You know what they say, “If you’ve attended one performance seminar, you’ve attended them all.” And now, after attending my second elitefts seminar, I can confidently say, “If you’ve attended one elitefts seminar…well, you’ve really only attended one elitefts seminar. And you have no idea what you’re missing if you don’t attend more.”

I knew I was in for something special when I signed up for the elitefts/Troponin Nutrition seminar on March 7, 2009. Although I have to admit, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. But after reading the logs and Q&As of Justin Harris and Shelby Starnes for as long as I have and after seeing the results they were capable of achieving with their clients, I knew that as a trainer, I simply could not afford to miss this presentation.

Getting down to London, Ohio, and finding the Compound III was old hat for me. I could practically do it in my sleep, which was a good thing because with the late start we got Friday night and with the mess I had gotten myself into, I really needed all the help I could get.

My fiancée, Keylea, a yoga instructor and Montessori pre-school teacher, had purchased tickets for the two of us to attend the Arnold Classic on March 7–8, 2009, and she presented those tickets to me for Christmas (is she a great girl or what?). But because we were going to be in town anyway and I tend to be a little too smart for my own good sometimes, I went ahead and took the liberty of purchasing tickets to the elitefts/Troponin Nutrition seminar on March 7, 2009, as well so we could catch that while we were there.

Helpful hint: Don’t “accessorize” someone’s gift to you. Accept it gracefully, be happy, and move on. Don’t get creative. You’re really not that clever.

But there we were. We made it, and my beautiful and forgiving future better half was eager to see what all the fuss was about at the elitefts Compound III (I told you she was great). We walked into the compound, and for a minute, I thought I had made a huge mistake. There was no seminar here…this was training day! There were lifters all suited up, squatting off boxes with chains, throwing plates around, and blasting Pantera from the sound system. Sure, there were a few people standing around here and there, but they were all just here to see the lifters, right?

“Oh boy,” I thought to myself. “What have I gotten the two of us into now?”

I was about to begin my lengthy apology to Keylea when I saw Dave Tate walking toward us. He saw me, and for a moment, I thought he might recognize me from the elitefts Passion into Profit seminar just a few weeks earlier. As he walked past us, he shot me a devilish grin and said, “Hey! Cool! You’re here! This is gonna be different. We’re gonna get wild. We’re gonna get f*#in’ crazy.”

“What did he say?” Keylea asked.

“Ummm, we’re in the right place,” I said. “Let’s go see what they’re doing.”

And what they were doing was just what I thought…they were training! Dave had Molly Edwards, Ted Toalson, and Christian Mello training with their crews so that he could educate us on the finer points of hard core strength training before we began the elitefts/Troponin Nutrition seminar.

A strength training demonstration to begin a seminar on nutrition? What? Are you new here? Hey, this is Dave Tate’s place, and this is what Dave Tate does. Strength training and education is what Dave Tate and elitefts are all about! Just look at the top of your browser window the next time you visit the elitefts site. You’ll see the words, “Superior Products and Knowledge for Lifters, Athletes, Coaches, and Trainers.” This is more than just a catchy phrase to drive traffic to the web site. Those words really mean something to Dave Tate and the crew of elitefts. They mean it. He means it. He lives it. He stakes his reputation on those words, and he has made those words his mission and his life’s work. If you didn’t come here to learn strength …well, I’ll just leave that sentence for you to finish. But know this, you are in Dave Tate’s world now. Get ready to be educated.

We watched Molly Edwards and Ted Toalson work up to max effort on the box squat using the safety squat bar with chains for accommodating resistance. Dave answered questions and shouted coaching cues to the lifters as they trained.

“This really is incredible to watch,” Keylea said. “I see what you mean now about the strength of good training partners. Did you see how she corrected herself after Dave shouted, ‘ABS!’ What does that mean? Abs? Why did he yell that?”

Before I could answer Keylea, Dave turned to the seminar participants and explained what had happened. Molly was losing her air and collapsing under the bar as she was attempting the concentric portion of her squat. After Dave had given her the cue “abs,” Molly held her abdomen full of air on her next rep and completed that rep stronger than her first.

“That’s what makes Molly such a strong lifter,” Dave continued. “She keeps her head and listens to the cues. She gets stronger as the weights get heavier. She hasn’t even begun to tap the strength potential that she has. We see big, big things in Molly’s future.”

Listening to an experienced, knowledgeable coach digging deeper and getting stronger as the “weights” or challenges get heavier…anyone else see a pattern here?

After watching the lifters work up to their max efforts and learning a bit about Dave’s strength programming philosophy as they trained, Dave gathered the seminar participants and directed them to one end of the facility. It was there that we would begin the nutrition segment of the seminar. But not before Dave had a few more words with us.

Dave spent the rest of his allotted time with us explaining how to program our own strength training or that of our clients. Dave also called on us to explain ourselves and name our goals, training philosophies, and how we intended to get to where we wanted to go. You weren’t going to be a wallflower in this crowd. Dave was on to you. He was going to cue you, coach you, and push you past your limits.

This is where Dave really belongs. This is what he does best. Sure, he’s a strength athlete, a retired powerlifter, and a businessman in the field of strength and conditioning. But you knew that. What I’d bet you didn’t know was that Dave Tate is really a teacher.

After seeing Dave in action these past few weeks and communicating with him a bit, I feel I know a little more about him. And with Keylea’s experience in education and in the classroom, I knew I was on to something. She saw it in him, too. Dave Tate is a teacher. “To Live–To Learn–To Pass On”—that is his primary aim, as he has said many times. He lives for this and it shows.

If you get nothing else out of an elitefts seminar, you will learn what you’re made of, where you are weak, and where you need to improve. And that alone is worth the price of admission. But, of course, there was more.

Justin Harris, elitefts contributor, owner of Troponin Nutrition, super heavyweight bodybuilder, and accomplished powerlifter, started his portion of the seminar with an in-depth overview of the biological basics of nutrition. If you’ve never seen Justin present or speak about nutrition, you’ve really missed brilliance in action. Justin’s knowledge is nothing short of amazing. It’s like listening to a human ‘See n’ Say’ of physiology.

Remember those toys we had as kids? The ‘See n’ Say, where you point to something and pull the string? That’s Justin. Just ask him a question, point him at what you want to know, and be prepared to watch, listen, and learn. All this knowledge just comes spilling out of him with a child like exuberance. It was very cool and just amazing to be a part of!

But Justin isn’t one of those presenters who rambles on just to hear his own voice. You can actually understand what Justin is saying. He takes great pains to present his material in easy to understand language, and he is really passionate about his work. Justin loves to field questions from the audience and even rewards the “good questions” with products such as Troponin Nutrition books, T-shirts, and DVDs all pulled from his magic bag of seminar goodies. Of course, there’s no such thing as a “bad question,” so I’m pretty sure everyone walked away with a little something just for attending, something above and beyond the information Justin had to share.

After Justin explained the physiological aspects of nutrition, improving leverages, dieting, and building muscle tissue, it was time for lunch. Now, you might expect that a world-class nutrition seminar being hosted by a world-class organization like elitefts and moderated by world-class athletes and performance experts like Dave Tate, Justin Harris, and Shelby Starnes would provide a world-class, nutritionally sound, and perfectly balanced luncheon for its participants, right? Oh c’mon now. Really. Remember what I said earlier? Yep, that’s right. You’re in Dave Tate’s world now. And guess what? Dave’s not dieting, and you know what else? Dave’s not going to start dieting until Monday morning, so you know what that means? We’re having pizza, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew. That’s what it means. So how do you like that?

Well, okay. Not everyone had pizza, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew. Some folks were dieting and were mindful of their nutrition. And when I say “some folks” what I really mean to say is one folk—Shelby Starnes.

Shelby seemed to be the only person concerned with his diet Saturday and it showed. Shelby is looking “jacked” right about now and is heading into his next show heavier than he’s ever been before. How’s that for credibility? If you need more proof, take a look at Shelby’s logs and many client showcases. Or perhaps you’ve heard of a fellow by the name of Marc Bartley? You might check out his little transformation for some big inspiration.

Shelby was packing his own vittles and doing it quite stylishly too, according to my fiancée, Keylea. Shelby has that “pulled together” look we all go for with a Gucci bag, designer jeans, brown leather slip-on shoes, and…

Oh who am I kidding? Shelby was a little too “pulled together” if you ask me. He’s all tanned and “jacked” and has perfect teeth and he “accessorizes,” too. Remember Justin’s bag of goodies? The one he was reaching into and rewarding good questions from? Yeah, it was a plastic shopping bag from Meijer. Shelby’s bag? Shelby was sporting a leather “clutch” or some shit. I don’t even know what the hell it was. I couldn’t even tell you what color it was. It was like a pale mustard color, I guess. It freaked me out a little bit to be honest. But Keylea said it was stylish so whatever. Go ahead, Shelby. Be all jacked and stylish with your perfect teeth, your damn bag, and…ahem. Right, okay sorry about that.

Anyway, Shelby’s presentation focused on the practical application of carb cycling that has made Troponin Nutrition synonymous with success for literally hundreds of clients. Shelby took the participants through the basics of carb cycling nutrition and laid out the essentials of how to put together a plan that works—a plan that not only helps you shed fat but a plan that has the potential to add muscle mass while you get leaner. Now how can you argue with that?

Shelby fielded questions from the audience as well and had plenty of goodies to hand out too (if you didn’t mind the bag they came from). Shelby’s practical knowledge and extensive experience with clients of all types was helpful to those of us who had never tried carb cycling. Shelby was able to identify with members of the audience on many levels. As a once pudgy kid with no real athletic background, Shelby’s story is inspiring. If carb cycling can put over 30 pounds of lean, muscular mass on a non-athlete over a period of four to five years, it just has to work for your situation and for your physique. I know that Shelby’s presentation changed my mind completely. I had thought that carb cycling was strictly for competitive bodybuilders and figure athletes. Now I understand it in a completely different way and see greater potential than I had expected.

Using Dave as his subject, Justin Harris came back to construct a personalized carb cycling plan to show the participants how to lay out a simple plan from start to finish, although it quickly became obvious that there is no such thing as a simple or “cookie cutter” carb cycling plan that will work for everyone. I think for many, the big take away from this seminar is the fact that in order to optimize one’s diet, progressive changes are an absolute necessity. And there’s no substitute for experience here. These guys from Troponin Nutrition are the pros.

The nutrition component of the seminar ended with an open Q&A, as elitefts seminars often do. Participants were free to ask training, nutrition, and business advice from Dave, Justin, and Shelby. This is always a great experience for me. Learning from those who are successful at what it is you strive to become is priceless.

After the open Q&A, Dave went right back to teaching. This time he was taking any and all willing participants through the three main power lifts and explaining the proper way to perform them. By this time, the seminar had run well past the 3:00 pm advertised deadline. In fact, I believe the seminar ran well past 4:30 pm, but Dave didn’t care.

“I’ll stay here until midnight,” Dave said with a smile. I knew from prior experience that Dave was sincere, but I just couldn’t stay. I had a promise to keep to my wonderful and willing fiancée, Keylea. And that was one promise I intended to honor. She had been good enough to put up with me, stick with me, and support my education today. The least I could do was treat her to a nice dinner in downtown Columbus.

And no, I didn’t ask Shelby to join us. Maybe next time though. What do you say, Shelby?