Not everyone trains the same way. Someone interested in general fitness isn’t going to use the same training methods as a powerlifter. A competitive bodybuilder is going to have vastly different goals than a collegiate athlete. And a strength coach isn’t going to take the same approach with clients as a personal trainer. The common thread among all of these unique niches, however, is that they have always had—and always will have—a place at elitefts. Next year will be the company’s 20th year in business.
Dave Tate founded elitefts in 1998 with the vision of creating a mecca of shared information and knowledge. A place where general fitness enthusiasts, coaches, trainers, and athletes from all disciplines could thrive off of each other’s shared experiences and success. A place where anyone who placed training, in any capacity, as a top priority in their life could learn. With the exponential growth of the fitness industry over the past 20 years, paralleled with the growth of elitefts, the roots of elitefts still hold strong — a foundational trunk of knowledge sprouting enough branches to accommodate nearly every training discipline imaginable.
As a teenager, Dave was a competitive powerlifter throughout high school. Upon graduation, he decided to build on his love for the sport and pursue a degree in exercise science at the University of Toledo. However, reality quickly set in after graduation when he began working with clients and his background in high-performance strength training and powerlifting wasn’t applicable to their goals or capabilities.
“There was no doubt in my mind I could help top-level powerlifters develop maximum strength,” he recalled. “But helping my clients was another story. And that’s how I was feeding myself and paying the bills.”
Through his own individual research and study, Dave began continuing his education so that he could apply different concepts and training principles to his clients and their diverse range of goals. It was this pursuit that later helped Dave envision the platform for elitefts — a centralized place where this information could be consolidated and shared.
Through the years, Dave was fortunate enough to have trained alongside some of the greatest names in the industry. Among them: Mel Siff, co-author of Supertraining (perhaps the most complete book on strength training ever written), and Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. During the years Dave trained at Westside, he also got the opportunity to meet experts in various areas of strength sports when Louie would bring them in for seminars. Despite popular belief, these were never exclusively powerlifting related. Rather, they were coaches and athletes of diverse backgrounds with one single aim: helping one another become stronger.
While Dave built many long lasting relationships with many of these experts in various fields, he credits them with helping him expand his horizons. Through his experience in powerlifting and strength sports, he found that people didn’t seem to have much respect for others in different disciplines. This brought him to the conclusion that this shortsightedness kept people from achieving their full potential.
Tate said, “None of these people were willing to learn from each other. So I had this unique opportunity from these people coming into Westside. I just shut my mouth and listened to what they all had to say.”
While elitefts was built as a platform for shared knowledge, it was these experiences that allowed Dave to acknowledge that all training disciplines can benefit from each other. Each expert from a varying athletic or coaching background had a different approach to training, warm-ups, injury prevention/rehabilitation, mobility, and everything in between. In remembering his own previous struggle helping his diverse group of clients, coupled with trying to keep his own training progressing, it became obvious that it was myopic to turn a blind eye to other disciplines of training. Whether your objective was to implement it into your own training or use it as a coach, there were endless benefits being exposed to disciplines outside of your expertise.
The caveat, however, is to know who possesses the proper credentials and/or accolades to obtain this knowledge. With the fitness industry growing as rapidly as it has, along with the internet making everything more accessible, it becomes hard to decipher who is worth listening to within their respective disciplines.
“The guideline you can adhere to is someone who is elite within their sport,” Dave notes. “They don’t have to be the very best, but a proven track record of success over an extended period of time is the best combination. An extended period of time weeds out 'flash in the pan' success and proves they’ve had to overcome plateaus and possibly injuries. Educational credentials are a great starting point, but it’s always good to make sure they’ve practiced what they’ve preached as well.”
Taking this all into consideration, elitefts goes through diligent efforts to provide its reader base with the best and most diverse group of experts. But the selection of those experts is never without controversy. Tate says that pretty much every expert he’s brought on has been met with some kind of criticism, with people questioning everything from their qualifications to their relevance. And of course, since the company embraces so many areas of training, not every expert will be helpful or relevant to every reader. But the goal is to provide enough expertise in all those different areas to suit everyone.
He explained, “Every new person who comes on is somewhat unknown to our reader base. But we actually spend a couple years vetting people out to see if they’re someone who could have success and offer something of value to our readers. Sometimes it can take a while to get the right combination or get them to show what they can actually offer. And not everyone has the best writing or communication skills at first. But if we can speak with someone and see that they’re able to help other people with their knowledge and expertise, then it’s up to us to extract that information from them and provide it to our readers so they can see what we saw when we first brought them on.”
With the diversity of the team, as well as the broad spectrum of athletic disciplines they work in, the company also has become a source of expertise in training equipment as well. Going into gyms and athletic departments around the country, elitefts began to notice ways they could provide equipment to improve the performance capacity of these facilities. With this in mind, the company began designing equipment specifically for the coaches and athletes they work with. From there, the site grew to include other components, like the e-commerce component that provides this various training equipment, as well as apparel and lifting gear. Today, elitefts has become the premier destination for professional-grade products and equipment that rivals the standards and expectations demanded by some of the world’s most prestigious colleges, universities, professionals sports teams, and private training facilities.
Perceptions may vary, but the focus of elitefts has never been solely on powerlifting. Though Dave has been highly involved in the world of powerlifting personally, he knew that focusing only on competitive powerlifters wouldn’t provide a large enough audience to advance a person’s ultimate potential. Instead, the site focused on anyone who places training as a top priority. That means powerlifters, strength coaches, physical therapists, personal trainers, athletes, and more.
“The fact is that if you want to build a team capable of continuously improving, you need diversity in ideas and expertise. It encourages the search for fresh information and perspectives and leads to better outcomes,” Dave said.
“Just being exposed to diversity in ideas can change the way you think. Being around people who have different training approaches from us makes us more creative. And it’s not just because those with different backgrounds bring new thoughts, but simply interacting with those who are from different areas of training forces people to prepare better and anticipate alternative solutions. There’s nothing worse than a close-minded strength athlete that hits a wall and burns out and nothing more frustrating that the average person who quits making training progress because they refuse to listen to anyone outside of their own little information niche. This is why elitefts has always existed — to help anyone that places training as a top priority in their life succeed.”