“Behind every great man there is a great woman.”

To be honest, I hate that phrase. It is a complete crock.

If you really look, behind the curtains, past the public persona, and get a true understanding of the relationship dynamic of a successful leader, celebrity or business owner, it is NOTHING like what is presented in that quote.

As men, most of us are a mess. This is a given. Those driven to exceptional levels of success are even more prone to this. In most cases, it is the women that keep these men from going completely off the rails, from imploding, from self-destruction, falling prey to depression, self-doubt or the voice of the inner demons that drive them. Women provide balance, direction, and purpose that makes what we do possible.

It is the rare occasion, though, in which things are far different — and these are the ones that really matter. In this scenario, it is not a great man being propped and supported by a great woman; it is two great individuals working together with synergistic strengths that create something far greater than themselves.

Traci Tate is the hidden side of that type of rare partnership. The elitefts™ that you know would not only be far different without her; it is a certainty that it would not exist at all. Her influence on the powerlifting, strength coaching and fitness industry may be largely unrecognized, but their effect is profound and far-reaching. Despite her reluctance to enter the spotlight, it is time for that story to be told.


Basis for Success

Traci Arnold is the second-born of four daughters in a rural mid-Ohio town. Her sport of choice was soccer, with softball as a secondary competitive outlet, but an interior cruciate ligament tear ended her athletic career during her senior year. She was told that lateral movement was to be avoided so, as a freshman at Bowling Green State University (22 miles south of Toledo, Ohio), she devoted herself to her studies and the gym.

While in the gym, she met a fellow lifter named Dave Tate. Since Traci’s training partner and Dave’s roommate were a couple, it was only natural that the two would end up talking in the gym. Dave’s social skills are improved 28% by the presence of chalk, so they hit it off and a serious relationship quickly blossomed.

As Traci’s family was based in central Ohio, and Dave was invited to train at Westside, the move to Columbus was a natural one for Traci and Dave. Dave took a position at a prestigious downtown athletic club. Traci worked as office manager for a medical practice. Both trained with Louie and the crew at Westside. This was during what many feel was the golden Demorest Road era of that gym, with Chuck Vogelpohl, Todd Brock, Kenny Patterson, Mike Ruggeria and many of the best lifters of the time smashing weights within those cinderblock walls.

Because of their work schedules, Traci and Dave trained with different crews, which provided them with similar experiences but flexibility to train the way they needed for their own goals. Among other lifters, Traci trained with Karen Sizemore and Amy Weisberger, and competed in a number of powerlifting meets. She posted respectable numbers of 365 squat, 240 bench, and 345 deadlift as a 132-pounder.

In addition to their jobs, Dave spent a great deal of his free time answering Q&As on an early powerlifting website (“Live. Learn. And Pass On” expressing itself long before it was adopted as the company’s guiding principle) and Traci was planning to add extra income through personal training. The name elitefts™ evolved from the name of this training company.

In 1998, the popularity of Dave’s online followers led to him launching his own site, which borrowed the name of Traci’s training enterprise in order to save on the basic legal fees of incorporation. Louie was the first supplier in this online retail operation, asking if the Tates would carry his Westside books and videos. The Russian and Eastern bloc manuals soon were added and straps, wraps, restorative and training apparatuses were added into the inventory. In the early days, Traci processed the orders and shipped them out promptly, all while working full-time in medical administration.


What started as a side business, with Dave providing content and creating a meathead culture and Traci keeping things organized, has evolved from a spare bedroom and grown into a thriving business based in a 20,000 square foot compound. All of this was driven by the collaborative efforts of Traci and Dave.

As the site grew from infancy to the stumbling toddler stage, Traci and Dave made a bold decision for Dave to leave his job and focus his efforts completely on the growth of elitefts.com. Traci was the sole breadwinner working her full-time job and coming home to handle the bookkeeping and order processing.

All of the profits from the site (and then some) were dumped back into building the business and every penny was judiciously tracked. While Dave built the public recognition of elitefts™, Traci was instrumental in creating a company that made the most out of very little through frugal spending and intelligently-constructed operating systems.

Despite tight personal finances, the Tates were ready to have a family. Well…Traci was ready and Dave was told,  "either father-up or pack your elitefts™ Crescent Duffle Bag.” Compromising on this point is something that Dave has never regretted.

Neither Dave nor Traci were able to procreate, so adoption was the best option. “We were on the waiting list for months,” Traci recalls. Traci and Dave went to Oklahoma and met the birth mother before her third trimester and were given her approval for the adoption. Traci was in the delivery room when Blaine (now 12-years old) entered this world. Shortly afterward, they adopted another son, Bryce (now 10-years old), through the same agency.

At this point, the business had moved from the home into a small office and both were working full-time to develop elitefts™. “I was putting in long hours,” Dave recalls. “But Traci was working as hard as I was…while having a toddler next to her and a baby on the other side.”


From the initial offerings of books and apparatus, elitefts™ grew to distribute Metal Gear and develop their current partnership with Williams Strength/Total Strength and Speed. During this time, Traci developed the customer service model and dealt with staff expansion, inventory and operations. Dave handled site content, developed the team of sponsored lifters, and built his name both on the site and through seminars and articles on the “Testosterone” website.

While Dave has a number of advisors that help with the growth of the company, these consultants are specialists in specifics areas. Few realize the profound impact Traci has on the direction of elitefts™. “We talk at the office. We talk at home. We are never off the clock and always trying to improve the business.”

“Dave is more comfortable in the spotlight. I am happy to work on the efficiency of the operation so that we can continue to offer the best products, service and education to our customer.”

Perhaps the most impressive feat that Traci should take credit for is that elitefts™ has grown at a consistent pace while remaining a debt-free company. “In addition to the obvious strategies—working hard and making smart, cautious decisions—we also live a moderate lifestyle and invest back into the business.” While attendees of our seminars or those that watch our training videos might be impressed by the amazing elitefts™ S-4 Gym, the Tate home is modest in comparison, similar to the house in which a typical police officer or government employee might raise their family.



With both sons now tweens, Traci found herself with a little bit more free time for herself. Her long-suppressed athletic side was allowed to express itself. “I have always loved to train hard, but had to find something different from powerlifting.” Traci had suffered from a very life-threatening heart condition (a saddled pulmonary embolism) in the fall of 2010, which would preclude the type of heavy max attempts that are a regular part of powerlifting. She opted to drop extra pounds and gradually tighten her body with the goal to enter a Women’s Figure competition. Her transformation has been remarkable!

“This has been a dramatically different challenge from powerlifting. The training and diet require a 24-hour discipline that was difficult but the month-to-month results were rewarding.” Starting in May of 2013, those results took Traci from 134 to 103 pounds, while adding significant muscle in the process. The overall visual transformation is what is truly impressive.

“Being back in the gym, in the trenches, has given me a deeper connection with our customers, particularly our female lifters. I have always been goal-driven, but now my goals involve me doing my best both in the gym and in the business.”  The future of elitefts™ has never looked brighter. While Traci Tate may be a behind-the-scenes player, the imprint she has made on the company cannot be overemphasized.