COACH columnist

“This life, therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” Martin Luther

The Table

I used to be the lifter sitting on one side of the table, thinking all the advice the veterans were giving me was BS unless it was 100-percent training related. In my mind, they were passed their prime and lost all context of the sport. During my time, the sport was 100-percent gear, and these veterans only knew the single-ply crap I came into the sport with. They had no idea!

Now, I am on their side of the table... but have never forgotten what it's like to be on the other side. Since stepping out of the sport, I have always had groups of top lifters around me (remember: elitefts sponsors them). While going from gear to raw changed one aspect of the sport in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of an element when it comes to the overall success a lifer will have.

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Let’s take a quick look at what’s under my seat…


  • I have been a part of the sport of powerlifting since 1982. I have competed from the teenage, novice, nation, and elite level across several weight classes.
  • I've held my judging card from 3 different federations (all required a written test and hours in the chair before being allowed to Judge alone).
  • I have trained with World Record Holders, All-Time World Record Holders, and World Champions, dating back to when the USPF was the only federation.
  • I have trained and helped lifters break World Records and All-Time World Records.
  • I spent 14 years training at Westside Barbell Club. I am one of a very few who was there when Louie moved into the Demorest Road locations that were still there when he moved out.
  • I have instructed and hosted close to 200 seminars spanning 33 states and 3 countries over the last 3 decades.
  • I have a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and nutrition.
  • I have run 4 total meets with 2 being national events.
  • I was a federation state and regional director.
  • I have 5 years of being a gym manager.
  • I have over 15 years as a personal trainer.
  • I have spent over 25 years working as a strength and conditioning consultant with the main emphasis on maximal strength development.
  • I own a company that has sponsored some of the top powerlifters (of all time) since 1998.
  • I have spent 20 years working in the retail side of the strength industry.

I do not write this to impress you but to impress upon you that I know this sport inside and out. Except for owning a federation, I have worked every role you can in the game. I have been on the inside looking out and on the outside looking in.


If you are new to elitefts, then let me quickly point out we have over 20 years of complimentary content on this site including; 8,510 articles; 7,287 coaching blogs; 12,671 athlete logs; 2,508 videos; 19 full seminar videos; 700,000 archived Q&As; 350,000 archived training logs; 27 Table Talk Podcast episodes; 64 Sports Performance Podcasts; 13 pro training logs; and 37 team columnists.

We also have close to a dozen team members hosting Q&A sessions on their own Instagram accounts answering over 2,000 questions per month. The elitefts IG account posts three to four microblog posts per week.

My own coaching blog averages close to 40 posts per month. I answer all my emails plus DMs on Instagram and spend five to six hours every Friday night and two to three hours every Saturday morning answering questions on Instagram, not to mention all the posts and IGTV stuff I do there as well. Three hours per week hosting the podcast with another hour or more in pre- and post-production. I almost forgot that I also write this column.

WATCH: Table Talk Podcast #27 with Videographer Intern Zach Thayer

In short, we vet all our content so you don't have to, and this is something I personally take very seriously as I spend between 45 to 50 hours per week just on my own content generation.

Many companies today make a lot of money ripping people off with paywalls and pay-to-use sites to the point it makes me ill. Not only do these coaches not have a clue how to train their athletes — most have never trained themselves. I have committed myself to help athletes, lifters, and coaches who really care to become better while others have committed themselves to build up their multiple streams of income.


This is while still having all the responsibilities of elitefts I am accountable for. Sixty-three-hour hour weeks have become normal and each year it goes up, not down. Don’t misunderstand — without elitefts product sales there would be no education, but that’s the difference. We use education as customer service, support, and articles, not as a revenue stream. This is the commitment we’ve made since Day 1 to Live, Learn, and Pass On — not Live, Earn, and Take Away! Did I say we don’t have a paywall, a membership site, or a membership app? You don’t even have to register to have access to our content.

Again, this is not to impress you but to impress upon you precisely how integrated I am in the strength industry and how hard I work to help others. I’m actually sacrificing doing work I have to do to build the business in exchange for content to help others, including my own training for the training of others and time away from my family.

With this in mind, I do not need to list any nuts and bolts of training as we have those covered and always will on a daily basis across elitefts and all of our social platforms.

There are a lot of things I don’t know, but when it comes to shortcomings, adversity, and pitfalls I know them well.

The Pitfalls

WOW! That is a lot to get to a point to start this list, but I feel I have to put this into context on how important these things are. Maybe it is because I am now the guy on the other side of the table, and I know exactly how I would have read these 30 years ago.

Zero Confidence and Ego

It's common to find a large percentage of lifters who have zero confidence. If you spend any time on Instagram, you will see everyone has something to complain about. It is not the usual stuff you usually see that deals with poor judgment and common areas of debate, but issues with their own training, programming, nutrition, life, drama, and so on. They’re little things, really, but huge stuff to them. ⁣

Here is the part I don’t get. These are the same people that will go into trigger mode if somebody disagrees with their beliefs, lives in a way they don’t like, thinks differently, says something they feel is wrong, and so forth. In some cases, they go into full blast mode because of something, somebody they have never met, or will ever meet, wrote about them. They simply do not put up with it! ⁣

“When the actions of others no longer matter, then you will have succeeded within your own mind.” Jo De Raman

Then I read and hear the things they say about themselves, their shortcomings, and how they feel about themselves. This is what they are posting and writing for the world to see. I can only imagine what they say to themselves every day, every hour and, perhaps, every minute. ⁣

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If anyone said to them what they say to themselves, they would never put up with it! Yet, when they do it to themselves, it’s OK. ⁣

These same people will tell others to find new friends as you become like those you hang around with, yet they are not willing to put in some very simple work to change their own self-talk. ⁣

“If you are thinking that everything sucks, you’ll end up where everything does. This is how people get caught in a downward spiral and screw up their whole lives by never recovering from one bad incident.” Doug Rose

OK, you get it. One simple strategy is to first understand that we all do it. It’s normal, but how we process it is what’s different. Some ignore it, some create a superego, and some learn to dance with it. By this, I mean, you say it, you embrace it, and then you tell yourself, “STOP!” Then ask if it has a purpose or not. If it does, address it. Most of the time it doesn’t, so bounce the thought away. If it comes back, bounce it away again. Every time you bounce one away, feed a new one in. The simplest one to feed in is how you have the strength, ability, and control to bounce the negative stuff out. ⁣

On the other side of this are the ones with egos so big they can't make a single post, article, or statement without making sure everyone knows how great they are. Their ego completely changes their perception of reality and how they fit into the world — or sport, for that matter. This false perception of reality will keep them stuck in the past, and everything they do or work toward will be tainted by their past work — lifts or accomplishments. They fail to keep learning.

“A true student is like a sponge. Absorbing what goes on around him, filtering it, latching on to what he can hold. A student is self-critical and self-motivated, always trying to improve his understanding so that he can move on to the next topic, the next challenge. A real student is also his own teacher and his own critic. There is no room for ego there."  Ryan Holiday

Each day is a new day, and your past will only carry you so far because people do not care about you. They care about what you can do for them or how you make them feel.

By thinking you are better than others, you will find out in time exactly how wrong this is when you find yourself in a position where you are the one that needs help.

In both cases, you are the one holding yourself back! Think about that and think about how hard you work at the things you do. Are you really all right knowing this?

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Mother Theresa

Stupid, Ignorant, or Lazy

I was once told or read that we are either stupid, ignorant, or lazy.

While I can make a case for ignorance being a pitfall because not knowing your training or craft well can hold you back, there are coaches, mentors, and others who can simply tell you what to do.

I don’t like the word “stupid,” and I believe everyone regardless of their intellect has intelligence beyond what they realize. However, we all do stupid shit from time to time, but that’s for another day.

Lazy is the BIG one here. The number of things I blew off due to an upcoming training day has got to be in the thousands. If something had even the slightest chance of messing up my training in any way, I didn’t do it. I avoided it, and the arguments I had due to these things were enormous.

“Take out the trash.” You have to be kidding me. I have a sub-maximal squat in three days and a meet 14 weeks from now.

The list goes on and on.

Yet, if I popped a rib out training, I would just wrap it up or put a second belt on and never miss a set. Every rep done with insane pain that more than likely did nothing to make me better and a ton to make me worse.

Did I miss a training session because of a toothache? Never.

Did I miss a training session because of extreme weather warnings where no cars are supposed to be on the street? Never.

Did I miss a meet because of a quad pull? Never.

Did I show up late to your son’s birthday party due to a workout? Yep.

Did I miss making Easter baskets because it was bench day? Yep.

Did I skip training when Christmas fell on squat day? “I’ll be home later to open packages with the kids.”

Think about all of the things you would never miss a training session for, and then think of all of the things you missed with your family due to those sessions.

Will there be imbalance? Of course, there will, but a permanent state of it only leads down a road of your own self-destruction.

RECONSIDER YOUR PRIORITIES: Top Three: A Hierarchy for Sustainable Success

By being lazy, you are taking the BIGGEST support system you will ever have, your family and closest friends and making them hate the sport and in time... you.

What if you could flip this and make them your biggest fans? Shouldn’t be hard, right? They already love you for who you are, not what you do. They certainly care more than your social media fans.

How can you flip this? Hm... here’s the kicker and the hardest part:

Ask them. Wait. Then listen.

No doubt they don’t understand your passion for what you do, but they do understand the passion they have for you, but you have to wake up and realize, see, and share the passion you have for them.

I watched a great interview with Kobe Bryant where he discussed this. I suggest watching it, and while you do please note how much practice time he had, how much training he put in, and his travel schedule. I’m pretty sure it’s more than the 10 to 12 hours a week you put in the gym.

It’s NOT Who You Are

"Stay open-minded; stay focused. Train hard and train smart. For me, the older I get, the smarter I have to train also, because the recovery time is longer. Work on everything: become a well-rounded fighter — don't just be good at one thing; be good at everything." Brock Lesnar

I used to think that having a one-track mind was the only way to get what I wanted. To some degree this is true, but I also believe it’s misunderstood. There is a part of being mindful that involves self-awareness and focus. I see these becoming more and more blurred today than I have any other time in my life.

If being the best strength athlete is the objective, then is that where your total focus is when you are training? Does it need to be? I guess that would depend on who you ask, but I would ask another question first, and that is: How is the rest of your life doing? How are your relationships, work, school, etc.?

What if this was all looked at another way? Let’s pretend you had total control of your mind and environment. Imagine if when you went in to train, that’s ALL it was. Just like the sports you used to play. Training becomes practice, and every practice has its intent with a start and stop time. It also carries the accountability to make sure everything gets done and an overreaching force to make sure you are doing the right things.

Now when you are with your kids, let’s pretend the exact same thing. There are no other factors pulling you — same with family, work, school, and whatever else.

Do you realize you do have total control over all of this? You may not think you do… but think about it more, and you will see that you do. It’s not easy but you can be more than an excuse if you use Focus, Trust, and Strength.

Here are two phone wallpapers to help remind you of this.

be more 1

Click for full size.

(Click for full size.)

 You will also find when you learn how to embrace the moment the majority of people that really care about you, REALLY care about YOU, not about how much you lift or what you do. They do not give a shit about that, but they do care if you are happy or not.

The very same people you alienate are or can be the biggest and best support system you will ever have! Ever!

You will also find you will have far more family time than you ever thought you did. Your work productivity will increase, and your overall stress will greatly decrease — not to mention all of your lifts will go up, guaranteed.

Think about it: more focus training, less stress, great support system, amazing recovery… better progress.


Let’s go sit down at the table I spoke about at the beginning of this article. Now that we’ve set aside the negativity and ego, we can begin to look more clearly at ourselves and what we are really looking for out of these sports and how to become better.

I know you are not stupid, but if you are anything like me you do display selfishness and are lazy on too many occasions. That’s OK because it’s being mindful of this that matters the most. When you are mindful, you are able to make better decisions that will move you forward instead of backward.

Knowing that you are something more than the sport and/or the objective you are training for provides even more clarity during adversity, sticking points, and basic training decisions. If it is really about being better — and I believe it is — all of the strength athletes I know will do whatever it takes to become better.

The best place to begin doing that is ceasing control over all those things you can control — but that’s the rub. It’s those exact things strength athletes struggle with the most but now it will be a conscious decision they chose to make because they can no longer say they do not know.

As we get older, things change. I can no longer train how I used to. With each passing year, more and more things get added to the list of things I can no longer do, but at the same time, I find other things to focus on that I can.

When I came into the sport, it was to get away from life. The gym was my escape. From that, I found a sense of belonging that has been in my blood for close to 40 years now.

The gyms have changed, the people have changed, the objectives have changed, and I have changed, but through it all, the barbell and plates have always been there. They were there before I got there and will be there long after I am gone.

READ MORE: I'm Going To Die

It’s never been about the weights. It’s always been about growth, healing, and becoming.

Bonus content

While I was finishing this, I made a post on my Instagram account asking what the worst personality trait seen in strength athletes is. I invite you to read and add to the comments. I think you will see most of these relate back to the items I have listed in this article.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Dave Tate (@underthebar) on

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