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You Can Look, But Don’t Jump

I remember when I had 20-inch arms and gas was 19.9 cents a gallon. Those were the days.

It’s a grand day. Sunlight beams through blue skies gracing us with temperatures in the 70s, a few light breezes and plenty of burgeoning smiles. I feel 20 years younger. I remember when I had 20-inch arms and gas was 19.9 cents a gallon. Those were the days.

As I glance in the specially rigged rearview mirror on me ole virtual biplane, I see kids under 18 jumping out of the cargo area like we were goin’ down fast. No parachutes—they’d rather take their chances bailing out now than enduring a crash landing later.

Here’s a question that will gain the attention of the young and wingless daredevils: Bomber, if you were 18 years old, 5’10”, medium build, 165 pounds and weight training for a year in an average sort of way and wanted to get bigger and better and smarter, what would you do—besides joining the Army?

Easy answer, tough pursuit. I’m reluctant to reply because average-sort-of-way training just won’t do, and I don’t want to waste his time or mine. Magnanimous muscle man that I am, though, I’ll give it a go, Joe.

What would I do? First, I’d sit back and take five to review myself and my goals a little more closely. Know thyself. A quick who, what, where, why and when now and then proves to be invaluable in muscle building. Think, act, reap.

I know—all you wanted was a quickie routine, a pat on the back and to be on your way. Not so fast, Buster.

Who are you, what are your ambitions outside the gym, and how will bigger and better serve you? Where and when will you train, and how much time do you have and are willing to commit? Are weight training and muscle building a mission or a diversion or healthy sport? These and related questions can be fun and enlightening and invaluable. Thinking along the way with wonder and confidence transforms the daily exercises and sets and reps into a marvelous journey.

Knowing what I look like, what would I like to look like? How do I see myself as I successfully progress? Visualizing and imagining work. Our proper and positive conscious and unconscious thoughts urge us along like currents in deep waters. Direct them wisely.

Too much trouble, too complex, too boring, you say? Beats texting. Your mind’s picture of yourself is worth a thousand words.

Another thing that’s probably bugging you—or not. Our endeavors are all ego-bound. Fine. Me-first isn’t exactly an isolated attitude, it isn’t necessarily wrong, and it isn’t always evidence of killer conceit. Accept essential, inherent egocentricity and mold it to be universally beneficial. Being strong and fit and capable and healthy is a bold responsibility and the noblest of qualities—and among the pursuits most commonly neglected. That these fine traits are lacking in our neighborhood is evidence of that.

Crimes against oneself, sins against humanity.

Take pride in your weighty endeavor, your iron diversion, whether you’re an aspiring fireman, policeman, taxman, doctor, lawyer or Indian chief. What you do is good—brilliant, perhaps. Go. Aspire.

Before moving on, you must face the four naked truths: discipline, perseverance, courage, forbearance. They’re both prerequisites and by-products of building muscle, might and brights. Ya gotta have them or at least be ready, willing and able to develop them. Be prepared.

But, but, but where’s the beef?

Nutrition is next. Bigger, better and smarter are most directly assured by right eating and proper supplementation. I’m struck by how few people are familiar with the guidelines for healthful eating or appreciate their vital importance. They don’t care. They eat when they get the urge or the chance, when they’re bored or depressed, for comfort or entertainment. And they eat junk, too much and too fast, or they don’t eat at all.

Do as I do, do as I say, and do it always, regularly, consistently, certainly, without fail: daily, weekly and monthly, and on and on forever and not just occasionally.

Feed yourself simply, wisely and respectfully. Ya’ll know Bomber Nutrition 101; ya’ll just forget it every now and again. Ya’ll dumb. Be simple, be wise, and be respectful. Be smart.

Eat breakfast always. Small yet substantial, the starting meal will save and maintain muscle and provide energy and engage the metabolism.

Eating sufficient meals regularly throughout the day, every three hours, is a nice rule of thumb. Not too much at once, not snacks only.

Eat well-balanced meals (40 percent animal protein, 30 percent good fats, 30 percent nutrient-high carbs is my favorite calorie distribution), including fresh vegetables and fruits and excluding junk, refined sugars and grease.

Eat red meat, lowfat-milk products and ground-fed-chicken eggs as your muscle-building protein foods. Wisely use a superior protein powder to augment and simplify your muscle-gaining endeavors. Perhaps you’ve heard of Bomber Blend.

I could go on, but it’s time for a training routine suitable for the increasingly dedicated, disciplined and committed 18-year-old muscle builder dripping with perseverance and filled with positive visions.

You don’t want to consume your time excessively, and weight training and its goals have a way of dominating your thoughts and deeds. You want them to complement your body, mind and soul—your life and lifestyle—not control them. Furthermore, you don’t want to overtrain, an insidious physical side effect of determined muscle building.

The young, relatively new lifter with goals of muscle size and power is most productive using the basic exercises found in the handy how-to-build-big-muscles manual. You want to arrange your exercises so you train every major muscle group twice a week with ample time between bodypart workouts to allow muscle repair and recuperation. Keep in mind that it’s not the end-all of training routines and is not designed to accomplish all of your development desires. Variations of the fundamentals—sets and reps, multiset combinations and levels of intensity—determine effects: muscle shape, definition, density, might, speed, endurance.

Stick with the prescribed routine for six weeks to extract all of the benefits it has to offer. You’re seeking, learning and growing, and your instincts continue to be honed. They, I suspect, are not ready to override your instructed mind and lead you down the tangled path ahead. Be patient, persistent and content.

Know this: A change in workout might serve many purposes (muscularize, thicken the back, strengthen the thighs), but its most essential purpose is to keep us interested and hopeful and engaged. Or, put another way, to keep us from pulling our hair out, drooping with boredom, sinking in doubt and staying home and watching TV instead of blasting it. Anything but another workout!

Consistent training, even if it’s bad, is good. Better a bad workout than no workout. The worst workout is the missed workout. He who neglects his exercise is a loser. Skip your routine, fall on your face.

Include the following 10 must-do-to-be-big exercises: squats, bench presses (better yet, dumbbell incline presses), deadlifts, one-arm bent-over rows, barbell curls, lying or overhead triceps extensions, seated lat rows, wide-grip pulldowns, dumbbell pullovers, lateral raises—one-arm or two-arm.

You’re beginning to get the picture. The secret is, there is no secret.

—Dave Draper


Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit 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.

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