Strength specialist Dave Tate talks about training, nutrition, supplements, and dumping oil on pizza in the quest to get big.
Five minutes before my interview with Dave Tate a new Facebook status update pings onto my screen.
It's from Tate.
"Getting ready for an interview with Nate Green. I'm LMAO right now at some of the items on my list. Random and insane!"
Tate, it seems, is a social media junkie. He posts messages on Twitter and Facebook upwards of ten times per day. What's he talk about?
Damn near everything.
That's why I interview Tate a little differently than most other contributors. There are no real questions or timeline. We just get on the phone and talk.
And that's when the most interesting shit I've ever heard comes out of his mouth.
- What would I change? Not a damn thing. The old me wouldn't listen to anything I could say to him now anyway. We can't change shit or do things differently so why bother thinking about it? I achieved my goals. I continued to get stronger. So are you asking me if I would go back and suck? Hell no.
- A lot of the habits that became very bad were out of necessity or lack of education.
- I ate clean for many years and my body-fat stayed under 10 percent till I reached 260 pounds. When I tried to break that I ran into problems. I tried to bulk clean with more chicken and rice and I was eating close to 6,000 calories per day. Doing that clean was a bitch. It was almost impossible. I could do it for one day but then it'd drop off to 3000 calories for the next two. So I had to add junk food until the only healthy thing I had left was the lettuce on my Big Mac.
- If you're trying to gain weight you have to eat more food less frequently. Fat people don't try to be fat. And when they tell you they've only eaten twice that day it's probably true. They eat big-ass meals once or twice a day and their metabolism just drops. So what you have to do is try to lower your metabolism as much as you can, because the calorie surplus will be easier to meet. It's probably not the healthiest route, but it'll get you big. You can't do it for long, though. You'll get the sloppy "drop fat" that way.
- Drop fat is when your stomach hangs over your belt like a fanny pack. Looks like a fucking tumor.
- Nutrition is different now. There are supplements that can actually make a huge difference. We're seeing some amazing things with Surge Workout Fuel. We've actually had to have people back down and take less because they were gaining muscle too quickly. We had to pull two guys off completely because they were so close to a meet and had to make weight. These are people who wouldn't gain weight before. I mean, I don't want to be a supplement whore, but if I had to school an up-and-coming lifter I'd tell him to look at pre-, peri-, and post-workout nutrition very closely.
- My old routine was McDonald's on the way to the gym, coffee during my workout, Burger King and Copenhagen post-workout.
- My new routine is Plazma™, FINiBAR™, Surge® Recovery, and a shit-load of Spike® Shooter. You tell me which is better.
- I knew a strength coach at a D1 school who used to feed his kids peanut butter sandwiches during their training. He told me, "Forget about the nutritional value. Look at the calories I just put in them." Your body can take in a lot of calories in that workout window. Peanut butter sandwiches may not be the best idea, though.
- I train twice per day four days per week using a body-part split.
- Morning: Quads
- Evening: Hamstrings and calves
- Morning: Chest
- Evening: Biceps and abs
Monday and Tuesday
- Steady-state cardio for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Morning: Back (Vertical and horizontal pulls. Sometimes deadlifts.)
- Evening: Traps (lots of shrugs) and more upper-back
- Morning: Shoulders
- Evening: Triceps
- I always make sure there are four and a half hours minimum between sessions. That's from the end of the first to the start of the next.
- My volume is very, very high. I can't train as heavy as I'd like so I'm making up for it. I'm also trying to deplete as much glycogen as possible; that way I can replenish as much as possible. I drain myself and then build back up. Make sense?
- Right now I'm at 12 percent body-fat at 287 pounds. Last week I had my blood work done and my doctor pulled out the first blood report he took before I contacted Berardi back in '06. He put them together and showed me the results. "Here you were 295 pounds and 20 percent body-fat, and there's not a single variable on this chart that's not fucked up," he said. "This one here, you're at 12 percent and only eight pounds off from where you were three years ago and there's not one variable that is screwed up." My nutrition is night and day. I've never been this lean while being this heavy.
- I used to train through everything. You're not supposed to do that. I look at it completely different now with the people I'm working with. But it depends on how far away we are from a meet. If we're outside of the five-week mark, we're gonna let them rest. But if we're inside of five weeks, they're gonna have to push it, man. I'm not gonna hurt them, but my specialty is getting people to perform optimally when they're fucked up.
- Some people will call it hardcore. I call it fast retirement.
- I like carb cycling mostly because I fucking love Fruity Pebbles and Mike and Ikes candy. Some of my super-high days are 1200 grams of carbs. My metabolism just flies. But then I gotta follow that with a low-carb day. It's fucking horrible. I can only have 200 grams of carbs that day. It's a nightmare.
- A lot of guys are going to read that and say, "Fuck you, Dave. 200 grams is not low-carb." Whatever.
- I'm not sold on one diet philosophy. I'm sold on whatever will work for you.
- The Prowler? I fucking hate it. I'm not going to bullshit anyone. I absolutely hate the fucking thing. I'll let everyone else say how awesome it is. Wendler and I took it out to a football field outside of town a while back. I don't know how much weight was on there, but it wasn't a lot. We did full-on sprints. Four times through. It was hot as fuck. I finished and just lay there and wanted to die. My lungs were on fire and the smell of fresh-cut grass made me want to puke. It took everything I had to just get to my car, drive my sorry ass home, sit on the couch and slobber for three hours. After that, I told myself that I'd never push that fucker again.
- I have a phase every year which I detailed in Stronger where I work on muscle balance, mobility and all that bullshit I hate. I have to spend at least two to three months every year taking bars off my back and getting my function back. It's all geared on getting my muscles to fire, and getting my flexibility and conditioning back.
- I have to go through that phase because the next phase is pure strength. I can't do heavy singles and triples without going through my mobility. Most guys don't do it and they're the ones who are going to be fucked up later.
- My year is split into blocks that kind of repeat every year. I spend a few months in each. What are they? Mobility, strength, hypertrophy, and a diet phase.
- I live on Curcumin. I take between 8 and 12 a day. It's alleviated the need for me to take things like Advil.
- The most underrated exercise is the chin-up. A lot of lifters I know have shoulder problems. They have very limited range of motion. I think that's because all they've ever done is lat pull-downs. They just don't put your shoulder through the same range of motion as a chin-up. Chin-ups are something I wish I would've done all the time. It's hard to lose the range of motion if you're always using it.
- Everybody wants to look at others to see which way they want to go. Everyone wants to follow. You can learn from the path others have taken but all that's going to do is give you the same results they've gotten. If you're okay with that, then it's cool. But it's not my passion.
- It's a rare individual who lets themselves be steered by what they feel is their own passion.
- Some people are put here just to be critics.
- In all honestly, the majority of people don't give a fuck about you. They have their own shit to worry about. They don't care what you make, or what you lift, or who you are. But that's fine.
- I'd love to be able to generate a million dollars in revenue for LiftStrong. I just want people to know that the strength community gives a shit about something. We're nowhere near the endurance community right now. They take action.
- There's a big problem when it comes to training with percents. If I'm going to tell you to do five reps at 70 percent of your one-rep max, the first thing you have to do is figure out just what the fuck your one-rep max is. The last time you did it could have been three months ago. Lets say you benched 300 for one rep three months ago, but you don't think you could hit that now. It'd be stupid to take 70 percent of 300 pounds and put it on the bar. That may be 80 percent of your max. You may get two reps instead of the five you're shooting for.
- You can work technique all you want at 30 and 40 percent of your one-rep max using multiple sets and low reps, but technique is still going to be influenced by what's on the bar. You may look good at 50 percent but 80 percent may look like shit.
- What I do is have people figure out their "perceived max" for the day. I don't want them to actually do an all-out one-rep set. Let's say a lifter I'm working with has done a 600-pound squat in the past. But maybe they can't hit that today. So we have to figure out where they're at right now and base our training off that perceived max. So this guy hits 495 for three reps and I ask him what he thinks. "It's too light." So he'll go up to 545 for a single and I'll ask again. "I could probably hit 585 today," he says. If I agree with him then we'll do 70 percent based off that perceived max of 585 pounds. The more experienced the lifter, the more "keyed in" he is to his training.
- Our guys just got done with a 12-week phase. Every deadlift went up thirty to fifty pounds across the board. Squats went up by 100 pounds. It wasn't even a strength phase.
- Technique is crucial. Let's say you're doing a squat and it's fucked up. Maybe your knees cave in and your chest keeps falling forward. Well, we could do a "strength" phase and put ten pounds on your squat pretty easily. Or we could just get your technique perfect and instantly add 50 pounds. It's your choice.
- I'm not looking to create lifters who are going to go out and be average. I want them at their maximum potential. I want them to crush it.
- Here's a quick story.
There was a time at the Old Westside gym where I couldn't gain weight to save my fucking life.
There was this dude who trained there who could just put on weight like fucking magic. He'd go from 198 to 308 and then to 275 and back down to 198. And he was never fat. It was amazing.
I finally asked him one day how he did it.
"You mean I never told you the secret to gaining weight? Come outside and I'll fill you in."
Now remember, we're at Westside Barbell. And this guy wants to go outside to talk so no one else can hear. Think about that for a minute. What the hell is he going to tell me? This must be some serious shit if we have to go outside, I thought.
So we get outside and he starts talking.
"For breakfast you need to eat four of those breakfast sandwiches from McDonalds. I don't care which ones you get, but make sure to get four. Order four hash browns, too. Now grab two packs of mayonnaise and put them on the hash browns and then slip them into the sandwiches. Squish that shit down and eat. That's your breakfast."
At this point I'm thinking this guy is nuts. But he's completely serious.
"For lunch you're gonna eat Chinese food. Now I don't want you eating that crappy stuff. You wanna get the stuff with MSG. None of that non-MSG bullshit. I don't care what you eat but you have to sit down and eat for at least 45 minutes straight. You can't let go of the fork. Eat until your eyes swell up and become slits and you start to look like the woman behind the counter."
"For dinner you're gonna order an extra-large pizza with everything on it. Literally everything. If you don't like sardines, don't put 'em on, but anything else that you like you have to load it on there. After you pay the delivery guy, I want you to take the pie to your coffee table, open that fucker up, and grab a bottle of oil. It can be olive oil, canola oil, whatever. Anything but motor oil. And I want you to pour that shit over the pie until half of the bottle is gone. Just soak the shit out of it."
"Now before you lay into it, I want you to sit on your couch and just stare at that fucker. I want you to understand that that pizza right there is keeping you from your goals."
This guy is in a zen-like state when he's talking about this.
"Now you're on the clock," he continues. "After 20 minutes your brain is going to tell you you're full. Don't listen to that shit. You have to try and eat as much of the pizza as you can before that 20-minute mark. Double up pieces if you have to. I'm telling you now, you're going to get three or four pieces in and you're gonna want to quit. You fucking can't quit. You have to sit on that couch until every piece is done.
And if you can't finish it, don't you ever come back to me and tell me you can't gain weight. 'Cause I'm gonna tell you that you don't give a fuck about getting bigger and you don't care how much you lift!"
Did I do it? Hell yeah. Started the next day and did it for two months. Went from 260 pounds to 297 pounds. And I didn't get much fatter. One of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, though.
- I gotta go, Nate. Gotta take a piss. E-mail me if you need anything.
I hang up the phone with Tate, grab a glass of water, and refresh my Facebook page.
Instantly, another update from Tate pings onto my screen.
"Spent close to 90 minutes speaking with Nate Green for a new T Nation interview. This will be a good one."