Square One

Being a father is one of the biggest challenges I've ever had in my life. Don’t get me wrong, this is still the best thing that's ever happened to me. It's just that there are so many things I've been trying to figure out.

I'm trying to be the best father I can, but I'm stuck. I've tried everything and can’t seem to break through to my 16-month-old son, no matter what I do. The problem, you see, is his ability to learn. I've been trying to teach him trigonometry for the past few months and I'm getting nowhere. I've also been trying to get him to read Moby Dick, but all he does is chew the pages.

I ask myself over and over, what could I be doing wrong here? Why do I suck so bad at being a father? Maybe fatherhood just isn't for me! Can I get a refund on this kid?

Yep, you may be thinking, it's finally happened. All that max effort work has finally exploded something in Dave’s head. He's absolutely lost it! Why doesn't he just teach the kid his ABC’s and how to count to ten first and build from there? He can't start his son out on trig and Moby Dick!

Well, now you know how I feel during just about every seminar we do here at Elite Fitness Systems! Here's an example. A guy at a recent seminar came up to me and said, "Dave, how do I go about cycling my squat using the circa-maximal phase with multiple bands?" Then, later, we took this guy through a squat training session. His form and strength are so bad that he'd be lucky to squat 275 on a good day. This wouldn’t be so bad if the guy didn't weigh 240!

Then the guy has the nerve to ask, "What are my weaknesses?" Circa-maximal phases, multiple bands, and specific weakness? You have to be joking, right? While I applaud the effort to learn and think, we all should keep trying to absorb as much as we can, there's a major side effect of this: sometimes your learning can get too far ahead of your preparation! The solution: you have to get back to the ass-busting basics!

The following list will seem very simple to most of you, but I see these same problems all the time, even with those who consider themselves "advanced." So what follows may be the best advice you'll never use! Trust me, if you think you're way beyond this basic advice, think again!

Work on Technique!

This is the first item on the list because it's the most important. When I speak to lifters on the phone I always ask if they're sure their technique is on. Yeah, Dave, they always say, my technique is a thing of beauty!

You know what? I've seen the best squatters in the world and have yet to see great technique. There's one variable that'll always throw if off. The variable is called weight! So you have great technique with 50% of your one rep max? Okay, what happens when it's 100%?

We should all be working on technique with every set and every rep. It can always get better and will always need reinforcement. Have you gained weight? Well, guess what? Your technique will change! Lose weight? Get stronger? Get weaker? Injured? Tired? Time of day? Day of week? There are hundreds of things that can and will affect technique!

If you're a beginner, then this is the most important time to start working on perfecting technique. This requires concentration and focus, so get your head out of your ass when you train and start thinking about your technique. Just about every sticking point I've seen can be attributed to a breakdown in technique! So why aren't you spending time working on this?

Stick to the Basics and Bust Ass!

You've just read about the dynamic and max effort methods and are excited to get rolling. Problem is you just began training six months ago and look like a beanpole. Still, you feel this is the best way to train for strength and have heard many other people say the same. Well, you've done the research and have read all the articles, but you've still missed the boat.

Yes, you can use these methods, but only when they're implemented into a program based around your weaknesses. Now follow me here for a minute. What really is your weakness? Is it your hamstrings? Triceps? Or could it be that your entire body needs to be built up?

A beginner doesn't need to start with advanced training principles. He needs to first build a solid foundation with basic movements.

Need to Gain Weight? Eat!

I know I'll catch hell for this, but you need to have walked in my shoes to know where I'm going with this one. You have to have seen what I've seen over the past few years.

How many times have I looked at someone and said, "You have to get bigger because you can’t flex bone." If you can feel bone in your upper arms, shoulders, upper legs and lats, then yes, you need to gain some fast mass!

I'm not a nutritional guru by any stretch, but I do know when someone needs to freakin' eat! I don’t care what it is, just eat it and keep eating until you begin to grow. There are tons of articles here at T-mag. Read them and get to eating.

But Dave, you may say, if I gain weight I won’t be as strong in the next weight class! Listen man, you're 6'2" and 145 pounds. Just how many lifters are 6'2" in any weight class under 275? What came first, the muscle or the strength? I'll agree a huge amount of muscle mass my not be needed to lift huge weights, but come on, 6'2", 145 pounds? Eat something!

Fat and Out of Shape? Fix It!

Okay, now pay attention. Don't take the advice given above and use it as an excuse to get fat and out of shape!

Look, I'm all for GFH (get fucking huge) and have lifted in weight classes higher than my body would really let me. There has to be a balance between bodyweight, muscle mass, and conditioning. Hey, I really don't care what you have to do to lose weight. Up your protein, lower your carbohydrates, up your fat, lower your fat, up the carbs, or call Dr. Phil… just do what you gotta' do.

A good place to begin is with some of the diet articles here T-mag. I can tell you that drinking more water, taking in one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, and controlling carbs helped me to go from 310 to 275 and break my all time bench record. But, this is what worked for me and was only part of the process. The second part is you have to get in shape and get your metabolism up!

Things Not Coming Easy for You? Get Over It!

Are you worried you're not progressing fast enough? Well, you know, I've never been approached by a person who was worried he was gaining too fast. Look, there are those who can gain strength just by looking at weights. I've seen the type and nothing pisses me off more. These guys show up to train once a week and grow like weeds. You know what? It’s not me and I'll bet 1000 to 1 that it's not you either!

Take what you get and keep working. It's the one who trains the smartest who'll last the longest, and in time your day will come. The road is never easy and it may take a few years to put ten pounds on your bench if you've been training for awhile. (I've walked this road.)

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. This isn't an easy game for anyone, even the guys who progress quickly. This is because it all slows down in time. It just happens to be different times for all of us. If you can’t handle it, then try the Stairmaster and stay the hell out of the weightroom! The rest of us have work to do and don’t need your negative ass in the way.

Hang Around Strong People!

Your results and expectations are directly related to those people with whom you spend your time. Bottom line: if you're trying to get strong, then get around strong people.

This can be in the form of training partners, phone calls, and internet forums (we have a great Q and A set up at elitefts.com and you can find other great forums here at T-mag.) Get around those people who see you as you'll be, not as you are. This is one of the best ways to get off to a great start.

The Beginner's "Bust Ass" Guidelines

Whether you're a newbie or just someone who screwed up and skipped the basics, here's some guidelines to get you on the right path.

Start with a light weight and master the technique. Use a light weight and work the movement for reps in the range of 15 to 20. This can be performed with a broomstick or just the bar.

Place your focus on what muscles should be working and where your body position should be. Even the most advanced lifters can be found working technique with very light weights. This is most important with the following list of movements. These are used to build the basics for all the training articles and programs I've written for T-mag.

2) Use basic supplemental movements intended to build muscle mass. These include, but aren't limited to, the following:





Biceps and Forearms:

Low Back and Abs:


When doing these movements, keep in mind that technique is still the most important aspect. These movements have been a part of every lifter's arsenal from day one.

Train your ass off. Rome wasn't built in a day, but they didn't waste time by sitting around doing nothing either!

Choose rep ranges geared toward your current needs. If you need more technique work, then keep the weight lighter with higher reps (10 to 12) until you master the form, then move up as needed. If you think you have the technique mastered, drop the reps down to 6 to 8 and start pounding the weights. In other words, begin working closer to your failure range.


Luckily I learned to start with the basics when teaching my son. We'll start with the ABC's and counting to ten and move up from there. If I can still learn then so can you. If you don't know the ABC's and 1,2,3's of strength training, you'd better start with the basics too and work your way up!