Have you noticed it’s a crazy world out there? We need to be careful how we engage strangers over the internet and answer our e-mail.
Someone from Phoenix, a B-72, asked me how he can get huge and ripped for his 50th wedding anniversary in July. Yeah, right! I congratulated him on his marital fortitude and his aspiration and suggested he train hard, eat smart and step judiciously off a small cliff (ha-ha). “The swelling from the impact and the gashes from sliding down the rock face," I explained, "is your only scheme for achieving size and cuts these days, Pops.”
He wrote back expressing mild disappointment because there are no adequate cliffs in his desert-bound neighborhood. Were there pills he could take?
I dared not suggest he step in front of a speeding bus, a clever alternative. I might get sued by the bus driver.
I don’t have any of the answers, though the questions are endless. Answers, when stretched out in words on reams of cosmic paper, are errantly replaced like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
You want muscles? Lift weights, hard and consistently. You want trim and lean? Don't eat like a pig. You want endurance? Run hills and stairs and hike with a weighted backpack. You want good health? Do it all with sensibility.
My favorite biceps developer is the standing barbell curl done with full ROM and a lovable, coaxing thrust. The Oly bar is fun till the wrists groan; then it’s time for the bent bar. Dumbbell inclines work, preacher curls have their say, and any of your unique variations of the curl are, no doubt, worthwhile.
Bi’s are engaged, more or less, every time we pull: chins, rows, pulldowns, crossovers, pullovers. They get lots of work when we least expect it, which can catch up with us when we least expect it. Be aware.
Triceps are engaged every time we extend our arms. They, too, work like oxen at the plow. My gripe is that tri’s are more complicated than the biceps; they’re in the back and I can’t see them when training; they don’t endure aging well (they wither), and they’re connected to the elbows, which have been known to complain loudly when the tri’s are beaten lovingly and relentlessly.
My favorite moves are lying and seated overhead triceps extensions with a barbell—Olympic or bent—for mass and power, and pulley pushdowns for health, shape and specific recruitment. Dumbbells fit in here and there, as desired, for change and relief and interest.
Some guys I know, the dirty rats, do nothing more than close-grip bench presses and get meaty, shapely and powerful triceps. I think they have mental defects and, probably, have never been on a date with a girl.
You notice in my incoherent ramblings about nothing, I began with biceps and triceps, a dead giveaway of the important order of things in life. And now a word or two about shoulders: Call me dangerous, foolish, careless and adorable, but seated behind-neck presses have always made my heart sing. I love them. Bill Pearl loves them. They also make me scream. They wreck the shoulders but, hey, they work. Who said lifting was safe and sane?
My advice: Stick with dumbbell inclines and front presses on the Smith machine. I love one-arm lateral raises with improvised grooves and thrusts and dips on the dip machine with accents where needed or permissible. I press every other workout and perform laterals alternately.
My chest is big enough for me and my T-shirt and gets enough pressing action from the incline dumbbell presses and dips (got to love those two-for-one deals when you’re a senior citizen). Besides, as the years go by, big pectoral muscles become a liability. They seek gravity enthusiastically. Cable crossovers, one-arm and two-arm movements with tight contractions, strengthen and tone the area better than any other. Low-incline flyes are fun three times a month just to be sociable.
The bench press took a permanent leave of absence when I grew up 20 years ago. It had something to do with open rotator surgery and shredded stuff. I do not miss the overrated lopsided painster one bit. Dumbbells are where it’s at, the little ones on the left end of the rack.
Deadlifts were a joy not so long ago. Today, I get all the back work I can handle from pulldowns—behind and before the neck, close-grip and wide-grip—and seated lat rows with full range of motion. One-arm rows, done with care and no rigorous twisting, are worthy; however, reaching for the heavy stuff is costly. The ensuing pain and stiffness and immobility are mean and nasty and unhealthy.
Squats took a hike just in time. I now do extensions and curls and freehand squats and calf thingies throughout the week to keep me agile as a robotic rhino or a hamstrung hypo. I’m glad I can walk across the gym floor without a stick.
When discussing abs and torso work, bombers, did I ever mention rope tucks? Must have slipped my mind. They are the greatest invention since the wheel or the Top Squat even. I commence my two heady weekly workouts with four sets of 40 to 50 R.T.s (R.T.s—we cool). I can enter the gym feeling like 50 cents and within a set of delicious tucks, pulls and yanks, I feel like a million bucks.
The whole upper body from the hips to the traps can be delightfully engrossed by the skillful application of the rope attached to the weighted cable. Practice and focus, intensity and knowing. Sometimes, after four sets of 50 reps with some freehand squats between, I feel that I’ve done all I can to keep it all together.
Drink your Bomber Blend.… Avoid contact with moving buses.… Never quit.…
Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit www.DaveDraper.com and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.