Out of all the strength coaches out there, Dan John has to be one of my favorites. I mean honestly, how can you not love someone that has two first names? Anything Dan writes I read. Whenever he does an interview, I listen. Thankfully, I am not the only one that feels this way and Dan gets plenty of opportunities to speak at conferences and in interviews.
One of the biggest reasons I love Dan John is because he keeps everything so simple. Dan definitely lives by the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Beyond that, everything he says and writes is always spot on and hard to argue with. Yes, a lot of his programs and philosophies are simple, but they are also extremely effective and fun – his programs add a little spice to your boring training.
Because of this, I wanted to share with you some of Dan John’s training programs. Like I said, he keeps things so simple but the programs are still effective and challenging. Try them out and see how they work for you, I’m willing to bet you will find them extremely challenging but also fun! Enjoy.
One of Dan John’s staples is the barbell complex. The awesome thing about a barbell complex is there are so many ways that you can go with it. What a barbell complex is a series of exercises that you perform with a barbell, one right after another. For example, one of my go-to’s is a deadlift to RDL to hang clean to front squat to overhead press complex. Complete that five times, rest for 60 seconds and repeat for a total of 3-5 rounds. It’ll take 10-15 minutes and you’ll be gassed – it’s a great finisher at the end of a training session.
This program might not be a true Dan John program, but it is something that I have seen him write about. This program is about is simple as it gets: pick an exercise and perform 100 reps in a little amount of sets as possible. For example, you may toss 135lbs on the bar and start benching until you hit 100 reps. Maybe it takes you 5 sets, maybe it takes you 15, who knows. The only real rule is to never hit failure, always leave a rep or two in the tank.
8 X 3 on the Minute
Another really straight forward but fun program. Again, pick an exercise and a moderate to moderately heavy weight. Simply perform a set of 3, on the minute, for 8 minutes. The first few rounds may not be terribly challenging, but it gets tough. I typically like to do this with something like chin ups – for some reason I think it works well.
Now here is a real fun program. A cluster challenge works a little something like this. You pick an exercise and a weight…we’ll stick to the bench press and start at 135 again. You then perform a set of 2, a set of 3, and a set of 5, resting about 15 seconds between sets. Once you complete that, you add weight to the bar and go through the sets again (2,3,5). You then complete this cycle again, adding weight to the bar. Finally you reach the 4th and final cluster, which is the “challenge cluster”. By this point you should be somewhat tired from all the benching (or squatting, or chin ups, or whatever) and at a relatively heavy weight – hence the “challenge cluster”. Enjoy this one.
One of my favorites is a ladder. A ladder is somewhat similar to the cluster challenge with a few differences. Again, pick an exercise and toss a moderate weight on the bar. Perform 1 rep, rest, 2 reps, rest, 3 reps, rest, 4 reps, rest, 5 reps rest and then start back at 1 rep again. Go through the ladder 3 times. You could pick other rep schemes, something like 2-3-5 or 5-7-10 or really anything you would like. Again, effective and much harder than you think, especially if you pick an appropriate weight.
10 Rep Countdown
The final program is really straight forward. Pick an exercise and weight and then perform 10 reps and rest. Then 9, rest. Then 8, rest. So on and so forth until you hit a single rep. Again, not very difficult to understand but a total ass kicker to actually perform!