Our guest today is Dan John who is a strength coach, track coach, master’s track athlete, best-selling author, and all around sage of wisdom on all-things strength training for athletics and life itself.
Dan’s work has been profoundly impactful on my coaching, and training practice. The older and more experienced I get as a coach, the more I find his reduction to the essentials, as well as global thinking, extremely valuable. Dan appeared on podcast episode #96 with one of my favorite conversations since the start of this podcast series.
If you’ve been around elite coaches and athletes for long enough, you start to realize trends that go beyond the sets, reps and training prescriptions that work their way into the results that are being achieved in competition. Elite athletes are strong enough for their sport, as well as being (hopefully) adequate in general physical measures, but they also tend to have elite levels of relaxation and tension management. Many times, the best competitors carry a different outlook on competition itself.
For today’s show, Dan covers ideas on the art of “letting go” and achieving better performance through superior relaxation and tension management. He also gets into some of the creative coaching practices he utilized for his throwers, such as playing unique games, “range” throwing, constraint based turns in the circle, and super-setting kettlebell work with throwing. Finally, other important elements, such as the importance of being “deprived” of a good training environment, and elastic athletic performance are addressed in this conversation with a strength and track legend.
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Timestamps and Main Points
6:00 Things Dan thought was under-appreciated or went under the radar in the original “Easy Strength” book, (and a discussion on the idea of what is truly important in training, and not digging too far into details until basic standards of performance are met)
13:00 The usefulness of games for track athletes in regards to their overall conditioning with a level of specificity to their sport, and examples of games that Dan would play with his track athletes
17:00 The power of not having expectations in having one’s highest performance
24:00 Thoughts on the “right amount” of effort in one’s skills and events in competition
0:36 The art of deprivation, etc. in regards to training equipment or commonly used exercises
45:00 A chat on the integration of kettlebell training into athletic movement
50:50 The art of relaxation in throwing, sprinting and even weightlifting exercises, as well as a unique coaching system for varied tensioning in the athlete’s body during lifts
“I coach the hands and feet, I try to make them like mini-trampolines (a lot of bounce to the hands and feet)”
“The shoulders and the hips, I use the old Chinese medicine term, the “4-knots” tight enough to stay on, loose enough that you can un-string them”
“We as Americans have this love affair with these dressed up fancy programs on a spreadsheet… and it’s all crap… until they are throwing over 200,210 (feet) we don’t have to worry about the small details”
“With my throwers, we do almost zero conditioning, but on Friday’s, we always play a game”
“When you have no expectations, you let things happen (specifically in context of track and field throwing)… life at its highest end.. it’s effortless”
“It’s the art of practicing letting go… I think that a true meditation might be as good as (that extra little bit of conditioning) because practicing letting things happen, especially in track and field (is important).’
“Track and field is nothing but “bows and arrows”. When you high jump, you turn various parts of your body into a bow and arrow,