exuberant human sounds came in huge waves and we felt literally lifted up and shifted. The staging shook, the curtains quivered and the NY union workers grabbed their gear and readied their post as if soldiers under siege.
What a night. The crowds are great now, but they’ve been there-done that, if you know what I mean. Nothing like spontaneity.
Q-4) HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF BODYBUILDING?
A) Not through tired eyes, though they may bear a slight squint. I love it more than ever, though I have always thought of it as weight lifting and musclebuilding. Tell you the truth, I’m not crazy about the bodybuilding thing or the fitness thing. Too dopey, imitated and false. I like the iron, the intensity, pushing and pulling and making muscles. Yeah, like that’s not dopey.
Anyhow, I wish more people would see the picture and get in shape, but that’s not happening in the next 24 hours. About bodybuilding, I see it traveling the same road for awhile. There are actually several roads, the highways and the byways. The highways serve the fast-paced sub-culture of extreme bodybuilders who will continue to seek the extremes and thrill the audience of crazies and rads. Can’t hold them down, though the big market might not support them forever and they might slowly diminish in popularity. The core will become smaller and tighter with greater critical mass.
The byways are bumper to bumper with standard bodybuilders and muscle makers, some who are on a little stuff, some into natural competition, some who just love being strong and in good shape and striving and some who loved it when they were a kid and now that they’re 40, 50 and 60, want it again: good health and muscles and might and long-life and sweet training. The latter fringe is growing.
Q-5) WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU SEE BEGINNERS MAKING?
Dave Draper Bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting have many components and the new participants come in all shapes and sizes. The mistakes made are numerous and various. Off the top of my head let me list the top six mistakes in the beginner’s section: 1- Jumping into training without a clue. This worked for me and pre-historic man, but some basic knowledge picked up from an honest-to-goodness coach, be he a friend or professional, is not a bad idea. Get the basics down and start pounding away, learning as you go with focus and self-awareness. Once you learn the basics in exercise, muscle action and muscle grouping, sets and reps, your mistakes will become your guide.
2- Not working legs, like they were totally disconnected from their shoulders and arms. Another way of saying this is; they don’t do squats. Gasp. The single most important builder of the body (next to the bench press, I guess one might say, if they were locked in a gym with a bunch of bench press-crazed physical culturists). Get with it.
3- Not addressing the training component of sound nutrition and right eating. Lots of protein, breakfast, frequent feedings, no junk food. things like that… vitamins and minerals, lots of water. You are what you eat.
4- Expecting and looking for too much, too soon and submission to disappointment. Not giving the training a chance, the real test and, thus, not applying or developing discipline, patience and perseverance. or muscle and might.
5- Doing bench presses that are too heavy, too soon and ferociously wrong in form. You know, the severely arched back, the big bounce, the right goes up followed sometime later by the left. Very personal. Your shoulders hate you for the rest of your life. Train hard, be wise, take care of your joints, tendons and muscles.
6- Seeking information like it was gold — the real answer, the hidden truth, the secret, the faster way, the better way, the pro’s way. Along with that is believing in the magazines and studying their advertisements. Research more, train less, learn less, go nowhere, go home. It’s in you, it’s in the iron, it’s in the work, hard consistent work. That’s also where the joy is stashed, where fulfillment overflows and where boys become men and girls become stronger and leaner girls. Hi cutie.
Q-6) HOW IMPORTANT IS THE QUESTION, “HOW MUCH DO YOU BENCH PRESS,” TO A BODYBUILDER?
A) Well, the best I did as a bodybuilder was 440 at 6AM in the dungeon on a poorly made bench of splintered 2x4s and protruding 10-penny nails bentover to prevent tripping, lacerations or punctures. I was without a spot; I was alone as usual and the bar was bent like a buffalo bar. Great for squatting. I did not often pursue one-rep maxes as I couldn’t handle the possibility of failure. Security is not a bodybuilder’s strong point. I could have done more if I worked at it.
The question is important. The greatest lure to the newbie (and the guy who should know better) who walks across the gym floor is the mound of iron held invitingly, threateningly, precariously over the flat bench. It stares at you and you stare back. The challenge is unspoken, unavoidable. inevitable. It’s the law.
The bench press is considered the true measure of one’s weight lifting prowess; the definer, one’s credentials, the passport and the demanding, yet affectionate daddy of all exercises.
How much can you bench press, big question mark, is the writ of passage.
The problem is the price for pushing the bench is high. It’s those shoulders, man. Dumbbell inclines are a great and safe substitute and big chest and shoulder builder.
Q-7) IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO IRONMAN READERS?
Absolutely, if ya’ll have time to listen. Please sign up for my free weekly newsletter at davedraper.com and we can communicate regularly. The facts are limited, but there’s no end to the learning.
Go with God,
The Bomber, Dave Draper
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