By Dave Draper
In this age where everyone is an instant expert, and self-publishing has become easier and more popular than ever, buying a book can be risky business. Especially when it comes to books on weight training. I’ve bought my share of books that claim to hold the secrets to getting ripped and huge all at once—“secrets” that could easily be read in Men’s Health, but written by someone who apparently never made it through high school English. Recently, I knew I was in trouble when I flipped to the table of contents of a muscle building book to see, “Intorduction.”
Maybe I’m old and cranky, but I’m not interested in what some dude’s “five years of personal training experience” through the internet has taught them. Nor can I tolerate horrible writing. So, I’m suspicious of most new books on strength training or fitness.
Dave Draper’s new book is an exception, in every way.
If you are looking for a book full of training plans (Draper prefers “schemes”), this isn’t it. While there are plenty valuable tips with some schemes thrown in, Draper’s book is not a how-to, unless you want to call it a “how-to” for life.
And, regarding secrets, Draper says, “The secret is there are no secrets.”
Draper writes about his long history with the iron (over 6 decades)—his beginning, his progression, the gyms he trained in (the original Gold’s, for one) and the people he knew. And, though he’s appeared on TV shows, hung out with beautiful TV stars, and trained with the likes of Arnold, you never get the impression that he thinks much of himself; he writes with wisdom and humility.
He tells some stories from the good old days, like the time he and a training partner trapped six local drug dealers in a basement, duct taped them together, and burned their drugs in front of them before letting the local police know where they could find them.
Draper goes from no nonsense to philosophical in the same paragraph, with a good dose of humor thrown in:
“I’m not the type to smile broadly and offer assistance. I’ve practiced that routine in the past and received a frosty reception, total rejection or abysmal defeat. I tried my best. I recall the gals looking at me like I was a creep (Hey, babe, you train here often?) or the guys ignoring me like I was a jerk (Hey, fathead, you’re doing that exercise wrong!). Kids, I could tell, wanted to be left alone (Hey, runt, if you’re going to lift weights, do it in the corner).
No, thank you. No more Mister Nice Guy. I’m looking out for numero uno.”
Regardless of our age, any of us can learn from someone who has as much experience as Draper, and his solid advice is scattered through every chapter.
On working out:
“The lifter who foregoes workouts is a loser,” and, “Rushing workouts is for children.”
“It has recently occurred to me that I’m not as young as I used to be…Well, it’s about time. Youth gets to be old after a while.”
“We don’t lose our health and strength; we throw it away. We don’t slide out of condition; we’re tossed out for lack of participation. Fitness is not lost; it’s squandered like thankless treasure.”
“Muscles are the fool’s gold crown of false glory.”
With all of today’s complicated training advice, diet plans, fitness gadgets, and gym selfies on Facebook, reading Draper is a great reminder of what it’s really about. Go to the gym, work hard, eat right, love life. Be strong and look great, but remember that nobody else cares; this is for you. So stay humble.
My only criticism of this book is that, since it is a collection of columns, there is some repetition. But that’s not necessarily bad—we learn through repetition, after all.
I could go on trying to convince you that reading Draper is worth your time, but Dan John sums it up nicely in the forward:
“No one else writes like this. No one else has the life experience, the insights and the intuition. Trust him.”
If Iron in My Hands doesn’t make you want to go to the gym, nothing will.