Dan John: Is Your Athlete Up to The Standards?

For Dan John, the guiding principles for a strength coach are very simple. Is your athlete up to the standards? Do they have any training gaps?

Excerpted from Now What?

When I was with Dick Notmeyer, the first day I met him, he gave me the principles of being a great Olympic lifter.

I had none of the three.

He said, “You need strong legs, a powerful pull and a tranquil mind.”

The best gift he left me with was teaching me to perform loose. The reason nothing bothers me when I compete is because I try to take all the junk off the shelf. I shark habit everything. I’m the first one to turn in the form. I’m the first one to get their name on the list.

I take care of stuff early.

I think the principles for a strength coach are very simple. First, is your athlete up to the standard? If you have a sport where there are no strength standards, you invent them.

For discus throwers, we know what they are:
400 pound bench,
250 snatch,
300 clean, and
450 back squat.

If you’re up to those standards, and you’re not throwing far, not my fault. We took care of you.

We’re good.

The next one is gaps. This is one thing I think I brought to the industry: gaps. Push, pull, hinge, squat, loaded carry. If you’re not squatting deep, if you’re not doing loaded carries . . . gaps. When we add those two, people tend to improve.

I have rarely worked with a young man who didn’t have enough push. I never program bench press or curl for a male athlete. Why not? Because they will always bench press and curl. They could be throwing up in a bucket for 2 1/2 hours, hop up and get their benches in.

You can have a female sprinter who just ran three 400 meter dashes at top speed. At the end of the second one, she didn’t have any food in her stomach, but she still vomited up something. She will work her abs and stretch after it. Never program abs or stretching for a female athlete. They will do them.

I just threw the entire population of planet earth under the bus with that.

Click for information on and more sample clips from Now What?
assessing and program design for athletes