Learn to Train Seminar Recap

This past weekend I had the pleasure of taking part in Elite Fitness Systems’ “Learn to Train” seminar series. Dave Tate runs a fantastic event, and the best part is, a huge portion of the proceeds go to fulfilling the dreams of a child in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Below is my recollection of the weekend. Keep in mind I only slept about 10 hours total over a 72 hour span, so things may be a bit fuzzy!


The alarm went off at 4:30 am. Lil’ Stevie has a disdain for being late, so he wanted us at IFAST early.

And really, who am I to complain? At least I didn’t have to drive!

In the 2.5 hours it took to get from IFAST to the Compound in London, Ohio, I was nothing if not productive. I wrote 8 training programs, and outlined a template for an upcoming article in Muscle and Fitness.

The Compound is where any lifter wants to be buried when they die. Seriously, this facility has everything you could ever want – racks, barbells, dumbbells, and every bar and machine you could ever dream up.

The weekend started with opening words from Dave about why he started the seminar series. Quite simply, one weekend at a seminar like this can improve your technique, help you understand the training process, and fast-track your progress for months or even years.

But most importantly, it’s about giving something back. And not just to the lifters, but to others as well.

At this point, Dave had the lovely Jen Comas Keck read a letter from the mother of a Make-A-Wish child. I had seen this myself a few weeks back, but I can say it honestly gave me chills. It’s amazing to know that some of your hard work and dedication have so powerfully influenced the lives of others.

It also reaffirmed why Dave and Elite are a first-class organization, and one that I’ll work for as long as they’ll have me!

The first speaker was James “The Thinker” Smith. James discussed block periodization, and unfortunately, I had a meeting so I didn’t get to hear all of it.

We’re about to do some major renovations at IFAST, so this meeting was to help determine what is feasible from an equipment and layout perspective. Needless to say, I’m absolutely STOKED to see the finished product in a few months!

Next up where Brian Carroll and Jeremy Frey. What have these guys done, you might ask? Only put up some of the top powerlifting totals of all time! Both are extremely intelligent guys, and have really thought through the training process.

I can also say they were extremely open to discussing training outside of the presentation as well. Lil’ Stevie is going to lift multi-ply in August, and they gave me some great feedback and ideas to help him master (and get the most out of) his gear.

In the afternoon, Matt Kroczaleski and Jim Wendler discussed nutrition and life, respectively. I was pulled aside at various moments in time, but what I heard of both presentations was fantastic.

Sandwiched between those two superstars were myself and Ryan Smith. In our Q&A we discussed a bunch of rehabilitation and training-related topics. As I’ve said all along, my goal is to keep this group as healthy as possible. If they can stay healthy and train the way they want, they can continue to get stronger and post PR’s for years to come.

The day finished off with Dave doing a Q&A on life, lifting, and everything in between. If you are serious about training, you owe it to yourself to hear Dave speak. The guy is amazingly introspective and open about how he’s achieved his success over the years.

As Day 1 finished up, the entire Elite FTS crew headed to dinner. While it was quite tasty, I don’t think the owners understood their customers all that well.

One plate of food?


I honestly think most of the guys (and gals!) there could’ve finished 2-3 plates easy, but beggars can’t be choosers!

Dinner finished with one seemingly benign question:

Joey Smith to Stevie: “You wanna squat with us in the morning?”

Stevie: “Sure, what time?”

Joey Smith: “6:15 am”



Lance, Lil’ Stevie and I were up and rolling early this morning. I’m pretty sure Stevie didn’t sleep more than 3 hours – getting to squat with your heroes has a tendency to do that to you!

Regardless, I was up and at ’em at 5:30 am. Quick shower, some Bob Evans to go, and we were ready to rock.

I ran the monolift jacks while Carroll, Frey, Joey Smith and Lil’ Stevie squatted. Regardless of what you think of multi-ply lifting, one thing you can’t argue is that these guys are crazy strong!

I would like to tell you I remember what all of them worked up to, but I honestly can’t. All I remember was that Carroll worked up to over 1,000 with a reverse band set-up, and Frey has the most perfect squat technique I’ve ever seen. Vertical tibia, rigid spine, it was poetry in motion.

The seminar started at 9, and so did the chaos. The attendees were split up into 6 groups, and each group spent an hour at one station. Dr. Ryan Smith and I were running the assessment/prehab/mobility station.

Over the course of the next 7 hours, I feel like we did WORK! We took our groups through a sample warm-up, discussed diaphragmatic breathing, showed them how to properly execute the Y, T, I shoulder series, and even showed a few how to properly chin.

The problem here was this – the compound is loud, and I was forced to using my “coaching” voice.

This is not conducive to saving energy, or having any semblance of a voice the next day.

Regardless, I think we showed people how valuable a quality warm-up can be, as well as how to properly perform some basic exercises in the gym.

We left the Compound around 5:30, stopping only to get gas and nourishment via the amazing Cracker Barrel. I was so wiped out at this point in time I didn’t even want to talk that much training, which pretty much never happens!

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. Here are a few quick hit thoughts that I didn’t manage to work into the write-up above:

  • Jen and Michael Keck are seriously two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Plus, they are both very, very, very good looking. They need to have many babies.
  • Andy Deck has the calves of a 300-pound man. They are ridiculous.
  • Jason Pegg was getting ready for a meet the next day, and his bloat was EPIC. I hope he posts pictures of his pre-meet bloatage.
  • If I didn’t mention it before, Joey Smith is just a flat-out awesome human being. If you read this, thanks again for asking Stevie to squat with you!
  • Kroc is just ginormous. I don’t think there’s another word to describe him.
  • My good friend Chase Karnes hit a deadlift PR at his last station of the day. Nice work man!
  • Forgot to mention I did an interview with Jim “Smitty” Smith of the Diesel Crew on Day 1 as well. I’ll let you know when I get a link so you guys can check it out.
  • Steve Pucinella is even larger in real-life than he looks in his Twitter photo.
  • It was great to catch up with old friends Matt and Julia Ladewski. They are great people and love to talk shop.
  • I’m sure I’ll forget somebody, or something, from the weekend. Please don’t hold it against me – I was tired!

I think that’s it. If you guys are into learning more about training, I would make a concerted effort to get to the next Elite FTS event.

Stay strong



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  1. Sounds like a historic event! I made it all the way out to London, but a pretty rough cold kept me from attending. I blame the early flight and plane ride (which also gave me a weird bit of vertigo because of my clogged sinuses). Maybe next time I’ll drive instead. Oh well, at least I got to take a picture of the Compound from the street on Sunday. Place looks pretty sweet from all the pictures I’ve seen of the inside. What the relationship to the Lumber Yard? Is the Compound a gym that’s open to the community or is it a private gym? The gym really isn’t on the map, so I assumed it was a private gym. It’s unfortunate the townspeople don’t have a plethora of places to get fit, because a large percentage of them looked out of shape and overweight. Maybe it’s the delicious Phat Daddy’s Pizza?

  2. It was awesome meeting you Mike, and honor plus meeting Steve was even cooler. I am glad I got to meet him and train with him. I see huge potential in him. I cant wait to see you guys again and once again thank you for all your help!

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