I have written for elitefts for some years now, and as a columnist, I am actually a fairly selective reader when it comes to strength and muscle education.

I am a selective reader due to my self-imposed schedule. Like you, my day-to-day is packed with responsibilities and duties. Like you, I have a dual-identity life: my work life with “regular” people, and my gym life with strength athletes. In my particular case, my day is split among three buildings. Up with the alarm at 5:30 a.m. and throughout the work day, I spend my time in the educational setting of a high school as an assistant principal with teachers, staff, and students. Upon leaving that building, I climb into the Jeep and head to another building, the gym I own, Monster Garage Gym. Upon entering that space, I enter the world of the physical, powerlifters, strongman competitors, dumbbells, weights, barbells, strength, and muscle. At the end of the evening, after the lifters have gone and the gym is closed up tight for the night, I head to my third building. That is my house, where time is spent with family and pugs, food, sleep. Then, the pattern repeats itself.

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So, like you, with time throughout the day being occupied with many facets and forms of duty and responsibility, when there is that precious moment of available time for reading and learning and growing with regard to the world of weights, I choose my content carefully.

There are a few staples with regard to content about muscle, power, and strength. My primary go-to for the vast majority of content is elitefts. elitefts is second to none with not only the highest quality of information but also the sheer tonnage and volume of this high caliber of information on all things strength and power and muscle….oh yeah, and it is FREE! But aside from the amazing elitefts columnists (I enjoy them all, but like you, I have those whom I tend to relate to more) and my home library of books and materials on this topic, my writer, author, or philosopher of choice who I tend to read habitually has been around the block longer than most. Furthermore, this writer has seen, experienced, lived, and succeeded in the world of iron and steel for the duration of his lifetime. At the same time, he has achieved the kind of success that has permanently established him a place at the big boys’ table with regard to the history of all things weights, muscles, and power.


Dave Draper courtesy of Laree Draper 

This author is the legendary Dave Draper. For those unfamiliar with Dave Draper, here is a short look at his quite impressive resume: Dave is a former Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and Mr. World winner, and he placed fourth in the Mr. Olympia. Dave is one of the faces on the Mt. Rushmore of classic bodybuilders from that golden era of the sport. Dave has been a successful gym owner, had his own brand of protein powder, is a member of the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, and is a published author of several books (written and audio). He has a quite lengthy list of television and movies to his credit as well.

Dave has been steeped in the world of muscle and power for decades and decades starting when he was a very young boy. His Mr. America title was won in 1965 at the tender age of 24. Dave as of this writing is now 77 years of age, still actively writes about the world of muscle and might, still enjoys chalk-covered calluses and iron in his hands, and lives a fulfilling life with his wife, Laree, in California, the land of the classic era of bodybuilding.

For some 20 years, starting back in 1999, Dave Draper has put out a weekly newsletter, and it is this newsletter (in addition to his books) that I am referring to when I talk about carefully selecting reading material. My free time is limited, and I need to go to a reliable source when it comes to finding material that will educate, motivate, or inspire me in some way, shape, or form. So along with the content from my team elitefts columnists, when I am looking to grow, to learn, and to find inspiration and/or education, I have turned to Dave Draper’s writing. I have done this because lifting, training, competing, and the pursuit of all things strength, weight, and power is part of a grand and ever-learning journey. Those who think the world of weights has a definitive destination are unfortunately on the wrong path.

This past month, it seemed like I had waited an inordinately long time for Mr. Draper’s newsletter to come out. Turns out that as Dave lives in California, his power along with thousands of others’ in the state was shut off by the area’s power company so as to prevent further fires that had engulfed large areas of the state of California. When the newsletter finally hit my email inbox, it was not really a newsletter but more so a short statement that the prior newsletter was his last newsletter. Wait, what???

I found myself rereading the newsletter over and again to make sure that I had read the information correctly. Here is what Dave Draper wrote:

It's time to wrap up the weekly IronOnline newsletter, old friends.

We began IOL 20 years ago during the last months of 1999. Having dabbled in math all my life -- counting sets and reps, and pounds and tons lifted and assorted bodypart combinations -- I estimate we published 800 issues of the iron column during this, the 21st century.

Whatever, we’ve decided it’s time to pack our bags and take the next train outta Dodge.

Here’s how the decision came about: our electricity was shut off by PG&E for a few days a couple of weeks ago to prevent a potential wildfire during high winds. No power, no newsletter.

The following week, we relocated our website and endured the delirious complexities and disappointments that change entailed ... ugh ... No IronOnline newsletter topped the list.

... hmmmm . . . mmmm . . . mmm . . .

No responsibility for a weekly newsletter two weeks in a row was . . . how do you say it? a Relief, capital R . . . We liked it! A lot!

Twenty years later, cool as it has been, (we’re on the verge of burnout)(borderline burned out). KaLunk, Boink, Bomp!!!

So, with affection and eyes crossed, mighty hands clenched and a tear in the eyes, we’re signing off.

Brother Dave - Uncle Nutso”  

As someone who has been favored enough to write monthly articles for elitefts, I understand the feeling of relief. This is the relief that all elitefts columnists feel when they finally finish an article and hit the “submit” button. Once submitted, our articles go to the elitefts editors who make sense of our zealous overuse of punctuation and make us sound far more literate and far more in command of the English language than we truly are. For me at least, it takes the full duration of the month to finish the monthly article. The process is odd, as once the article has been “finished,” as the saying goes, “that is when the real writing begins.” And that is the process of transforming 14 pages of unwieldy thought into four pages of a coherent theme and meaningful message. With that comes the self-imposed pressure to hit a deadline and more importantly to create content worthy of the mighty elitefts. That said, I could not imagine the stress of creating a weekly version of this as I imagine that would require just enough time to hit the “send” button, have a protein shake, and then immediately have to begin the next week’s newsletter. And to have repeated this more than 800 times is frankly mind-blowingly impressive.

So, with Relief (with a capital R) in hand and heart, the “Blonde Bomber,” Dave Draper, called it a “day” with regard to his weekly newsletter. To be clear, a “day” here is a 20-year-long, packed-to-the-brim day.

dave draper via and  golden_era_athletics ig sepia

Photo collage constructed from golden_era_athletics and photo(s)

Let’s backtrack a bit, like several decades back. At the height of Dave Draper’s competitive career, after his Mr. America, Mr. Universe, Mr. World and a 4th place in the 1970 Mr. Olympia, Dave Draper simply walked away from competitive bodybuilding. He did not walk away from bodybuilding training nor the allure of all things barbells, dumbbells, weights, chalk, iron, grit, determination, and self-improvement. He did not walk away from the big weights, the “pump,” nor the high protein low carb green-leafy meals and healthy lifestyle that was bodybuilding during that classic era of bodybuilding when biceps were big and round, abs were flat and tapered, and bodies were built on hard work, nutrition, hydration, sleep, recovery, and consistency.

In other words, Dave walked away from the self-imposed stressful part of his sport, the competition, yet stayed true to the philosophy of the sport (as it was back then), the training, lifestyle, nutrition camaraderie, brotherhood, sisterhood and more training. To walk away from other’s expectations at the zenith of one's competitive career and to instead follow one’s own destiny is a totally different kind of self-discipline. It would be like a person today casting away their social media “life” with a 150K followers for the true and authentic life of self-growth, inner and external growth and maturity, and their small circle of actual friends and loved ones. That is a rare person, but those few are the most self-fulfilled and self-actualized, we just don’t see it as their life is not plastered with a filter all over socialookatmedia. Do you know what the most common first word used in a socialookatmedia post is? The word is “I.” Let that sink in for a minute or two or ten.

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So, once again, but decades later, Dave Draper takes the road less traveled, and the one paved with authenticity, discipline, hard work and self-improvement and that means cutting out negative stress and honing in on inner pursuits. Stress, as Seal Team 6 Robert O’Neil states in one of his presentations, “In life, all stress is self-induced stress. It is what you do to yourself, it is in your mind, Stress is a choice. Stress is a bag of bricks. You can wake up in the morning and it is laying right there. You can pick it up first thing in the morning, throw it over your shoulder and let it ruin your day, carry it around with you and ruin everyone else’s day, but with stress at any time you can put it down and forget about it and you should because it is doing you absolutely no good and it is in your mind.

These are the aspects of training, muscle, power, and strength that Dave Draper writes about that I have found inspiration in. If you are a person looking for sets and reps and programs and “secret Russian training methods,’ do this x times for x sets on x days, Dave may not be your guy. If on the other hand you are looking for those nuggets of truth and wisdom that can only come from someone who has not only been there and done that but also has done so successfully and for half a century (half a century ...let that sink in for a minute or two or ten as well), then the books and newsletters that Dave has religiously pumped out might just be what you are looking for.

Dave writes in plain speak, in an almost poetic style. There is zero jargon, and all the commonsense one can digest, and then some.

Is there a place for sets and reps and programs, yes, absolutely and 100%, especially for those newbies who are trying to find their way, as telling them that at the beginning levels of the sport, any program will work (when combined with consistency, hard work, technical proficiency, recovery, nutrition and hydration) falls on deaf ears as the newbie needs to feel an allegiance to a program or the person writing the program. Those who have been around for several decades see this and know that this is part of the newbies’ learning process. Nothing wrong with that at all, it is part of their maturation. Those who have been around know that if there was that “one method/program,” well, everyone would be Ed Coan, but that just isn’t how it works.


So, for those beyond the need for programs and who are looking for more, Dave’s writings have you covered.

Now, this is the part where the new to the sport say, “That guy built his 1960’s-70’s championship body based on information from the 1950’s. So that is all antiquated information. Heck, back then we hadn’t even gone to the moon.”

For those, there is no winning them over as they equate modern with better, and they already know everything with their extensive 6-month voyage “under the bar,” but the reality is, if you took a Dave Draper or a Franco or Arnold, or Paul Anderson and transplanted them into the present, they would still rise to the top. It is not nor has it ever been the era that makes the person, it is the person that makes themselves no matter what the era or environment.

Dave’s writing is not time sensitive; it is not like milk or fish that spoils beyond a use-by-date. Dave’s experiences and those of that ilk are not at risk of going out of style, nor on the other hand, will they ever be accused of being trendy. Dave Draper’s content is based on real experiences, a lifetime of trial and error, of successes and failures and of authentic work for work sake versus some contemporary content posted for likes, or followers. As Dave Draper would say, “The learning is in the doing.”

Read Dave’s work from the prior month or the prior year or the prior decade and the content rings true as the essence of humankind and the pursuit of self-improvement, the quest for muscle, size, power, strength and success has not nor will it ever change.

Nobody of sound mind would say, “Don’t read the Iliad, or the Odyssey, that stuff is so very old.” Similarly, nobody with any ability to see the larger picture of life would say, “James Baldwin wrote stuff back in the 50s, so how could Notes of a Native Son be relevant today?”

Now, don’t get it twisted, I am not saying that books about muscles, power and strength have the gravitas or philosophical weightyness or staying power of the aforementioned, as the point I am making is that content that can stand the test of time is often more important that the new and shiny object that might just be here today, and gone this very same day. How about these supplements that were “game changers” the “secret formulas” to muscle and strength some 20 years ago (Smilax, Ultimate Orange, Vanadyl Sulfate, V2G, Boron, Dymetradine 25, Dibencozide, Hot Stuff, and Cybergenics). The fickle jumped all over and swore by these shiny new objects that we now know were snake oil. The tried and true lifters stuck with their basic protein drink with a scoop of peanut butter and a banana thrown in.

Be it Dave Draper or Ernie Frantz, Ed Coan, Vasily Ivanovich Alekseyev, or “Ah-nold,” these men of strength, power, wisdom, and experience fall into that category of this old anonymous saying: “Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young.”

As Dave Draper’s newsletter has come to an end, that timeless information lives on through its too-be readers as it does in his books (his new book, A Glimpse in the Rear View, to be published in a few months). The information is about the human condition and how that condition is interwoven into the fabric that is strength, muscle, power and health. The cessation of his newsletter is hardly the end of an era as that information is timeless and is now trapped in the amber that is the internet and his already published works.

So, as you continue to read and learn from your favorite columnists at elitefts, as you continue to read from the essential books with specifics like those on Dave Tate’s reading list (Book of Methods by Louie Simmons, Supertraining by Dr. Verkhoshansky, Block Periodization by Issurin, Periodization of Strength by Bompa), consider taking the time to also learn from the writings of Dave Draper. Learning from the experiences of someone steeped in a lifetime of iron and steel will serve to give you food for thought as you learn from your own experiences. That said, I will leave you with these words: “The secret is, there is no secret.” -Dave Draper

Wishing you the best in your journey of strength, muscle, and power.

Header image Nikita Chisnikov ©

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