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Easy Strength Secrets Teleseminar


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Easy Strength Secrets Teleseminar
with Pavel and Dan John

John Du Cane: I’m excited to have both of the Easy Strength authors on this call. Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline are leading experts in the world of strength. Of course, Pavel has been a lead author for Dragon Door for some 14 years. Dan John has been a very influential strength writer for many years, a National discus champion, and is remarkable for his coaching background.

I think the first thing that we’d like to discuss is how Dan and Pavel decided to collaborate. Dan or Pavel, how did you decide to collaborate on Easy Strength?

Pavel Tsatsouline: Dan and I met at a Charles Staley event and immediately hit it off. We realized that our training philosophies were an excellent fit and started learning from each other right from the start. Easy Strength is something that appeared as a result of that meeting.

Dan John: A lot of people don’t know this, but I had started reading Pavel’s work early on. Jason Keene had gone to one of Pavel’s workshops in Minnesota, where I believe he charged an astounding $25. So, Jason Keene wrote up a little review on this thing called the INTERNET way back in ‘98/’99. I read it and immediately thought, "I like this Pavel guy." He was into a lot of the same ideas as those of us in track and field.

Pavel was also on the Ammeross forum that I used to read—even though I was too shy back then to post. When we finally met, it was a natural fit. The two of us had really similar ideas. We both think that strength is a lot simpler than people make it. So a couple years later, here we are.

Pavel Tsatsouline: We are like two musicians jamming together.

Dan John: That’s exactly what happens. It’s strange because sometimes we finish each other’s sentences. We’re like an old married couple!

Pavel Tsatsouline: Don’t forget to take out the garbage, Dan.

Dan John: I'm on it!

John Du Cane: Dan and Pavel each have a tremendous sense of humor, which is one of the reasons I love them both dearly. Dan came out with a nice joke about how the Easy Strength book came to be written and organized: An Irishman, a Russian and a Brit walked into a bar. The Irishman ordered a Guinness, the Russian five shots of vodka which was just to get him going, and the Brit settled for a tankard of lukewarm pale ale. Then they sat down to discuss the creation of what has become a landmark strength title.

One of the problems with a book like this is while Dan and Pavel have a lot in common, they are also very different. They are especially different in terms of their backgrounds, experiences, and writing styles. Fortunately they also have a lot in common and a very good sense of communication.

Gentlemen, would you like to talk about how we came up with the structure that would work for a book like Easy Strength?

Pavel Tsatsouline: It was John’s idea—the My Dinner with Andre model. A terrific idea because while Dan’s training philosophy and mine are very much in sync, our styles of delivery are very different.

John Du Cane: Thank you, Pavel. One of my favorite movies of all time is My Dinner with Andre by Louis Malle. I actually sent it to Pavel. He loved it and told me he watched it five times!

The movie is about two gentlemen from extremely different backgrounds with very different personalities. One is relatively quiet and conservative in his lifestyle, the other is flamboyant, highly creative and kind of mystical. They’re very good friends but they come at life from different viewpoints.

The whole film is just them sitting down to dinner. They talk about what life is really all about for the two of them. It’s a very intriguing, moving and generally successful film. This looked like a worthwhile, and unusual approach to take for a book on strength training. Two people with very distinct personalities and backgrounds would sit down together and talk the book out.

Easy Strength is a very profound conversation about the ramifications of strength training. One of the things Dan just mentioned is that strength is simple and yet at the same time as Pavel has explained in a masterly fashion, a skill with many aspects. There’s also great theory behind it.

It’s very simple and yet there’s a lot of complexity. As we all know, the complexity overwhelms people and they easily go off track. We see that in so many different disciplines when strength training is applied to any athletic endeavor.

One of the things that Dan points out in particular, and Pavel backs him up with in Easy Strength is the extent to which many athletic coaches get off track. I thought it would be very helpful if we focused on the top five mistakes that you gentlemen see strength coaches making with their athletes.

Dan, what is the first and perhaps greatest mistake you see strength coaches making when they approach an athlete?

Dan John: I’m working with a team right now and they have all come to the same conclusion, "How did we get away from the message?" Like I tell everybody, the joke in some fields is that fifty percent of what we know is wrong, and we don’t know which fifty percent is right.

In weightlifting, we know what works, and we’ve always known what works. Seriously, don’t buy my book, buy Power to the People because if you just bench press, military press, and deadlift five days a week, you will be strong.

But what happens is we’re constantly changing plans, everybody’s looking for the next wave. People don’t have the confidence to say, "Okay, we’re going to do this. This is who we are. This is our mission."

Lately, I talk a lot about that on my blog. Being mission centered or goal centered is a little bit different. My job as a football coach is to lead a winning football program for seven to ten years, and when we can, win a state championship. That’s a good ten-year mission. So, why did we just spend $7,000.00 on a machine that will increase our vertical jump three inches because we liked the sales presentation? Why don’t we just stick to the basics, stick to the mission?

That’s the hard part. The joke that we always make is "the best program is the next one you’re going to start." In reality, the best program is the one that you actually do.

What happens, and I’m sure Pavel will agree, is that everybody is so busy looking for the little gem that they miss the fact that they’re standing on a gold mine. That’s the big mistake I see. We need to have the courage to do what we say we will do. I live by that phrase. If you say in your program that we need to squat, bench press and deadlift, then do it. Don't be distracted by those guys over there who are doing something different. You bought all this equipment, you took all these classes, just follow the program, finish it. Do what you say you will do.

That’s the secret behind the 40-day workout or the Easy Strength workout. Pick five exercises and just do them. Do them for 40 workouts and then get back to me. Amazingly, when you do the same thing 40 times, you get stronger.

I know this is a long-winded response, but the biggest issue is that people are always looking somewhere else. Home is where the heart is. All the great traditions come back to saying the same thing we’re saying in this book: just be who you say you are. You can find the same things in Leviticus. Be who you say you are.

John Du Cane: Thank you, Dan. To summarize, the number one mistake is lack of focus, lack of application, and lack of following through on what’s known to truly work. Would that be a fair summary?

Dan John: Exactly right, John. Follow through. Finish it. Take care of it. When people want to be an Olympic lifter, until they can snatch 462lbs, there’s no need for new ground or to try and invent something new. When you snatch 467 pounds, then maybe you have to start looking for something new to do.

John Du Cane: Pavel, do you have another example of a critical, key mistake strength and conditioning coaches make when they’re training an athlete?

Pavel Tsatsouline: Yes, John. That mistake is forgetting that strength is the master quality. Prof. Leonid Matveev is one of the foremost Russian sports scientists, and is the father of periodization. He stated that strength is the foundation for all the other physical qualities. People have forgotten that fact.

Fashions come and go. Right now, corrective exercises and metabolic conditioning are fashionable. A little earlier it was "functional training," and soon it will be something else. This doesn’t mean that metabolic training or correctives don't have value. They obviously do—but strength is the mother quality. It should never be out of style.

It’s entertaining to watch people who are very weak do a lot of repetitions with light weight, trying to develop strength endurance. Steve Baccari, RKC who is a strength coach to some top UFC fighters like Joe Lauzon, has a great saying. "Before worrying about strength endurance, why don’t you build some strength to endure?" That really sums up this particular mistake. Why did strength coaches and athletes step away from strength development? Because they have been distracted by what Master RKC Brett Jones calls the "shiny new thing," or because they heard stories about elite athletes taken out of context.

If you talk to Dan, you will find out that he did his best throwing when his back squat was 400 pounds. At some point Dan decided to take it to 600—which he did successfully—and his throws went down. Taken out of context, this particular story could be interpreted as: "Don’t lift heavy, this will make you slow." What you would be missing is: without the 400-pound squat he never would have been able to throw the discus and other implements as far as he did.

You need a certain level of strength. You need to reach at least the point of diminishing returns in your general strength. Where would that point be? A couple of examples would be the double bodyweight back squat or bodyweight military barbell press. Those are not remarkable numbers—but those numbers are a must for a contender. Until those numbers are achieved, any other focus in training, other than skill practice, is not justified.

I would say that the number one mistake that athletes and coaches make is to underestimate the importance of strength.

John Du Cane: Very well stated, Pavel. Now we have two big mistakes outlined in very powerful terms. Dan, do you have another key mistake that you see strength and conditioning coaches making in their approach to athletes these days?

Dan John: The mistake for most of us is focusing on more and more and more conditioning. I get emails from people who want to build up and put on some really big, serious mass, but they don’t want to lose their six-pack. If you weigh 135 pounds, don’t worry about your six pack. Get your weight up first to a number that doesn’t sound like a supermodel’s.

The other problem that coaches have fallen into lately, is this idea of constantly ramping up. People don’t go to the weight room any more to lift weights. They go in the weight room to do a conditioning workout where they’re doing a crazy thing followed by another crazy thing, and another. If you want great conditioning, go to a local high school track and run 400 meters as fast as you physically can. Recover from that and do it two more times. You will be in great condition. I always joke, "Don’t worry about your diet, you’ll leave your meals right there on the track."

The third biggest error is seeking more and more conditioning. The sad thing about conditioning—this is an observation of mine—is it’s a quality that disappears quite quickly. What’s strange about brute, absolute strength is that it stays. Literally, I couldn't lift for years—because of illness and injuries in the past. Yet, when I was finally able to lift again, my strength numbers were back in a workout or two. Strength doesn’t evaporate, it stays. Conditioning and more conditioning, disappears in the next eight minutes. That's another small mistake.

John Du Cane: It doesn’t sound small, it sounds very significant. I may be exaggerating but it’s almost like you’re saying when people call themselves S&C coaches, they should really have the S as a capital and the C in lower case. Also, the approach to conditioning has been to unnecessarily elevate it or misunderstand the type of training that’s really needed.

I have a question. We celebrate toughness a great deal at Dragon Door, it’s part of who we are. We want to promote being tough, and we try to help people achieve that. Do you think people misunderstand the relationship between toughness and conditioning?

Dan John: Absolutely.

John Du Cane: I can ask you and then Pavel will probably have some thoughts too.

Dan John: Fortunately, I grew up at a good time. My dad was a vet, and my brothers were all in the service. Two are disabled from Vietnam and one is deaf. Everyone in my house grew up pretty tough, we’re all athletes. Toughness came to me very naturally. But I think what happens is that we’re in a position now where people think tough is simply completing a task.

Do you want to be tasked by how tough you are? Then have twins. If you want to find out how tough you are—seriously, raise infants. You never sleep. You rarely eat. You barely can finish a sentence. Sadly, sometimes that's the first time anyone ever has to stand up for toughness in their life. I’m not sure toughness is the right word for what we’re doing at Dragon Door. For me, it’s normative behavior that’s been lost. We shouldn't always have to be told we’re super swell and wonderful. Sometimes you have to earn the right to do something... within reason, of course.

John Du Cane: But, the bottom line is that coaches sometimes make the mistake of driving people into the ground with unnecessary levels of elongated cardio.

Dan John: I see that a lot. I’d rather have a team full of guys who can deadlift 500 pounds, squat 400, bench 300, and clean 300, instead of a lot of guys who can run marathons. That’s my own opinion, but I think we’d win more football games and be a little tougher in bar fights.

John Du Cane: Pavel, do you want to add anything there?

Pavel Tsatsouline: Great points, Dan. Toughness, gentlemen, has to be taken in context. One has to understand that in addition to developing toughness you also must teach your nervous system and body to do certain things.

For example, whenever you go out on a long run—a marathon or just any long run—you’re pushing yourself and building toughness. You're teaching your nervous system to take the finite amount of energy that you have and spread it out as thinly as possible for the longest period of time, which is very appropriate for this particular event.

If you choose to try and perform a strength lift or express your power with a jump or throw, you simply won't be able. Even though you’re trying hard, you've taught your nervous system not to give it all, to save some for later. While you may have become tough in some arbitrary manner, it’s not going to help you in other events. We have to understand that there are different ways of being tough. Who’s tougher? A marathon runner? A fighter who can go for several rounds for several minutes? Or a powerlifter who is fighting a very, very heavy deadlift? These are different expressions of toughness. Let’s use the last example of the powerlifter. Mark Reifkind’s friend pulled a 733 pound deadlift and got white lights, but it took him—if I’m not mistaken—15 seconds to complete the lift. Fifteen seconds! To me, that is the most insanely crazy feat of toughness I’ve ever heard. The type of neural drive it takes to withstand this sort of effort is just absolutely unbelievable. Will this gentleman be able to run a marathon? Absolutely not.

Will a marathon runner be able to muster enough focus to take all his resources and throw them in just one brief moment of time and focus them there? Negative. So, it’s really comparing apples and oranges. Toughness must be developed, but developed in a way that's appropriate for a particular sport or occupation.

John Du Cane: As both of you have been saying and indicating, the problem is determining—like you used to say, Pavel—"Fitness for what?"

Pavel Tsatsouline: Right.

John Du Cane: Is it that some strength coaches are adopting a scatter shot approach and not applying the appropriate strategies to the appropriate athlete?

Pavel Tsatsouline: There is another point to make here, gentlemen. It’s very easy to smoke somebody, it really doesn’t take a big brain. Just go out and do 1,000 pushups, 1,000 squats and whatever. Later on, they think, "I’m so sore. I’m so tired. I had a great workout." But what is the criteria of success here? Is performance improving? Is the athlete getting closer to their goals?

Making somebody stronger is a real challenge and there's a very objective evaluation: you’ve lifted more weight or you haven't. Period. Who cares how sore and tired you are.

John Du Cane: Dan or Pavel, what's another key mistake that people are making these days?

Dan John: Well, there’s a boatload of them. For example, fat loss is something that’s simple. What diet works? Every diet works. We know this. What exercise program works? To be honest, every exercise program works. Personally, I think that Paleo, Atkins or meat based diets work better, and swings, goblet squats, push ups and get ups work better. But there are other options. It’s simple, just pick one and do it. We are so inundated today with different ways of eating and exercising that we get lost. We keep losing our direction, and vision of where we’re going.

Trust me, if you stick to Robb Wolf’s Paleo diet, and do what he says to do, you’ll do fine. If you decide to do Atkins, you’ll do fine. It doesn’t matter. But there’s so much more noise now. The old Ironman magazine used to come out once a month and there would always an insane workout. But because it only came out once a month, I could only do something stupid every 31 days.

Now, with the Internet I can literally do something stupid or give space to a new stupid idea every minute or second I’m online. Most people can’t deal with the buffet of options. It's like a high school senior with senioritis. I’ve argued many times that the problem with high school kids when they’re seniors is that it’s the first time in their life they’ve had to manage a compromise. It’s the decision about getting a job or going to college. If they choose college, then there's over 25,000 colleges. So these kids freak out because they’ve never had to make a decision that has had such life-altering implications.

But diet? Exercise? Just pick one and go with it. Don't go in circles, have the courage to stick with what you're doing. It seems like trainers offer a new instant product online every month: 21 days to this, two weeks to that. On their own websites and blogs, they'll contradict themselves every couple of weeks. You can imagine what someone who doesn’t do this for a living must think!

We broke it all down into four segments, four populations in Easy Strength. Find the population you fit and follow it. Find the people who speak your language. Football coaches should talk to football coaches, dieters should talk to other dieters. There’s so much noise out there today that people can’t find their way. Why not go back to the simplest thing, and like a true scientist experiment with one variable at a time. One variable a year. If you decide all you’re going to eat is meat and vegetables for a year, and the next year someone says that you need to eat an orange a day, then just do that.

Pavel Tsatsouline: Dan, maybe if dieters talked to a football coach they would be better off than talking to other dieters…


Dan John: That’s a good point.

John Du Cane: A superficial person considering investing in Easy Strength will say, "Dan’s just told me that this is very simple. That I just need to do some very simple things and yet this book is 288 pages." Obviously, this comes back to the issue of simplicity and complexity in strength training. People are still making mistakes, and it’s clear that Easy Strength offers some simple solutions. Ironically, it appears that you’ve also needed to go into great depth on the complexities which need attention.

How have you addressed the paradox of the simple, straightforward instructions an individual should follow, while still giving them the proper understanding of what the actual choices are in the Easy Strength text?

Dan John: About a week ago, Pavel and I were answering questions. I’ll just exaggerate a little bit, but assume someone asks, "I have a client who has one leg. How am I supposed to teach him how to goblet squat?" Pavel painlessly answered, "This is a principle based system."

In the past, people would say, "Dan, this NFL player does this and it works." And I’d say, "Right. Okay." Their thought would be, "So I should go do that." Or, I would read about a tri-athlete or sprinter who trains a certain way. I'd think, "That works. That’s a good idea." It wasn’t until Pavel and I started working on Easy Strength that I realized that for certain areas, let’s call them quadrants of activity, certain things work. But you shouldn't train a sprinter like you train a football player with agility drills. Even though no one throws things at sprinters during a track meet, I’ve heard of sprint coaches training their sprinters with agility drills. In the discus ring, they don’t roll balls across your feet as you’re throwing!

Pavel Tsatsouline: It gets better, Dan. Now they're using agility drills for personal training clients in gyms.

Dan John: So, someone has a fat loss client and is working on their balance. Why not get the fat off them first, and then see if their balance improves? This is why Pavel and I made the quadrants. The nice thing about them is when you read Easy Strength, you should mentally put yourself into one of the quadrants. In fact, I’m working with this team this week and we had a long conversation about whether major league baseball is a quadrant 2 or a quadrant 3 activity. What's interesting is early in someone's career, they are in quadrant 2. But, as an example, when a pitcher is 32 or 33 years old, they're definitely in quadrant 3. You want to keep the pitcher strong, and keep him pitching.

The team laughed and said they had come to the same exact conclusion. The idea is simple, but you also have to have the skill set to come to a this conclusion. I’m watching the NFL combine this week and they’re doing all these insane things. But they’re doing all these insane things to prepare themselves for the combine, not to prepare themselves for the NFL games. When a 29 year old guy is playing in the NFL, he's not going to do that stuff anymore. He'll probably just work on mobility, some hypertrophy and keeping his strength at a nice level. That’s really it.

Pavel Tsatsouline: In Power to the People, I mentioned the term "simplexity". The term refers to the very simple rules that arise from an underlying complexity. Simple does not mean stupid. We could tell somebody to train simply—simply go and do pushups. Again, this is not going to get the results, because the simplicity has to have a solid foundation. In Easy Strength we give you a series of simple recommendations that are both empirically and scientifically based. We've refined a lot of material, a lot of work by researchers and coaches done over decades, and in some instances even over a couple of centuries.

John Du Cane: Very good, Pavel. It reminds me of Einstein’s quote—I’ll have to paraphrase—which says if you aren't able to explain something simply, then you haven’t done the work to understand the material properly.

Pavel Tsatsouline: That’s exactly it. A Russian teacher was complaining to a colleague over vodka one night saying, "These kids are such idiots. I explain it to them once. I explain it to them twice. I explain it to them three times. I finally get it, and they still don’t get it..."


Dan John: That’s perfect.

John Du Cane: That’s a great reason to be a teacher.

Dan John: My friend, Dave Turner, was my Olympics lifting coach for a long time in Utah. He used to give me articles from the archives of Strength and Health to show me that in the 1950s and early 1960s, American lifters were using very simple programs. Very simple programs.

As Pavel said, this stuff is centuries old. I had an athlete say, "I've never heard of anything like this before." I replied that, "This is before the before." Training was simple before the advent of anabolics. When anabolics showed up, they distorted strength training because all of a sudden people could get away with very odd training ideas. I’ve heard about this one guy who bragged that he had to put a gun to a guy’s head to make him do the work it because it was so hard. You can’t train like that very long. The training can’t be so brutal that you have to use a weapon to make your athlete do it. That won't hold up over a 10, 12, 15-year career.

People think I want to go put on a leopard skin thing and grow a jaunty mustache because this is the way old time strong men trained. But they had a lot of it right, the problem is we became based on Frankenstein and machine training. Once we got away from the machines, people literally just reinvented a bunch of other junk. I think Pavel and I stand on a seesaw between what worked 100 years ago and what works now. There’s a bit of a balance there. I wanted to make sure I mentioned that.

John Du Cane: Excellent.

Pavel Tsatsouline: As coaches started recognizing the ineffectiveness of bodybuilding style training, the pendulum swung so far in the other direction, that strength got lost in the process. So-called "functional training" appeared on stage. It’s a wonderful idea that was executed horribly. The premise is simple, train the way your body naturally moves—which is great in theory.

"Oh, the lunge is wonderful! We should all be doing lunges." So people start walking around the gym lunging. But they have horrendous arches in their lower back, their pelvises are all twisted, their knees and ankles are crushed... They’re pretending to perform lunges. (An aside on the lunge: those who can't do them correctly shouldn't do them. Those who can do them don't need to do them.)

Most trainers just create an appearance of "functionality". Their students and clients hold a plank for a minute. That "victim" has a horribly arched back, bent knees, shoulder blades which poking out—and this person is proudly holding this joke of a plank for 60 seconds. Gray Cook would say that they’re adding fitness on top of dysfunction. Gray is one of the few people who understands functional training the way it’s supposed to be.

Before attempting a "functional" exercise like the plank, the trainee needs to develop hip flexor flexibility and to learn how to tense his midsection properly. Should we call this pre-functional training? We do this at the RKC, then we teach the plank—the RKC way. According to Bret Contreras’ EMG measurements, the abs and obliques fire 200-400% stronger with the RKC plank than in the traditional plank.

Dan John: Can I add one thing? I wouldn’t want the audience to miss what Pavel said. He said that strength was thrown out. If we start kidding ourselves by putting a foot on a BOSU ball while holding a rubber band in our hand to make it even more unstable, then there’s no load and we've thrown out strength. I’ve always felt that if you use appropriate strength loading with an athlete, really get the whole team to a reasonable strength level, miraculous things will happen to your program.

If I can get a woman to just do goblet squats and presses, in about three weeks, I’m the best fat loss coach in the world. Pavel nailed it, strength was the baby in the bath water and we threw it out.

Pavel Tsatsouline: What’s ironic, Dan, is that "functional exercise" still failed to achieve good, intelligent movement patterns. So they failed on both counts, becoming weak and dysfunctional.

Dan John: If we could get that same person doing that lunge in your example to do a solid goblet squat and a bunch of presses, they would magically master that lunge. At least that’s what I’m finding and what people are reporting. I need to be careful about my universal anecdotes. They’re not always perfect. This isn’t the cure for black death but, boy, it sure answers a lot of problems. Getting stronger won’t stop the Bubonic plague yet, but I’m working on it!

Pavel Tsatsouline: I will address one more mistake that coaches make: imitating the training of a weightlifter, powerlifter, or worse, a bodybuilder, when training for a different sport like discus or MMA. Do not exactly imitate the methods of a strength sport. Iron sport’s goal is to lift as much weight as possible, which is not always good for other sports. Consider the bench press. Arching your back is going to add a couple of extra pounds to this lift. But to quote one powerlifter, "Did you get stronger or did you just lift more?" While athletes from strength sports have terrific methods for building strength, one has to be very judicious about their use.

Consider the loading parameters: a popular formula for building strength among Russian powerlifters is five sets of five with the same poundage. So, once a week a lifter goes out, does five sets of five with squats with about eight minutes rest between each set. It’s a very effective and pretty much foolproof method of building strength. But, anybody who has ever done the 5x5 program, the variation of five by five where you use the same static weight, knows that after you’ve done those sets for a heavy squat, the only sport that you’re able to play for the next several days is chess. Maybe darts, but probably not—so chess it is!

These methods may be very effective, but they were designed for lifting specialists. They don’t leave much energy for developing other qualities or practicing a sport. That’s one of the reasons you should not blindly emulate powerlifters or weightlifters.

This is one of the points Dan and I make in Easy Strength. We give you a series of protocols that allow you to get stronger—a lot stronger—while at the same time leaving the time and energy to play your sport or just have a normal life.

Another coaching mistake—the other extreme—is disregarding general strength exercises like deadlifts and cleans and doing nothing but loaded variations of athletic movements—"sport specific" stuff. While this type of training may have its place in a highly experienced athlete’s regimen, the coach who is implementing this method has to be extremely experienced. If the movement is loaded in an amateur manner, the athlete’s technique is going to be ruined. It’s happened time and time again.

For instance, you may have heard that Russian boxers box with dumbbells. So you start punching with dumbbells, you grab a pair of five or ten pounders and off you go. But these are not punches any more, they're something else. Russian boxers use dumbbells the size of a roll of quarters, it's a very different ballgame. There are different ways of loading a movement. It’s a whole science of how and how much. Only highly experienced coaches in their particular fields know how to do it. And only fairly high-level athletes have justification for using these methods anyway.

Let’s just put it this way. Until you’re almost a contender—knocking on the door of competing at the national level—you have no business doing this "sport specific" stuff. Just do general strength preparation the way we describe it in Easy Strength and practice your skill or your sport. These are the two mistakes that athletes and coaches make, the two extremes. Easy Strength resolves the problem.

Dan John: There are a few famous Soviet track and field coaches who emigrated to Canada. When you read what they do online, it all sounds specialized. I’ve talked to a number of athletes who have trained with them. What they found with American athletes is that we show up with a situation like a Mack truck engine in a Volkswagen. The last thing they needed was any more strength. One athlete in particular had more than enough strength to be the world champion of the shot-put, he just needed specialization work.

A lot of people miss the point that you really, really have to build a base before you can specialize. There should be some specialization, obviously, but it’s rare air when all you do is throw 900-gram javelins for your overload work versus the 800. People miss that point all the time. Again, with the Internet and the information overload, people miss that getting yourself strong is crucial.

John Du Cane: I know one of the most remarkable concepts in Easy Strength is that of the four quadrants. Dan, it's something that you produced and I think it’d be great for you to elaborate what’s so special about this concept. Can you help the listeners understand what the distinctions are for the four quadrants?

Dan John: Sure. I was asked by you and Pavel to give a talk years ago about the role of the strength coach. Of course, the role is to make people stronger. Pavel followed up with, "What’s the impact of the strength coach?" It took me years to figure out the impact of the strength coach, because it really depends. As I worked more and more, I realized that everything you do has qualities. As you progress through the quadrants, you get more and more qualities. I also figured as you progressed, the role of absolute strength and quality rises. With this in mind, I came up with the quadrants.

Quadrant 1 has many qualities at a low level. Think of a middle or high school P.E. class where you’re exposed to a new sport every two or three weeks. Your conditioning is two laps, some calisthenics, and some mobility. Your weight training might be a hands-on introduction to some basics. By the end of the year, you've won your P.E. baseball tournament and you’re the sixth period baseball champions. But you’re not ready to go in the major leagues. This is Quadrant 1.

Quadrant 2 is the sexy one everyone thinks they're in—collision sports and collision occupations. National Football League, high level rugby, and the tip of the sphere in the special forces community can be considered Quadrant 2. You need so many qualities at such a high level that much of it is decided at birth. As I always tell people, "Even though I’m always the biggest guy in the picture, I’m two inches too short and two tenths of a second too slow to make it in the National Football League." I’m smart, but I’m not big enough, fast enough.

Quadrant 3 is the one I love to make fun of because it’s where I am. There are very few qualities and they’re at a low level. But as a discus thrower, I can get strong any way I want. There are five options: Olympic lifting, powerlifting, Highland games, strongman training, or power bodybuilding like in the book Beyond Bodybuilding. Then there are three basic discus techniques, so you need to be strong and you need to have mastery of the techniques. A discus thrower needs two qualities: strength and technique, that’s it. But you have to be very good.

Quadrant 4 is the rare air: one or two qualities at the highest level humanity has ever seen. For example, running 100 meters in 9.79 seconds, a 1,000 pound dead lift, a 1,000 pound squat, a 1,300 pound back squat, or snatching 462 pounds. It's just stunning to even think about.

Most people fall in love with Quadrant 2 because that’s where the Ultimate Fighters and NFL are, but most of us are in Quadrant 3.

Why does all this help? It helps because once you figure out what quadrant you are, we can cut away all the nonsense. Some people tell me that they can't train anymore, but when I talk to them I find out they are just doing a lot of nonsense. We all need flexibility, but does a discus thrower need to go to Bikram yoga class every day? Do you need to be an elite powerlifter, strongman and Olympic lifter and still have the energy to throw discus?

The Quadrants allow me to say, "This is what’s important for your given area. Let’s play with that." It really helped me talk to P.E. teachers because they want to know what's important. They want to teach Olympic lifts, powerlifting, kettlebells, clubs... the list goes on and on and on. And my response now is, yeah, they should be introduced to it but please don’t expect mastery of the Olympic lifts of a kid who 20 minutes ago was sitting in geometry class and 25 minutes from now will be sitting in Spanish class. Be reasonable.

That’s where the quadrants come in, and most people are Quadrant 3. They need to pick a diet, pick an exercise program and follow it. Then get back to me in a year. Once someone understands that, then they have a reasonable approach for the rest of their life—not just the next two weeks. This is a reasonable approach to exercise and the role of strength in life. There is no question that I would always argue that you should be as strong as you realistically, possibly can. Of course I’d love to see grandma doing goblet squats and swinging kettlebells. That’s awesome, but the load should be appropriate. Don't hand grandma two Beast kettlebells on her first day of kettlebell class. That was a simple overview of the Quadrants.

John Du Cane: Dan, you do a brilliant job in Easy Strength outlining the four quadrants and showing people how to apply them in their lives. When I hear you talking about the four quadrants, it sounds like the most incredible common sense.

We've been seeing an interesting phenomenon—and looking at almost in a joking way—many strength and conditioning coaches have been loading up their shotguns and heading out to protect the chickens in their chicken coop. It's as if the Easy Strength ideas are a fox in their chicken operation. But we’ve also had top NFL strength and conditioning coaches, from the Cincinnati Bengals, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Indianapolis Colts, consider the book and program to be revolutionary. Why do you think so many others are afraid of the information that it contains?

Dan John: It’s funny, because I’m down in Arizona working with baseball teams right now. I’ve worked with NFL, NBA and now major league baseball. The baseball guys are reading the book and thinking, "This is IT." Major league baseball players have been even more confused because they’ve pushed weights away for so long, and then embraced it. But when they embraced it, it was like they put their mouth on a fire hose.

I think the reason people at the top of their field like Easy Strength is that know common sense isn’t so common. They nod along thinking, "I've been there, I've gone to the workshops where a guy was trying to sell me a $7,000.00 device to increase vertical jump. We bought it, used it and didn’t get better. Now we’ve got this machine that takes up half the weight room." All of us have been there.

When people summarize what I do as "Dan's the guy who makes things simple," or, "Dan uses common sense," I always want to strangle them. I didn't just wake up one day, drop some fairy dust on everything to make it simple. Do you know how hard it is to make things simple? It's hard and it makes a lot of people hate you!

John Du Cane: Particularly in this day and age, the guys with the shotguns hate the extent to which you’re making strength common sense.

Dan John: Yes, or they can lock the door to the hen house. It’s their call, I don’t care which way they do it.

John Du Cane: So, Easy Strength has many people calling it a game changer. Why?

Dan John: One of the things people tell me is when they sit back down after reading Easy Strength, the clutter disappears from their brain and they're left with a greater clarity. That’s why it’s game changing. All of a sudden, I've given you permission to bench press twice a week, squat once and dead lift once. If that’s what you need to do, that’s what you do. The nice thing is they get almost weepy, saying "That’s all? What do I do with the rest of my time?" Now there's time to practice their specific sport, be a better neighbor, or take care of business. Or maybe they will write the great American novel!

John Du Cane: I love that, Dan. I think that very great teachers have the ability to give permission from a position of authority in a way that helps people understand what they really need to do. Pavel, do you have any comments to add?

Pavel Tsatsouline: Yes, John. I think Easy Strength finally defines the master quality of strength and it's role. It also answers the question of exactly how to approach strength at every stage in an athlete’s career. As Dan mentioned, this is true not just for athletes, or people who are competing in sports. Easy Strength also works for anyone simply pursing a healthy lifestyle who doesn’t want to waste time doing stupid things in the gym. Again, it defines the role of the master quality, and answers how to address training at every stage of preparation in one’s athletic career.

John Du Cane: Excellent, Pavel. I think that if lay people have an objection with this program, you just addressed it. A casual person considering investing in Easy Strength, might think it's a book just for coaches training athletes. They might think it isn’t for them. I think I know your answer, but what would you say to them?

Pavel Tsatsouline: "Fit for what?" "You want to be fit for what?" People who simply want to be in good shape—whatever the heck that means—are looking for general physical preparation. Again, the cornerstone of general physical preparation is general strength development.

This book is great for people who want to generally be in shape who might say, "I just want to be a lot stronger than most guys around me or most guys in the gym. I don’t want to live in the gym. I want to look good, feel great and be able to go on a great hike or play a game of football on a weekend. I just don’t want to live in the gym. I don’t want to keep reading nonsense on the Internet and change my program every minute. I don’t want to keep getting hurt. I don’t want to keep taking exotic supplements and looking for exotic equipment."

What we give to the reader in this book are the easiest, least time and energy consuming methods for developing strength.

Dan John: I'd like to add, one of the books that really changed my life was Phil Maffetone’s Everybody Is An Athlete. The theme that still resonates with me is that I think everybody should have a strength coach. Or, they should be their own strength coach, but they need to be careful. I’ve never met a person who couldn’t benefit from basic strength training. Never have. No matter what your goal is, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish, basic strength training should be part of what you do. It’s like walking. It’s something that humans need to do. So, if you need to lift weights, why not take care of it the simplest, most effective way.

John Du Cane: One of the sections in Easy Strength that attracts a lot of people is what Dan calls body armor building as opposed to body building. You can immediately see that this would be very appealing to a full contact athlete. Who doesn’t want to build up their body armor?! Who wants to go into a firefight without his Kevlar on, as it were?

No question, the body armor building section of "Easy Strength" is golden material. We saw this was of immediate interest to the participants of the original Easy Strength seminar. Dan, what is the distinction between what you’re calling body armor building and traditional bodybuilding? Which approach should strength coaches adapt for their sport training?

Dan John: Back in the day, people used to call bodybuilding "muscle spinning" which is a funny phrase. I saw a lot of my athletes enjoyed doing five sets of ten with the easy curl to pump up their biceps. But, in a football game, someone would bury their helmet on their biceps and that five sets of ten with the easy curl bar didn’t carry over to the field. In fact, it still hurt.

I started adding the double kettlebell clean and double kettlebell front squat to our workouts. We did many different combinations of those two moves. What was interesting was during game play the high intensity, high squeeze of those kettlebell moves made their bodies like armor. They began to take impact better. For example, one of the reasons I like get ups is that you roll around on the floor with a weight. When people first do get ups, it’s often the first time they’ve ever laid down on the ground in a weight room. Usually, they’re sitting on a machine with a seatbelt.

John, here's the best way to explain it: when I first wrestled, my nose—which has been broken more times than I think that most people should have—would always bleed the first week of wrestling. Miraculously, the second week it’d stop bleeding. Years later, I read about callusing—Frank Shamrock talked about it, and it was absolutely true. For the first week of wrestling you’d come home and you'd have red splotches all over your body from being rubbed. But, three weeks into it, this wouldn't happen anymore. Our body armor is like that. If I walked up and started putting my fist on your face and rubbing into it, today it would turn red. If I do that every day, after a while it doesn’t get red anymore. Armor building is like that, it's like I'm putting my elbow in your face a whole bunch of times. But now, when you go into the game, your body can withstand the hits because it’s armored up. That’s the only way to explain it. There will never be research that can explain what I just said, but everybody who has ever been punched in the face knows what I’m talking about. Everybody who has ever wrestled or played contact sports knows exactly what I’m talking about here.

John Du Cane: Dan and Pavel—please correct me if I’ve got it wrong—the distinction you’re making between bodybuilding and armor building is the ability to absorb ballistic shock. The kind of strength and weight training you’re recommending has the body absorbing ballistic shock. Is that accurate?

Pavel Tsatsouline: Pretty much, John. Experience shows which exercises work for armor building. We've identified those exercises and many of them are not at all obvious. The training protocols are specific as well, particular types of loading and exercise get this job done.

Dan John: You’re exactly right. For example, ladders work better for armor building than five sets of ten. It’s funny, because when you think about it, sports impacts tend to hit you in ladders.

John Du Cane: To my mind, this whole topic of body armor is a gold mine. Anyone who participates in sports like martial arts or football—anything involving contact—would be well advised to absorb the training tips Pavel has pointed out.

Dan John: If I can add something: armor building is best done well away from the competitive season. If you’re a football player, this is the time of year (Spring) for you to build up your body armor. Sadly, a lot of people wait too long to start thinking about armor building, especially since you can’t work every quality 100 percent all the time. For instance, I agree this is useful for martial arts, but shouldn't be done the morning of a tournament.

John Du Cane: Actually, Tommy Blom, a Senior RKC who engaged in some MMA fights and trains a lot of very high level MMA fighters, talked about this exactly. The methods he’s learned through the Easy Strength style programs allowed him and the fighters he’s training to absorb blows to a remarkable extent.

We’ve only got a few minutes left, gentlemen. When I was thinking about the Easy Strength program, I was also thinking about a world that I used to be involved with: drug and alcohol counselors. At that time, I learned a lot about addiction and alcoholism. Often, they used to say that alcoholics were characterized as people who wanted everything now. "I want what I want right now, preferably yesterday." One of the things that people are always looking for is the plan, the program for exactly what they need to do, and they want it now. To what extent will these program addicts (which is not necessarily a bad thing) find what they need or want in Easy Strength?

Pavel Tsatsouline: Well, John, somebody asked a Russian if he had a dream. He answered, "To quit drinking." So the American asks, "Why don’t you quit?" The Russian looked at him and said, "And live without a dream?"


John Du Cane: That’s a very profound statement, and I hope everyone replays this section of the call over and over and meditates upon it. Dan, do you want to comment?

Dan John: Yeah, it’s funny. That actually was a good joke, too. Thank you, Pavel.

Most people who do the 40-day program are getting amazing results. I do have to spoon feed a lot of people, and sometimes they have to walk through the scary valley of death. It's the first time most people have ever done the same thing for 40 days in a workout. Most people do a training program for about two or three days and then they go off and do something else.

Some programs really feed into this by having something new and shiny every single day of the week. With Easy Strength, you pick five things you’d like to improve or pick five movements and do them. Do them for 40 workouts and then get back to me, tell me what you discovered. Usually I hear, "Dan, my lifts went through the roof." Do you know why? It’s the first time in your career you actually ever did what you said you would do. People get extremely strong simply because they’re actually doing the movements.

What if it doesn’t work? This is what I say, I look them right in the eye, "What if it doesn’t work? If you work out five days a week for eight weeks and it didn’t work, you’ve only lost two months." I’ve been lifting weights since 1965. I have a lot of "two months" under my belt. So, at least you were able to prove to me that doing a logical program—that’s been successful with a lot of experience—didn’t work for you. You are a rare gem in the universe. Of the 7 billion people on the planet earth, you’re one of 7 billion that doesn’t get stronger doing Easy Strength. Congratulations.

Pavel Tsatsouline: You’re very special.

John Du Cane: Well, the good news is the alcoholic Russian can pursue his dream. He can basically have his cake and eat it too. Do you have any good stories yet from people who have tried the 40-day program that’s in Easy Strength? Or one of the foundational programs you recommend?

Dan John: Well, I was the original shining star., I really nailed it, and I wasn't a beginner lifter when I tried it. Delaine Ross and Karen Smith have been really very pleased. Have you been reading those posts, Pavel, about their progress? And, no matter what happens you always have time for the workout.

Pavel Tsatsouline: Absolutely.

Dan John: I’m getting a lot of feedback from older guys especially, who are stunned about how they’re lifting. They thought they couldn't max after a certain age, but these guys are all getting stronger. The weight literally seems to fly off of you or off the ground. It's odd, it stuns you when it first happens. Do you know that famous story from 2004 when I did what Pavel told me, and lifted 315 pounds for a double? My old max was 300 for a single.

Pavel Tsatsouline: Comrades, understand this is the incline press. Then Dan pressed 400 pounds—without a bench shirt. This was a seriously big lift.

Dan John: I bench pressed 400. The weight flew off my chest, when I put the bar down, I turned around recounted the plates. I stopped for a second, wondering if I had made a math mistake. It was like a misload!

John Du Cane: That’s a great quote.

Dan John: I couldn't believe it, but no one had touched the bar. This is what happens with Easy Strength. I don’t know how much you’re following this, Pavel, but with pull-up preparation, there’s a thing I called MAPS: "Middle Age Pull up Syndrome."

John Du Cane: Yes, I remember that.

Dan John: After a certain age, when you do pull-ups, you hurt your elbows. In fact, right before the RKC 2, I was getting ready for the pull-up test and had pushed the envelope too much. Now, what I have middle-aged guys follow the rule of ten on pull-ups: they can never do more than ten pull-ups in a workout. That can be ten singles, two sets of five, five sets of two, three sets of three, or any combination. What we're finding is that at the end of two or three weeks, they are flying off the ground. Welcome to Easy Strength.

John Du Cane: I love it.

Dan John: People are crushing pull-up numbers because remember, if you keep taking buckets of water out of the well, without replenishing the well, you'll run out of water.

John Du Cane: I saw Karen Smith just busted a 24-kilo pull-up.

Dan John: Whoa!!!

Pavel Tsatsouline: It was a tactical pull-up—dead hang, overhand thumbless grip, neck to the bar. I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of gentlemen who are serious about training will not be able to do this. They will not be able to do it overhand, thumbless grip, dead hang pull-up, neck touching the bar with a 53-pound kettle bell.

John Du Cane: Fantastic. Dan, did you say that Karen was using the 40-day program as part of her training for the pull up?

Dan John: Yes, I think so, and she’s doing a great job.

John Du Cane: Terrific.

Pavel Tsatsouline: We have many stories, comrades. Many, many success stories. It works fast and it will surprise you how well it works. It’s almost like you’re cheating.

Dan John: It seems like cheating. An elite discus thrower who I’m coaching, had the best throw in a decade using the program. This person was so good already, that this is especially significant.

The problem is it’s too easy. I get complaints from athletes that say it’s too easy. It’s funny because this is the only negative feedback I hear.

Pavel Tsatsouline: This reminds me of a story I forgot. Milton Friedman, a famous economist, visited China during the Communist times. He was taken to a major construction site and saw thousands of people digging using shovels. Friedman asked his Chinese host, "Why aren't they using bulldozers and other heavy equipment?" The Communist answered, "To give more people jobs."

"Sorry, I was under the impression that you were trying to build a canal." Milton Friedman looked at him: "In that case, why don’t you have them use spoons?"

Most people train with spoons. They don’t care about getting stronger. They just want to get smoked. They just want to have complete and total employment of their time in the gym and it really doesn’t matter how productive they are.

Dan John: That story makes the exact point I was trying to make. I’m not exaggerating, my athletes constantly say, "My progress is too good with too little effort."

John Du Cane: It’s like easy is evil.

Dan John: If we’d called it "Evil Strength" we would have sold more books.

John Du Cane: You’re definitely on to something. "Evil Strength." Hmm.

Dan John: My athletes are getting lifetime bests all the time, throws we haven’t seen in a decade. The funny thing is, now I’m starting to really push ahead. Most of the people I work with should probably use the Easy Strength protocol for eight months out of the year. Then they spend two months on really top-end protocols where you really go for it for three to six weeks.

Here’s the point I'm trying to make: I'm giving you permission to work like crazy for a couple months per year. The interesting thing is that I think your progress will be better on Easy Strength than it will be on that "slam my face into the wall crash 90 elixir" program you might try.

Pavel Tsatsouline: Comrades. Get yourself on the Easy Strength program. Give us 40 days. 40 days. Stick to it exactly as described. Do not mess with the program. Report the results on the Dragon Door forum.

John Du Cane: Absolutely. Of course, we want you to check out the Easy Strength book and seminar. Both are available through Make sure to visit our forum and absolutely take Pavel and Dan up on the 40-day challenge in the book.

I’d like to thank both of you, gentlemen, for I thought was a phenomenal discussion about the value of this program. I hope all the listeners feel the same way.