The Wisdom of Dan John


This past weekend I finished reading the book “Intervention” by legendary strength coach Dan John.  Dan has been “in the game” both as an athlete and coach for a long time.  When he speaks (or in this case writes) I listen.  I would recommend this book to any coach or person that wants to learn more about their own training.  Here are just a few nuggets of knowledge that I highlighted as I read.  I’m quite sure that you will find something that will make you think in way or another or even just smile.

– The short answer is, and really, this answers just about every question in the world of strength and conditioning, “It depends.”

– Even if your goal is “prepare for anything,” trust me on this: If you get stronger, almost universally, you’ll find the path to your goals is easier.

– When did simple questions like, “I want to feel better; can you help me?” or ” I would like to lose a few pounds; what should I do?” turn into battlefield tactics?  I’ve never seen a T-shirt that said, “I want to walk to the mailbox on the day I die,” but I am pretty sure more people would identify with that goal than an all-out war to get that 20th pullup.

– First, as a strength coach this will always be about establishing the highest level of absolute strength we can.

– What diet works?  They all work!  It’s about sticking to one.

– As you become more and more efficient, you get less and less benefit………..  Exercise for fat loss needs to be as inefficient as possible.

– I think greatness is usually seen in the courage to master the fundamentals.

– My vision of strength training involves competence in all the fundamental human movements.  Due to age, illness or injury, an athlete may have to swim many times in the shallow end of the pool with all the new kids, but this is where prolonged careers and repeat champions are born.

– Women seem to do well in sport with 150% of bodyweight [deadlift], but I’ve noticed, almost without exception, when a woman deadlifts 275 and above, good things happen in sport.

– The bulk of your time in a fat-loss pursuit should be in shopping, preparing and cooking your meals.  Your energy should be addressing proactive strikes against the onslaughts of birthday cake, comfort food and “just a handful” of yummy, crummy treats.

– The worst part of watching most fitness TV shows or internet videos is the quest for exhaustion.  Form falls apart, the joints are stressed and we just get a sense of sweat and exhaustion.  Honestly, it’s better long term to strive for elegance and beauty and let the body adapt, well…..beautifully.

– I’m never sure how to handle people who just want to feel “worked out”.  I like to train people to be and do better.

– I think the problem is this: The fitness industry only sells full-throttle, death-march, total-commitment training concepts.  And, frankly, most of us simply can’t do that day in and day out.

– Never judge a workout or training program as good or bad solely on a single day.

– Always strive for a quiet head, efficient movements and sense of calm while training.

– Oh, I can work you out.  Just run back and forth for a couple of hours every time I blow a whistle.  But, please don’t think that’s going to improve your skill set or long-term ability to do anything from sport to aging gracefully.

– So, you may ask, is this enough?  Over time…..yes!  Yes, you can do more, but you want to be able to do it day in, day out-literally year in and year out.

– In the Intervention program, I ask how little can you do to achieve your goals, not how much.

– Eat like an adult.

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