Derek Sivers

Never Let Go - by Dan John

Never Let Go - by Dan John

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Some thoughts and advice on weight lifting and strength training.

my notes

One chooses Latin words to impress, not to communicate.

People like to hear stories, usually about people.

For years I have been preaching the following 3 points:

1. The Body is One Piece

2. There are three kinds of strength training:
• Putting weight overhead
• Picking it off the ground
• Carrying it for time or distance

3. All training is complementary

The secret to success is free will.

Make yourself a slave to good habits.

Consider training camp. I’m serious. Each year, I spend up to four weeks in training camps. Somebody wakes me up, somebody makes my meals, somebody else pushes me to work out, somebody else tells me when to put the lights out. You know, I work hard during those weeks.

The single greatest value of a personal trainer is someone else’s will is replacing your will.

How can I reinvent camp for my normal life?

Save your precious free will by recruiting a vast army of people willing to give up their free will to bolster yours. How? Tell them, ask them, beg them for help. Bring everybody onboard to keep an eye on you. The more personal trainers, mentors, gurus, Yodas, and Gandalfs in your life, the better. Tell everyone you know your goals and watch how much easier it is to stay on track.

Where else in your life does something become better and better and better every single time?

If you bench press a hundred pounds and add ten pounds a month, you’ll bench 460 in about three years.

Don’t let a great day destroy years of planning and training by thinking this is now the norm.

Determine how many calories you need in a day. Consume that amount in at least five protein shakes made with added fiber every four hours. Take fish oil capsules. Once a week have a solid meal. That is it. You should take a walk every morning, and lift weights three days a week.

The Velocity Diet took every ounce of free will I could muster. But, it worked. In fact, it worked so well, it stunned my doctor. “Tomorrow, I’ll break the diet and quit. Just not tonight.” I woke up, walked, drank my shake, and I was fine.

You have to make deals with yourself all the time. Just one more hill, one more day, one more whatever.

Veggies can be made to taste like candy just by not eating whole foods for twenty-eight days.

Fat loss is an all-out war. Give it twenty-eight days — only twenty-eight days. Attack it with all you have. It’s not a lifestyle choice; it’s a battle. Lose fat, and then get back into moderation.

Ab work won’t give you a six-pack. It will, however, be the best support work you can do for your entire training regimen.

Instead of embarrassing yourself on a treadmill, burn fat using a barbell or dumbbell with either Tabata front squats or a HIIT version of farmer walks.

The single finest training system I’ve ever used: It’s really hard, but really simple: One Lift a Day. Pick one lift each day and do it for the entire workout.

Seven sets of five max squats followed by jumps seems to burn every fiber of the legs.

Consider a weekly approach like this:
Monday: Bench Press or Incline Bench Press
Tuesday: Row or Row Variation
Wednesday: Squat
Thursday: Off
Friday: Military Press
Saturday: Curl, Deadlift, whatever

The Tabata Method — Fat Loss in Four Minutes. What is it? Nothing to it: Take one exercise and perform it in the following manner.
1) For twenty seconds, do as many repetitions as possible.
2) Rest for ten seconds.
3) Repeat seven more times.
That’s it! You’re done in four minutes!
You need to choose an exercise that uses a large number of muscles. I suggest the front squat. Go light, like sixty-five to ninety-five pounds the first time.

The thruster is one of the greatest lifts rarely seen in the gym. Take two dumbbells or kettlebells and hold them at shoulder height. Squat down, keeping the ’bells on the shoulders or the kettlebells in the rack position. As you rise up, press the ’bells to overhead lockout. You can either press as you rise, or use the momentum to help kick the bells overhead.

A woman once asked me if I knew a diet where you could eat anything you wanted. I said yes, but first she’d have to eat two pounds of salmon, three cups of oatmeal, a cup of blueberries, two bowls of mixed vegetables, and a carton of cottage cheese. After she finished that each day, she could eat anything she wanted.

The most unused concept in training: Be subtle.

If healthy and fit, you should be able to do a double-bodyweight deadlift and a bodyweight bench press.

If you can’t bench your bodyweight, don’t ask me about all the other stuff until you can. If you’re not yet at this level, you need to get there.

The first standard workout I use is three days a week of lifting. One other day a week, I do a few hill sprints (very few) and on another day I do a fun activity like hike, bike or a team sport.

The other standard workout I may do is the One Lift a Day Program.

By choosing to train in a program that basically covers everything at a very-easy-to-moderate level, I’m pretty sure I’m ready for the experiment. The experiment? Yes, now I add the new groovy thing I learned. If, after two weeks, my knees hurt, deem this a failure.

Add new lifts, variations, or ideas to your training program one at a time. I bought a set of chains a year ago and I only used them with front squats for the first month. The next month, after discovering how excellent these chains were for acceleration, I tried them with deadlifts. Now I use them for all squats, deadlifts and presses, but I might not have realized their benefit if I’d added a bunch of things at the same time.

Some things only work for a short period of time.

Eat three meals. Eat protein at every meal. Once you’re doing this consistently, try to add the magic food.

When things go bad, simplify.

For fat loss, he only recommended one thing. There was a flight of steps down on the beach, maybe 200 steps. He told me to sprint up to the top of them. “Try it. Then, after a couple of weeks, try to do it a couple of times.” Ever since that day, the first thing I look for is a hill or flight of stairs.

I never failed to get at least one dad who’d tell me, “Yep, I was All-American in high school.” The mistake I made was never quitting sports. I can only be as good as the weight on the bar or what the tape measure tells me. I guess I can’t wait to quit just to discover how good I was.

The single greatest error most lifting enthusiasts make, it would be this: They have no variety. Actively seek out new training concepts — not only to add variation, but also to challenge our long-held notions of strengths and weaknesses.

A wonderful idea: Walk for a hundred meters and then do dips. After that, saunter over to do pull-ups, push-ups, bar jumps, squats and a host of other things.

A great workout, a wonderful way to train, and probably one of the best ways to burn fat.

Just by doing pull-ups, some kettlebells swings, some one-arm lifts, and some deadlifts you can get a fantastic workout.

Litvinov, a five-foot, ten-inch, 196-pound hammer thrower, did the following training session. Eight reps of front squats with 405 pounds, immediately followed by a seventy-five-second 400-meter run. Repeat this little combination for a total of three times and go home. Sergey racked the bar and ran 400 meters... then did this two more times.

The basic workout, The Litvinov. Perform any big lift and then drop the bar (gently) and run.

Back squats don’t work because racking the weight and running away involve way too much care and planning.

The best lifts are: Front Squat Overhead Squat (if you’re good at them) Snatch Swings with kettlebells

The more intense you can train, the better.

The challenge of sprinting seems to get the athlete to forget perfection and focus on completion.

Pick a lift you know. Hit eight good reps with it, then sprint away for five seconds. Rest and repeat this two more times. • Next time you try the workout, try another lift and maybe go a bit longer on the sprint. • Do this easy progression about twice a week. If you choose to make this your whole leg workout, you’ve chosen wisely.

As the weights go up in the lift and the sprint gets around ten to twenty seconds, try to zero in on three- to five-minute recoveries.

The warm-up is the workout.

If it is important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it at all.

Each and every training session from now until you get twenty, do pull-ups. Yes, every workout.

Just keep banging away day after day and soon the body is going to grant your wish.

I think walking lunges are a disaster, but Bulgarian split squats are great?

To quote The Man of La Mancha, “Come, enter into my imagination and see me as I truly am.”

Coach said so. Said so is genius. It completely divorces you — and I mean completely — from any responsibility for your training. Why seven sets of four? Coach said so. Why fish oil? Coach said so. It’s an amazing moment of clarity; you can pawn off all your responsibility on someone else. It’s genius.

Free up your brain to take care of what’s important.

Just giving me the right to tell them what to do seems to free up new enthusiasm for training and the stuff they need to do in training.

Denby spent a year doing something I wish I could do. He went back to his freshman year in college and retook the Humanities curriculum. In his mid-forties, he returned to Columbia College and sat in a room with a bunch of freshmen wearing backward baseball caps, and reread the great books. Great books change as you age.

Health is the harmony of the organs to operate optimally. Fitness is task-based.

If you want to know about fat loss or muscle building, ask top level bodybuilders. These guys know it. In other words, quit buying fat-loss devices off the late-night TV ads from former sitcom actors, quit buying fat-loss stuff Grandma tried after her cribbage partner heard about it, and quit trying fad diets. Instead, listen to the best of the best.

Find people who are doing your task and follow them.

Make sure your fitness approach matches your fitness goals.

We should begin a list of Things I Tried and share the information. We could call it the internet.

The Litvinov Workout Front Squat for 8 reps. Run 400 meters immediately after. Repeat three times.

Taking a dumbbell or barbell, picking a big move, and doing it for as long as you can. How about ten minutes of jumping jacks?

Front Squat for 8 reps Rest exactly ten seconds Front Squat for 8 reps Rest exactly ten seconds.

For six weeks or so, everything works.

Because everything works, research findings will always come to certain basic conclusions: Less food and more exercise is good for people who want to lose fat and training with resistance tends to make people stronger.

When I was growing up, when you got hurt it was always your fault.

There are basically nine different movements you should do as a human:
• Vertical Push
• Vertical Pull
• Horizontal Push
• Horizontal Pull
• The Squatting Motion
• The Posterior Chain (I call these deadlifts)
• The Anterior Chain (sit-ups, leg raises)
• The Twist or Torque Moves
• The Total-body Explosion Exercises (If you’re limited by time, these are the ones to do.)

Think about recovery.

Here are the best and brightest. Bikram Yoga. the classes are ninety minutes long. If you decide to go twice a week, that’s three hours of stretching, pulling, twisting and relaxing. The intense heat — nearly always above 103 degrees and often around 110 — and the humidity does “something” for the body. The real reason I recommend Bikram Yoga. It’s the dialogue.

On the top end of long-term recovery tools is the hot tub. I can extend a hot tub with stretching and a cold-water shower for up to thirty minutes.

I wouldn’t jog for health, but playful runs are wonderful. Vary the speed and terrain and you have a really great activity that’s fun and healthful. Routinized jogging is factory work, not natural activity. If you log long miles on a track, I believe you’re compromising your health.

For someone contemplating losing fat, I can’t imagine a more perfect week. Two days of locking down nutrition, two days of lifting, and a total of eight minutes getting the system to burn fat. Oh, and the other day? Have some fun. Life is more than all of this nonsense.

I like really hard training, but you can’t do it every day.

Instead of taking four years to drop fat, take twenty-eight days and do the Velocity Diet.

Instead of taking four years to tweak your flexibility, go to a Bikram yoga studio and sign up for the thirty-day challenge. Let the coaching, the heat, and the yoga get you more flexible.

Get as strong as you can the year before an Olympic year, then coast through the big year with that as your foundation.

Instead of off-days or easy days, consider prep days when you take care of the other side of good training: your good nutrition.

The Big Five most people recommend?
• Squat
• Deadlift
• Good Morning
• Bentover Row
• Plank

What’s that last one? Planks? Yes, planks. I hate planks. Why? Well, there you are shaking from stem to stern doing nothing but holding a position.

These five lifts — the squat, the deadlift, the good morning, the bentover row and the plank. These five lifts will transform your body.

The million-dollar key to learning movements in the gym: Let the body teach the body what to do. Listen to this: Try to stay out of it! Thinking through a movement often leads to problems.

The single best lifting movement of all time: the goblet squat.

Potato-sack squats and are a great reminder of how to deadlift.

Do good mornings. First, stand up and place your hands in the V formed where your torso meets your legs. You know what I am talking about. Push your hands into the V and push your butt back as your hands disappear into the folds. That is the movement of a good morning. Yes, keep your head up, shoulder blades pinched back, and hold a big chest, but the movement is simply increasing the V. If you do it right — even with no weight — you will feel the hamstrings stretching. This is good.

Stand with your back against the wall and push your butt back into the wall. Then, scoot out a few inches and push back again. Keep moving away until you literally can’t touch the wall any more.

This is how to increase your life: That minute will feel like forever.

Always choose intensity over volume. When in doubt, do fewer sets or fewer reps, but go heavier. Still unsure, go faster, not longer.

Eat more protein. Eat more fiber. I know you think you do, but you don’t. Not long ago, I experimented with adding two additional daily low-carb protein shakes to my diet and, besides the fact my belt got too loose in a week, my energy and general level of happiness soared. I then started adding an orange-flavored no-sugar psyllium supplement to the protein and my blood profile improved at my next check-up.

use the warm-ups to attempt to do every one of the big moves.

The Big List
1. Horizontal Push (Bench Press, Push-up)
2. Horizontal Pull (Rows and variations)
3. Vertical Push (Military Press and variations)
4. Vertical Pull (Pull-up, Pulldown)
5. Explosive Full Body (Swings/snatches/cleans/jerks)
6. Quad-dominant Lower Body (Squat)
7. Posterior Chain (Deadlift)
8. Anterior Chain (Medicine Ball Ab Throw)
9. Rotational/Torque

Every damn day! All nine movements are important, so we do them every single day.

Do complexes to warm up. Here’s one of mine, only mildly stolen: Power Snatch for 8 reps Overhead Squat for 8 reps Back Squat for 8 reps Good Morning for 8 reps Row for 8 reps Deadlift for 8 reps Do these all in a row without letting go of the bar. Rest a minute, a minute-and-a-half, or two minutes, and do it again. Try three to five sets of this little complex.

You’ve done 240 movements that cover practically all the other moves.

Speed works in the weightroom. Going fast with weights makes you able to handle more weight.

Do all my behaviors fit my goals? Nope. So, either I change my goals or change my behaviors. Either one will do. It’s like the advice Ben Franklin gave about becoming rich: Either increase the amount of money you take in or decrease the amount of money you spend. Either one will do, but both are better.

Coaches and trainers like to see motivated clients. Here’s my idea of the perfect client: Julie is attending her high school reunion in twelve weeks. Julie is twenty pounds heavier than her cheerleading weight and asks you to help her lose it before the big day. If you say, “Hmmm, first let’s put you on a ten-week course of slowly building your ligaments and tendons up with some gentle movements to retrain the system,” she’ll be looking for a new trainer before you can further show your complete mastery of idiocy. No, what she wants to hear is, “Right, eggs only for four weeks, two gallons of water each day. We’ll hit the weightroom every morning and do sprint workouts at the track in the afternoons. I have some stuff banned by the FDA that might help, too.” Any form of hardcore, boot-campish death-march ideas will be fine. Stick moderation on the shelf for a while.

Three degrees of goal-setting that break down very easily into three terms: Should, Could, Must
There’s certainly a value to each level, but success in life and lifting only occurs during the must phase.

To be truly great, you’ve got to make your goals musts.

The more choices you have, the higher your chance of becoming depressed.

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Relax into Stretch: Instant Flexibility Through Mastering Muscle Tension by Pavel Tsatsouline. The section on the reminiscence effect, that wonderful gift from the Cosmos that makes us better when we quit or take time off, is worth the price of the book alone.