Q & A with Dave Tate

Posted by Jason Ferruggia on August 3, 2009

This is an interview from the winter of 2006 that I did with my good friend, Dave Tate. Since many of you may have missed it the first time around I decided to repost it. Enjoy…


I’ve never met “Big Bad Dave Tate.” I have never even met Dave “Fuckin” Tate. Supposedly this is some terrifying lunatic who would throw you through a wall for squatting less than 800 pounds in his presence or suck the brains from your skull if you looked at him wrong. At least that’s what I have read on the internet.

I only know the Dave Tate who I exchange hilarious daily emails with, trade business and life advice with and on many an occasion, drink a few too many beers with.

On a recent weekend in February, Dave was in Jersey for some business and as usual we got together and had a few drinks and a lot of laughs. He also came to watch me train a group of athletes and told me afterward that he had never seen kids with better form before. This, of course, has nothing to do with the story; it’s just a shameless plug I had to insert because it’s quite a compliment coming from the big man himself.

The morning after Dave and I partied till the wee hours of the night I got a call from him. He was stranded at the airport as the blizzard of ’06 was about to dump two feet of snow on the Tri State Area. Without hesitation I picked Dave up and we headed back to my house.

We were watching the Olympics as the snow came piling down when we decided to do an impromptu interview/ Q&A session. There is no rhyme or reason or flow to the interview, it was just random thoughts tossed back and forth as we sate on the couch drinking beer and eating pizza.

JF: What was the proudest moment of your powerlifting career?

DT: When I won the IPA nationals. I always wanted to win a national competition. Since I was a kid that was all I wanted to do. It was also the first time I squatted 900. It sounds stupid since there are a zillion federations but I still wanted to do it. It was also the first time my total broke into the top 10 for my weight class.

JF: What are your thoughts on mobility work?

DT: The pendulum swinging. You only need to train what’s weak in your athlete. It should be tested, if it’s needed do it, if not keep it out. People don’t have the time to do everything nor do they need to do everything.

It’s more important for the older lifter.

JF: And if people do need mobility and flexibility work you want them doing it in the power rack, right? (sarcastic remark, of course)

DT: Keeep your shit outta my rack. The power rack is the temple of the weight room. It’s made for going heavy. I can live with doing chins but keep your curls and stretching and duck unders the hell outta my power rack. Okay, while this is all said in fun I do feel many have lost sight of what the power rack was intended for.

JF: High frequency training?

DT: It has its place. High frequency training is a method, not a training system. It can be used for bringing up weak points. I’ve used this and recommended it but the volume is controlled though and I’ll use the empirical rule of 60%. Beginners can do it but advanced lifters will overtrain quicker than hell. If some one needs to cut bodyfat, then sure they can do high frequency training. If they need to get bigger and stronger; no way. Turn the dial because you’re on the wrong frequency.

It has its place for specific purposes.

JF: What would you rather do, bi’s and tri’s or squat?

DT: (Thinks long and hard) Squats. Nothing’s better than a good pop off a box.

JF: I know that, much to Cosgrove’s dismay, you love your arm workouts these days, though. Speaking of which how big are those guns?

DT: Over twenty one inches. I needed to get them measured for my bench shirt so that’s how I know that.

JF: Dude, I just saw you measuring them in the kitchen before but whatever you say. How does some one get arms that big?

DT: Train your triceps; tri’s for guys, curls for girls.

JF: Everyone’s gonna want specifics so what should you do exactly?

DT: Board presses, floor presses, bench presses, close grip bench presses, rolling dumbbell extensions. I’ve always been a huge believer in pushdowns for many reasons; they keep the tri’s fresh and drive so much blood in there. They also are good for elbow health. I have always done some kind of press, extension and pushdown for as long as I can remember.

JF: What about bi’s?

DT: I’ve never been a big fan of bicep training even when I was bodybuilding. I always started with something heavy like a barbell curl. Then finished up with whatever I could do to get the most blood in there. If you want big arms make sure to keep hammer curls in there. Cables never did much for bicep development, stick with barbells and dumbbells.

I think if you are training for big arms, direct arm work is a must. If you are doing a lot of pulling and rows already then your biceps work is going to have to be a lot of isolation work.

Unless it’s a bodybuilder, I have never programmed a bicep movement in to a workout.

In the same respect I have never put in a calf exercise or a forearm exercise, and very few quad movements, direct quad movements. Unless it’s a step up, but I don’t know what people consider that to be; I consider it hip dominant.

JF: Well it depends on the height of the box. If it’s a lower box then it’s quad dominant; if it’s a higher box it’s hip dominant.

DT: True. So revisiting movement pattern splits it could be a vertical push since you push your foot straight down into the bench. Which makes me think, what is a leg press, is it a vertical press since I am pushing into the machine? So should I do it on my vertical press day? Well now I’m training legs three days per week.

If a step up is not a vertical push then what is a calf raise?

At least with the body part split you fucking understand, oh I feel it in my back; it must be back. What the hell is a sit up? What day does that go on? What’s a side raise? Is a deadlift a vertical pull or a hip dominant movement? If it goes on vertical pull day now we’re training our legs four times per week. There is also a horizontal leg press as well, what day does that go on? What about a lying leg curl, that’s a vertical pull. So now you are training your legs every single day.

Not only that, but quad dominant is not a movement pattern, last time I checked my biomechanics book.

JF: What about a front raise, bent over rear delt raise, or better yet a reverse crunch; what days do they get trained on?

DT: Exactly.

JF: What’s the most important personality trait a coach or trainer must possess?

DT: Awareness. Going further than listening, you need to be able to understand the personality of the person you are working with. If you are working with some one who is motivated by positive reinforcement you need to be aware of that. If you have some one who responds better to negative reinforcement you need to be aware of that. You need to look at every client or athlete as a puzzle first, person second because you need to figure out what goes where. It is the simple things you need to know how to pick up one.

At a recent seminar while teaching someone how to squat I will tell her to sit back, keep the chest up, knees out and so on. This was not working so I had to look for reasons why this was not sticking and the message was not being received. I pick up on that every time I gave a command this person would look at them selves. If I said knees out she would look at her knees. Right away I knew I was using the wrong cues. This is a very visually oriented person so I change the commands to “picture you knees out” instead of knees out. Now the head stayed up and she used her minds eye to see what she had to do. This fixed the problem right away.

If I would not have picked up on this I may still be there trying to teach her how to squat. This is not rocket science but basic communication skills that are more important than people think. Coaching and Personal Training is nothing more than communicating training to the person you are working with. Everyone spends countless hours on the training aspect but if the message is not passed from one to another then it does not matter what you know.

JF: Let’s switch gears for a second. What’s your favorite movie ever?

DT: Serenity, Any Given Sunday, Scarface.

JF: Favorite band?

DT: Santana, Garth Brooks, all jazz, I like listening to music outside of the gym that has a calming effect because I have a very aggressive personality.

JF: What about your favorite rapper?

DT: Umm, I was into DMX big time for a while but I’m sick of him now. Maybe Jay- Z? No, I think I’d have to go with The Notorious B.I.G.

JF: Favorite song?

DT: Garth Brooks – The Dance. There are others, but it always changes, that’s the one that comes to mind right now and is always on the list.

JF: Recently I saw you fall on the floor in laughter when someone walked into a seminar wearing a wife beater. Have you changed your views on wearing wife beaters in public?

DT: Absolutely not! Unless you’re loaded with tats, no way. Even if you’re jacked, unless you have a ton of tattoos, no way, you can’t do it. You can buy a fucking tank top. I have no problem with tank tops but wife beaters, no way.


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