The Mind of a Champion

Here, Dave Draper is talking about bodybuilding. His answer applies to any worthy pursuit our lives might chance.


Q: What’s your advice for a younger lifter who wants 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.

This excerpt is from last week’s IronOnline Newsletter . . . and if you aren’t getting it, you’re missing out on some of the greatest & astutest Muscle Philosophy on the interwebs.



Simplifying Solutions

Competitive ‘sophistication’ (rather, complication masked as sophistication)
is harmful, as compared to the practitioner’s craving for optimal simplicity.
~Nassim Taleb

It is vain to do with more
what can be done with less.
~William of Occam

ockham's-razorThe Sophists got a lot of unwanted attention from Plato. Scholarly studs prancing around ancient Greece, charging money to impart their knowledge, and much like modern day salespeople, politicians & lawyers, spinning their knowledge to make happy the hearts of the highest bidder.

Today we might call them Hucksters, Shysters, or maybe even Con-men, but back then, they were called Sophists. Somewhere in between, their name got lumped in with something the ruffians, rubes & commoners were conditioned to crave, Sophistication. What started as a simple idea became a complex notion, and if we’re not careful, we’ll suffer the complexities, confusions & cranial conflagrations of those collusions.

Every book from our fitness library, every magazine glossed with half naked torsos, every other post we find online tries to sell us the promise of some spectacular miracle workout or wonder supplement. Minimal time, maximal investment. If the program didn’t work, we didn’t try hard enough, or we gave up the day before all of our problems would have been solved. It’s always our fault.

The best & brightest lies are always some tweak of actual truth. That is what made the Sophists so successful, and that is why our consumer-culture continues to thrive. If enough coal is packed together, we’ll always be inclined to believe that there could be a diamond in the center. Unfortunately, there is just enough truth embedded in that belief to make it authentic & understandable. Fortunately, even the rarest compression of coal is absolutely worthless without a buyer.

Those nuggets of truth hinted at, alluded to & ambiguously referenced are meaningless without action. The workouts we’re served are needlessly sophisticated exactly because they’re intended to mislead, deceive & disappoint. Consumer culture thrives on the notion that if at first you don’t succeed, buy something else.

If we’re going to get stronger, if we’re going to inherit the power we were born to wield, our first & broadest step is to learn to do more with less. Minimalist mentality.

Isolation exercises tell us that we’re not as good as the next person. Forget strength, your arms must be as big as X in order to look strong. Your run was a sweet gesture, but it wasn’t as fast as Y.  Etcetera, etcetera . . .

Is that our motivation, inspiration, encouragement?

Whatever method we choose is just a tool, and a tool is only good as how we understand & use it. No tool is as complex as our own bodies, and no tool will help us simplify sophisticated processes as our Mind-Body connection. What are we doing and why are we doing it?

A barbell seems to be a simple tool, but it still has a lot of moving parts, a lot of links in the chain where something can & might go wrong. The singular nature of Kettlebells & dumbbells might seem even more simple, but poor movements can complexify our relationship with them and befuddle our results.

We tend to recommend the simpler movements for our workouts: the Deadlift, Squats, Kettlebell Swings, Pullups, Pushups, Loaded Carries, Running . . . the combinations of which can be as complicated or as simple as we wish. The movements themselves should be simple & fluid. If the effort to move well is greater than the force required to manipulate the load, we are doing it wrong.

Take time to learn the movements. The Deadlift looks simple, but a movement out of alignment can bring the body to a crashing & rehabilitory halt. Same for Squats, Swings, even Running.

Full-body movements, gestures & immersions give us the most result for our efforts, and no matter how we attempt to slice otherwise, are the simplest approaches to developing strength and realizing power. The trick is to not be tricked by the presence & promise of shiny objects. All of our potential comes from inside of us, through dedication, discipline & determination. No matter what tools we choose to use, the method of our success doesn’t get any more simple than that.

Stay strong, get stronger,

Alter We Go

Alter We GoHere’s a perfectly lovely example of adapting what is useful . . . CrossFit has a benchmark WOD (workout of the day) affectionately known as Fran, which consists of the deceptively simple movements, Thrusters & Pullups. Three total sets of each exercise for 45 total reps. 21-15-9 are well-known numbers, beloved & despised simultaneously. 21 Thrusters, 21 Pullups, 15 of each, then 9 of each.

Maybe we don’t need or particularly care for the idea of Pullups today . . . no worries . . . we can insert anything we want & or need into this well established template. Do try this at home, in the park, or wherever you can focus on the feeling:


  • Thrusters & Kettlebell Swings– same # of sets, same rep scheme
  • Burpees & Cleans– same sets, same reps
  • Squats & High Jumps– same, same & wear your big kid underwear


The list can & should go on. Like anything that attracts us into action, it looks simple, but it certainly isn’t easy. Whichever combination you pick, revisit it once a week and see if you feel less wiped out that the week before. There are ways to make it tougher . . . a down & up 21-15-9-9-15-21 rep scheme is one way, but make sure you can finish the basic template before experimenting with anything more complicated.

Whatever you choose, whatever you do, enjoy it . . . this might be your only chance in this earthly form.