Strengh Sensei Bookshelf

Brother Iron, Sister Steel

A look inside the life of a golden age bodybuilding champion

In the 60s and early 70s, bodybuilding was not the sport it is now. Except for brief appearances in movies, especially those involving gladiators or Greek gods, it was rare that the public was exposed to them. One bodybuilder who got our attention was Dave “The Blond Bomber” Draper.

Draper proved himself on the IFBB bodybuilding stage, winning the overall titles in the 1965 Mr. America, 1966 Mr. Universe, and the 1970 Mr. World. He also made a few film appearances, most notable a 1967 “Mr. Universe Muscles In” episode of The Beverly Hillbillies television show and the 1967 Tony Curtis film Don’t Make Waves. But much of his public recognition came from being featured on magazine covers and advertisements for bodybuilding products.

Draper began lifting weights when he was 13, and by age 17, he weighed 165 pounds. Then he got serious, trained smarter, and eventually achieved a competition bodyweight of 235 pounds. As for outstanding features, besides his golden locks of hair, his arms reportedly stretched the tape at 21 ½ inches with balanced development in the biceps, triceps, and forearms.

Without question, one of Charles Poliquin’s favorite books was Draper’s Brother Iron, Sister Steel: A Bodybuilder’s Book. It’s 335 pages, but Draper’s gift as a storytelling and as a teacher makes it a fast page-turner. Coach Poliquin especially liked Draper’s advice on how to stay motivated and the importance of individualization in training. Case in point: Consider this piece of Draper wisdom:

“There comes a time, sooner or later, when you must listen to yourself and not those around you. You must become the student and teacher at once. Look directly to yourself and your training as the masters. If you enjoy the magazines and science and research, sip on them as one does afternoon tea. Enjoy the aroma, swirl the flavorful liquid about the palate, note the heady summaries but don’t expect sustenance. This comes from you, the gym and hard work over and over again. Insight and revelation fall like sweet rain from above on the sunniest days.”

With his movie star looks and athletic physique, Dave Draper was in high demand as a fitness and bodybuilding cover model.

This book has something for everyone. For those who are fans of Draper, BISS is filled with stories from his early years pumping iron, competition experiences, work in Hollywood, and insights into the training sessions with bodybuilding legends. As a bonus, it is packed with classic photos — those by legendary photographer Artie Zeller are especially inspiring — that would take endless hours to track down.

Another written nearly two decades ago, much of the training and nutritional advice in Brother Iron, Sister Steel: A Bodybuilder’s Journey, is timeless. Do yourself a favor. Pick up a copy today and explore the fascinating world of Dave Draper.

[Brother Iron, Sister Steel: A Bodybuilder’s Journey by Dave Draper can be purchased through his website,, and]


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