Iron Online

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.



Joe Weider in a Thousand Words ~Dave Draper

katz-draper-weider-schwarzeneggerIf you don’t already subscribe to Dave Draper’s Iron Online Newsletter, you’re missing out, but it’s certainly not too late. Printed below is his textual eulogy for the late, great Joe Weider. If you don’t know Joe, all I can say is start here with the Bomber and work your way back. This article is reprinted without permission, but with all the respect of an aspiring muscle writer (me) for a solid muscle writer (Dave, and yes, pun intended.) Rest in ever loving peace, Joe. Everyone else, enjoy!


The day is Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 4:43 AM. Joe Weider, Master Blaster,
Trainer of Champions, dies at 93. Betty, his wife of 52 years, mourns by
his side.

Everyone heard the word. It rang a bell around the world. The words
scrolled along the bottom of the TV during Fox News, emails were exchanged
and messages of condolence were being prepared by writers and editors
across various wavelengths.

But, wait, you think, some people don’t just die; they’re bigger than that.

I first met Joe some 50 years ago during one of my treks to Weider Barbell
Company to buy weights. It took two buses and a six-block hike from my
Secaucus home to Joe’s Union City office and warehouse. A small entry room
at the front of the 3,000-square-foot brick edifice offered a set of
upholstered chairs and a curious buzzer beside a sliding opaque glass

I hesitantly engaged the buzzer, heard it’s ring in the not-too-distant
‘back room,’ and within a few minutes Leroy Colbert appeared, arms and all.

“Can I get a six-foot bar, please?”

“Sure. Wait here.”

I had singles and the exact change I’d saved from my weekend job delivering
groceries in Hoboken. Way to go, Dave. I was 13. See ya, and I was on my

Seasons passed. Buzz buzzzzz…

“Can I get a pair of 20-pound plates, please?”

“Sure. Wait here.”

Leroy was wearing a bulging light-blue short-sleeve shirt… sheeezz.

I said “Thanks, Leroy,” as I handed him the precise amount from my
now-five-year-old grocery store job. I was 14 and was on my way.

A few more visits and a few years older, a few pounds heavier and a few
inches taller, I gathered the courage and wits to bypass the buzzer and go
directly to the unloading dock at the rear of the building. That’s where I
met Joe. He stepped into the stockroom from the front offices to advise
Leroy about tasks at hand, nodded and disappeared. His sleeves were rolled
up, but the tie was seriously knotted.

It seems a truckload of weights was on the way from the foundry and needed
unloading before the day’s end. What? Are you kidding me? A truckload of
weights? Seriously? From the foundry? What could be more exciting to a
grocery delivery boy? Do you guys need help? Surprise, surprise! They did.

Before you know it, I was married, a dad, 22 and on my way to California to
participate in Joe’s fledgling operation in the once-golden state, Weider
Barbell, Santa Monica.

I shipped and received vitamins at Weider’s with George Eiferman, and
pushed and pulled iron in the Dungeon with Muscle Beach leftovers. Joe came
and went, timely monthly visits, to manage and observe the comings and
goings of goods and funds on the west coast, the left coast.

Something was happening and Joe knew it. There were drums in the distance
and Joe could hear them. He put his left hand to his forehead and reached
his right hand skyward: Joe had a vision. Where some saw a glow, Joe saw
brightly lit marquees and spotlights; what some heard as an echo of muscle
consent, Joe heard as raging cheers and a swell of admiration and

Joe’s muscle magazines gushed.

What some considered physical culture, the Trainer of Champs embraced as
baseball biceps and horseshoe triceps, barndoor lats and washboard abs. The
magazines of Weider Publications became ripped and veiny and zany. Bright
and dazzling issues of Mr. America and All-American Athlete and Muscle &
Fitness and Miss Americana splashed on the scene each month, engaging the
readers and vying for position.

What’s what and who’s who in muscle and might grew in excited response. I
think it was Jackie Robinson or Jackie Kennedy or Jake Petrowski, my next
door neighbor, who said with candid insight, “Bodybuilding has leaped
forward like a hunky bullfrog at the sight of a svelte lady frog in short
shorts.” Right on, J!

Joe Weider attended the birth of bodybuilding and physical fitness in the
’40s. During the ’50s, he was there to watch it take its first steps and
prevent it from falling. “What you need is a 110-pound dumbbell set and a
three-in-one bench.”

But in the ’60s he put Plan A into operation.

The promotion of big-time national bodybuilding competition attracted the
Master of Iron and he prepared the podium: Mr. America contest with
flourish, Mr. Universe with pizzazz, Mr. Olympia with the very best bodies
in the world — big venues, stupendous stages, superior contenders,
overflowing audiences, matching enthusiasm, significant trophies and the
beginnings of prize money.

Think about it, if you’re old enough or care enough:The mid-’60s was the
age of rage, the unmatched period of the great bodybuilding launch. Scott
and Howorth, Zane and Katz, Franco and Arnold, Sergio and Yorton were the
first in orbit. Neil and Apollo followed in ’69. One small step, one giant

The ’70s and ’80s brought muscle and power advancement, changes, directions
and volumes of aficionados. Joe was there, the leader of the surge. “Flex
your calves, stand upright, throw your shoulders back, tense your thighs.”
He was always giving advice.

You could say the sport was becoming crowded. Fitness and wellness took
hold, and gyms in chains sprawled from coast to coast, border to border.
And the story goes on and on.

You were there front row center, behind the camera, under the lights, on
the beach, throughout a champ’s workout, side by side with the man who
explored, spawned and imagined, introduced, expanded and electrified,
invented, magnified and mystified the arenas of musclebuilding and might.

Through it all, to this day and tomorrow too, JW stands in his perch above
the iron masses and observes and reminisces, remarks and directs, flexes
and hits an occasional most muscular shot. He can’t help himself. It feels
good and it’s good for you.

May we all rest in peace… God’s Speed… The Bomber

Just Another Day ~Dave Draper

Sometimes in our quest for knowledge, or even just sitting around flipping through a book in search of something motivational, uplifting, inspirational, or all of the above, we actually find what it is we seek. Overblown way of saying we get lucky sometimes. We find that perfect blend of motivational fuel while our brains are actually firing on all cylinders. It’s a good thing, a very good thing. A beautiful thing worth sharing. And with that, reprinted without any request or regard for permission, from Dave Draper’s Iron Online:

Iron On My Mind

(Oh, and be sure to get your own copy of Iron On My Mind, by Dave Draper)

I’m about to leave for the gym. It’s a sunny fall day, Saturday, one you might call perfect; low ‘70s, light breeze and no humidity. There are things I could do other than work out with the weights within the gym walls — more appealing and exciting, perhaps — yet to the gym I am bound. Why? What is the draw, the attraction, the force that persuades or, more rather, compels me to attend the movement of heavy metal through a series of laborious sets and repetitions? A mystery.

I know what the motivations are for me, can guess what they are for you and only suspect they in their variations might coincide along the way. For this musclehead, the workouts have to be done, come rain or come shine. The value of yesterday’s workout and other days gone by depends on today’s; the workout of tomorrow and the days to follow are founded on the ones before them — in particular, the one upon which I am about to embark. No single training session is more important or less important than the other; they are equally important. They are intertwined, interwoven and interdependent, like words in the sentence of a complete and undefiled thought, a truth.

We say, “If I don’t work out today, I’ll work out tomorrow.” But what do we say tomorrow if we don’t work out tomorrow, “I’ll work out next time?” And so the conversation goes until it fades to guilt or a forgotten subject.

I’m training this afternoon because it promises good — challenge, joy, exhilaration, reinforcement, order, stress relief, camaraderie and inner conversation — and links me securely and properly with the days ahead. I need to express myself physically that I might be healthy and whole. Daily activity and busy-ness fall short of this role and certainly do not provide sufficient exercise; they only accentuate the need for it.

This day is not just another day. What day in your life is “just another day?” Today is a miracle, one surprise after another, sometimes shouting, often whispering of the hope of more to come. The man or woman who thinks tritely of his or her life will endure a trite existence. This day, today, is the most important day.

Exactly your point, you say, why waste it or use it up in the gym under the iron? I say, so the sun will shine tomorrow and the next day and the next… in your heart, from your soul and upon your strong back.

As there are the moments, minutes and hours before the gym and its industry, there are the corresponding times after. Who among us is not disheveled and misshapen when we miss a scheduled workout? We outlive the discomfort, we rationalize our choice to forego exercise, we defend our lame excuses — after all, we are a free and unfettered people, not chained to the conventions of absolute discipline, or more appropriately, boring habit; we could use the rest and fun and, really, we do have forever — but our once-enthusiastic plans, the proper self-image we fashioned, the promises and commitments we made to ourselves to develop ourselves are weakened.

Where we might dread the resistance the weights present and anticipate with shortness of breath a run on the endless, timeless treadmill and long for a stretch on the coach with the remote at our command, we are able to reprogram our minds with thoughts of purpose and fulfillment and development and accomplishment. Don’t weaken under the weight of your own flesh and bones that beg for your attention. You’re not lazy or lost or dismal; it’ll take more than a few poor choices and rationalizations to bury yourself in that infertile ground.

You’re building a palace for tomorrow, rooms for the future, and the work is evident in the structure always. The sketches are in your imagination and alter with time and living day to day. The foundation is sound and development is taking place regularly beneath the floorboards and walls. Wiring and pipes and reinforcements and security systems cannot be seen, yet your mighty hands install them.
It might require effort of mind and will, but think of the good of the pushing and pulling, filling the lungs with oxygen and the muscles with blood; the goodness of the warmth of energy that spreads through the body and the moisture of resolute toil worn like a shield.

Oh, the thrill of a workout completed or the unbearable woe of yet another put aside.

It’s getting late and the last train for Paradise is idling at the station, waiting for all to board. I hate to keep the train and its spirited passengers waiting.

Sometimes bombers take the train… keeps things in perspective.


The mystery that drew me to the gym, the indescribable urge I could no more contain than flying outhouses, pig pens, chicken coops and moonshine distilleries in an Arkansas tornado, materialized in a series of slow-moving challenges between a barbell nailed to the gym floor and me. I hadn’t noted that the gravity in the vicinity of the lifting platform registered in the red zone late Saturday afternoon. I loaded on the plates and proceeded to execute deadlifts, or more accurately, as I recall, it was the other way around; they executed me, 6 sets x 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2. I started with the bar and a plate and a half, or 185, for 12 reps. With each successive set, I added 50 pounds till the last set of 405 for 2. I don’t know what’s more hysterical, the high reps or the heavy weight.

Sufficiently warmed up, I continued my mirthful routine with 4 sets x 8-10 reps of wide-grip bent-over barbell rows supersetted with mid-weight, stiff-arm pullovers using the Odis thick-bar. No rush at this point, as I met up with Bill Keyes, the famous good-natured Large Man (aka Big Fellow, Sir Huge, Mountain), who regularly moderates the IOL discussion group and passes out strength advice to the hardy. Between sets we discussed iron bending and metal moving and agreed, since he was visiting from out-of-town and we rarely see each other, heavy-duty, monster conversation was permissible.
Back to business: My stance is narrow. I bend low and grab the bar three inches from the collars and pull it high to the upper pec. The pull focuses on muscle-action — contraction and extension — depending less on thrust and the physics of momentum to move the weight. Great for upper back width, thickness and power and contributes to the strength of the lower back, quads and hamstrings. A comprehensive move, the rows add to the body’s overall muscle growth. Careful: Not designed for tykes.

The pullovers tug on those lats while allowing you to lie down on a bench, oxygenize, stretch and stare at the ceiling between the tough sets.

Press on and don’t look back. Bill threw my battered body over his shoulder and retreated to the juice bar for a Bomber Blend shake to ensure his muscles would grow to outrageous proportions during his long drive home — waste not, time or muscle-making efficiency. On the way he dumped me off at the cable-crossover where I knocked off 5 sets x 12 reps of the popular pec-defining exercise; nice tie-in to the muscle-action of the pullover. This burning, yet non-consuming exercise was completed in swift, meticulous form to achieve maximum pump and efficacy. Zoom zoom.

What’s this? I stood upright and rolled my shoulders back and noticed there was something missing below the scapula and along the lower sweep of the lats. Using my built-in MPS (Muscle Positioning System), I determined 5 supersets of one-arm rows (8 reps) blended with rounded-back dips (12-15 reps) would harmonize the un-sung regions and complete my composition for the day.

The bis and tris and thighs didn’t go home this hungry Saturday without drawing blood, either. The whole greedy lot got in on the act. Did I mention I started with crunches and hanging leg-raises?

Now maybe you’ll recall the secret appeal that makes life without the weights regrettable. How quickly we forget.

Better check your fuel, ammo, parachute, helmet, socks, underwear…

Bombers are forever. DD