Dan John: Why Age Can No Longer Be Your Excuse In Your Strength Gains
Feb 15, 2019
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How has the strength and conditioning industry changed throughout the years? On this episode of Sheer Strength Josh chats with world-renowned strength and conditioning coach, Dan John, about longevity, strategies to beat indecisiveness, and common errors in mobility work. Dan still competes as an athlete at age 57 and is a stellar example of why age is no longer an excuse in strength gains. Prepare yourself for some serious knowledge bombs!
Meet Dan John
Dan started lifting weights in 1965, began coaching in 1979, and has been involved in a range of sports at an elite level ever since. He is an All-American discus thrower, competed in the Weight Pentathlon, Olympic lifting, and at the Highland Games. Dan was also named the Masters National Champion and spends his work-life presenting workshops and lectures, writing, and is also a Religious Studies instructor for Columbia College of Missouri.
Athlete Longevity & Precovery
The longevity Dan has had as an athlete isn’t something you see often in the sporting arena, especially with athletes’ careers being so short. Dan attributes his longevity to proactive habits and mentions ‘precovery,’ an example of which is taking vitamins, sleeping well, and drinking water as soon as you wake. His advice is that if you want to be around a long time, then you need to use your brain before you use your body.
Mobility Work & Common Errors
Mobility work is when the joints move throughout a free range. Dan does three workouts a week that are mobility focused, and has always concentrated on his physical and technical weaknesses in the off-season. Everyone is looking for the ‘new wave,’ but Dan suggests it’s more about simply practicing and mastering the areas in which your skills are deficient. This is the 50th year that Dan has been lifting weights, and the most common errors he sees across movements are as follows:
Push: Most of us have lost authentic overhead lifting. Dan has moved to single arm weights as he feels he can get more hypertrophy (when you get older, lean body mass is something you want to hold onto).
Pull: Both the vertical and horizontals have been lost as most people have such underdeveloped rhomboids that they can’t bring their ‘chicken wings’ back. Dan has noticed a drop in serious pulling exercises where you hold the load.
Hinge: Dan says we have lost the authentic hinge movement, where you do a swing or Olympic lift. This is when you are stretching the hamstring and using the butt to propel it forward. Authentic deep squatting has been thrown away too. When you do good kettle bell swings and deadlifts, you should feel it the day after in your hamstrings (so you know your butt worked). If you feel it in your lower back, you are doing it wrong!
Dan would like to bring back overhead pressing, authentic squatting, stretching the hamstrings in the weight room, loaded carries, and tumbles. He suggests that 15-25 quality reps has stood the test of time and is the right number for most exercises so this would be 3×8, 5×5, 3×5, 5×3, and 10-5-10.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is letting loads be the answer before they answer the questions of authentic movement of push, pull, hinge, and squat.
We can categorize nearly every person into four quadrants.
Quadrant 1: Similar to high school physical education program, where you learn the rules of a lot of sports.
Quadrant 2: Like the NFL, where there are a lot of qualities at a high level. This quadrant get’s all the press
Quadrant 3: Good technique and strong.
Quadrant 4: One or two qualities at the highest level as humanly possible.
Most people start at quadrant 1 and slide over to quadrant 3. To go from 1 to 4, you have to have genetics and geography on your side.
Lessons in Sport
Self-disciple doesn’t actually exist, but at least athletes and exercising teaches you to manage the following three things:
i) Risks: You can always have one more surgery, but you might not have one more recovery.
ii) Compromise: When we manage compromise, we have to be open to what is new and better.
iii) Options: Pick something that works for you that you will adhere to (this is also the big choice in life).
Strategies to Beat Indecisiveness
Pain: This is the best lever to get someone to get decisive, e.g. divorce.
Prison: 24/7 lockdown.
Pound the pavement: This is about tiny habits, e.g. drinking two glasses of water a day at first. You have to have success and enjoy the success so it can be sustained.
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