The Round-Up Interviews: Dave Tate


It's time to play catch-up with the Testosterone authors. Nate Green does the asking, Dave Tate does the talking.

Dave Tate is a powerlifting icon. Dave Tate is a very successful businessman. Dave Tate does not mince words, and will therefore tell you when your interview questions suck ass. Sometimes Dave Tate doesn't even answer the question and decides to rant instead.

Dave Tate pretty much does whatever the hell Dave Tate wants to do, and that's just fine with him.

It better be for you, too.

Dave Tate

"I'll do it myyyyy way."

You're a powerlifter and a businessman. Have you taken anything from training that applies to the way you run your business?

I went from being an athlete to being an entrepreneur, not the other way around. Powerlifting and training were the highest priority of my life for close to 20 years. When I decided to move on, family and business became the most important. My roles changed but I did bring a lot with me from the gym to business. I wrote a book on this topic called Under the Bar, and continue to write a column under the same name.

Dave Tate

I strongly feel I have an advantage in the market because of the traits I learned in the weight room. We all know that you have to train consistently and smart for many years if you ever want to reach high-level status in any strength sport. Execution is most important.

In powerlifting, there are no "quick-fix" programs that will get you in the Top 10 within four months. The same is true with life. If you want to get there you need to embark on a path of long-term consistent work. If you're lucky, you'll have a lot of adversity and fuck-ups along the way. They will provide the learning experience you need to get ahead.

There are always the guys who seem to get there faster with less hassle (great genetics, luck, The Secret, or whatever the hell you want to call it). These are the guys who come out of nowhere and dominate the field. They piss most of us off because they didn't put in the time, work, or effort to get where they are. The thing with this group is very few ever stay long. In time we all get hit with tough shit (injuries, emotional stress, and relationship stress). These guys simply can't handle it.

All of us have strengths and weaknesses. The nature of sport is to know where you're strong and where you're weak and to know the same for those you compete against. This is why I will argue against the genetic card 99% of the time.

If you could randomly castrate three different groups, theories, or methods that are bringing the fitness industry standards down, what would they be?

DT: This is easy. I would castrate those who castrate others. This would also mean my own balls would be cut off.

Under the Knife

Do unto others...

I only speak from the aspect of coaching the squat, bench press and deadlift because I know these better than most people. When I hear so and so trash group X for their methods and techniques, and then watch the same person squat, bench and deadlift it makes me ill.

From what I have seen the "experts" who call out the "so called experts" also suck. We all suck! People need to just get over it.

I will make it easier with two golden rules:

1. You're a better coach, lifter or trainer than others.

2. There are others who are way better than you.

When you're setting up for a new PR in the squat, what should be going through your mind and what kind of cues are you going to give yourself? Take us through your perfect set-up, physically and mentally.

First of all, it shouldn't matter if it's a PR or not. Squatting is a skill that should be practiced perfectly with every rep when you get under the bar. If you wait until the weight is a PR, then it's too late. The goal of any skill is to master it. So when it comes to PR time, your reaction will have to be automatic.

Before I get into the specific aspects of squatting, a basic understanding of how to learn and master a skill is in order. Fitts and Posner (1967) suggested the learning process follows sequential stages of learning. These three stages include:

1. Cognitive Phase: This involves gathering and collecting information about all the components of a skill. Let's use the squat as an example. Reading this article, reading other articles on squatting, watching videos, speaking to other lifters, and looking at pictures are all examples of this phase. This also includes learning and developing "parts" of the skill. Using the squat again, this would mean learning the walk out, learning how to sit down, etc.

2. Associative Phase: In this phase you begin to link it all together by practicing and using feedback to perfect the skill.

3. Autonomous Phase: This is when the skill becomes automatic and requires little or no conscious thought.

From what I have seen, most readers will have no problem with phase one but the problems begin when they hit phase two.

Most guys will think they know what they're doing and essentially end up practicing poor technique. In phase one, you squat while having someone else tell you what to do. If I was showing you how to squat, I would be yelling cues at you. In time you'll begin telling yourself what to do.

Finally, if you master the skill it will be automatic. The fact to keep in mind is that competitive lifts are never perfect. Even the most skilled have to deal with bodyweight fluctuations, injuries, overtraining states, lack of focus and other things that can affect technique.

Dave Tate

This is also why you see so much verbal cueing in powerlifting gyms. You will rarely see a lift that isn't being coached during the lift, at least at the better clubs. There are many reasons for this, but the most important is to make the skill automatic.

The question I have is how much cueing are you using to perfect your squatting skill?

Anyway, I'll answer your question now.

I'm not one to regenerate the same material over and over again unless I've changed my opinion about it in the time since I wrote about it. In this case, my opinion hasn't chnged. I also still believe the box squat is the best way to learn and master the squat.

A lot of guys fancy themselves powerlifters, but they don't compete. Is this a sign that they're not serious about their sport, or that they're just afraid they'll get their asses handed to them?

That's kind of a goofy question. I don't think it has to do with them worrying that they'll "get their asses handed to them" or they're not serious. It's just a sign that competing isn't their thing right now.

I think it's more important for these people to concentrate on why they're really training, and then use some of the same markers. All athletes use competitions to gauge their improvements. These act as tests of how they're doing. The question I have for the lifters you're talking about is, how do you know how you're moving toward your goals? What tests are you using to prove what direction you're heading?

Powerlifting truly is a great sport that offers something for everyone. You don't need to be the strongest person in the world to compete. You just have to have a goal to shoot for and then train to make it happen.

Just last week I watched a video of Rachel Cosgrove lift in her first meet, and I loved it. It's important to note that EliteFTS sponsors many of the best powlerlifters on the planet, and I view and analyze lifts just about every day. But Rachel's deadlift has been stuck in my mind for a week now.

Rachel Cosgrove

Rachel Cosgrove

That video is what the sport is all about and was a great reminder to me about how important grassroots meets are to people, and what we stand for. Rachel trained specifically for this meet, set a goal, and went and made it happen. Do you know just how rare this is today? Look around at your peers, family, and acquaintances. How many of them strive for and reach anything? This is what powerlifting really is at its core level, and why I love the sport so much.

Do you really want to be like everyone else, or do you want to find something to strive for?

What are the most underrated or lesser-known supplementary exercises for each of the main lifts: the deadlift, squat, and bench press?

There are no special mystery exercises that only the best of the best know. The cards are known and are the same to everyone. The game is to know what cards to play at the right time. Most people have no fucking clue.

A better question to ask would be why are you doing the movements you're doing now? Is there a real reason or is it just because you like to do them? If your goal is a bigger bench press than your reason for the movements you do should support the goal of the program.

This is something to understand about strength: you have three compound movements that make up your core exercises, but you're not going to get stronger on these movements by doing them alone. Strength needs to be built using other special exercises intended to reinforce or build your technique, skill and strength. You should select movements based on your weaknesses and skill level.

Let's use the squat as an example. Let's say the lifter drops his chest at the 3/4 point and falls forward. He can't keep his upper back locked-in, but it only happens with max weights. One solution would be high arch back good morning with a safety squat bar.

This will strengthen the upper back and traps to hold the position while also teaching the lifter how to keep his chest up. But maybe he's a low-skilled lifter who won't be able to keep the proper torso position to do the movement listed. So we need to back up and work our way into the movement with exercises such as Supermans on the floor, reverse hypers, etc.

Reverse Hyper

Reverse Hyper

There needs to be a process to get from point A to point Z and most people just think they can jump in at Z and make it happen, but nothing is farther from the truth.

Personally, I hated doing reverse hypers and ab work with a passion, but without it my lifts sucked. I also hated sled work but had to do it. It would be safe to say I hated half the shit I did. But in the end I was 100% happy with the results.

But then again, life would be too easy if all we had to do were the things we liked.

All right. How about a question to appease the bench press-aholics. What are four things a guy could do to instantly increase his bench press?

That's easy. I can do this in three!

1. Get fat as hell

2. Take a ton of drugs

3. Buy a bench shirt


Dave Tate


Sorry, I couldn't resist that one. All right. Here's how:

1. Perfect your technique

2. Use the Max Effort Method

3. Use the Dynamic Effort Method

4. Train the shit out of your triceps

5. Shut up and do it.*

* This applies to everything, not just benching.

I'm sure you've seen a lot of powerlifting methods, techniques and exercises come and go. What are a few things you wish would just go the hell away?

Are there really bad exercises and methods or just improper use of them? This question can't be answered with any fairness because one movement used properly can be the difference between a missed lift and a PR while another movement used improperly could be the cause of injury. These very well could be the exact same movement.

The biggest issue is that most people can't handle the truth.


"You can't haaaandle the truth."

The truth is that you may not have what it takes, you may not be committed enough, you may not have the discipline, you may not put in enough effort, you might not work hard enough, you do not believe in yourself, you're full of excuses, you get distracted too easy. To wrap it up in one statement: you really don't fucking care enough.

That's it! It's really that simple. It's easier to be a critic than the one who can stay the course training hard day in and day out for years. As I stated before, very few reach a high level or strength or muscle mass without years of consistent training (and this is still not a 100% guarantee). If you look back on the years of training these people do, you will see numerous training spits, methods, and exercises. The more you change the more you gain. This is the only way you will learn for yourself what you like, believe, and works for you.

I have seen some programs work better than others, but the real question to ask is what programs were used to prepare the lifter for the program that worked best?

In short, there is no substitute for consistent hard work. Don't believe me? Then ask around to every jacked or strong person you know. They will all tell you the same thing. Then again, maybe we're all wrong and just haven't heard about the "perfect program."