The Reactivation

TAGS: health, transformation, diet, dave tate, strength training, Elitefts Info Pages, Nutrition

As many have noticed, my training log in the Q & A has been reactivated. This article will explain the details behind this reactivation. This is my third attempt at writing this piece because I am having a hard time finding a way to make all of the information flow together in a nice, readable format. After a few failed attempts though, I realize that, just like training, not everything always comes together in a nice format. Things get messed up, the best plans go astray, and right when you think you have things under control, you get tested again.

Welcome to the reactivation…

Who?

For those who don’t know my background, you can read my bio on the team page. I competed and trained for powerlifting between 1983 and 2005. I totaled my first Elite in 1987 and continued posting lifts that were in the top 20 for my weight classes (broke the top ten a few times) for the rest of my carrier. I used to keep my training logs posted on the website, but I pulled them off over a year ago. Most of my training was based on rehab, and the demands on my time were getting out of control. Also, with the addition of all of our sponsored guys keeping their training logs, I really didn’t see the point. Those lifters are at the top of their game while my game was…well, I had no game.

So you may be wondering, what is the point of this article?

The Options

Why am I bringing this log back? Why would I post a training log when I do not have any plans to lift in a meet anytime soon, if at all? Why have I decided to step back from the sport? Why? Why? Why? These are some questions I have asked myself and have been asked by others several times over the past year, so I will do my best to explain.

First, I would not change a thing in my past. I am very happy with who I am and where I come from as well as where I am in my life. I have had great experiences in the sport and will always look back on it as a very positive aspect of my life filled with great times and even better memories. I have also paid my dues and have endured my fair share of injuries and setbacks. But when it is all said and done, every one of them was worth it!

I have come to a place where the cost of an injury is not worth the price I have to pay to continue my time on the platform. Without getting into the details, I am now faced with a situation that has made me step back and think. My right shoulder has already been worked on twice, and now my arthritis has gotten to the point where I have been given three options (from three different doctors).

Option 1: They go in and clean up the shoulder. This has a very low success rate for the long term, and, as I have been told, would more than likely lead to a total replacement within 12 months. This is because the surgery will cause more damage then it will solve. I am 38 at the time of this article, which would mean a total replacement before I am 40.

Option 2: A partial replacement. This will buy me more time, with the best estimate being five years. At that point, I would need to get a total replacement. But instead of 40, I will need the replacement when I’m 43.

Option 3: I cut back on the heavy pressing, change my training, and focus and work with the mobility I do have with an effort to gain a larger range of motion. This will keep the arthritis under control. With the use of a couple injection therapies and different therapeutic protocols, we could push the replacement back 10–15 years.

You would think this would be an easy decision, but when all you have done for most of your life is try to build the three power lifts, it is not an easy decision. In one respect, I could get five more years and maybe get another few good meets under my belt. I also could stop altogether and extend the life of my shoulder. One thing to keep in mind is I was also told that when you have a total replacement, the life of the replacement is based on usage. So, pretty much all training involving the joint would be over.

I have spent the past six months looking at every available therapy and speaking with several doctors and PTs who have reviewed my MRIs and medical history. I also have had many conversations with friends and family and have made the decision to go with option three.

But it was not as easy as you would think…

The Electronic Conversation

One conversation that helped me the most was an electronic one. I spent some time emailing back and forth with a friend who has been though more shit in his life than anyone should ever endure, yet always comes out on top. I trust his advice, and he always puts things in a different perspective. This conversation began after I told him about the partial replacement and how I could gain a few more years of training with it.

He replied back asking a couple questions:

“…if you did have this done and did come back, how long would the rehab take, and how long would it take you to get in shape to make another run?...”

I figured one year to get to the point where I could begin to make another run and then six months to get to the point where I would be ready to train for a meet.

Then I was asked:

“So, you assume it will take 1.5 years, and then you will be ready. Let’s assume this is the case, and you do train for another meet. What would be your main goals?”

If I made another run, I would like to squat 1000, bench 700, and pull 750. That was simple.

Hours later the next email came:

“Let me ask you something. When was the last time you ever went 9 for 9 in a meet and walked away with 4 personal records?”

I had to think about this one. I emailed back that this had happened once in 1988. I have to admit, I was now wondering where this was going, and I was beginning to get a little irritated.

The next morning, I get the next email:

“Okay, so we can assume these numbers will not happen in the same meet. So let me ask several questions. How many meets will it take, and will you have the time? You told me it once took 6 years to break a bench record. Are you sure you will have 6 years? Let’s also assume your goal is to bench 700, and you go to the first meet and miss it. Then what? You go to the next and try again. Now let’s say you make it, but destroy the weight. Then what? Are you going to tell me you will walk away then? So if you make it, and think you have more, you are back in the game. If you miss it, your determination will not let you walk away. Last question. When did you start powerlifting? 1983?

 

The way I see it is you have to decide how much of your body you want to give before you back off. I am sure you can find a way around this. You found your way around all the other ones. But, after all the years of abuse, and let’s face it, you are injury prone, what will be next? Do you want you kids to grow up with a dad that can hardly move, toss a ball, or play in the front yard, or do you want a bench press you will never be satisfied with? What do you remember about your childhood? Was your dad there, or was he not? You, my friend, can choose what you want YOUR kids to remember.”

You would think that this would be all I needed. Think again …

The Contribution

I love to train, and a replacement is not something I want to do. But, it seems I will have to at some point. The biggest deciding factor came down to my kids. They are two and four years old, and I would hate to not be able to train with them when they get older. For years, I have been preaching the importance of contribution and giving back to all those who helped us get to where we are. There are many lifters out there who took the time to show me things in the gym when they didn’t have to. But, they did because they wanted to. These lifters, coaches, and teachers helped shape my training and, in many ways, my life. I have always said I owe it to them to pass on the same type of service, information, and help that they gave me. I feel very strongly about this, and you can see it on the website, in the Q & A, in the seminars, and in everything else I do, except for my kids…

Until now.

Now you see where I am coming from. This is not about being hardcore or seeing who has the biggest set of balls or who can last the longest. This is about leaving a legacy with those I care most about. Many of the most important lessons and values I ever learned happened in the gym. And while my kids will do what they want to do, they will learn many of the same lessons in many of the same ways I did—in the gym.

I know this because I will be there.

This decision is more for them that anything else. Maybe this is what being a father is all about? Maybe not? Who knows? All I know is that I am now comfortable with my choice.

So I thought…

The Clean Up

With this decision behind me, the next decision was what to do with my training. It is no mystery that competitive athletics is not a healthy thing to do. I figured there was no point in force feeding myself to weigh over 300 pounds if I was not going to be stepping on a platform anytime soon. The first thing I decided to do was cut my weight and work on all the other mobility issues I have been dealing with. I placed weight loss on the back burner and decided to address the mobility issues first. This led to 4–5 months of three workouts per week just focusing on rehab and mobility. To be honest, I hated this training. I hated everything about it. It was boring, it wasn’t taxing, and it killed my training spirit all together. I actually began to hate going into the gym.

In time, all my little issues went away, leaving me with only the right shoulder. This was a good time to reexamine my training and what I wanted to do. My goal was (and is) to take my weight down, but keep (and build) as much muscle as I can. I have a minor in nutrition and spent years bodybuilding, so dieting is nothing new to me. I set my course of action, and began my diet. I will leave the training aside for a moment.

To make a long story short, I found that my body was rejecting healthy foods. I was physically getting sick each time I tried to clean up my diet. I have spent the last 8–10 years force feeding myself to keep my weight up. I have a very high metabolism and need a very large amount of calories to maintain my weight and even more to gain. To do this, I ate as much junk as I could. This was the best and easiest way to get the calories I needed. Was that right? Maybe. Did it work? Yes. As a matter of fact, it was the only thing that worked for me so I see it as the right thing to do. My weight went up, my lifts improved, and my blood work stayed in check.

Now I had a problem, and I needed to find some help. Over the years, I have had wonderful opportunities to meet and network with many of the best trainers, lifters, coaches, doctors, and other people in the fitness and medical fields. These people have offered great advice over the years, and so I turned to them when I needed to find the best nutrition guy for my situation. John Berardi’s name kept coming up. I met John at the SWIS Symposium last fall, and I remember him saying that if I ever needed anything to give him a call.

Given the situation, I really only had one option…

The Call

I guess he was a bit shocked when he received my email asking him when would be a good time to call. But he did email back, and I made the call. I have never been very candid regarding my views on the importance of nutrition in strength development. I still have a long way to go, so my current views may change. Although I think too many lifters get strong with little emphasis on nutrition, I still feel that if you eat a lot you will cover the bases as far as strength goes.

I told John about my problems, and while I was waiting for him to laugh (and he may have been—I just didn’t notice), he told me he understood and asked about my commitment to fixing the problem. A deal was made, and we decided to move forward. John has already written one article about what has now become known as “The Project.” It can be found at #.

We spoke for some time and have corresponded through close to a hundred emails as the process has evolved. John sent me a 16-page plan, his precision nutrition kit (the cookbook has made a huge difference), and a list of supplement recommendations. I won’t go into all of the details now, but as my log evolves, I will comment on each of these items.

I’ll also post a few of the Dear John letters. These are the progress update letters I have sent to John each week (or more depending on what I am dealing with). Many of the first ones detailed my life hour to hour to allow John to completely individualize my plan to the lifestyle that I lead. Before the program was created, I was also asked to have blood work, body comp, blood pressure, heart rate, and circumference measurements taken. Additionally, I found out later that John had contacted five friends of mine to ask them about my commitment level and the type of lifestyle I really lead. So, it’s safe to say that John did his homework for this.

My first test results were…well…not very good, but I’ll save those for his next article. I will say that my weight was around 296 with a callipered body fat around 18 percent. My cholesterol was very high (my good to bad ratio was very bad), my liver enzymes were off the chart, and there were a zillion other things. These are all pretty understandable though when you look at my past dietary practices in John’s first article (#).

Now for the hard part…

The Training

Before I contacted John, I had already made major changes to my training. Many of you read about the work I did with Alwyn Cosgrove and Michael Hope regarding the development of my base rehabilitation program. During the latter portions of the year, Dr. Ryan Smith also helped me with a few different therapy protocols and various exercise suggestions. I’ve already mentioned how enjoyable this training was so there’s no need to recap. With the exception of the shoulder (which is 50 percent better), everything worked.

With my body now pretty much intact, I needed to develop a template that would help me establish my goals (to be listed later). Here is what I knew…

  1. My body and joint would not be able to handle heavy abuse at this time.
  2. My GPP (conditioning) was very low from only doing rehab work three days per week.
  3. My training volume was going to have to increase greatly to allow for maximum fat burning and muscle stimulation.
  4. I would have to avoid certain movements completely during the first phases for both physical and mental health reasons.
  5. Time is a factor. I travel frequently and never know where I will be from one week to another, or better yet, one day to another.
  6. I know how my body grows best, which is with high volume and very heavy training with each region being trained 1–2 times per week.
  7. I know how I am and what I will react to. Fluff sets and reps will not work for me. I need the metal challenge. I need to feel like I may puke from time to time. I need to train my ass off and lift heavy things. There is no way around it. I need training that makes me feel proud. It may not be heavy bench pressing using the max effort method, but I have to have heavy stuff in my training. The trick is how to get this done without killing myself in the process. For now, anything under three reps will be out unless used for dynamic work.

Number six was the main goal; that is where I needed to be. The goal was to get total movements up to 7–10 (not including warm-ups) at four sets each with the last two sets being very difficult, and the last being an all out effort. To do this, I would also need 5–6 training days per week.

I couldn’t go from where I was to the training parameters described above. That would lead to overtraining within ten days, if not sooner.

I needed to build a bridge to take me from point A to point B…

The Bridge

This bridge was set up to add one training day per week for three weeks. Each training day would include 2–3 main movements plus sled and/or prowler work. I also included a lot of sledge hammer, kettlebell, and other implemental training. The goal here was to increase my overall GPP without placing huge, specific demands on the individual muscle groups. The selected movements would make up the core of the program, and were based on movements that I haven’t done in the past five years including decline dumbbell presses, prone bench side raises, up rows, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, E-Z bar extensions, curls (any type), leg presses, close squats, and many others.

Right away I realized that I really sucked at these movements, and many I didn’t even have the mobility to do. Others were just weak, very weak! I also discovered that over all the years of building strength, my focus was on “the movement,” not the “muscles” being trained by the movement. When I used to do rows, I did them to build the bench press. Since the goal was to build the bench press, the row was only done with the bench press in mind. The first priority was to build the bench and the second was to use more weight. The goal was never to work the lats to the largest extent. Before I continue, I feel this is the correct way to train for strength and is the one, very huge thing that separates strength athletes from bodybuilders. But, I wanted to change my focus for two reasons. One, at this point, strength is not my main goal, keeping muscle is. And two, by changing the focus from the movement to the muscle, less weight will be needed to create the effect I want. One last bonus is that I want to bring up all those little muscles that may in turn help build overall body strength.

Lastly, I would be avoiding max effort and dynamic effort methods for the first few cycles. I feel these methods play a huge role in building muscle mass, but for now I would get greater training effects using different repetition methods. The max effort and dynamic effort methods have been the driving force behind all of my training cycles for the past 12 years, so I’m pretty sure that this change will have a huge effect on my muscle hypertrophy.

All of this leads us back to where we are now…

The Now

So where am I right now? After three cycles, I’m right where I wanted to be. My volume is up to 7–10 main movements per day with four sets per movement (and the last two are very hard). My body also has figured out how to train using muscles instead of movements, and the weights I’m using for all of my movements are almost twice as heavy as they were when I started this process. Most of all, my movements are stronger than when I was training for the sport. BUT…and this is a big BUT…they were only trained as accessories at that time, and now I don’t have to use most of my recovery time trying to recover from max effort and dynamic effort work.. Because of this, I should be stronger on these movements. I’m not stronger on the main movements I used to use though. All I can do now is stick with each movement I use until it quits getting better, and then switch it.

Here’s the template for the cycle I just finished. While this may seem like a body part split, please read the notations because they’re important. All movements used four sets that usually looked like the following.

Set 1, 15–20 reps light

Set 2, 10–12 reps moderate

Set 3, 8–10 heavy

Set 4, add weight over set three, and try to get 8–12. This is all out.

Day 1: Lower body. Begin with prone mobility work (5–7 minutes). Then, train six leg movements with one being single leg, one hamstring stretch-type movement (i.e. RDL), GHR, and some calf work followed by heavy ab work.

Day 2: Anterior. Same warm-up. All chest training involved one short-range press. I used a half foam roller with the bench press, one dumbbell movement, and two adduction movements (not on an incline). All tricep training was single arm dumbbell or cable.

Day 3: Postier. This back day involved three-quarter, row-type movements and four sets of rear delt and external cuff work (total 4–6 movements). Two movements of any type of curls were added.

Day 4: Off.

Day 5: Single leg, lower body with abs.

Day 6: Anterior with zero movements on a flat bench and more lateral raise work on all plaines.

Day 7: Junk day. I used this to do whatever I wanted to do. That ended up being some upper back work, neck, traps, and other things to help balance the total volume of the training week.

It may look like a mess to you, but it worked for what I wanted. I’m in the process of putting the next phase together. This will be posted in the training log after I work the bugs out. The key thing I look at with each of these templates is to make sure I’m working toward the overall plan, not away from it.

If you’re like me, you’re still wondering why I even post this stuff…

The Dynamics of a Group

After John’s article was posted, I received close to 100 emails and 40 calls all saying how poor my diet was and that it’s good I’m getting on the right track (who determines what is right and wrong anyway?). The way I see it, I’m not on the right track or wrong track, just another track. Who knows where it will lead me, but the ride should be interesting. These emails and conversations made me decide that it may be a good idea to share that ride with everyone. This wasn’t an easy decision because I have judged myself for most of my life on how much I can lift. I’ve been introduced to friends, at conferences, and to business executives as Dave Tate, the guy who squats and benches X. This is the world we live in, and for me, it’s the world of the guy who spends his life in pursuit of bigger numbers. This is the track I rode for most of my life. And this is the track that I know and feel comfortable with.

To post a log going down a different track will be uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, it will suck. That’s why it’s not going to happen. The main goal of my training is to merge what I love to do.

Stop!

Let’s define this some. I love to train my ass off, go heavy, and be challenged in the gym. There’s nothing like it ANYWHERE in the world. I love pushing myself to do things I have never done, and I love the feeling of total exhaustion after a session. I love everything about the challenge, and I love having to change my mindset when I walk into the gym. I love the strain, the pain, and the result.

The main difference this time around is that it will be the journey I am after, not the destination.

My training will be built on filling the need I have, the love I have, for training hard while matching the goals I have set in front of me. This alone has brought the fight back into my training that had been missing for some time.

But, this didn’t happen all by itself…

The Big Three

There were three people responsible for making this happen (they know who they are). They feel this log would be a great service to the website and those readers who are interested in the same goals and that it will show a different approach to training, one that I haven’t written about yet. They feel this will help put an end to all the “how do I get big?” questions, and that it will show many people how to use the three main principles of tension (max effort, dynamic effort, and repetition method) in a different setting. They also feel this will keep the process honest. If you see what I’m doing, than you’ll know who is working with me and who is not. I’ve already had one email asking me why I contacted so and so for advice, yet I never even contacted that person.

So for now, I’ll put the blame on them. Although I know in time, I’ll be thanking them because I know I’ll learn a lot on this ride and so will you.

But all rides have to start somewhere…

The Trip

Once a year, I get in my truck and drive back to many of the neighborhoods I grew up in, apartments I used to rent, houses I lived in, weight rooms and gyms I trained in. I like to take this time to reflect on where I come from, where I have been, and what I have been through. I try to think of the mindset I had when I was in those places. What obstacles did I have to overcome? What challenges did I have to face? These challenges and obstacles were part of the defining moments that moved me from one stage of my lift to the next. Each of these places symbolizes very specific challenges and moments I had to endure. Yet, each place also marks a new direction in my life, a new success, and now, a hope for what comes next. I have been very lucky that these challenges helped shape my life and make it what it is today. High cholesterol and a bum shoulder are just part of the residue left over from the crap I had to overcome to be the person I am today. The way I see this whole process is that it’s just like another house I will be driving by in years to come.

I’m sure the road ahead will be a mess, and the flow of information will not be in a nice complete package. I know there will be failures, mistakes, and miscalculations, but we all know life is not as pretty as many make it out to be. Nor is training.

Things get messed up, the best plans go astray, and right when you think you have things under control, you get tested again.

Welcome to the reactivation…

Click here for Dave’s training log, program goals, Dear John letters, test results, and whatever comes next…

Final note: Rest assured, I am not trading in my poly gear for spandex, and I will not be wearing sunglasses in the gym regardless of what anyone says.

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