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A Bit Of Draper Bodybuilding History!

Bodybuilding as we know it today began some sixty years ago when men like John Grimek and Steve Reeves lifted weights in preparation for the first Mr. America title.

By: Dave Draper

Bodybuilding as we know it today began some sixty years ago when men like John Grimek and Steve Reeves lifted weights in preparation for the first Mr. America title in the late 30's. The famed Muscle Beach emerged in Santa Monica, California in the 40's. And, as I recollect, it was in the mellow mid-50's when I lifted my first set of barbells. Little did I know the reps and sets, moans and groans that lay before me.

I was just a kid and virtually nobody was doing that sort of thing. Weightlifting and muscle building didn't have wide public appeal or approval and 99 out of 100 athletic coaches gave it the thumbs down. There wasn't a whole bunch of encouragement or inspiration from a society which considered you either stupid or egotistical and probably a sissy. The two guys who inspired me to lift in those days were Anthony Petrowski and Tony Nepeerski, local dock workers with powerful arms from hard work, meat and potatoes and some knarly weightlifting.

I arranged a makeshift set of weights and within a month I was fully hooked on lifting. By the age of twelve, barbells and dumbbells had become very important to me. They were my solid steel friends that I could trust. When the going got tough, when I kept missing the baseball, and when girls were far too cute to talk to, the weights were there and they spoke my language. I loved the resistance they offered and without coaching, gymnasiums or teams of players, I could enjoy a basic oneness of the activity where you were in control of being controlled.

I wrestled with those little monsters for hours on end, pushing and pulling randomly to exhaustion until patterns of exercises formed. Slowly and surely my body took shape and muscle power and size became evident. It's interesting to note here that these things took place almost by accident. I knew of no muscle magazines, looked toward no competitive rewards, idols or flimsy self-gratification. Simply, the play and pleasure of painfully pressing on was my stimulus. And, too, I admit that the exclusiveness and loneness of the adventure had and still has a quality that reaches to the marrow of my bones.

In high school I wrestled a bit, worked on the high bar and swam competitively, but it was the weights that buoyed me up. A job with Weider Barbell Company lured me to Santa Monica, California after winning the Mr. New Jersey title in 1962. There at Muscle Beach, as it faded off into the beautiful California sunset, I met and shared with the last of the true erectors of the bodybuilding foundations - the cornerstones such as Joe Gold, Zabo, George Eifferman, Bill Pearl, Armand Tanny, Clancy Ross and Steve Reeves. A handful of mighty men - heroes - that formed the nucleus of bodybuilding and lived those golden, carefree days gone by.

These men with instincts intact felt their way around the weights and equipment, lifting more and intellectualizing less. And to them I attribute a certain quality of creativity in my training and an appreciation of the fundamentals. The late 60's have been referred to as the "Golden Years of Bodybuilding", when big men pressed on methodically and with great concentration. During those years the various training principles were set down and stand distinctly today - sound, tried and true.

I went on to win the Mr. America title in 1965 and the Mr. Universe in '66. In 1970, after winning the Mr. World in Columbus, Ohio, I sensed a sifting of the gears in bodybuilding and stepped out of competition. The sport took off like a rocket to the moon, soaring into the 80's with ever increasing momentum.

(Smaller Photos are thumbnails - click for enlarged view.)

Today bodybuilding has gained amazing popularity worldwide, both as a participant sport and as a spectator sport. At last the image associated with muscles has been appropriately lifted and the respect and appreciation a bodybuilder deserves is clear. Furthermore, big muscles have become big business.

We live in a crowded and intense world where computers spit out information faster that we can use it and the media has us confused as to who we are and what to expect of ourselves. We've arranged a hi-tech world and often find ourselves trailing far behind, frantically trying to keep the pace. And the world of bodybuilding has not escaped this dilemma. We want results and we want them now - lean hard bodies from QuickStop bodybuilding and fast food appetites. And from this hurried attitude the only sure results are stress, injury and frustration.

We are researchers and scientists, a people hungry for information, details and data. And in our quest we have made things far too complicated. In publishing this website, I hope to pass on some thoughts that are basic and simple; thoughts that have occurred to me before, during and after my 40+ years of training sessions.

As Jeff Everson once said to me, "There are no secrets. You simply have basic God-given genetics, body chemistry and bone structure. And provided the attributes of discipline and determination, you apply yourself full bore, and your body potential emerges - slow but sure."

A Bit Of Draper Bodybuilding History!
ldraper@davedraper.com

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