the joy of strength training


September 24th, 2008 at 8:16 pm

The wisdom of Dan John

Who is this man who has such a suitably evocative name? ‘Dan’ conjures images of a deadly judo master; ‘John’ is reminiscent of the prophets. Even T-Nation calls him “Yoda”…

Dan John is one of the few strength pundits who is both teacher and pupil. He has a clear, engaging prose style and everything he writes is ‘big picture’. When you read a Dan John article, you understand what it’s all about and why do it in the first place.

I like Dan’s approach because he is first and foremost a sportsman (field events, Olympic lifting, highland games etc) and therefore more performance-oriented than size-oriented. He is also a straight talking kind of guy who has no desire to make things sound more complex or esoteric than they actually are, just to boost his own ego. As the man himself puts it:

“I feel good about things like helping people with a clear goal, strength training, winning things and defeating evil.”

So naturally when I wanted some help and inspiration for my latest programme, I looked up some of Dan John’s articles. I was not disappointed! Here are the ones that resonated the most with me:

The Philosophy of Physical Capital

This article is about finding the right training programme and adapting it for your own use. What is refreshing about John’s approach is that, rather than looking at training programmes from the outside, he shows that you first need to be honest about your own abilities and commitment (physical capital) and find a programme that fits those aspects.

He discusses his ‘highly scientific’ terms for the concept of the max lift: Sorta Max, Max, Max Max and Max Max Max. I have no hesitation in saying that his explanation will change the way you think about your “max” lift forever!

Nautilus, Crossfit and “Hihi”

This is one of the best of John’s teacher-as-pupil articles. He talks about his different training experiences over the years and what he has learnt from them. He admits that he gets ‘sucked in’ but says that he enjoys trying out new ideas or new pieces of equipment.

There is a tendency in the fitness world to elevate people who espouse a single idea constituting their life’s mission, and to be suspicious of those who have changed their minds or tried different systems. Politicians have the same problem: they can never change their minds for fear of being accused of flip-flopping or u-turning.

This, of course, is nonsense. As the body of knowledge ‘out there’ grows and changes, we ought to grow and change with it. And in case you were wondering, Dan John does eventually boil his years of learning into a useful concept that you can take away and apply to your own training.

Two tips on goal setting

If you’ve read the above articles, you will understand where Dan John is coming from in these two pithy tips about goal setting.

Goals v Behaviours by Dan John

Two goal setting tips by Dan John

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