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Game Changers By Dan John

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I just came across this article by Dan John in T-Nation and as with much of his writing, it resonated well with me:http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/figuring_out_your_life_and_lifting_goals

I respect Dan Johns opinion highly since he is a multi sport athlete with considerable experience as a competitor and coach and, since I am an older lifter, he has been around a while. The section on "game changers" particularly resonated with me:

If you have game changing numbers across all five movements, well, let's just say the weight room isn't your problem unless you're in a pure strength sport like powerlifting or Olympic lifting or strongman competition. The distance of the Farmer Walk will vary, but let's assume something as short as 40 meters.

As a lifter who has no real plans to compete or total elite in powerlifting, I found this position to be an interesting change of pace from the "Lift or Die, Second Place is First Loser" mindset required to dominate the platform. I am in no way denigrating those who choose to do so. I am mightily impressed by the many monster lifters on this site who are pursuing such goals and heaving massive iron in the process. For me, with my more modest goals, this article made sense. While I am doing Wendlers 531, I do not share his position of scoffing at those who wish to buy their shirts off the rack.

Articles like this keep me grounded and remind me not to denigrate my own efforts by comparing my lifts to others with completely different goals. Lifting is a game full of numbers and sometimes I decontextualize those numbers to the point where this 48 year old man weighing 174lbs feels an insane urge to match lifts with somebody half his age and 100 lbs heavier who's goals are completely different. I am not saying it is impossible, just highly unlikely and counterproductive to my own efforts. While I fully intend to someday have a 2XBW squat, 3XBW deadlift and so on, I also do not intend to get any bigger and am not in any hurry. Needless to say, these goals are not congruent with those who are interested in maximal strength with all of the necessary gut busting lifting and eating required.

This article is a game changer for me. I will keep chugging along getting stronger at my own pace and I will keep cheering along all you Masstodons.

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Guest ExperimentB76z

I do like Dan John a lot. I think everyone should at least read, Never Let Go. There is something in ether for everyone.

As for my outlook, I'm 35 going on 36, and feel like I should be capable of putting up numbers as if I were still in my teens. Coming to terms with the probability that my best lifting days were past before they'd begun is eased by the fact they have, "masters", - polite for old, unaccomplished as I am - categories in the Olympic lifts, and I have a desire to compete in those.

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Great article SB.

Rob, don't sell yourself short. This guy is from my gym is well into his 50's and is still getting stronger. Here he is squatting 322.5kg. A British record in the Masters.

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Cool article. Here's the numbers section for anyone interested...

Push

Expected: Body weight bench press

Game Changer: Body weight bench press for 15 reps

Pull

Expected: 8-10 pull-ups

Game Changer: 15 pull-ups

Squat

Expected: Body weight squat

Game Changer: Body weight squat for 15 reps

Hinge

Expected: Body weight to 150% bodyweight deadlift

Game Changer: Double body weight deadlift

Loaded Carry (Farmer Walk)

Expected: Farmer Walk with total body weight (half per hand)

Game Changer: Body weight per hand

I think it's weird that he lists the same stats for bench and squat, but other than that it's pretty cool.

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Yeah. According to his stats, I'm behind on my upper body work--esp. my pullups. :/ I'm hoping to hit "Expected" on bench after this round of Smolov Jr...

Never done the loaded carry. I'll have to figure out how to do that here. My commercial gym doesn't have a stretch of unimpeded space to test that out--and the dumbbells don't even reach half body weight...

Squat and hinge I have in the bag, pretty soon "Game Changer" on both (deadlift is pending).

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Great article SB.

Rob, don't sell yourself short. This guy is from my gym is well into his 50's and is still getting stronger. Here he is squatting 322.5kg. A British record in the Masters.

Wait.... Jimbo you train at Adlington Barbell?! It'd be so awesome to train there!

@Andrew, yeah even though intend to have competition goals at some point what you have posted has also made me realize it's okay to not lift to the point where every lift is do or die.

Lifting can be for many things, health, sport, etc. whichever you chose is perfectly acceptable.

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I do indeed. I've not been there long, only a couple of weeks. I wish I'd started training there sooner as it really is great. Great atmosphere and there's always some inspirational lifting going on.

Where are you from?

Edit: just checked your profile, Canada is a touch too far to travel to train at Adlington.

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I think it's weird that he lists the same stats for bench and squat, but other than that it's pretty cool.

I'll admit to wondering about that. So what, Dan John seems to think a good bench is as important as a mediocre-to-good squat/dead outside the gym. I'm thinking he's right.

Personally:

1) the SL/SS crowd tends to be overly anti curlbro/captain-upperbody. Looking around here, there seem to be more people with reasonable powerlifting-level squats/deads compared to reasonable benches. Not enough Smolov jr ;)

2) if you can 15 rep a BW squat, you can easily rep 1.5BW. Other than looking bitchin in the powerrack, where exactly would a better squat make a huge difference? I've 5 rep'd a 2*BW+ dead, and Dan wanted 1, but when does that make a big difference for me?

3) if your squat/dead is good enough, why don't you push your bench to a good level? Dan John seems to think a good bench is as important as a mediocre-to-good squat/dead.

Besides, unless I'm missing something major, you can 15 rep a BW bench, so where the problem? :) I noticed that there are more guys with 20+ BW squats than there are with 15+ BW benches in the Challenges section, but I just see that as evidence of 1) being true.

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lol at BW x 15 Squat being a game changer. What children's league are you competing in where that changes the game? (no offense but that's funny)

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I'll admit to wondering about that. So what, Dan John seems to think a good bench is as important as a mediocre-to-good squat/dead outside the gym. I'm thinking he's right.

Personally:

1) the SL/SS crowd tends to be overly anti curlbro/captain-upperbody. Looking around here, there seem to be more people with reasonable powerlifting-level squats/deads compared to reasonable benches. Not enough Smolov jr ;)

2) if you can 15 rep a BW squat, you can easily rep 1.5BW. Other than looking bitchin in the powerrack, where exactly would a better squat make a huge difference? I've 5 rep'd a 2*BW+ dead, and Dan wanted 1, but when does that make a big difference for me?

3) if your squat/dead is good enough, why don't you push your bench to a good level? Dan John seems to think a good bench is as important as a mediocre-to-good squat/dead.

Besides, unless I'm missing something major, you can 15 rep a BW bench, so where the problem? :) I noticed that there are more guys with 20+ BW squats than there are with 15+ BW benches in the Challenges section, but I just see that as evidence of 1) being true.

I dunno, I am not taking anything away from trying to get your bench to a "good level" (I love benching more than any lift ever,) but it still seems weird to equate them.

A BWx15 bench is a hell of a lot more impressive than a BWx15 squat! There's a lot less muscle mass being used in a bench vs. a squat. If your numbers are the same on both lifts, you are a very weak squatter proportionately.

Anyways that sort of gets away from the point of the article. Definitely a good message.

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What blows my mind is the farmer walks. Freaking bodyweight dumbbell in each hand?!?! Maybe im just a pussy...

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@Andrew, yeah even though intend to have competition goals at some point what you have posted has also made me realize it's okay to not lift to the point where every lift is do or die.

Lifting can be for many things, health, sport, etc. whichever you chose is perfectly acceptable.

Wait wut!!!??? The mighty K relents?? Good ol' Dan john...

I do like that other than bench I've got Game Changer lifts according to Dan John.

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Guest ExperimentB76z

Cheers, Jimbo. I do intend to break some masters records, naturally. I need to drop by Adlington Barbel Club.

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I really agree on the numbers being low, but as his point is that:

If you have game changing numbers across all five movements, well, let's just say the weight room isn't your problem unless you're in a pure strength sport like powerlifting or Olympic lifting or strongman competition. The distance of the Farmer Walk will vary, but let's assume something as short as 40 meters.

And:

So one of the most fundamental lessons of my career was clear by age 14: lifting weights and getting stronger would support my goals. The lesson I missed was that "enough is enough" when it comes to strength. L. Jay, for example, threw 210 feet with his 400-pound deadlift. At the same time in my career, I threw 190 with a 628-pound deadlift.

I can understand his point. I don't think he encourages you to not trying to up your numbers after the "game changers", just to think about your goals.

I don't think aiming for higher numbers is in anyway extreme, especially if going to the gym is a priority for you. At that situation, those "game changers" are low.

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Good article...I actually recently got into a discussion where I questioned when I would be "strong enough" and need to reevaluate my goals. Don't think I'm there yet, but the subjective definition of "enough" can be hard to define.

Guess I the question I really need ask is what my goals are.

Good read SB!

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Yeah, the main point of the article was about evaluating your goals. The "game changers" simply seem to mean that for a competitive athlete, lifts at or above that threshold will give you a decisive edge.

He makes it clear that if you are a competitive lifter, be it powerlifting, Oly or strongman, that those lifts are not going to cut it.

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very interesting read. Like others, I am surprised by the 'body weight squat' which is the only one of these I have achieved, but Dan has much more experience in this than I do, maybe he knows something I don't.

as well as someting the 1.5xBW squat and 2xBW dead crowd may have missed

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This is a great article, and a great thread. What I, personally, take away from DJ's article and SB's excellent post is a hearty "who gives a fuck how much or what or how I lift as long as I'm having fun and making some sort of progress?" Let's face it: I'm a middle-aged tax lawyer for heaven's sake, not an aspiring athlete. Yeah I want to be fit and strong and lively etc. into my twilight years, but I might as well have a good time in and out of the gym along the way. If at some point that means aiming for specific numbers or sticking to a specific protocol, then so be it. If not, not. Thanks for this.

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This is a great article, and a great thread. What I, personally, take away from DJ's article and SB's excellent post is a hearty "who gives a fuck how much or what or how I lift as long as I'm having fun and making some sort of progress?" Let's face it: I'm a middle-aged tax lawyer for heaven's sake, not an aspiring athlete. Yeah I want to be fit and strong and lively etc. into my twilight years, but I might as well have a good time in and out of the gym along the way. If at some point that means aiming for specific numbers or sticking to a specific protocol, then so be it. If not, not. Thanks for this.

This is exactly how I feel to some degree. While I have toyed with the idea of entering a meet, it is not at the top of my priorities. My goal is to be as strong as I can be for as long as I can continue this ride.

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For those of you with age issues, when I was at Ironsport Gym last week (go see my log for pics), I asked Steve Pulcinella about that. He asked me what I wanted to squat and I said "well I started at 30, so I'm ok with 400 I guess". After he saw me squat, he said I could get to 550 easily. I brought up my age again and he told me he coached a 62 year old newb and that guy was now squatting 400 and pulling 500 at 65. He told me not to worry about it, just eat/sleep/lift.

From my own POV I always thought a PL competition was kind of odd. I mean, in the end, there's only you and the specific set of genetic constraints you have. In addition, you may not have been born into the optimum life for a powerlifter (being exposed to it young, having a good coach available, etc.). Jim Wendler's son, if he decides to be a power lifter, will have a leg up on any one else's son, for example. So in the end, your max lifts are something intensely personal and to a certain extent, not even within the realm of your control. All you can control is whether you live up to them; and in that sense the only competition is truly with yourself.

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another point, Dan John's first 'real' lifting program involved front squat, not back squats, so he likely squats High bar ATG. I believe High bar ATG equals lower numbers in the squat than Low bar to parallel, though it still seems a bit low.

However, Dan John is a VERY experienced athlete, lifter, and coach, so he likely knows what he's talking about

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From my own POV I always thought a PL competition was kind of odd. I mean, in the end, there's only you and the specific set of genetic constraints you have. In addition, you may not have been born into the optimum life for a powerlifter (being exposed to it young, having a good coach available, etc.). Jim Wendler's son, if he decides to be a power lifter, will have a leg up on any one else's son, for example. So in the end, your max lifts are something intensely personal and to a certain extent, not even within the realm of your control. All you can control is whether you live up to them; and in that sense the only competition is truly with yourself.

I don't agree on PL competition being weird, but with a lot of the other stuff I do agree. However, why do you think what you said differs on any sport at top level? I think that's just the way it goes. I don't think it's really possible to win anything with your genetics at top level sports, all of those guys have put endless hours of work to master their sport. You can start powerlifting at a lot higher age than weightlifting and still be successful I think, not to say either one is possible or impossible for some individuals.

Of course you need to have or make the right circumstances but I don't think even Jim Wendlers son (I don't know if one even exists) would have it easy in powerlifting.

I'll have to check you log for the IronSport action!

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I don't agree on PL competition being weird

Oh, they actually are weird as hell! Where else do you see grown men bitching about what other grown men wear? Where else do people in their 50s ask for J├Ągermeister and slaps in the face before waddling out to the platform?

I like the article and what Andrew made of it. Know your goals.

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Oh, they actually are weird as hell! Where else do you see grown men bitching about what other grown men wear? Where else do people in their 50s ask for J├Ągermeister and slaps in the face before waddling out to the platform?

Haha, well that's true. I meant it more in sense of competing for the lifts and not everything that happens during the competitions :) You do see grown men bitching everywhere if you look closely enough.

I like the article and what Andrew made of it. Know your goals.

Me too and I think I understood it in the same way as Andrew.

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