Dave Draper's Go-To Bodybuilding Workout Routine | GymTalk

Dave Draper’s Go-To Bodybuilding Workout

Ignoring the historical, biological and social implausibility, imagine, for a second, if Hercules and Owen Wilson had had sex and raised the child on a beach in Southern California with a diet rich in heavy squats, anabolic steroids and protein shakes.

You’ve just imagined Dave Draper – one of the first superstars of the vintage bodybuilding era.

Dave Draper

Nicknamed the Blonde Bomber, Draper was a big ol’ hulk of muscle, bleached blonde hair and boyish good looks.

During the 60s and early 70s Draper won the IFBB Mr America, Mr World and Mr Universe contests, and also placed fourth in the 1967 Mr Olympia contest.

He trained alongside all the greats (Schwarzenegger, Zane, Columbo, Katz) but was also immensely popular in his own right, drawing rapturous applause, ovations and groupies whenever he performed.

The Blonde Bomber was also a prolific fitness writer for the Weider empire and a mildly successful movie star, appearing in a range of dodgy European ‘Sex and Flex’ films which basically comprised bikinis, pecs and blonde hair (wankbait).

Dave Draper’s favourite workout

In this article we’re going to look at a workout which Draper has referred to as his ‘go-to’ regime on numerous occasions.

This workout is a weekly split with a three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off model.

It’s very much a traditional bodybuilding routine targeting hypertrophy.

On most exercises, high reps with lighter weight is followed by lower reps with heavier weight.

This ascending weight, descending reps model was a huge favourite of Draper’s.

Monday: Chest, Back & Shoulders

Exercise Sets & Reps
 Seated Front Press 3-5 x 12, 10, 8, 8, 6
 Wide Grip Pulldowns  3-5 x 12, 10, 8, 8, 6
 Standing Bent Over Lateral Raises 3-5 x 6-8
 Dumbbell Press 4-5 x 12, 10, 8, 8, 6
 Dumbbell Pullovers 4-5 x 12, 10, 8, 8, 6
 Seated Lat Row 4-5 x 12, 10, 8, 8, 6

Note: tri-set the first three exercises and the last three exercises.

Tuesday: Legs

Exercise Sets & Reps
Leg Extension 3-5 x 10-12
Leg Curl 3-5 x 8-12
Calf Raises 3-5 x 15-20
Squat 5-7 x 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Deadlift  5 x 10, 8, 6, 6, 6

Note: tri-set the first three exercises.

Wednesday: Arms

Exercise Sets & Reps
Rubber Tubing Rotator Cuff Work 5 x 20-25 adductor; 5 x 20-25 abductor
Wrist Curls 3-5 x 20, 15, 15, 15, 15
Thumbs Up Curl 3-5 x 10, 8, 8, 8, 6
Pulley Pushdowns 3-5 x 12-15
Bent Bar Curls 3-5 x 6-8
Dips 3-5 x 12-15
Dumbbell Alternate Curls 3-5 x 6-8
Overhead or Lying Triceps Extensions 3-5 x 12, 10, 8, 8, 8

Note: tri-set the first three exercises and superset the last four exercises.

Thursday: Day Off

Friday: Upper Body

Exercise Sets & Reps
Seated Front Press 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Pulldowns 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell Incline Press 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell Pullovers 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell Rows 4 x 8
Dumbbell Alternate Curls 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Dips 4 x Max
Pulley Pushdowns 4 x 12

Note: superset the first four exercises, tri-set the last three exercises.

Saturday: Legs

Exercise Sets & Reps
Leg Extension 3-5 x 10-12
Leg Curl 3-5 x 8-12
Calf Raises 3-5 x 15-20
Squat 5-7 x 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 6
Light Deadlift  5 x 8
Rope Tucks  5 x 25

Note: tri-set the first three exercises, superset the last two exercises.

Sunday: Day Off



Perform this routine for a six week cycle.


Dave would take a mental note of the weight used in each exercise and try and increase the weight each workout.

Ab Work

Dave would perform ab work every day.

His exercises of choice included crunches (weight and incline), hyperextensions, leg raises, hanging leg raises.

Dave Draper


This is an advanced workout with a hell of a lot of volume (bear in mind Draper used anabolic steroids).

In my book, if you’re new to the gym, you should ideally be sticking to the basic compound lifts with lower reps (5×5 routines like this and this) which will target both size and strength.

Performing Dave Draper’s workout will neither make you that much stronger nor turn you into a bleach-haired adonis overnight.

It’ll just exhaust your muscles day in day out, making you feel as if you’ve been used as the meat in a sex sandwich involving Ronnie Coleman and a giant gibbon.

Plus, the high volume work will also burn through a huge amount of calories, so don’t expect ridiculous muscle growth.

However, having said that, this is all just my opinion (feel free to call me a tosser).

At the end of the day everyone is different, and everyone responds differently to different protocols.

If you want to give this workout a go, do it – it won’t do you any harm (far from it) and that insane volume will certainly toughen you up mentally.

You may even find it works wonders – so try it for a cycle, log the results, and assess.

The fun thing about bodybuilding and weightlifting, for me, is experimenting and trying different things.

Ultimately, the only way you’ll ever know if a routine works for you is if you give it a go.


Dave Draper’s go-to workout is a vintage high-volume routine – the kind of thing you’d find in Arnie’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

In my opinion, this is one to be avoided if you’re a noob (unless you want to overtrain yourself into the ground) but more advanced lifters might gain something from it.

Over to you

What do you think of this workout?

Fancy giving it a go?

Any other thoughts or questions?

I look forward to hearing your comments!

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  1. Very good article. Inspirational bodybuilder

    1. Thanks Patrik, gotta love the old-school bodybuilders!

  2. I have read so many workout lists online and looking at this one it seems the best.

    I have left the weight training world as bringing up 3 children took priority but now at the age of 46 I am working overseas and enjoying the weights again – I only hope I haven’t left it too late.

    Any advice on training would be most welcome as I feel like a beginner again.

    Very many thanks.


    1. Hi Leo, thanks for stopping by.

      This is an advanced workout with a lot of volume – as such I would not recommend it for someone like yourself who is only just getting back into the weight room.

      Instead, I would prescribe a more basic, beginner-friendly full-body routine which will build a decent foundation of size and strength.

      For instance:




      Let me know if you have any more questions – and good luck!


  3. Great training post.

    I’ve made all kinds of gains with a high-volume approach!

    It’s not over-training!

    Fitness enthusiast (marathon runs, etc.) will tell you this.

    Because they can’t make gains!

    But they can if one knows how to train right, eat right and rest according to their own bodies recovery time.

    You can offset Draper’s vitamin-S use by increasing recovery time between workouts!!

    That’s it!

    People way over-think things. (Romona tors, all of ya)

    “More rest, more growth”, results start when you do!

    And if you are runner?

    Off set calories used for all extra activities/rest times between them.

    “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan”.


    1. Thanks Cleon – love your enthusiasm!

  4. I believe the gal in the photo with Dave on the beach is Betty Weider.