Dan John Quoteable Quotes.

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I’m a day late, I know. Truth be told, I’m writing this Monday night because I’m essentially still recovering from the insulin coma I put myself into over the weekend. Nonetheless, it was great to get away this past weekend- eat dirty (as my friend Pete would say), spend a little time on the water, as well as catch up on some reading.

Speaking of which, as some of you may know, I’ve been reading Dan John’s book Never Let Go.

I finally finished it this past weekend, and all I have to say is that it’s hands down one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I’ve always felt that one of the true indicators of a great book is how re-readable (is that even a word?) it is- and I can honestly say that I’ll be referring back to this book time and time again. I mean, how can you not absorb every word someone with over 30 years of coaching experience has to say?

All the same, below I’ve collected just a handful of quotable quotes from Dan John himself with a few brief comments of my own below. Enjoy.

1. Back in the 1970s, I ate a high-protein diet to get bigger and stronger. As a senior at Utah State, I weighed 218 pounds with eight percent body fat, and threw the discus over 190 feet.

Then I got some advice from the people at the Olympic Training Center. I needed carbs, they advised, and lots of them. They pointed to studies done on the American distance runners. Being an idiot, I took the advice to eat like emaciated, over-trained sub-performers. It took years of high carbohydrate grazing to learn the evils of this advice.

TG Comment: Carbs aren’t evil and they do serve a purpose- however you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ll achieve any appreciable fat loss with a diet consisting of 60% carbs. Dieticians are funny.

2. Two great principles of strength and conditioning:

  • Everything works
  • Everything works, but only for so long

TG Comment: However if you can’t bench press your bodyweight for one rep, you have no business using chains or bands.

3. In quoting an interview by Dr. Arthur De Vany regarding his insights on early human activity:

“My cardio is the fast-pace of my workout. And it’s sprinting in a field or on a stationary bike. I never put in miles or time on a treadmill. It’s boring and worthless.

Look at joggers and distance runners. They aren’t slender; they simply have no muscle mass. They’re weak, they can’t generate power, and in spite of their slender appearance, joggers aren’t lean. The average body fat content of jogging club members was twenty-two percent in one study. Anything above thirteen percent is deleterious.

I wouldn’t jog for health, but playful runs are wonderful. Vary the speed and terrain and you have a really great activity that’s fun and healthful. Routinized jogging is factory work, not natural activity. If you log long miles on a track, I believe you’re compromising your health.”

TG Comment: Again, you need to get fit to run, not run to get fit. If more people followed this simple piece of advice, I’d be less inclined to want to stab myself in the face with a machete.

4. Years ago at a clinic, a young man told me, “Squats hurt my knees.” I asked him to demonstrate for me, and after he did said bluntly, “Squats don’t hurt your knees; what you are doing hurts your knees.”

TG comment: I think it’s great that more people are squatting. Unfortunately, what many trainees “think” is a squat, is anything but. And no, squatting in the Smith Machine isn’t any safer- it’s worse in fact. Stop. Relearn. You’re not that big of a deal where you can’t ask for some coaching.

5. Attack fat from any other goal. I fought this for years, but I have come to this simple conclusion: If you are doing this and this and that and this…you can’t also have the energy to lose fat. I recommend two- week to four- week periods of commitment. Doing something as simple as the Atkins two-week induction, literally a feast of fish, meat, eggs, and cheese for two weeks, will allow you to focus on the single goal of losing fat. One or two concentrated two-week fat attacks a year seems to do better than the fifty-two-week-a-year diet failures most people endure.

TG Comment: Many trainees have training ADD. One week they want to focus on strength. The next, fat loss. Pick one and go with it. 100%. Fat loss demands total focus. As Dan reiterates repeatedly: fat loss is war. There are no little steps. Yes it’s hard. You’re going to feel like poop at times. Deal with it.

6. Much of a beginner’s training is with weights not beyond much more than bodyweight. Yet I will get emails from delightful young people with intense periodization schemes and dozens of curl variations. Here is a little workout I recommended recently for a man my age (just past old) who hadn’t lifted in three decades.

Goblet Squats

Half-Turkish Get-Ups

Lawn Mowers (one arm rows)


Suitcase Carries (walk with one DB for fifty yards, turn around and come back using the other hand)

When I explained the reps and sets, and I quote myself, “Do a couple of reps with the exercise and get a feel for it. Do it again, but make sure you are doing each rep right. Try to do a little more each time…either more sets or more reps. In two weeks, try to do this workout six or seven times.”

He emails me back to tell me, “This isn’t what they are doing in the magazines.”

Right. And the magazines don’t recommend taking off thirty years first.

TG Comment: People think they’re more advanced than what they are. More often than not, less is more. It often amazes me how I’ll get people coming in for evaluations asking whether they should be incorporating ME (Max Effort) deadlifts into their program, when they can’t even perform a simple body-weight lunge without tipping over! Make sure your program fits your experience level. On an aside, leg presses suck.

7. If it’s important, do it every day.

TG Comment: If your soft tissue quality sucks- foam roll. Every day. If you have the mobility of a pregnant mongoose- do your dynamic flexibility drills. Every day. If your squat technique sucks-squat. Yes, everyday (there’s no rule against it). If the hot Starbucks girl continues to ignore your phone calls- simply key her car. That will learn her!

8. Look at your goals. Look at your behavior. Does your behavior match your goals?

TG Comment: Sorry dude, but drinking a kegger every weekend isn’t going to help with that six pack you’ve been trying to get since freshman year. Likewise, as much as you’d like to think that grabbing a few M&M’s here and there from your secretary’s desk won’t mount to much- there’s a reason you’ve been trying to lose the same 20 lbs for five years.

9. The single best piece of diet advice I ever heard came from (don’t laugh) peak-performance consultant Anthony Robbins.

Robbins got his advice from one of his clients. It’s called the Alpo Diet. Invite a dozen friends over to your house. Tell them by the end of the month you’re going to lose ten pounds. Tell them if you don’t, you’ll eat the can of Alpo in front of them.

For the next week, every time you feel the urge to take a piece of chocolate from the cubicle next to you, reread the contents to the Alpo can. If someone offers you something smothered in goo, open the Alpo can and take a deep sniff.

TG Comment: I guarantee that ten pounds will come off. If not, I recommend Classic Chunky.

10. Occasionally, restart your training with the Zen notion of the beginner’s mind. Find a book or training article that has a two-week beginner’s program and follow it. Have a buddy watch your lifting technique, and allow comments. Hey, here’s one: During the pull-up, go from straight arms to chin over the bar. Really, try it that way. It’s called the right way.

TG Comment: Dan John is my hero

11. Someday you’re going to pay for the 10,000 crunches you were sure would build a six pack. Instead, those built a bad lower back. Ab work does absolutely nothing for you. Just ask any long-time strength coach.

TG Comment: I concur. I can think of 1001 more productive ways to spend your time in the gym than by doing freaking sit-ups/crunches. Hell, I’d rather you pick your nose than do crunches.

12. Here’s my ultra-secret training diet regime: Follow Mom’s rule first!

  • Eat breakfast everyday
  • Be sure to eat three meals a day
  • If you’re hungry an hour or so after a meal, you didn’t eat enough protein
  • Water should be your major beverage
  • There nothing more fiber can’t cure

TG Comment: When in doubt, eat protein. Likewise, just because something has protein in it, doesn’t mean it’s a significant source of protein. In other words, ladies, peanut butter (while a great source of healthy fats) isn’t protein.

13. There’s pain and there’s injury. Learn the difference

TG Comment: if something is “stingy,” that doesn’t mean you’re hurt. I’m talkin to you…………Colleen!!!

14. Here’s a great home workout that allows you to train and work on the usual issues I find ailing most people:

  • Right-leg Bulgarian Split Squats with DB in suitcase position, 10 reps
  • Left-leg Bulgarian Split Squats with DB in suitcase position, 10 reps
  • Goblet Squats, 10 reps
  • Deep Push-Ups, 10 reps
  • Doorway Chin-Ups, 10 reps
  • Ab Wheel, 10 reps

Try to do these six movements one after another straight through without resting much between movements. Repeat this sequence, after a minute or two of rest, three to five times.

This short workout, a supplement to your regular training, will help with cardio, help with muscular development, and help with general training. But most important, it’ll help you work by yourself on full movements and applying the lessons of coaching.

TG Comment: I actually did this exact workout two weeks ago with Georgia Southern athletic trainer Matt Biancuzzo who happened to be visiting CP for the week. Matt will be the first to tell you this program kicks your ass. Screw the elliptical trainer- do this instead.

15. Measure your progress in the weightroom one of three ways:

  • Your deadlift max increased
  • You did more real pull-ups
  • Your three-jump increased

Why the deadlift? Well, I have yet to see any aids-besides straps; don’t use them- that make deadlifts easier. In fact, I don’t even know a trick that really works besides just getting stronger. Your buddies can help you bounce a bench off your chest, help you through the sticking point, and assist the top part “just a little,” but I don’t know anything to aid a deadlift.

The pull-up also fits the bill. Be as strict as possible. Why? Because no one gives a damn about how many pull-ups you can do. There’s no professional league, no Olympic gold medal nor any celebrity endorsements. It’s a measurement. Don’t cheat and turn this into some kind of dance move; just use your arms and back.

TG Comment: I could literally keep going, but honestly…..just go buy the book.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

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