LISTEN: Table Talk Podcast Clip — Dave Tate and Doug Heath Talk Meet Stories & Funny Louie Simmons Story

TAGS: doug heath, funny, table talk, Louie Simmons, dave tate

Doug Heath was friends with Louie Simmons during the birth and rise of powerlifting. Louie was so young that the Reverse Hyper™ was pieces of wood laid across a power rack with weights tied to your legs. It was 1976 and they were training together and things were simpler. As young healthy men, they were progressing easily and didn’t encounter many roadblocks. This meant Doug didn’t get to see the high level of experimentation in training methods that Louie is now known for. Doug then left Columbus in 1978 and began communicating with Louie via phone. He probably wore out his welcome for Louie’s open-book policy as he kept calling him with training questions constantly up until 1984.When Doug started having back problems Louie was sure to send him a Reverse Hyper™ right away. Doug never used it, he stuck to his old plywood power rack method.

Dave and Doug both liked Louie and thought not enough people know how funny Louie is. Sometimes hilarious, and sometimes a master manipulator, he knows what jokes will cut a little too deep and start a gym rivalry. Take for example, before Westside when Dave was still a teenager, bench was probably the strongest of his lifts. He was competing against another powerlifter with a giant ZZ Top wizard beard. They were in the 220-pound weight class and they were on their third attempts. Dave picks 420 pounds for his next attempt and Gandalf picks 425 pounds. Dave wasn’t so sure he had 425 in the cards but Louie told him not to worry. If Dave hit 420, his competitor was going to miss. How did Louie know? As each bench got heavier, the bearded man was touching the bar higher and higher on his chest. After jumping from 400 to 425, the bar was going to touch on his beard, and lift his head off the bench. Lifting his head off the bench was a violation of the rules and the lift would be disqualified. Dave was highly skeptical. What kind of Rube-Goldberg-esque bench failure is that? Louie insists he has seen this happen dozens of times. What do you know, 425 comes down, touches the beard, and lifts the man’s head off of the bench, resulting in a failure. Turns out this crazy bald motherfucker might know a thing or two about powerlifting. Despite Louie being terrifying to Dave at the time, he started to trust him a little bit. Everyone he was training with was telling him to avoid people like Louie, but he started a friendship anyways.

 

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A couple of years later Dave was at another meet warming up to try to squat 800 and battling for first place in the 275 weight class against John Florio, a long time mentor for Dave when he was younger. John was the best at squatting and missed his third attempt so Dave had a very strong chance of catching up with him, but he needed that 800. Louie pulls him aside before his attempt and says, “Let me back spot you.” Dave didn’t give a shit who back spotted him so he said sure go ahead. After Dave walks it out and settles, Louie cues him to push his belly against the belt. Dave pushed as hard as he could against his belt and squats the easiest 800 pound of his life at the time. Dave stands up with blood gushing from his head because he had smashed his head into the bar getting hyped up, which he does not recommend. If you see a rule against smashing your head against the bar, you can thank Dave. He got thrown out of a meet because the head judge was in the splash zone during one of his squats. But he has now just finished this life-changing easy 800 pound squat and asks Louie what the hell just happened. Louie tells him he needs air during a squat, but Dave doesn’t understand how the hell the air in his lungs changes a squat. It’s the air you pull into your belly and brace, not your lungs. Louie is in the warm-up room punching Dave in the stomach over and over trying to teach him out to brace. Once he figures out the front, he punches him in the side repeatedly. A thorough beating later and Dave had figured out how to brace his entire torso. Louie tells him to put his fingers into his obliques. After the thorough beating Dave had just received he tried to jam his fingers as deep as he could into Louie’s side. Problem is when Louie flexes, so hard and so quickly, he about broke Dave’s fingers. Years later at Westside Barbell, Louie was about to jam a dowel rod into his side, and flex his obliques with enough force the rod shot out of his hands across the room.

As Dave is back at that same meet and wrapping it up, he is able to eke out five pounds over what John Florio totaled. Afterward, they shake hands but John has a smirk on his face that says he knows something Dave doesn’t. He later learns that while John was competing in the 275-pound weight class, it was only because John missed his cut to 242. John only weighed 244. While Dave won his weight class, it wasn’t close on the best lifter award, judged by Wilks formula. Dave knew he gave it his all to win the weight class, but he had been bested.

Text by Mason Nowak

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