Seven years ago, I boarded the flying germ tube to Columbus, OH to go face to face with some massive sides of beef with eyeballZ and the EliteFTS S4 Compound.

I signed up for the EliteFTS Learn To Train seminar. I was both excited and absolutely terrified at the same time.

On one hand I knew most of the lifters there and they were all super strong, educated, and incredibly nice. I knew I would gain a ton from going.

On the other hand, many of them looked scary and were lifting weights waaaaaay above what I was doing. In my head, I felt they were secretly judging me.

After landing in Ohio, I checked into my hotel and tried to sleep a bit. I kept waking up with weird dreams of bearded 300lb massive humans laughing at my squat. I almost puked in the bathroom two times from nerves.

The next morning, and it is go time! I got in my rented Toyota Yaris and headed out for the EliteFTS S4 compound. The S4 compound has a sexy name but from the outside it is far from sexy looking. It was a massive warehouse in the middle of nuclear fallout area. The only thing missing was a random tumbleweed.

Everyone who signed up gathered around outside, and Dave Tate gave us the rundown of how it was going to go for the day including the groups we would be in for the lifting portion. Each group would rotate between the bench press, squat and deadlift stations throughout the day.

There was a 30-minute break as we entered the compound before starting with our first group.

Up until this point, I had only seen videos of the S4 compound. To me, it was right up there with Westside, MetroFlex in Texas, and Golds in Venice Beach as the current day mecca of lifting.

I was nervous as hell. I was nasal breathing like a freight train in attempt to calm myself. It was not working. Stooooopid research.

The doors open, time to enter.

Lifting at the S4 compound:

I remember crossing the threshold with two main thoughts immediately of fear and gratitude. WTF am I doing. I am not a powerlifter, why am I here again?

Wow, anyone can do this by just signing up, paying money, and possessing a willingness to learn– how cool. Thank you Dave Tate.

Immediately, I started to relax a tiny bit as I saw all the equipment – which is like Disney land for lifters- scattered all across the room. This was complimented by music from Dark Tranquility blaring through the speakers.

Aaaaaah, no matter what anyone looks like, or what they do, they all came here to learn and get better. Plus they love death metal. My kind of people.

The day went well and everyone from the lifters to the attendees was super super nice, helpful and nothing but encouragement the entire time.

S4 compound Dave Tate memories:

Random memories from the day were:

  • JL telling me my deadlift looked good but my low back was like the Sahara dessert. I asked him what I needed to do, and he replied “buy a 45 degree hyper and live on it every lifting day” I did just that and seven years later still have it in my garage gym. Underrated piece of equipment.
  • Coach Harry and Bob walking me through the box squat and before my max lift Harry yelling at me “Son, do you know where you are at?” To which I muttered a weak ….yes.
  • “Son, you are at the Elite S4 compound where we lift heavy ass weights. Now get under that bar and lift the F-ing weight.”
  • To which I did and I remember the set up, Harry standing on a box behind me, and then nothing else other than racking the weight hoping that I did not pass out at the end. Hahaha.
  • Bench press was the third group and my last two neurons were so toasted that I don’t remember much other than everything I was doing on bench was wrong.
  • I found an Inch DB replica (172 lb solid cast DB with 2 and 3/8 inch thick popcan sized handle) laying on the floor. JL walked over and deadlifted it with 1 hand. Immediately every other meathead in the room saw it and had to try to replicate it. I did not see a single one do it that day. It was funny to watch 330 lb men who lifted piss tons of weight get befuddled by a 172 lb DB. Turns out most seasoned lifters can’t lift the Inch as it is a specialized grip lift. New goal, lift the Inch DB. My first lift with a thick handle DB was at 74 lbs. Currently I will get the 135 lb Inch replica this year and have a 174 lb replica now to practice.

Gansta Grip Guys – my buddies Tanner, Adam Glass and more here

What is the Thomas Inch Dumbbell?

The reason for my story here is twofold.

1) It is easy to look from the outside and only see the end goal, not the process. Everyone has put time and effort in to achieve where they are at now. For many, that process has not been easy, so if you are feeling like it is hard, congrats, you are normal. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep going forward.

2) Even though I have been in the “fitness world” for well over two decades and lifting for coming up on three decades, I still have my own neurosis about things. I know that virtually every lifter I’ve met in person has been nothing but super helpful. They really don’t care what I lift. I am not a threat to any of their lifts. It does not matter what anyone else does in comparison to what you do. They are completely unrelated, yet subconsciously it is easy to feel “not enough” which is never-ending. Ask a lifter who just total Elite what they want to next. The answer is invariably “lift more’” and not “well, that is enough.” The process is forever ongoing.

S4 last weekend:

Keep working.

Keep showing up.

When you get stuck, as for help, even pay for coaching. It is easy to find help.

You got this.

Enjoy the process as it never ends.

Rock on

Dr Mike

Rock on!

Dr. Mike T Nelson

Dr. Mike T Nelson

Dr. Mike T Nelson

PhD, MSME, CISSN, CSCS Carrick Institute Adjunct Professor Dr. Mike T. Nelson has spent 18 years of his life learning how the human body works, specifically focusing on how to properly condition it to burn fat and become stronger, more flexible, and healthier. He’s has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, a BA in Natural Science, and an MS in Biomechanics. He’s an adjunct professor and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. He’s been called in to share his techniques with top government agencies. The techniques he’s developed and the results Mike gets for his clients have been featured in international magazines, in scientific publications, and on websites across the globe.

  • PhD in Exercise Physiology
  • BA in Natural Science
  • MS in Biomechanics
  • Adjunct Professor in Human
  • Performance for Carrick Institute for Functional Neurology
  • Adjunct Professor and Member of American College of Sports Medicine
  • Instructor at Broadview University
  • Professional Nutritional
  • Member of the American Society for Nutrition
  • Professional Sports Nutrition
  • Member of the International Society for Sports Nutrition
  • Professional NSCA Member