5-Shot Friday: 5 Slices of Dan John

Mar 10, 2017


5 Shot Friday

5-Shot Friday: 5 Slices of Dan John

Welcome to the 3/10/17 edition of 5-Shot Friday.

I review a number of articles, blog posts, and tweets in order to curate the 5 items for 5-Shot Friday. Recently, I rediscovered the writings of Coach Dan John, a well-known strength and powerlifting coach, who is also a contemporary of a number of folks who frequent these 5SFs. I found myself using a phrase of his with a patient just last week – You can’t outrun a jelly donut – and my patient instantly “got it” (proper diet is way more important than exercise when it comes to fat loss).

I loved his sense of humor, and found myself reading a related article. Then another, then a look up to define an unknown term (what’s a Prowler? a batwing?), then another…pretty soon there was a line of tabbed posts at the top of my browser that was more than enough for a full 5-Shot Friday. And more importantly, a group of posts that emphasize simplicity whenever possible, goal focus to guide your efforts, and re-balancing as you progress and age.

Not a lot of pics, because Coach Dan’s stuff is solid stuff, no filler.


1. The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Dan John’s Principle Numero Uno:

”My overriding principle for coaching is focusing on the interplay between two things: the Goal and Assessment. Assessment is simple: are we getting closer to the goal.”

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s awfully hard to accidentally get there. Fat loss? Stronger for sport or lifting heavy stuff in daily life? More muscle mass to counteract age shrinkage and insulin resistance? Sturdier bones to prevent hip fractures, or greater endurance to withstand prolonged exertion? All are important in their own way, and each requires a specific kind of training to achieve (and some of these don’t mix well with others).

The first step is defining what you are trying to accomplish.

“There is a question I ask every professional in every field that I encounter: what are the three keys to success in your field?...how do you answer this?...if you don’t know, I ask a follow up question: if, for whatever reason, you were forced into a situation where you could only pursue your goal for three 15-minute periods a week, what would you do?”

This Prisoner’s Dilemma – they let you out in the yard for just 15 minutes of sun and exercise, 3 times a week, what are you going to do? – crystalizes your focus. Your answer defines what’s crucial to you, what is core. Everything follows from this.

2. Fat Loss

This blog post from just last month was subtitled: “The hardest thing to do…and that’s all people want to do!” And it’s true for the vast majority of us: there are more folks in need of shedding the extra pounds than bulking up (more accurately: we all need to gain muscle, but there are more of us who ALSO badly need to shed fat).

This article goes a bit into exercises and regimens that you may not have heard about if you haven’t spent any time in the gym, but the most critical parts are these:

“If you noticed that your waistline has nudged over half your height, I consider you a body composition client. We have two simple tools for you: 1. Caloric Restriction (of some kind) 2. Inefficient Exercise

Moseying along on a treadmill for 45 minutes isn’t inefficient exercise, nor is recumbent biking along for an hour. “Inefficient Exercise is doing something that takes a lot of movement and breathing and really doesn’t get you very far.” It doesn’t have to kill you, but it has to be challenging; think changing gears a lot, and not possible to perform on autopilot.

Dan doesn’t specifically mention The Velocity Diet, which he described years ago as the most efficient fat loss option around: 4 solid weeks of meal replacement shakes 5+ times daily plus one small protein-rich “regular food” dinner. He hasn’t critiqued it since, but even he noted at the time (and the Velocity Diet’s website makes it clear, too): most folks will not be able to stick to this program.

More recently he described, in a hilariously funny article, his current default eating mode of intermittent fasting. He has also referenced the Atkins induction diet, as well as Ori Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet.

Translation: for losing the blubber, diet is the alpha and very nearly the whole enchilada omega.

3. 2 Workouts Per Week

It is absolutely possible to achieve strength goals with 2 focused workouts per week.

Maybe you don’t have a thing (yet) for working out nearly every day.

Maybe you need to be physically fresh at a moment’s notice – law enforcement, military, or first responder comes to mind – or you’re already doing plenty challenging physical activities on a daily basis (martial arts, competitive sports).

Or maybe you’re just so craptastically busy that a couple of one-hour blocks a week is all that you can consistently set aside (I’m a doctor, believe me, I hear you).

Coach Dan describes several options, with a similar 3 workout option for folks with most of their training time on the weekend, both with the understanding that you know how to perform the lifts mentioned; (if not, see the last 5-Shot Friday post featuring an excellent local coach in Costa Mesa).

Translation: While you can do a more comprehensive program, 2-4 of the big lift, most-bang-for-the-buck exercises done twice a week work Just Fine Thank You for strength and conditioning.

4. But For The Reaaally Time Challenged…

…it is possible to work all your attributes at once. Many programs out there promise this, but few deliver. This one does, though you have to know how to use double kettlebells to perform it. Like anything else you will want to work up to it, but the goal is to perform 30 rounds in 5 minutes of 3 moves (double KB cleans, presses, and front squats). Another option – the Humane Burpee – requires just a single kettlebell.

Both work 3-4 of the essential cardinal movements (press, pull, squat, hip hinge, loaded carry), and develop strength, explosive power, and inefficient movement (e.g. fat loss).

For the busy, not beginners.

5. Work, Rest, Play, Pray: Balance

This one has a picture, but it doesn’t do the article justice:

“I can only help with some part of the madness, but I am willing to step up. Really, the bulk of my rantings centers around this lunatic idea that, somehow, putting yourself next to death"s door is good for you. Oh, I"ve seen the t-shirts.

"Pain is weakness leaving the body." "That which doesn"t kill me makes me stronger." "It"s not too heavy, you"re just too weak."

“Why did simple questions like, "I want to feel better, can you help me?" or "I"d like to lose a few pounds, what should I do?" turn into battlefield tactics?”

This one relatively brief post has more wisdom stuffed into it than most self-help books. Fitness is contrasted with Health (hint: if you can do 100 pushups but are sitting on a tumor, you may be fit but you aren’t healthy). Cardinal compass directions are defined for you to track to keep in tune (Work, Rest, Play, Pray/Alone Time), and to recognize that It’s Time For Action when things start to spin out of control. You’re reminded that Life isn’t linear, that things ebb and flow, take 3 steps forward and 1 step back, and so on.

In other words, the key realizations that, if taken to heart by all, would put the healthcare industry out of business and make every physician the happiest unemployed camper on earth.

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