You know those toy wind-up cars, the ones where you twist the little key, set the car on a table, and it flies out of your hand? Well, talking to Dave Tate is kinda like that. All you need is a little twist—a topic to get him wound up—and then he's off. Even after an hour and a half of talking training—way after he's run out of table space—he'll be upside down on the carpet with his wheels still spinning furiously.
And that's why Tate is so fun to interview. Yeah, he's one of the best coaches in the world. And he did have a hell of a run as a powerlifter. And who could forget his transformation from fat bastard to ripped sex symbol? (His words.)
But it's his passion about training and his ability to tell stories that make Tate a legend in this weird little family of ours.
Why Do Machines Suck?
Everyone has their list but no one's willing to look at their list backwards. People have to get away from the dogma that it's all free weights or all machines. They can have sex. You can do both.
By the way, when's the last time you heard of someone tearing a pec on a bench press machine? It's not fucking happening.
So let's make a list real quick of what people would consider the negatives of machine training.
1. Your "stabilizer" muscles won't fire. Well, what if my rotator cuff is fucked up? Maybe I don't want to stabilize. Now I can bench on a machine, I don't need to worry about my rotator cuff, and I can still get my triceps and pecs working. The stabilization is taken care of by the machine. That's a positive.
2. Limited range of motion. I'm calling bullshit immediately. Take someone who weighs 300 pounds with a big gut and watch him bench press. That's a limited range of motion. Put that sucker on a Hammer Strength bench press and he'll get five times more range. Besides, what's wrong with limited range of motion? Are we saying pin pulls, partial reps, lockouts, or any other partial movement with free weights are worthless, too?
3. You're only working one muscle group. What if I want to work one muscle group? Let's say my triceps are weak and it's something I want to bring up. Sure, I can do it with a close-grip bench, but I don't want to over-stimulate my CNS and do movements that will make it harder to recover. So I'm going to find something that increases my work capacity but doesn't put a big demand on my recovery. Bingo. Triceps push-down machine.
And what if I want to bring my chest up? It's much easier to do it with a machine fly to take my shoulders and triceps out of the picture. Shit, now I'm using a machine to correct an imbalance. That's crazy, right?
4. Your central nervous system doesn't get as activated. I'm not sure how you can prove or disprove that any exercise is going to have more of an effect on the CNS than another exercise. That's dependent on the demands placed on the body. But let's say that a machine places less demand on the CNS. Is there not a time in training where that would become optimal? Like during a de-load? Would it be better to take a week off and not go to the gym? I say do some machines with higher reps, get some blood in the muscle, and give your CNS a break.
5. You can't go heavy. This is the dumbest thing ever. Heavy is relative to the person lifting the weight. I love when people say they like to lift heavy shit and then they go and bench 185. That's heavy? To who? And have you seen people load up a leg press? That's heavy, man.
6. It's the lazy approach to training. The lazy approach is taking a week off or not going to the gym.
I'm not Jay Cutler and Neither Are You
I'm not gonna eat chicken breasts and rice every meal. I can accomplish my goals eating a fucking Subway chicken breast sandwich on flatbread. I can get where I want to be without having to make such a radical lifestyle change. I'm not stepping on stage. I'm not training for a powerlifting meet. Neither are 99% of guys out there. They're training to build muscle, get bigger, get stronger, and look better.
What you have to keep in mind is that you're allowed to make some sacrifices. You gotta mix that shit. So what if you bench twenty pounds less? Does it really fucking matter?
Everything Goes From Simple to Complex
I've thought about this a lot the last few weeks. It doesn't matter what the situation or learning curve is. Take mathematics. You start with one plus one equals two. It's simple. But with that you can learn how to spend money. You can go to the store and break change. You can get by. But then it can become complex when you start dealing with physics and calculus and shit. If you want to excel at mathematics you'll eventually have to move to the complex stuff.
Relationships are the same way. You're dating a chick, having sex, nailing her left and right. It's fucking simple. Awesome. Five years later you hate the bitch. You're arguing back and forth. You find out that making a relationship work is some complex shit.
Now with training, everyone's talking about how we're making it too complicated and we need to get back to simple. Really? Simple for who? Yeah, for the 90% of guys who are beginners and intermediates, but what about the guys who are a little bit stronger and bigger? It's not so simple any more.
You can go to the gym three days per week, train full body, do whatever the fuck you wanna do and you're gonna make gains. But do that shit for five years after gaining thirty pounds of muscle and tell me how it works.
You now have intermediates and people who are advanced going and doing simple shit and not making any progress. It's all bouncing around on the scale, but most guys don't know where they fall. The trick is to know where you fit best.
I've Given Seminars In Bomb Shelters
I've done them in lecture halls, churches, basements—shit, we did this one in a basement where you couldn't even stand up all the way. The ceiling was like six-feet tall. Everyone had neck problems. But it's cool when you realize people give a shit about what you have to say.
Back then everyone was a lifter, which made it easier to teach. They wanted to learn and were cool with what I was gonna have them do. Everyone was gonna squat, bench, and deadlift. And they were going to do it till they did it right.
Now it's just a bunch of dudes running around not wanting to get under the bar.
It's Hard to Get Through to Them On the Internet
Every day I'm learning that I take what people know for granted. Now I have to step back, analyze everything I've ever put out, and start over.
A few weeks ago I was talking to someone about how to keep their upper back tight when squatting. It's extremely important. If your upper back isn't tight when you squat the chances of that bar falling forward are huge. And if the bar falls forward there will be more stress on your spinal column and the lift will be harder to complete. It's the most important thing you can think about in a squat.
Well, I had a Flip camera, so I took it to the gym and filmed this dude and taught him how to get his back tight. If you're here in the gym with me, I'll have you walk under the bar and I'll smack you in the upper back. I'll grab it and show you how to make it tight and put it together. Well, I watched the video afterward and I'm thinking, fuck, now I get it.
This one video was about one part of one movement. One of my first articles that ran in Testosterone Magazine was Squat 900 Pounds. There were ten tips in that article. How is anyone supposed to "get" all of those tips? How the hell are we supposed to teach this stuff when I can't see these guys in person?
Thank God for YouTube.
I Don't Have a Need for Pants With Zippers
I just wear sweatpants all the time. But now I'm getting ready to go on a cruise and my wife is making me buy pants so we can go out to dinner at a nice place. But my legs just don't fit.
It didn't matter when I was a fat pig. When I wore 42's it wasn't a problem buying pants because the legs in those things were huge.
So I'm in Macy's the other day sweating my ass off. I'm like, motherfucker. None of 'em fit so I have to go out and grab another stack of ten different pants and try them all again. I was there for half an hour. Screw it, I'm done. So I went to the Gap and couldn't find anything there.
Now I'm just thinking that my wife and I aren't going to a fancy place for dinner. There are other options on the ship. We'll eat pizza.
So I'm walking by the Buckle on my way out of the mall and this hot salesperson says, "I saw you come out of the Gap. What were you looking for?"
So now I'm in the Buckle and this girl is throwing me pants and shirts over the dressing room door. I found a pair that fit, but somehow that turned into me buying like $800 worth of shit. I walked out of there with two pair of pants, two pair of shorts, a fucking swimsuit, and five t-shirts. I have no idea what happened. I didn't feel swindled, though. She was a hell of a salesperson. And she was hot. Did I already say that?
This Is the Difference Between Being Lean and Fat
When you're fat and muscular, no one really talks to you. It's like they're intimidated. But as soon as you get lean the story changes. I'm at six and a half body fat right now, and since it's warm I'm wearing t-shirts and tank tops. So whenever I go out something happens.
Yesterday I go into this gas station and there's this little skinny guy behind the counter who looks like a cross between Joe Dirt and Kid Rock. As I'm in line buying my drink, he looks at me and says, "Dude, I'm thinking about taking steroids."
Keep in mind that there are five other people behind me waiting to buy their shit.
I'm like, dude, you just need to eat more. Then comes the classic response: "Oh, I eat all the time." The guy is like a buck twenty-five.
I'm looking at him, like, dude, seriously, you need to eat more. But now I'm starting to get a complex because I'm that guy who's holding up the line. I just want to buy my shit and leave.
Then he says, seriously, dude, I think I need to start juicing. And I'm thinking, juicing? Who the fuck says juicing any more?
So I say look, why don't you buy yourself a gallon of milk, drink that before your work shift is over, do it every day, maybe work out a little bit, and you'll gain weight.
But he's into it, man. I'm realizing now that Joe Dirt isn't gonna let this go. He really wants to take steroids. So I flip gears. I ask him if he's really serious about this.
Meanwhile I'm thinking, does this guy think I'm going to go out to my car and come back with some fucking Dbol and Test and sell it to him?
But now I'm into it. So I'm like, dude, there's a lot of fake shit out there. Whatever you take it can't be less than 7,000 milligrams per week. But it's not gonna do shit for you if you're not taking growth hormone and insulin ever day.
I just gave him like $20,000 worth of shit to buy so I'm thinking there's no way he's taking me seriously right now. But the guy grabs a pen and a napkin!
So I just told him I was playing around and walked out.
You Gotta Have a Reason For Everything You Do
Back in high school there was a group of older guys I trained with. I remember trying to pull 500 pounds on the deadlift for the first time. I got it past my knees but couldn't lock it out. I was one of those morons who didn't know when to stop, so I set it down and got pissed.
Thirty seconds later I tried it again. Obviously it didn't come up. Thirty seconds later I tried it again. I must have tried it at least five times.
Now I'm going insane. I stripped it down to 405 and pulled a double. I set it down, got pissed, and pulled it for another double. This went on for ten minutes. I kept stripping it down and doing reps till I ended up doing 135 for ten. Finally I collapsed on the floor.
As I'm lying there this guy I'm training with grabs my cowboy boots, walks outside and throws them in the middle of the street. He never said a word, just picked them up and tossed 'em.
I'm lying on the floor thinking, what an asshole. The next workout I asked him why he did it. I called him an asshole to his face.
He said, "I'm only a quarter of the asshole you were."
I'll never forget that. You gotta have a reason for everything you do in training. If he would have just said that it wouldn't have stuck with me. I needed to see my boots get run over by a truck.
I've Won the Battle but Lost the War with Fat Loss
This time I'm trying to win the war. I can go from 290 to 250. I can go from seventeen percent to five percent body fat. Not a problem. The problem is getting lean and staying lean. That's why you've seen Fat Dave, Skinny Dave, Fat Dave, Skinny Dave.
I'll justify it in my mind by thinking I'll have a huge rebound and gain a lot of extra muscle mass if I bulk back up again. But when it's done, I end up gaining like two pounds of lean body mass and the rest is fat. All I did was make a fucking excuse to be a fat pig again. When I look at my health indicators, they're always better when I'm leaner. The second time they're always better is when I'm stable. My blood pressure and cholesterol are good. The biggest health risk is going back and forth.
The reality is, I don't need to be 290 pounds. I'm not gonna step on stage and I'm not gonna compete again so what's the fucking point? There's no reason for me to ever be over 250. Ever. The blast and dust mentality is working to my detriment right now. It's killing me. But I'm gonna do it. I have to.
This is the first time I've come out and told people about it. That's my number one tip for fat loss right there: tell people about it. The second tip is to find a creative way to not eat chicken breast and rice. Berardi helped me quite a bit with this actually. I look at everything from the macronutrient standpoint now. When diet guys like Justin [Harriss] or Shelby [Starnes] write my diet for me they don't even give me food options. They know I'll do what I want. All I want to know is how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat I need.
My Diet Right Now is Awesome
All I do is figure out my daily totals and break them into five meals. Two of those meals are going to be shakes. Two scoops of Metabolic Drive® and I'm done. Now I only have three meals to worry about.
Breakfast is easy. I do one cup of egg whites, four omega-3 eggs, two pieces of brown rice bread, and natural peanut butter. I eat the same thing every day when I'm dieting. It makes it much easier.
Lunch is a bitch. I'm not a food prep guy, so I never pack anything. Every day for the past 16 weeks I've had a Subway flatbread sandwich with three chicken breasts, a bunch of veggies, and no sauce. It's been that every day for 16 weeks. I've got like 1500 points on my Subway card. When they see me drive up they start making my sandwich. No lie.
Dinner is nine ounces of ground beef. I grab a handful of blue corn tortilla chips and crush them over the beef and add some hot sauce.
Before bed I do two scoops of Metabolic Drive, a scoop of peanut butter, one cup of egg whites, and some almonds. It's awesome.
Oh, and I put a scoop of fiber in there so I can shit in the morning.
If you've ever dieted you know what I'm talking about. After a while, you're sitting there and nothing comes out. You need something to help get it through. If I get up in the morning and I'm full of a half pound of shit, it makes a difference on the scale. I'm serious. I notice stuff like that.