Dave Draper was probably the most popular and charismatic bodybuilder of the 1960's. His phenomenal biceps, triceps and forearm development ranks among the greatest of all time - featuring mass, shape and cuts, as well as total symmetry of the upper and lower arms.

To back up my statement about Draper's popularity, I refer to a marketing survey done by one of the world's most famous advertising agencies to ascertain who was the most recognizable and admired physique star in the world: The famed New York Athletic Club wanted to launch a new weight-training facility by employing the biggest and best-known name in the bodybuilding world to promote it.

Dave Is The Unanimous Choice

The extensive and expensive search revealed Dave to be the public's unanimous choice. He was selected over Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. In addition to winning the IFBB Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. World titles, Draper battled most of the champions of that era, including Sergio, Arnold, Frank Zane, Franco Columbu, Serge Nubret and Reg Park. He was always very popular with audiences, drawing tremendous applause, often standing ovations, when he appeared on stage.

Dave wrote many articles on training that were published in the Weider magazines and were seen around the world. He also appeared in several movies and television shows, which contributed to his popularity. In fact, Dave hosted a local Los Angeles TV Show called "The Gladiator," on which he appeared in a Roman gladiator costume and introduced European action adventure movies.

During the '60s more than 500 gladiator-type "sex and flex" films, as they were called, were produced in Europe, mostly in Italy, and those films made international stars out of such bodybuilders as Steve Reeves, Ed Fury, Gordon Scott, Brad Harris, Chuck Pendleton and Reg Lewis. Dan Vifiadis, whose screen name is Dan Vadis, told me that the demand for the films was so great, he sometimes worked on two different movies in one day - and on more than one occasion, three in one day.

Don't Make Waves

Perhaps Draper's most memorable movie role was that of Sharon Tate's boyfriend in the 1966's "Don't Make Waves," which also starred Tony Curtis and Claudia Cardinale. MGM was so impressed that the studio signed him to a one-year contract, and he appeared in several other films. Incidentally, while he was making "Don't Make Waves," Dave also competed in and won the IFBB Mr. Universe contest. By that time he was getting offers to pose in every corner of the world.

I first met Draper in the early '60s, shortly after he moved to the West Coast. He arrived with a big buildup from the Weider publications, which heralded him as a surefire future Mr. America. There was some doubt - especially in his own mind - however, that he would ever develop the sculptured muscularity and definition he needed to complement his massive size. He was very huge at that time, with a 56-inch chest and 21-inch arms, but he lacked any trace of definition.

"I looked like the great smooth white whale and was almost too embarrassed to take off my shirt and display my 250 pounds of colorless blubber," he admitted. Dave had moved to Santa Monica after winning the Mr. New Jersey contest and began training with West Coast bodybuilding stars like Zabo Koszewski, George Sheffield and Hugo Labra, as well as Larry Scott and John Tristram, at Muscle Beach and with other physique competitors at Vic Tanny's Dungeon in Santa Monica, the home of the Muscle Beach Weightlifting Club.

Powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters and bodybuilders trained side by side at that muscle factory by the sea. Dave learned everything he could about training and nutrition and just two years later won the '65 IFBB Mr. America, as predicted, handing the formidable Chet Yorton one of his rare defeats. He had completely transformed his previous all-size-and-no-cuts physique to one that sizzled with an unbeatable combination of mass, shape and tremendous definition.

From 165 to 235 In A Year

Despite his success in bodybuilding - even his spectacular arm development - Draper wasn't born with any special attributes. At 17 he weighed just 165 at a height of 6'. He always fancied big, powerful arms. In fact, that desire is what inspired him to start weight training at 13. His early attempts at lifting were haphazard and inconsistent, but after four or five years of "getting my feet wet, I finally became serious, and building muscle became an all-consuming need," he said. "That was when I was 17. It was this tremendous desire that drove me to succeed." During the next 12 months Dave bulked up to 235 pounds.

"I lived mainly to eat," he said. "All I needed to know about food was whether it was alive or not." In time he grew stronger and larger than he ever dreamed possible. His measurements were awesome, but his muscular delineation was nonexistent. "I remember the pictures of my arms that appeared in the magazines early in my career," he continued. "I used to hate to look at them. They reminded me of a big white pillow. That really motivated me to make them one of my best body parts. I could hardly wait to get to the gym to start bombing them.

"Another highly inspirational event that spurred me on to build great arms was when I met Leroy Colbert," he recalled. "I thought I'd faint from amazement. Leroy's massive upper body stretched his extra large shirt to the point where the seams were splitting...and his incredible arms! They were over 20 inches cold, with biceps like grapefruits and triceps like giant horseshoes. For arms like those, I thought, I'd train night and day forever."

Dave explained one of his bodybuilding dictums as follows: "One of the most important things that I learned from Leroy Colbert was the necessity of paying attention to the complete development of the biceps, triceps and forearms. I was positively convinced that total arm development was one of the most important factors in determining one's eventual greatness in the bodybuilding world."

As he summed it up, "It's hard to be a superstar if you don't have great arms." The following program is one that Draper used to build totally massive arms. He performed it three times a week on alternate days.

Dave Draper's Absolute Arm Workout
Incline EZ-bar skullcrusher
5 sets, 8 reps
+ 8 more exercises


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Keep in mind that this routine is strictly for advanced bodybuilders. If you're an intermediate trainee, Dave recommends that you perform two triceps exercises, one biceps movement and one forearm exercise for four sets each. Beginners should stick with one exercise from each group for three sets each.

Draper further explained his mass-building arm program with specific observations about the three muscle areas being worked. These are included in "Draper on Arms," later in this article.

The above program can help you add inches of new muscle, shape and definition to yours arms - if you have the determination to follow his sound advice diligently. Don't let discouragement become your training partner. That's the bodybuilder's worst enemy and a sure sign of defeat. If you never lose sight of your goals and maintain your enthusiasm to succeed, you will.

Draper on Arms


The triceps, contrary to popular thought, is responsible for at least two-thirds of upper-arm mass. That surprises some people, for many individuals think of the upper arm only in terms of the biceps, paying little or no attention to the larger and more powerful muscle at the back of the arm. Unlike the biceps, though, the triceps is a hearty muscle that requires an extensive combination of exercises, sets and reps for total development.

The triceps consist of three separate and distinct areas, or heads: the long head, the outer head and the inner head. Any good anatomy book can show you their configuration. While all three heads work together to extend the arm, each of them can and should be worked separately with a variety of exercises that put the emphasis on a particular section of the muscle. Each and every movement requires its own unique groove, and the position of the weight and the elbows in relation to the body is critical.

To make your triceps workouts more productive, always keep your elbows pointed ahead rather than out to the sides. This puts the stress more directly on the target muscles, allowing you to get a fuller stretch and more intense contraction of the muscle.


The biceps is made up of two separate heads: the inner, or short, head and the outer, or long, head. The biceps represents a comparatively small portion of the upper arm, comprising less than a third of the mass. Consequently, most people over train it. The best plan is to give the biceps limited but highly concentrated work. Although there are a great many exercises you can do for your biceps, you're basically limited to the simple curling movement and its variations of position and angle.

The brachialis is a small but important muscle that lies just below the biceps and covers the front portion of the elbow. Freddy Ortiz and Sergio Oliva have about the most fully developed brachialis muscles seen on any man. Complete development of the brachialis adds greatly to the appearance of the flexed upper arm.

Generally speaking, when you perform a curl in an upright or steep-incline position, the lower area of your biceps gets the most work. The low-incline or flat-bench curl performed while you're lying on your back develops the upper biceps, or peak, as it's commonly called.

You should train your biceps with total concentration, feeling every strand of the muscle tensing and responding. Furthermore, complete contraction and extension on every rep is integral to total growth. If you take little rest between sets, you'll achieve a burning sensation, and 12 to 15 sets will fully exhaust this muscle. To develop a more shapely biceps, always keep your palms up. Curling with your thumbs up lengthens the biceps, and you lose the shapely high peak you're working for.


The forearm is a very impressive muscle that's closely related to the biceps in its action. Consequently, it's wise to train this area immediately after your biceps workout.

The forearm is primarily made up of two sections: the extensor carpi radialis longus and a group of smaller supporting muscles that comprise the top of the forearm, and the flexor carpi ulnaris, the belly, or underside, of the muscle. There are distinct exercises that encourage full development for each area. In general, you work the top with various forms of reverse curls, and you train the underside with different types of wrist curls.

The Exercises

Reverse curls are also very effective in developing the lower-biceps area, giving it a long, thick appearance. The brachialis, too, gets a lot of work with these movements. Be aware that a fully developed forearm brings with it a powerful grip. Throughout your entire training program you'll be able to lift barbells and dumbbells more easily, and , specifically, you'll benefit from improved curling strength. We rely more on forearm and gripping power in our daily activities that any other voluntary upper-body muscles. Think about it - a strong grip means a strong person.

Some final thoughts. No amount of diligent labor, however, can make up for proper nutrition. If you don't get enough protein for muscle growth and for the powerhouse energy factors that enable you to blast your way through your workouts, all your efforts will be in vain. You cannot develop shapely arms unless you have the basic mass to shape.

To acquire the mass, you must furnish your body with muscle-building nutrients through food and food supplements. Eat well by having five or six meals a day—about one meal every three hours—so you'll get enough fuel to maintain or increase your bodyweight, provide energy for your workouts and have a reserve for growth. Count calories and carbohydrates to make sure you're getting enough.

Make sure that a good percentage of what you eat is protein, the raw material that makes the muscles grow. For a rugged arm program such as the one outlined here, I recommend 175 to 250 grams of protein a day, about one gram of protein for every pound you weigh. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you need 180 grams of protein a day plus an additional 10 percent for fast growth - every day. The best sources of protein are lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, cottage cheese, milk and other dairy products.


As for your training, one of the great misconceptions in bodybuilding is that the harder you work —that is, the more work you do - the bigger and faster you'll grow. This is not true. You can train most muscle areas with a maximum of 15 sets. Many superstars of the past like Steve Reeves, John Grimek, Clarence Ross, John Farbotnik, Jack Delinger and Vince Gironda proved that you can build a super physique of championship caliber by training each muscle group no more than 12 to 15 sets. It sure worked well for me - my arms have taped 21 1/2 inches at 235 pounds and 20 1/2 inches cold at 220 in peak contest condition.

When all parts are fully developed, the arms are surely the king of the body. They're the muscles that are most prominently in the public eye and are the ones most desired by people who train. Set your goal to build fabulous biceps, triceps and forearms and work hard and steady until you succeed. This program will help you get them.

About the Author

Dave Draper

Dave Draper

Legendary bodybuilder Dave Draper is letting bodybuilding.com republish some of his greatest articles. Learn from on of the greatest bodybuilders in the world!

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