Edge

Dave Tate: The Strongest Guy in the Room

The Elite FTS founder has made fitness more than a lifestyle, it's his life.

 

Dave Tate goes to the gym for the same reasons you do. He’s that kid who turned to lifting weights and stuck with it because lifting weights brought him to places nothing else could or would. He found training the same way you did, he’s not letting go of it as hard as the world pulls, and he’s sparked an industry-wide revolution in the process.

Tate, founder and CEO of fitness industry giant Elite FTS, tried out the Internet for the first time in 1998, looking for information to help enhance his own training. Working as a trainer at the time—and training as a competitive powerlifter with Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell Club in Columbus (OH)—he noted the dearth of quality training sites online and sought to remedy the situation by developing a simple Q&A site where readers could find no-bullshit lifting information provided by Tate and others he respected.

What he never envisioned, however, was a multi- million-dollar fitness conglomerate that’s become the de rigueur equipment supplier for dozens of major universities and professional sports franchises. Tate’s initial notion—formed on a computer in a spare bedroom and financed on a credit card—was to simply bring people together and expose his readership to the merits of multiple disciplines with which they weren’t entirely familiar.

“Everything was segmented back then,” Tate says. “Strength coaches did what they did, powerlifters did what they did, and personal trainers did what they did. Nobody respected the other guys. Trainers said nobody else knew what they were doing because they weren’t certified. Coaches said trainers had no real world experience. And nobody thought physical therapists knew what they were doing because they couldn’t lift any real weight. It was this whole Ping-Pong battle going on all over the place.”

ONLINE EVOLUTION

Over the next decade, Tate transformed his site into cyberspace’s ultimate filter—the launching pad for virtually every new and innovative training idea in the fitness industry today. From kettlebells to the Prowler to band and chain training, Tate himself may not have invented any of it, but his stamp of approval is quite possibly the most powerful form of validation in the business. If you see someone pushing a Prowler, benching with a fat bar, or flipping a tire, chances are you can trace the concept’s informational lineage back, somehow, to Tate and his site’s Q&A staff.

“You’ve got all this stuff going on all over the world,” he says, “and the bigger you can get the top of the filter to pull all this stuff in, the more likely you are to have something good come out the other side. That’s where ideas like the Prowler are generated and refined.”

The process is simple, but the gamut that an idea has to run is decidedly not.
 A product is pitched to Tate as something EFS should carry. He’ll then run it past his staff—renowned specialists like Alwyn Cosgrove, Joe DeFranco, and Matt Kroczaleski—sending them prototypes for their own use if necessary. From
 here, Tate gathers feedback and suggests modifications to his manufacturers. What comes back is a piece of equipment high- level coaches and trainers can actually use—or, as is often the case, another piece of junk for Tate’s sizable scrap heap. “Vendors and wholesalers are really good at what they do,” Tate says, “which is making products. They’re not so good at making products that work at the grassroots level, and that’s where our process of running stuff through the filters helps everyone.”

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