Strength Development For CrossFitters w/ Dave Spitz

Dave Spitz is the founder of California Strength — a household name in Olympic Weightlifting and Athletic Performance. After his own pursuit of Olympic dreams, he now spreads a core message well beyond the walls of his gym: “We need to understand the difference between regret and disappointment. Regret lingers. Disappointment fades.”

Cal Strength’s NFL Combine Prep program has developed athletes who have gone on to play on some of the most prestigious teams in the NFL. Dave also developed the Barbell WOD program, which now has thousands of data points to objectively analyze how CrossFitters respond to supplemental strength training.

In this episode, some things we chat about:

  • How Dave kept the doors open during the dark days when Olympic Weightlifting wasn’t cool (along with tons of other lessons for gym owners)
  • What goes into a great strength program for CF and other sports
  • Strengthening the bridge between Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit

Also available here:

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Show Notes:

  • (3:25) – Before Cal Strength became Cal Strength
  • (6:30) – Internal self talk when starting Cal Strength
  • (8:35) – Building your tribe and attracting the right athletes
  • (10:40) – Keeping the doors open during the dark days
  • (12:06) – 3 pieces of advice for gym owners who want to go from hobby to business
  • (14:27) – Core values to stick to if you want to specialize in athletic performance
  • (16:20) – Initial reaction when CrossFit came along
  • (20:17) – What is it about the Snatch that gets you hooked?
  • (22:20) – Tinkering with why you have limitations and what you can do to alleviate them
  • (24:20) – Growing the sport of weightlifting in the U.S.
  • (30:30) – The chess game being played at a weightlifting meet
  • (33:05) – Molding the training environment based on the stimulus you’re trying to achieve
  • (36:25) – Structuring your strength to get better at CF
  • (39:40) – What makes a great strength program
  • (41:41) – Partial range movements for Olympic Lifting
  • (43:49) – Reflecting on the trends from Barbell WOD’s data points
  • (47:20) – Preparing for the Olympics
  • (49:25) – Using your athleticism to lift the weight
  • (50:48) – Athletic development for kids
  • (53:58) – What GPP should look like before you specialize

Podcast Transcript:

Dave  00:00

This is Dave Spitz and you’re listening to the airborne Mind show. 

Misbah Haque  00:32

Hey guys, Misbah Haque here. Thank you so much for joining me today and welcome back to the show. Before we get started, if you love the show, if you want to support it, make sure you head over to and you sign up for the newsletter. You’ll stay updated with the weekly athlete digest, you’ll get a bunch of free training resources like the movement Audit Checklist, a video on how to master strict pull ups and handstand push ups and things of that nature. So once again, make sure you head over to the and sign up for the newsletter. Today’s podcast is brought to you by If you haven’t started listening to audiobooks yet, but you enjoy podcast episodes, I highly recommend you give it a shot. So if you head over to you can grab a free audiobook and a 30 day free trial. So once again, that’s  Today we get to chat with Dave Spitz, who is the founder of California strength. If you’ve never heard of Cal strength, it is a household name and Olympic weightlifting and athletic performance. Cal strengths NFL Combine prep program has developed athletes who have gone on to play on some of the most prestigious teams in the NFL. They’ve also developed the barbell wide program, which now has 1000s of data points to objectively see what makes crossfitter stronger, what works and what doesn’t. So in this episode, some things we chat about are how Dave kept the doors open during the dark days, when Olympic weightlifting wasn’t cool. We have tons of other nuggets that he gives out for gym owners. We talked about what goes into a great strength program for CrossFit and other sports. And we talked about building the bridge between Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit. So tons of stuff in here, regardless of whether you’re a gym owner, coach or athlete, I think you’re gonna walk away with some useful insights. Alright, so with that being said, Please enjoy.  Dave, welcome to the show, man. Thanks so much for being here!


Dave  02:21

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to chat about all things CrossFit and weightlifting and see if we can spark some curiosity.

Misbah Haque  02:32

I think that you are a valuable resource and guide for people in the functional fitness community. And I think two ways. And I think, you know, one is that, you know, you started barbell WOD. And so you have hundreds, if not 1000s of data points at this point, that really kind of allow you to notice the trends, compare and contrast with, you know, what works with a full time weightlifter and what works with CrossFitters. And then the other thing is, you also started Cal strength when weightlifting wasn’t really that sexy, right? It wasn’t the sport that everybody came to. So for affiliate owners nowadays, I feel like you know, they can definitely take away a lot of valuable information from the insights that you give us as well. So definitely an honor to have you on man.

Dave  03:18

I appreciate that. 

Misbah Haque  03:19

So before Cal strength was Cal strength. It was a nonprofit, is that right?

Dave  03:27

That’s right, it started as And it was funded by myself and a couple corporate sponsors, a couple of individual contributors that helped make it possible. And our mandate was just to elevate the level of competition and education and awareness in the sport.

Misbah Haque  03:49

What were you doing before you started that nonprofit? Were you coaching at this point, or what was kind of going on in your life.

Dave  03:57

I was the track and field athlete at the University of Southern California. And I retired from track in 2000. And I didn’t make the Olympic Games is I kind of set out as a goal for myself when I was a kid. And so I just retired from sports altogether. And I took a job in the finance community. So I worked in investment banking, lived in New York City for a little while and just kind of put together a corporate life that I thought was, you know, what, what was expected of me from society from everybody around me and I worked at that until, you know, I was financially where I thought I needed to be and I had a beautiful girlfriend and you know, everything should have lined up perfectly, but for whatever reason, I felt a little empty and a little unfulfilled. And so the Olympic Games rolled around in 2004 and they were in Athens Greece this time and you know, something just struck a chord notes into my desk and I started looking up weightlifting coaches in my Literally, you know, within a couple minutes of just kind of, of feeling that that that urge for the last time.

Misbah Haque  05:10

So did you start weightlifting? What age did you start weightlifting at? 

Dave  05:16

In high school, like I flirted with some Olympic variations, you know, squatting, pressing more power lifting type variations, I was a high school football player in high school track athlete. And then once I got to college, you know, we ramped that up, put a little more sophistication to the Olympic variations, put a little more sophistication to the squatting and pressing and pulling movements. And so I had a healthy background on the lifts, by the time 2004 rolled around, but I was totally D trained. I was, you know, I was, in essence, a lot of a lot of people that pick up CrossFit today, that’s exactly where I was, like, you just looking for something different, you’re looking for something to kind of, you know, fill a void or or just, you know, challenge yourself in ways that that that you miss being challenged in whether that’s competing, or whatever it is. And so, I started, you know, not really having a good understanding of how to snatch to depth and how to clean to depth because we did a lot of power variations. But, you know, I had cleaned 170 kilos or 374 pounds in college and squatted somewhere in the high fives. But so I had a reasonable base, but certainly no technical ability whatsoever.

Misbah Haque  06:30

And now once Cal strength was born, and you went from, you know, American weightlifting to Cal strength, describe that conversation in your head,  what were you kind of thinking at the time when you made that decision?

Dave  06:46

Somewhere around 2008 When I made that decision, I trained for four years in the Olympic lifts. And I went up through the 2008 National Championships. And I ultimately came out with the exact same result in weightlifting, as I did in track and field. I didn’t make the Olympics. And the journey was such that the way I felt, at the end of each experience was so starkly different, that I felt like I had to kind of continue to promote this message that, you know, we need to understand there’s a difference between regret and disappointment. Regret lingers, disappointment fades. And so as long as you and it sounds cliche, but as long as you don’t regret your effort, you don’t regret the process that you went through to achieve your goals. It doesn’t matter whether you’re successful in achieving them at all and that, to me, it may sound like common sense to everybody else. But to me, that was so revolutionary. Wait a minut,  it’s all about the journey. And it’s all about what I put into the process that matters. And so I wanted to continue to drive that message. But the economy, as you know, in 2008, nine was was in a different place than it is today. And there was no more nonprofit money there was I depleted a lot of my own financial resources. And so I needed a vehicle to drive you know, enough financial stability to continue to invest in, in weightlifting, and so look nonprofit, switched to the for profit, and we started training youth athletes and, and people in our area, in the lift and tried to promote that message.

Misbah Haque  08:35

I’m sure you know, in the early days, one of the obstacles for you was, you know, being a great coach is definitely one part of it. But the other aspect is also  lining up, I guess, with the right athletes as well and kind of, you know, attracting people to your gym who have that, you know, mindset that you’re kind of trying to work with. So, what do you feel like were some of the obstacles in the early days when you were trying to initially, you know, build that community in that training environment?

Dave  09:01

Well, initially, I wasn’t. I still don’t think I’m a great coach. When I first started off, I was a terrible coach. I was not. It was a look back at some of the stuff that we wrote programming wise and some of the beliefs that we held and it’s like, holy smokes, what an eerie double PC shit I am. But, you know, you have to kind of have to go through that maturation process. And so, when I transitioned from nonprofit to for profit, there were a number of hurdles. The first being that I had a bunch of athletes with me that had trained in this environment under this nonprofit banner. We trained in a house in Benicia, California, where we had converted the garage into a training hall so names that you know, we know and love as as as, as, as kind of icons of the sport today like Donnie Shankle James Moser, Max Ada  these guys that that were, you know, ultimately went on to do great things. But I had to transition from kind of appearing to being a business owner, and then somehow trying to continue to support these guys, through whatever knowledge I had acquired. And so there’s a huge, huge transformational adjustment that had to take place. And then, you know, I had this weightlifting team and this weightlifting organization that I really wanted to sport, but I had to build a business around that to support it. And so, you know, I had these massive outflows upfront with, you know, no, no understanding of how to run a commercial gym whatsoever. So you can imagine, there were some dark days.

Misbah Haque  10:41

So I mean, at that point, what did you do? What steps did you kind of take to make sure that, you know, you were keeping the doors open.

Dave  10:48

I ran all of my  accounts almost to zero, and then kind of just drew a line in the sand sometime around 2009. And I retired from my job, I was still kind of managing some some client assets at Merrill Lynch, and they were, they were good enough to kind of support me through my Olympic journey. But I retired February of 2009, and just rolled up my sleeves and said, you know, okay, I, I have to make this work. It’s one of those things where I, this is too important to fail. And I just, you know, I know that I can, I know that I can bring value to people. Because I think the journey that I embarked on, you know, whether it was through the track and field career or the nonprofit experience that I had, bringing these Bulgarians over apogee of, and, and these other Bulgarian athletes over and training and intermingling them with the American athletes, I knew I had something that I that I, that I wanted to pass on. And so I just drew a line in the sand and started working my ass off to create a business that was functional.

Misbah Haque  12:05

Now, if you were to kind of look back and reflect, are there certain, you know, maybe meta messages, or themes that you feel like, you know, if you had to sum up into, like, you know, three things that you could tell a gym owner today, you know, if they were just starting up, or, you know, they, they instead of, you know, it being like a hobby for them, they want to go full on and kind of commit to this thing, what what would you kind of tell them, what have you learned that you feel like you can pass on?

Dave  12:33

Number one would be keep your own counsel, so everybody has a suggestion, everybody has an idea, everybody has some sort of methodology that they want to convey to you and to, to encourage you to use and every time I I looked outside, instead of inside, I got distracted in what I executed was was not as good as it as it could have been. And I wasted a lot of time, you know, just listening to other people. If you have, if you have a vision, and you have a concept that you’ve vetted, you know, and that you believe in, stick to it, and make it work, take it personally enough to make it work. Don’t Don’t waver on your core values. The other thing is, you know, if you’re going to go out to start a business, if you’re going to leave your job, you have to, you have to kind of appreciate that being a business owner involves doing a lot of things that you don’t want to do. You know, it involves a lot of a lot of, you know, super boring accounting and financial work and things that don’t involve getting athletes better if you’re a gym owner, and then sometimes that just just kind of wears on you. So be prepared for that. Hire great people, you know, have all A players don’t settle for B and C players, I let so many people early on kind of just drain resources in a small business and the gym setting, you have to have all A players that are contributing at all times. Otherwise, it’s just that being under-resourced as it is just drives so many so many ill effects.

Misbah Haque  14:27

Were you always a, you know, was American weightlifting and Cal strength always like a sports performance facility, or was it also kind of, at some point maybe, you know, open to people who wanted to do it recreationally and just kind of come in and work out.

Dave  14:45

There were times where I would train anybody who had $1 Because we were, you know, struggling to make rent right now. The core values have always been  we want to help athletes achieve their So, that’s, that’s the mandate. And those are the things that I enjoy doing. But at the same time, you know, I went into weightlifting at a time where it was cultish and weird. And there was, you know, a couple of older guys at the top that basically coveted information and held it tight to the best. And they were condescending, and just not they weren’t welcoming in the sport was literally dying. And so I really wanted to open it up and expose people to the incredible movements into the training, to the tactical aspects of competing, and, you know, I really wanted it to be an inclusive company. So Cal strength was built on the idea that, you know, we’re going to teach everybody Olympic lifting in the hopes that we would pull the sport up by its bootstraps, and maybe a 40 year old guy who, who saw a snatch in the Olympics wanted to try it, maybe he wasn’t ever going to be successful in the movements, but maybe he had a nephew, or a son or, or maybe he could influence the next door neighbor, that could pick up the sport a little earlier, and infuse that specific knowledge and get them excited. And that’s, in large part, you know, what I’m so grateful to CrossFit for, as just exposing people to the sport.

Misbah Haque  16:17

That’s kind of what we were just talking about with, you know, CrossFit being the gateway drug to movement, you know, it’s all you can kind of think about mixed martial arts the same way, within mixed martial arts. And within CrossFit, there’s so many disciplines, that it’s really a never ending learning process if you’re, if you’re somebody who, you know, wants to explore movement. So I’m curious, what were your thoughts? When did CrossFit kind of come along? What was that like for you? What was your initial reaction?

Dave  16:46

My initial reaction was literally, this is a goldmine, I can’t believe that this thing is taking hold of people the way it is, and essentially, you know, people who grew up playing football or people who grew up doing conditioning bouts that were inherently competitive, whether it was running gassers, at the end of football practice, but people that had had that experience, you know, know how powerful it can be, to bond with a group of people who are basically enduring this adversity together. And so when I saw that I was, I mean, I’ve been a fan of CrossFit since the very beginning. But you know, I always kind of kept my identity. I was a fan from a distance, but I’ve always been a huge believer in that. All we need in this country is participation in the sport of weightlifting. And so the idea that we were driving more people into, you know, these these barbell type situations, and out of these machine type situations that it was, it was music to my ears.

Misbah Haque  17:50

I think what’s really interesting to me is that CrossFit didn’t just help bring growth to weightlifting, in the sense that there’s just now more people that are competing, there’s more people in that pool. But it became interesting to the recreational athlete to the person who’s maybe 40 years old used to run triathlons or whatever, and is now fascinated with the snatch. And I think that when you kind of think about growth, that is that saying something pretty big, because like you said, he might have a nephew who could pick it up a little bit earlier, he might pass it on to somebody else, or at the very least, now you have somebody who understands it enough that they may spectate or support the sport in some way, shape, or form. So I’m curious, like, when you first started, there’s probably none of that. Right. It was mostly people that were kind of coming in, and were committing to that competing process.

Dave  18:46

The idea that we as a country were faced with, working with people that were largely late stage adopters, anyway, so people would come, like myself Track and Field backgrounds, or gymnastic backgrounds, or, you know, football backgrounds, whatever it was, we were getting athletes that were in their 20s that that needed to pick up the the the technical nuances work on mobility and flexibility work on you know, structural balance properties work on the the neuromuscular aspects that drive a lot of the success in the lifts. And so we had this as a country, a strategic advantage in helping CrossFit athletes. Whereas if you went to a Chinese coach or a Russian coach, and you said, Hey, I need to teach this 40 year old how to lift they look at you like, Why No, no, he wants to snatch No, there’s no reason for him to snatch like, that’s, that’s ridiculous. It is a super sale. But here we were like, oh, yeah, we know how to do that. And so, you see all of these, all these things kind of converging to create an opportunity for us to be successful, because we could help CrossFit CrossFit could help us with participation and financial support. And so it’s been, it’s been awesome watching this boom.

Misbah Haque  20:12

What do you think it is about the SNATCH and maybe the other Olympic lifts too, but maybe the snatch specifically that, that does spark that curiosity that makes somebody want to try it again, when they mess up and is appealing to you know, even somebody who’s trying it for the first time, like, what is it about the snatch that gets somebody hooked? In your opinion? 

Dave  20:33

I think that you have so many different properties that you are working on to create a successful snatch you know, from it, we talked about the mobilities and requirements of the ankles, the shoulders, your your lumbar, and thoracic, you know, your hips, like all that good stuff, alongside your strength. So, you know, from us from a muscle balance standpoint, you know, you have so much going on in the posterior chain through the pole. And then you have so many interior properties in the catch and receiving positions. And then you blend in, like, you know, oh, I’ve got inter muscular coordination. So I have this sequence that my body has to perform in, for power to be created. And then you have intramuscular coordination, where you’re like, okay, like, now I’m, now I have to, like, improve my recording and frequency through those sequences to really like, continue to improve bar propulsion. And there’s just so many cool nuances of these lifts. And then, of course, there’s courage, right. So, if I, if I, if I attempt to lift and it’s, it scares the shit out of me, and I miss it, you know, and I work through some of these partial and movements, and I work through some of my technique, and I come back, you know, a month later and get it, that’s, that’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction when you’re scared of a lift when you’re scared of a movement. And then you are able to go back and work on some things and come back and overcome that fear, and go underneath and make a successful attempt. Like there’s nothing more primal or rewarding than that.

Misbah Haque  22:13

It mentally fucks with you, that’s really what it is, is like, you kind of think about why people got hooked on to CrossFit in the first place. And a lot of it was, you know, you might have tried out Fran or, or some type of, you know, workout that when you look at it on paper, you should be able to complete relatively easily, but when you can’t do it, you know, it makes you ask that question like Why can’t I do it? And and I think that, that makes people kind of keep coming back to CrossFit. weightlifting, whatever it might be.

Dave  22:41

Just like you said, the snatch is a gateway to a lot of other exercises and movements. Because once you once you realize that there’s limitations in what you’re able to do, you start to tinker with why, why do I have these limitations, and what can I do to alleviate them, and that just leads you to a whole nother host of whether it’s, you know, mobility exercises, or, or stability exercises or, or strength exercises, it just opens up all these other avenues for you to, to improve yourself. And at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about is CrossFit has done such a remarkable job of just empowering people to to research and own their own fitness, their own well being, their own performance. And that, to me has been the coolest part about this whole, this whole movement is watching smart people who are, as we all know, joining a CrossFit gym is not cheap, you know, you’ve got a bunch of like relatively intelligent, earning Wellard to go higher earners that are in there now applying different different disciplines, to these these problem sets that we’ve had, and it’s like, you have all this cool, unique perspective that’s coming out across but now I see all these CrossFit type discoveries make their way into more classical strength and conditioning elements at colleges and high schools and so frickin rad, you should be all CrossFitters should be proud of themselves for being a part of this movement.

Misbah Haque  24:11

What’s funny is, I think, the, what is it called The Biggest Loser that shows the weight loss show on TV? They, because I think Bob Harper is like, he’s, he’s a fan of CrossFit. And I think he’s, you know, he supports it. And what you started to see now on that show, even is like people are doing dumbbell snatches, you know, and even though dumbbell snatches and a barbell snatch, like the fact that the snatch is being used on television like that, it’s making people think like, Oh, what is this right? Or a commercial? Like, I think about what was on ESPN during the games this year? It might have been, I can’t remember who the athlete was, but it was maybe a Reebok commercial. And it was like, you know, he was doing a power snatch in the commercial. And I asked Danny Camargo this question because he also grew up, you know, in that same era where weightlifting wasn’t really that Sexy and if he couldn’t really imagine, or fathom the fact that it would be a commercial one day. So, you know, I’m curious now assuming that growth would be a good thing. In the next decade or so, you know, what do you think can help grow the sport of weightlifting and bring more awareness and interest in spectatorship and all that?

Dave  25:22

I think that success, right, so we create athletes that are performing at the international level, and, and, you know, achieving international standards. So, I think that’s important. And so that, that that falls on, you know, my shoulders I’ve got, I’ve got to recruit athletes that, that I believe, are going to be successful, and then put them on a path, and be accountable for their performance. I work really hard for my athletes, and there’s no reason why we can’t have that happen. So that’s, that’s number one. Number two is, you know, continuing to utilize technology to get the message out there. So the democratization of, of technique of training protocols, you know, just making sure that information is available to people, and we won gold and silver in the men shot, but this year in gold in the women shot, but, you know, it’s a strength sport, just like, you know, the SNATCH and clean and jerk. The difference between track and field and weightlifting is, you know, every kid is exposed to track at some level, right? So we throw a lot of shit against the wall, and some of it sticks. And then you combine that with the breadth of technical information out there for youngsters to pick up, whether you’re in Des Moines, Iowa, or whether you’re in Los Angeles, California, and get a grasp of good fundamentals. And so that’s what really, you know, we’ve tried to do with our YouTube channel with, you know, our train hook online programs, you know, it’s just just to provide people with access to good information. And so in a time, where, you know, online training was new, and people were charging, you know, 7500 bucks a month for online training, it’s like, I was I went the other direction, and I said, No, no, fuck that we need $10 A month, $15 a month price points that are accessible to everybody. And let’s, let’s encourage people to pick up the barbell with this information, put them on, on a well designed plan, that’s grounded in good science, and then call that data, evaluate that data, and then make the program better as a result of using it.

Misbah Haque  27:34

And now we’re definitely going to dig into barbell WOD. And before we do that, what do you how do you feel about entertainment value in the sport?

Dave  27:43

Well, I think that people take themselves very seriously in our sport, and Cal strength has done a good job of going the opposite direction. And, you know, like we have, we have a good time with this stuff. It’s  monotonous enough, you know, so we have to, we have to always kind of keep the personalities common and try and, you know, try and try and keep it fun. And, you know, from the from the personalities that I’ve had in this gym from John north, Kevin Cornell to, you know, the Glenn Penn delays and Donnie ankles and you know, now West kids and Rob Blackwell, Spencer, Mormon, those kids are like, you know, they’re all Coulter personalities in and of themselves. And so it’s like, it’s been easy to capture and put on, on, on on film, but I’m, I hope we’re entertaining.

Misbah Haque  28:31

What I like is that we’re seeing more of and I think flow elite puts out a lot of stuff like this, but like, we’re seeing more maybe athlete interviews, Coach interviews, like we’re doing right now. You’re seeing kind of behind the scenes, like documentary type of thing, like, like you do with CrossFit as well, right. Like, on the athletes or, you know, behind the scenes warming up and things like that. It’s cool to have that sense of connection and see what’s going on in their mind and what they’re thinking of. And so I think we’re seeing more of that in weightlifting, and that helps provide a bit of connection for somebody who’s familiar with the snatch, but maybe they don’t keep up with what’s going on in that community. It helps kind of draw them in just a little bit. 

Dave  29:18

We filmed so much good content with with our tech partner train, bro, and they’re building a video that basically outlines West kits. path to that American record that he broke. And so you’re talking about a kid that’s maybe he’s been training with me for just over a year. He’s been in the sport for about two years, you know, getting on stage and snatching 382 pounds of ever 174 is weighing 230 pounds. You know, he’s just a great athlete that we’ve, you know, taught weightlifting to. And so, to be on that journey with him i i hope you know, the CrossFit community will be able identify with This is not, this is not some guy that’s been training since he was 12 years old, you know, the 10,000 hour rule doesn’t necessarily apply. If you have great levels of GPP. And you have, you know, a good a good natural athlete to begin with, we could teach him weightlifting and have success. Now, he’s, he’s still 20 kilos away from international standards, a group international standards. But I think another couple years, we’re going to get there.

Misbah Haque  30:25

So what I was getting out with the behind the scenes type of thing, and before I lost, my train of thought is running counting cards, and that whole process that’s going on back there, that the average person when they’re kind of sitting there, you know, maybe it’s your mom or dad that’s sitting there and kind of watching you, nobody really sees anything else, except you coming and hitting your attempts, could you kind of educate the audience a little bit about what’s going on, you know, backstage and behind the scenes?

Dave  30:53

There’s two primary components. Number one, you have to just like anybody here listening who’s worked up to a one rep max before, whether it’s in the snatch or clean and jerk, you know, that there are maybe six to eight attempts that you need to work into your progression before you’re making that attempt. And so you have to coincide in a competition, those attempts in the backroom with your opening attempt on the platform, so that you’re warmed up. And so figuring out how to space out your warm up attempts, so that they coincide with attempts that are going on in the competition is important. So typically, what we’ll do is every three attempts on the platform, we make one lift in the back, for a warm up. And so you know, documenting our different attempts. And spacing that out properly is the first step. And then once you get into the competition, you know, an athlete has 30 seconds to declare a weight after they make their attempt. And then you have to change attempts from there to change the weight on the bar. So as long as the bar hasn’t passed you by you can go up or down. And so the ultimate goal is to obviously total more than your competition. And it takes a lot of cool tactical twists and turns as you’re jockeying to either pigeonhole your competition, so they run out of change attempts, and your your your lifter is, is in a position to win on the platform, or, you know, just just to make sure that, you know, you’re, you’re putting your lifter in a strategic strategically advantaged position. So whether that’s taking some of these two minutes clocks or, or whatever that is, there’s so many, you know, mini chess battles that are happening between the coaches, to get these lifters in a position to be successful. It’s so much fun being a weightlifting coach, because you’re an active participant. You know, that’s, that’s kind of different than, than a lot of a lot of different events. If you’re spiritual in the shot, but it’s like, Okay, go right up and have fun. Here, you’re battling the entire time.

Misbah Haque  33:02

And also the environment in a weightlifting meet, versus maybe a CrossFit competition. Definitely, there’s a little bit of a difference there. So I’m curious, when we could kind of go back to your gym, what is the training environment, like at your gym? Like, is it very, you know, raw and, like, not  aggressive, raw, and like motivating, like, what would you describe the environment of Cal strength to be.

Dave  33:27

I would say that it depends upon the cycle that we’re in. So it is very important to me to lead from the top down. And so the environment that we create has to coincide with the training that we’re trying to get done. And so, you know, if it’s, if it’s a Friday, where we’re all trying to go and hit big numbers in an intensification or realization phase, you know, it’s a very controlled chaos, where we are really kind of focused and, you know, the music isn’t turned up so high, and everybody’s kind of, you know, really focused on movement. And making these attempts. If we’re in an accumulation phase, where we’re squatting, you know, tons of volume and pulling tons of volume, and we’re just getting work done then it’ll get rowdy. Let’s get rockin, let’s crank the music and it becomes more of a CrossFit type environment. So the energy of the gym matters and how I’m psychologically behaving with my athletes matters given the cycle. I think the biggest difference between weightlifting and CrossFit competitions is CrossFit you can make some mistakes and still recover, there’s if you if you screw up a workout on day two of the CrossFit Games. It’s not a death sentence unless you’re competing as Matt Fraser last year, but  you have opportunities to rebound and recover because it’s a marathon, not a sprint. In weightlifting. You have three attempts in the snatch three attempts in the clean and jerk So precision is so incredibly important.

Misbah Haque  35:02

How do you mold that? How do you mold that energy in that environment, as a coach, when you’re kind of, you know, trying to get everybody to kind of think a certain way or feel a certain way, so that they can, you know, make the most out of the training?

Dave  35:16

Well, I think the first, the first and most important thing you have to do as a coach is develop rapport. So, you know, the tweaks that you make to the environment are meaningful. And you know, it can be, it can be an incentive, it can be a carrot, or it can be a stick and be a punishment. Or it can be some sort of manufactured competition for that, you know, there’s all kinds of different ways to tweak the environment, you can kick everybody out of the gym, like practices over Get out, you know, or, you know, or today, today, we know what we’re gonna, we’re going six singles at 90% in the snatch, you know, 100 bucks for everybody that makes the siccing those that 90%, you know, something, whatever it is, that kind of harnesses your resources and your personality. I think that just having an overriding goal, or, or, or plan for the type of stress that you’re trying to create, you know, that’s part of the art of being a great coach is figuring out how to then levy that stress.

Misbah Haque  36:21


Let’s dig into the barbell water a little bit. So, the one thing that, I think when we look at CrossFitters, who are kind of transitioning to weightlifting, or they just simply want to start practicing the lifts more, and they know that it’s a weak point, they want to improve, you know, some things that, you know, you kind of see is, people still hammer away at the, you know, met cons, right, they don’t back up off of the mat, cons, or they take on a training program that maybe a little bit too much for their lifestyle, they’re working a full time job, they’re, they’re doing Metcons already, like there’s a lot of stress that’s going on. And so even though, you know, you may be able to keep up with that training program and get really strong really fast. It’s something that may not be sustainable, right? So what do you feel like? How is barbell WOD? Different from what you would give like a full time weightlifter? How is it accommodating to the CrossFit athlete?

Dave  37:20

So when I when I first envisioned barbell WOD, you know, we work with a lot of NFL athletes, we’ve been fortunate enough to develop some high schoolers that went on to college to play and then, you know, came back for combine preparation and this organic process developed where we do a lot of Offseason training for some some big names in the NFL. And for those guys, they still have to practice a lot of their sports specific and tactical components of the game, wall driving athleticism, and and function. So, by that I mean, if you’re an offensive lineman, you still have to go out there and do all of your blocking drills and hit your bags and do all of the work to to continue to improve your skill set as alignment, you also have to get in there and study film and you know, take take mental reps and improve your tactical preparation. So you’re sports specific, and tactical, need to be married with your weight room activities. And then with your conditioning activities, because you can’t, you can’t get out of shape, you still have to use your energy, train your energy systems. And so we were uniquely suited to be able to build a program for the CrossFit community. And essentially what I did was to say, Okay, if CrossFit is a sport, and it’s a sport of working out, how do we create a more structured strength program that’s going to drive results over the long term for these individuals. And you know, war, it’s awesome to be constantly varied and adaptable, and all this good stuff. Strength, development has to be structured. So you can randomize met cons, but you need to structure your strength. And so putting CrossFit into basically an annual plan where, you know, we had some basic Block Periodization built in, but giving enough leeway so that people could still perform their metabolic conditioning balance and still execute the sport of CrossFit or the or the lifestyle of CrossFit wall improving their strength and their technique. That was the goal of the barbell WOD. And so, I think we’ve, we’ve been pretty successful with that. And we’ve had a lot of fun working with people to develop it.

Misbah Haque  39:43

Could you give us an example of maybe what a typical day would look like, like, what pieces are there? You know, what things are you kind of focusing on?

Dave  39:51

It’s different from cycle to cycle. So the farther away we are from the CrossFit open, for example, the more we’re going to be working on squatting and pulling strength and our technique in the Olympic variations. And so, you know, I’m big on driving structural balance. So you know, our squatting and pulling and our overhead capacity and our carrying capacities, they all need to kind of be factored into this alongside, you know, teaching good technique. And so I believe that a great strength program has all of these things built into it. So you don’t need to necessarily prehab you don’t need additional technique, or a great strength program has all of these elements already accounted for in it. And so that’s what I’ve tried to do in the barbell wod. But what you’ll see is, for the most part, some sort of Olympic variation to start off with, because, you know, in good good programming, I believe that you want to start with the highest technical type exercises first, and then move into some sort of strength work. So maybe it’s a squat, or, or, or a poll, and then some sort of overhead activity. And then we we always include some complexes that are either, you know, going to be unilateral type exercises, or or plyometric type exercises are core type exercises that continue to round out the athleticism. So typically, workouts will take about an hour from warm up to, to, you know, completion in the standard barbell was three days a week, so it gives people a lot of time to recover. And then, you know, gives you gives you ample time to, to go and sweat and in, get get all the get all the conditioning in that that you feel is necessary.

Misbah Haque  41:41

What do you take on, like partial partial range movements for the Olympic lifts? You know, like, for the CrossFit athlete who, let’s say, has an extra 1520 minutes, and they simply just want to get a little bit better? And they’re kind of wanting to mess around with it? Should they be practicing the full snatch? Or should they be breaking it down into finer components? Like what, what’s your take on that?

Dave  42:06

I think that just having a dash of logic and being able to solve problems is the best answer that I can give you. So should have all of these exercise variations in your toolbox, right? So you should, you should be able to do a dead hand clean, you should be able to do a jerk ladder, you should be able to do you know, a high hang snatch all of these things, you know, that encompass, you know, just exercise selection, you should have, you know, a good understanding of and then when to apply those things, you know, is dependent upon where you are in your in your training cycle, and what you need to work on. And so what I’ve tried to message with the barbell squat is, look, this is thought of in not just a month to month standpoint, this is thought of over the course of a year. And so you know, if you stick to the program, you’re going to be rewarded. Because you know, the one thing that we know is true, is that there’s no magic bullets, there’s nothing that exercise that you can do that is magically going to fix your snatch, you know, it’s cumulative effects of intelligent training and good technical work over time, that’s going to move the needle. And that’s, that’s where that’s where people start to get start to get really addicted is that, okay? As I improve in the sport, it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder, because my reward for improvement is I get to lift more weights. And as I lift bigger weights, my margin for error decreases. So I’ve got, I’ve got to be technically better, I’ve got to be stronger, I’ve got to be more courageous. And that’s my reward for improving.

Misbah Haque  43:48

So what are some of the trends that you’ve seen out of, you know, the barbell WOD program, like, let’s say, somebody has been following for, you know, a year like you mentioned, what are some things that they’re kind of walking away with.

Dave  44:02

I think that we get we get success stories all the time. But early in the barbell wad, we definitely had some tweaks to make. So just like, just like anything else, you have some theoretical ideas on what’s going to work and then you implement them and then you have to make adjustments. So you know, as a coach, you always have to kind of be willing to take the data and then to, to manipulate the program to to move the data in the direction you want it to go. And so earlier on we were seeing a lot of deficiencies with regard to pulling strength versus front squatting strength. So I’m big on all my structural balance ratios. So I believe you know, that uh, that an athlete should be able to hit a one RM front squat that is approximately 80% of a one RM deadlift. And so what we We’re seeing those trends start to really, you know, the deadlift was was starting to really suffer, and we weren’t more developing pulling strength. So now you’ll see a lot more variations of pulling. So being able to consult, you know, friends like Mark bell at Super Training and some of the powerlifting specialists that we have Kevin oak in New York, to be able to kind of drive some additional value, theirs is also a big part of the the equation.

Misbah Haque  45:30

Could you give, and we’ve talked a lot about, you know, structural balance with previous guests, but because you kind of touch on how that affects weightlifting, if you are, you know, significantly out of whack and your numbers aren’t where they should be, how does that kind of affect you, because in the short term, you might be able to kind of get away with it and make those gains. But what kind of thing happens? How does that play out in the long term?

Dave  45:52

Well, I’m of the mindset and I always have been that, you know, a better athlete will make a better weightlifter. And so, you know, with, with the Olympic variations, especially, you have so many different motor units that are involved in so many different properties that are involved from a stabilization standpoint, and a mobilization standpoint, that if you’re not balanced, ultimately, either you’re going to plateau, or you’re going to get injured. And so you know, you’ve got to, you’ve got to have, you got to have the posterior chain, in order to execute the poll in both the SNATCH and the clean effectively, you have to have, you know, the anterior leg strength in order to to get you know, your your recovery, set up for your front rack and your clean and your your dip and drive in your your jerk. So just a better athlete always makes you a better weightlifter and a healthier weightlifter. Because the one thing that we know is true. And I’ve said this is it’s cumulative effects over time that is going to drive performance, it’s not the strongest guy in the gym that’s going to ultimately win. In competition, it’s the guy that can endure the longest, and how many? How many hours of training? Can you log where you’re actually doing quality movements? That will dictate your success?

Misbah Haque  47:16

Definitely, I guess especially. When you kind of look at weightlifting. And you look at, you know, the quad, if you are pushing yourself just way past your limit in running your body down in the first year, two years, whatever, by the time it actually matters. And and you know, that fourth year comes along, you may not have what you need left in the tank.

Dave  47:40

An archer only pulls his bow back when he’s prepared to fire right. So, you know, it doesn’t make any sense for me to push Wes and put a ton of ton of stress on him right now to to make these these lifts, you know, we we are using 2017 is a very stress free year, kind of a an opportunity to, to just make him overcome some of the some of the hurdles that are important to us for this American record, snatchy hit anybody’s seen him snatch he was he had no fear of that attempt that that wasn’t a limit limit attempt. That was an attempt that I was very comfortable putting on the bar. But at the same time, it helped him from a distance as a D, D sense, a titration standpoint, because you know, it’s like anything else, the first time you do it, there’s a lot of anxiety and there’s a lot of psychological stress that goes into setting a record. So now that we have that out of the way, you know, the next time he goes and sets a record is not going to be quite as quite the same cortisol dump as it goes into the clean and jerk as it was the first time. And so everything is low stress this year, but everything is methodically planned. And that’s a big believer if you’re a CrossFit athlete, and you’re 35 years old, you need to have a plan in place that’s going to help you be successful, not just to the end of the year, but as you continue to age. And so I think that the next step in the evolution of CrossFit is just putting a little more science and a little more, a little more planning into place to help people be successful long term.

Misbah Haque  49:24

Definitely. And you’re starting to see people kind of think about the your body as one, like an overall system. You said something in the power athlete podcast, I think it was using your athleticism to lift the weight and not thinking about it just as your strength right. Could you touch on that a little bit like when you’re a higher, you know, functioning and performing athlete, it’s going to pay off, kind of regardless of what you apply it to. 

Dave  49:51

Absolutely. And different athletes have different attributes that are going to help them be successful. So if you’re, you know, if you’ve got a long torso and Short quads or short femurs? Or if you’ve got long femurs and a short torso and short arms, like what are the attributes that you have that you can harness? And, you know, that could You could even go down into, like, you know, how twitchy? Are you? You know, what’s your ratio of type one to type two fibers? You know, are you very good at storing energy at the tendon level? Do you have really  dense, tightly bound tendon structure that allows you to be springy, and, and jump out of the building, without, you know, squatting three times body weight, what are the athletic properties that are gonna help you be successful? And how are you? How do you harness those? Well, you know, putting together a training program that’s going to help you not get injured.

Misbah Haque  50:47

I also want to touch on kids and teens, this like next generation, not just, you know, you have CrossFit kids, a lot of people are getting involved in that and and kids are just moving more, I think, and but at the same time, you also have, you know, when you look at USA weightlifting, a lot more maybe participants in that youth and teen division, how do you see that kind of playing out these kids are starting way earlier, versus maybe their parents or, you know, somebody who came to the sport and discovered it at 2427 years old? How does that kind of play out when we kind of fast forward maybe a decade or two.

Dave  51:27

I think that there’s probably going to be a little bit of a learning curve. But you can’t blow out a real deal number one. So I’ve had, I have had, in this MLB class, I had a second round pick that I’ve been working with since he was 10 years old. And in this NFL, this last draft class had third round picks, since I was worthless, since he’s 11 years old. I knew from the first week of training those kids that they were probably going to achieve at that level, because they had this this rage to master, you know, they had this innate, like, sense that they had to do this and you can’t really be can’t really quantify it other than the Talent Code, the book, The Talent Code, kind of phrases it. Like, if you have the rage to master, you know, it, or more importantly, if they don’t know it, if you if you if you don’t have it, you certainly know it. And so, you know, I don’t have a problem starting kids early, if they have that rage. But I do think it’s very important to have a ton of, like I said before, GPP so, you know, I’m a big believer in for my children, you know, I have a one year old, a three year old, a five year old, we get people we get all of my kids in the pool, by the time they’re nine months old, and they start swimming, and they swim, probably six months out of the year. And then we layer on one day, a week of gymnastics, one day a week of soccer. So everything outside the pool is bilaterally symmetrical. So we always try and kind of just keep athletic development at the forefront, and then leave kind of specialization and in skill acquisition for specific sports as a distant second. And so as long as people again add a dash of logic to these developmental situations, people will be alright. But you know, we’ve seen in baseball, a lot of, you know, 1011 12 year olds just play baseball year round. And then they end up you know, getting injured or blowing out of the sport, the baseball players that we see that really kind of prioritize athleticism, and play and play other sports, and maybe they do baseball, you know, for four or five, six months out of the year, end up having longer, better careers. They do that in the onset.

Misbah Haque  53:55

Same thing when you kind of apply that to adults, as well as like, even though CrossFit is a GPP program, and it’s a phenomenal program, there’s still certain things that may sometimes get left out of the box, like you said, you know, everything we do is kind of bilateral and kind of taking some time to include unilateral work in your training and making sure you’re  getting out of the sagittal plane and things of that nature. So you definitely are when you kind of look at what you what the ideal athlete possesses before you kind of commit them and get them ready to start hammering away at weightlifting. What does GPP kind of look like to you like what are those qualities that you’re looking for that you want to check off the list?

Dave  54:42

Well, I certainly want to develop all three energy systems. So as you know, the phosphagen system, the glycolytic system and the oxidative system all need to have some degree of training. I think that that’s something that’s oftentimes neglected, especially in strength and power sports. But you know, even even my guys, I want, I want one day a week, you know, reserved for the oxidative system where we’re, we’re on assault bikes, or we’re doing, you know, we’re doing a slower Row Type session where we’re at least we’re at least getting our heart rate to, to, to, to a reasonable level and, and training that system. I think that, you know, from a GPP standpoint, I like athletes that are helpful, high levels of relative strength. So, you know, in weightlifting, it’s not necessarily a maximal strength sport, unless you’re in the plus category. It’s more of a relative strength sport, you’re competing against people that are your own bodyweight. And so, you know, we look at different ratios of, you know, back squat bodyweight numbers. And I think that every kid that comes in the gym, the first, the first thing we try and do from a strength standpoint is make sure that they’re at a two to one back squat bodyweight. And then I think that, you know, being able to do bodyweight exercises, like pull ups, you know, so many times, a kid will come in here and can Can, can not do a pull up and wonders why he’s not fast. Another kid will come in here and rip out 10 Pull Ups, and he’s the fastest kid on the field. And the difference is that relative strength component, and so you know, making sure that bodyweight activities are they’re adept at. I think there’s three components.

Misbah Haque  56:39

Now, do you think that bodyweight thing that we just mentioned, when we look at, you know, CrossFit in, you know, a decade from now, do you think that that is going to be maybe factored in a little bit more? Is there even any value to kind of factoring that in?

Dave  56:55

I think so. I mean, the thing about CrossFit is, you know, the, the the scalable aspect is important, so making sure that we’re we’re servicing if you’re going to be a fitness program, that you’re servicing people at all age ranges, and all abilities, and how do you how do you provide these bodyweight exercises that are that are that are that are scalable. And so there’s a lot of different ways to attack that. But I think that’s a really important consideration if it’s going to be a more mainstay of the prospect program.

Misbah Haque  57:30

Now, so I have a couple staple questions that we’re going to dig a little bit more personally now. So what are, what are some of the choices that you feel like you’ve made that have kind of made you who you are today as a coach?

Dave  57:48

Choices, I think that I’ve made are just to prioritize my athletes. So the idea that, you know, I mentioned this on the power athlete, podcast, people, in some cases get into coaching because they want, they want control and they want to be the boss, well, I got news for you, I work for my athletes, they don’t work for me, you know, I’m their bitch in a lot of respects. So prioritizing my role, as you know, as essentially a servant to your athletes, and I think that’s flip flop Mahal, a lot of people perceive a coaching role. So, humbling yourself to that level. I think furthering your education is really important. So, you know, making sure that you have, you know, some sort of some sort of breadth of credentials that you can that you can, you know, point to and, and then I think that the best thing that I did was I walked the walk so, you know, I lived under a barbell I sequestered myself in a garage for, you know, the better part of aquatic acquired to, to learn, you know, and try and try and lift weights myself. And so, I’ve experienced what my athletes are experiencing. And you know, at the same token, I made a shit ton of sacrifices, you know, I basically emptied all of my Personal Reserves financially to achieve my goals. And so I’ve made sacrifices, I further my education, I’ve lived, I’ve breathed Hsieh, chat, paid weightlifting, so I know, I know what it means. And then, you know, now, I’m on the other side, and I’m working for that for the athlete to help them understand how important it is that they make these sacrifices and that they’re, they’re happy and, and they feel they feel fulfilled at the end of their journey.

Misbah Haque  59:43

I love that. If I was to give you a few billion dollars and a staff of let’s say, 40 people, right and those 40 people, you can choose them and they are the top thinkers of whatever it is that you’re kind of recruiting them for. So you have access to some of the smartest people you’ve got a couple billion dollars, and you wanted to use that to make some type of change? What would you do with that?

Dave  1:00:07

I would provide educational opportunities to weightlifters first and foremost. So by that, I mean, like, a path to stay in the sport while getting an education because, you know, so many so many times what you see in our sport is that people have to devote so much time to the weight room that they kind of lose sight of, you know, becoming a person and you know, there is life after after weightlifting, so, a scholarship fund, tutoring opportunities, figuring out ways to continue to develop outside of the weight room for for athletes, so that they can do something with their life after they’re done lifting weights. That’s incredibly important. You know, one of my, one of my good friends, Alexey Turati, who is from the Ukraine, he won Olympic gold in the 105 kilo category in 2008. He has two degrees, one in one in engineering and one in like rocket science, or rocketry, and he’s got a wife and he’s got a child, and he’s never had a surgery. So, you know, the idea that you could have all these things, you know, matters to me. The other thing that I think is incredibly important is keeping coaches in the sport. So figuring out a way to empower coaches at the club level, to recruit and retain athletes, you know, with, whether it’s, you know, travel to the gym, or, or stipends or, you know, however they need to be supported, getting getting coaches that at the grassroots level, who are actually fighting the fight, to be resourced. And then the other thing is, making sure that we have enough medical help. So there’s, you know, there’s so many, there’s so many tweaks and twinges and things that go on, you know, we need to, we need to account for so making sure that, you know, we’re well staffed so that you can have a program or somebody like me who’s accounting for physiological stress, you can have a coach that’s, you know, focusing on psychological and technical advancements in the athlete’s development, you can have, you know, some sort of physician to keep the well being of the athlete, you know, in check, some sort of some sort of orthopedic, you know, that’s helping, you know, to make sure that the, the overuse injuries are treated and prevented. And so I don’t know, that’s a fun question.

Misbah Haque  1:02:47

That’s awesome, man. Do you have a morning routine? And if so, what does that look like?

Dave  1:02:52

Personally, I have a morning routine I usually wipe to sleep right away is a kiss my wife Good morning. And then I go and pull my one year old out of her crib, and then try and wake up my my three year old and five year old which are never, never easy, figure out how to make breakfast, get him to get him to preschool, get him to daycare, and then start my day with the with a morning session from the for the weight lifters and then I try and get a workout in myself if at all possible, and then come back in the office and start doing whatever work needs to be done. And then an afternoon session for the weight lifters and then they go home and do it all over again.

Misbah Haque  1:03:34

What are you currently doing for you know, you’re on fitness and you’re on training? If you are snatching clean jerking, you’re doing a little bit of CrossFit. What are you kind of doing when you get home?

Dave  1:03:43

I still love Olympic lifts, when, when they when I can come up on 40. And I did not treat my body as well as I should save. So I’ve got a bunch of preexisting issues that have to be overcome, just like a lot of CrossFitters but I definitely throw in some some metabolic conditioning, throw in some Olympic variations, usually program that kind of mid to high intensities and ultra low volumes. I feel like you know, my, as I get older, it’s easier to recover from the high intensity work than it is the volume work. And then I keep all of my kind of bodybuilding routines like at the very low end of the hypertrophy rep range. So you know, I do a lot of like, sets of a sets of sets of nine, that type of thing in the single leg are the single joint movements.

Misbah Haque  1:04:39

And now this doesn’t have to be limited to just training or fitness. But let’s go back to you being a billionaire. And you could give two to three books to everybody in the country this year. What would it be?

Dave  1:04:52

I really like the David Epstein sport gene. I think that was a really cool book and that gives people kind of a good idea. Good kind of background for one of the scientific things that we’re considering in this century, when it comes to athletes. I really like that Daniel Coyle is the Talent Code, I think that’s an excellent book, for a lot of reasons. And then, you know, I would certainly say that I’m big on being multidisciplinary. So I like people to read out things outside of, of, of the confines of training. So, you know, I would pick up some, some Harada tests, like Read, read, read some, read some things about, you know, what was going on in the Greek, Persian Wars, and all the good strategy and mental mental mental components you can derive from that. And it’s always cool to share with somebody that’s, you know, 2500 years old, and then what else I think is that everyone should own a copy of Super Training, that’s important. So you don’t have training, I think that and you’ve been you’re in you’re interested in developing as an athlete that’s kind of ike de facto Bible.

Misbah Haque  1:06:09

Awesome. Now, let’s say that you had to start over, and everything you have accomplished was gone, and you wanted to get back to where you are now, what maybe 123 things would you really kind of distill your focus down to and just kind of hammer away at? 

Dave  1:06:28

I would distill my focus down to athlete selection. So finding athletes that are capable of doing the program that I think is going to make them successful. And so, you know, talent ID models are all over the place, but I have a specific type of athlete that I look for, not just from a physiological standpoint, or from a psychological standpoint. And so that would be step one, find athletes, get them to be successful, and then capitalize on you know, whatever, whatever we can create in terms of buzz from their success, because you always as a coach, I make money off weightlifting. I don’t make money off of weightlifters.

Misbah Haque  1:07:17

People come to you, and they probably ask you a lot about weightlifting and a lot about CrossFit, like I am right now. But is there something that you feel like you don’t get asked enough about something that you wish people would ask you more?

Dave  1:07:30

I think that the questions that I like to talk about the questions that I like to answer revolve around facility the idea that I lived in and worked alongside apogee of who’s the Bulgarian coach for the ages, I recruited Bulgarian athletes, and  trained alongside them, and I saw this cultural confusion, just kind of like come to bear on, on how we tried to transmute the Bulgarian system to the United States. And so, you know, the idea that we live in, in a country where, you know, we have wealth, and we have, we have peace and prosperity, you know, what drives people to want to CrossFit, what drives people to want to be successful weightlifters? And so, you know, that intrinsic motivation structure, that that, that same desire that kind of fuels, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to want to trek up to up to the summit of Mount Everest, or to, you know, like, do an unsupported trek to the South Pole, like, what, what is that? And how does that how do we how do we harness that intrinsic motivation, to power and fuel are athletes, and that’s the those, those are the things that I saw that were most glaring in terms of my failure to extrapolate Bulgarian strategies and put them you know, into modern day, USA was the motivation was so, so different. And I think that boils down to, to the psychological aspects that our culture kind of has infused us with.

Misbah Haque  1:09:19

So how do you do that? Because we know that that y is kind of the root of everything. And a lot we’re in the beginning of the year right now, a lot of people are setting goals and resolutions. And a lot of the time, a lot of the reason that people kind of fall off the boat is because they’re not in touch with that deep rooted. Why and it’s, you know, it’s not it’s not real to that person. So  how would you recommend that somebody kind of go about getting to the bottom of that?

Dave  1:09:46

I think you just answered your own question like that, that why is the most important thing that you can do, you can answer I mean, that’s, why are you doing this? Why is it important to you, you know, and, and what is it going to mean to you if you accomplish your goal? What does it mean to you if you don’t accomplish your goal? You know, how is that? How is that going to change the outcome?  And then what are you willing to sacrifice? If we figure out why then what are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to give up? And I think that once you dig into those two questions you can kind of derive where the person’s motivation is, you know, it’s, it is the people that the people that make these new year’s resolutions, and they want to, they want to lift a certain weight, because, you know, they think it’s gonna look cool on Instagram, or they want to lose, lose, lose some belly fat, because, you know, summer is coming, like those are the those are the, those are the motivation structures that ultimately collapse. You know, they don’t really, they don’t hold up, they’re not durable. And so, you know, all of my athletes, like I said, if I lost it all, and I had to start from Ground Zero, athlete selection, you know, the first the first thing I want to know is why?

Misbah Haque  1:11:00

And I think that second question that you said, is really important, too, is like, what are you willing to struggle for? Because depending on what your answer is, to that question to those two questions, your behavior would either have to scale up or down, and once you really dial that in, it becomes very clear, you know, what you gonna have to do from there?

Dave  1:11:19

For Wes, for example, and I’ll give you, I’ll give you this, because this is, this is kind of a, this is a measurement stick that I use is I pitched him on coming out, I wanted to work with him so badly, when I saw him move a barbell and grid, I was, like, salivating like, this could be amazing. And so, you know, I couldn’t. I couldn’t come out and gosh, like that to him, though, you know, it’s like I had to, I had to test what was between his ears. And so I said, Look, Wes, I know that you’re engaged to this beautiful girl, I know, you have a business in Tennessee, but I need you, you need to train here, you need to, you need to be here in order to really let me help you be successful. And I said, I, you know, we don’t have we don’t have anything to offer except for an internship program that’s coming up. So I’ll give you $500 a month. For this internship that’s coming up in three months. And you may get here and hate it. You know, at the end of the three months, we’ll talk about whether we can kind of find you a job and whether we can make it work. But he had to literally leave everything behind, including a beautiful fiancee who moved across the country and lived and worked for three months for $500 a month in Northern California. And I knew that if he could figure out how to, to reconcile that sacrifice in his brain. And he made the leap that we would really have something. And he did. And ultimately I, once he got here, I helped him with more financial support and more job opportunities, and we got a nice USA W stipend and all that good stuff. But, you know, that kind of sacrifice he made up front. And so I knew I had something.

Misbah Haque  1:13:04

You might enjoy. And I actually haven’t read this book myself. But I’ve heard the author kind of do interviews and like a post analysis on this topic, but it definitely sounds interesting. It’s called “smarter better faster” by Charles Duhigg. He’s the guy who wrote The Power of Habit. And it’s very research back a lot of science and experiences and things like that have gone into the book. But what I kind of took away from it was that you want to be able to kind of create a mental model or mental representation for everything that you do. So the the most minute and mundane things like for an elite level athlete, like let’s say, you know, body maintenance, and mobilizing and things like that, when you can take a chore that’s so mundane and relate it back to the why and kind of retrace those steps. And you kind of go through that process every single time. It’s almost like nothing to actually do that task. And with practice, obviously, I’m sure I’m sure that that becomes more and more automatic, just like anything.

Dave  1:14:00


I’ve always been big on articulating before the start of each cycle, why we’re doing something and how it’s going to benefit them so that they can then plug that back into their own why. And maybe that’s just kind of like I think some of the things we just do instinctively but even if you’re a part of the barbell wod program, or the Cal strength programs, you get a newsletter every month, then not just how not only has a program but has kind of a description of what we’re doing in the cycle and why we’re doing it. And ou have opportunities to follow up with my office with our questions. q&a is every week but that kind of stuff I think is incredibly powerful keeping people on track.

Misbah Haque  1:14:46

Now, what should a coach or athlete take away from this podcast? How can they make themselves better by listening to this?

Dave  1:14:55

I think that the takeaways depending upon who you are Make sure that you understand the why why you’re doing, why you’re doing what you do, whether it’s coaching, training, owning a business, make sure you stay committed and can and convicted to your core values. So if you have a if you have a burning desire to help people with Olympic weightlifting, you know, make sure you prioritize that. And don’t, don’t don’t veer off because there’s a shiny penny that you want to pick up. You know, if you if you stick to to stick to your core beliefs, you’ll be rewarded in the end. And then I think that if you’re, if you’re an athlete, whether you’re a CrossFitter, or whether you’re a weightlifter, you know, make sure that you understand that it’s okay to like I have humble, humble yourself. And, you know, trust a program that’s baked in good science backed in, in, in, in real results. And if you’re a coach, you could do the same thing, because a lot of people don’t understand that we’re so under resourced that a coach doesn’t necessarily need to be a programmer. And in most countries, those are two different functions. There are there are people back in their office plugging away spreadsheets, and then there are people on the gym floor that are that are coaching their athletes. And so in other countries, there are different functions here, we think that we have to be all things to all people as coaches, and that’s not true. So, you know, don’t be don’t be afraid, and it’s not it doesn’t have to be my program, but, you know, commit to commit to something that is that is structured that is going to help you achieve your goals and funnel back to your why.

Misbah Haque  1:16:37

Awesome, man. People to where we can find you.

Dave  1:16:44

I mean, is our website. But  we have our Instagram accounts @Cal_strength, and then the barbell, WOD, Instagram, and then your YouTube channel, the California strength YouTube channel. We put some content up there still, week to week. And so we’re pretty easy to find. And we’re, I think people make the mistake of thinking that we are too cool for school are too big for you. And that’s just not the case. Like every single person that signs up with a barbell wad, I try and send a personal email to like, Hey, this is not just a program I want to be, I want you to feel like you’re connected to this place in some way. And so if anybody signed up and got that email that actually does come from my inbox from me, it’s not like, it’s not like a bot sending you a message. And, come drop in. If you’re ever in Northern California, we love to have guests.

Misbah Haque  1:17:41

So awesome. And well. Thanks a lot, David. I mean, I really appreciate you coming on and then lending us your time and dropping tons of insight for both coaches and athletes. So I’d really appreciate that.

Dave  1:17:51

Well, thank you. I appreciate you having me on. And if there’s any follow up questions that you guys have just feel free to feel free to email me. Anything at makes its way to me. So just feel free to feel free to engage

Misbah Haque  1:18:11

Awesome, man. Thank you so much for listening, guys. I know you’re probably driving right now or doing something else. But don’t forget to head over to and grab your free movement Audit Checklist. If you want to check out some of the details behind the mobility through movement program. You can see that either in the show notes or at the And if you really enjoyed this episode, remember the best compliment you can give is by sharing it with somebody else who might enjoy it, sharing it somewhere on the web or heading over to iTunes and leaving us a review. That would be phenomenal. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out. I always love hearing from you guys. Thank you so much once again for joining me. Until next time!

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