T Nation

Prime Time...Monday With DJ


Just a short time tonight, so ask intelligent questions. I will be judging them by a complex system that roots out nonintelligent questions...


That eliminates me.


Good morning Dan.

How's life treating you lately (in Southern talk: "how are you doing?")

For an athlete who is not a competitive weightlifter but who is just looking to increase strength/power........

  1. If this athlete is experiencing some knee pain from deep squatting, would you recommend high box step ups w/barbell or dumbbell?

  2. If you were going to do power snatches, would you prefer to use a close grip or snatch grip on the barbell? Or would you prefer the dumbells? Why?

  3. I know you like hill sprints and farmer walks but do you like car pushing? Why or why not?

  4. Do you use barbells or dumbells more frequently (I know you use both but which one do you implement more) and do you think imbalances are an important enough issue (meaning most people have one side that is stronger than the other) to warrant using dumbbells most (75%) of the time over barbells where you can load up more weight or not? Why or why not?


Car pushing is fine, but you need a driver. Sometimes, it is just easier to find a hill. I hate to complicate things. I don't know about the dumbbell stuff. I use them when injured or to get reps, but it isn't a science. I snatch because that is one of the two lifts in an Olympic lifting meet...the other is the Clean and Jerk. You want to do them as easily as you can...


Hey Dan,

What sort of training would you suggest for a martial artist that can weight train on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, has martial arts classes Wednesdays and Fridays and is currently more interested in strength and speed gains more than muscle mass?



My apologies for "selecting" your nickname as my online name "Iron John"

I am the Iron John that won the TeamStaley Transformation this year, and currently am working like 3 dogs to be the one to meet you at Boot Camp this October.

Anyway, if I had known that your moniker was "Iron John," and how worthy you were of it compared to me, I would have chosen something...well, less bold.

Asking your forgiveness, and inclusion in your holy prayers,

Iron John (the lesser)



  1. I tried car pushing a few days ago because Charles Staley and a few other guys are big on it. It was a great workout but you are right, it was hard w/out a driver. Not impossible but hard. Hill sprints are very similiar and I've been doing those which are great.

  2. I love squatting (esp overhead and worked up pretty fast to 80 lbs for 8 reps-which I know isn't so great but I struggled at first with the bar) but my left knee is giving me some subtle trouble when doing them. I read a good article where a former Soviet Hammer thrower (Anatoly Bondarchuk)did some research on high box step ups and squats. Are you familiar with it? With my knee pain, do you think high box step ups are a good replacement especially with all of this "unilateral" and "imbalance" talk lately?



One other thing:

Do you think hyper extensions (it's harder to add weight with reverse hyper extensions) w/weight in your hands are a good exercise to increase your deadlift? Or we you say to simply deadlift more? I'm also hoping that practicing power snatches and power cleans will bring up my deadlift too. Thoughts?

I've read that an athlete should not deadlift too close to his 1RM too frequently because of CNS burnout, injury, etc.


Hey Coach

The intelligent question requirement lets me out, too. Oh shoot, here goes anyhow.

For a couple of months, I've been doing a "big three" program, and I'd like to mention a brief moment of clarity I've had as a result. I work up to 5x5 on the lifts, and at first after that included some arm, ab, and calf stuff. As I've progressed in the weight on the bar, I've felt the need to eliminate the peripherals, because of time, but also because those areas seem to be getting worked already. Then it hit me: it's the 80/20% thing that Dan John talks about.

I'm just not capable of understanding all the wave loading, floating variable stuff physically. Intellectually, fine. But when I get goin', I need something more straightforward, and 5x5 works great.

Up to now I've been adding 10#s a week on the lifts (more on deadlifts, that I substitute one day/week for cleans). My question is this: should I take a week off at this early stage of strength-building, or do a more active kind of layoff, with higher reps and more exercises? Or is my lazy ass wantin' to get back to those tricep kickbacks?


Intuitively, that should hold true for any of the compound movements, not just deadlift.


Good point!

I meant to say that Westside and even Eric Cressey (who are both great deadlifters/pullers) don't advocate deadlifting very frequently but instead doing variations of it and other things to build it up.


I would go in one of two directions...really something as simple as a kettlebell workout on those three days with the addition of pullups might be perfect for you. When you are doing a sport (MA, in your example), you don't want to master a bunch of lifts.

Option two could be very simple:

A press
A pullup or chinup
A "fast thing" swings, snatches, cleans or whatever
An isometric ab thing like hanging leg L-Raises

Do all five each workout striving to slowly build up the max. Don't go nuts on volume or intensity, just get the workouts in...


You see, Richie that is the big question. When you start to push the bigger and bigger lifts, the whole "back off" thing starts to make more sense. Truly, you just don't keep adding weight each week until you are doing sets with two tons in the bench for five. They don't make bars that big...

So, as you are starting to notice, you begin looking around for an "intellectual" answer as your "physical work" is whipping you.

A couple of things:
1. Are you taking care of recovery needs? I have some ideas on my site...

  1. Are you at a level that you simply have "bar fear" or at a level where you need to start being more calculated in your loading? In other words, are people starting to back away when you ask them to spot or is the nice lady in the red hat spotting your squats? If you honestly think you have a way to go before you start really hitting "heavy heavy" maybe you need to keep grinding. I lifted for two years in the O lifts before I started hitting lifts that I couldn't beat in a week or two. Two years!!! That is a long time for a young athlete...

  2. Can you plan or simply have a "random" off week here and there? I often find I naturally take a few days off with travel or work or life. Five straight days off can work wonders for anyone...


You can use it. "Iron John" is a clever term that TC came up with after I mixed nine servings of Low-Carb Grow! with a gallon of prune juice and squatted heavy...


"1. I tried car pushing a few days ago because Charles Staley and a few other guys are big on it. It "

Charles Staley...sad to report...is not really human. Well...it's a long story involving gene splicing, York "Protein from the Sea" Powder and a radioactive prank gone terribly, terribly wrong. You will notice that Charles travels extensively between Las Vegas (he says) and Phoenix.

It's Area 51. I'm not supposed to talk about it, but Charles rarely goes out at night (he glows) and gnaws on electric wires. This is all true.

Sure, he will deny it.

Actually, Charles does "Car Tipping" not car pushing...


BPC, this is like the third time I answered this for you! Yes, I honestly believe that you can deadlift more ("more" meaning more weight, I'm not sure of any other meanings) by doing stuff other than deadlifts. I "proved" this by deadlifting 628 (albeit, just for single. At which time, I achieved temporary muscle fatigue with a Time Under Tension of six seconds and ignored the importance negative motion...so I lapsed on correct lifting protocols) in a meet by only snatching and cleaning in preparation up to it.

Throwers tend to deadlift well, I think, because of all the "big" moves they make all the time...





Sorry about that. My questions/mind drive me nuts sometimes:)

Actually, I really like your idea of: a deadlift, a press, pullup/chinup, fast something, etc for 40 days (mixing up the volume/intensity)

I see you recommending that template quite frequently and quite frankly to quote you "it just makes sense."


BPC...that was actually an intelligent quote from you.

I fear the world as I know it has changed.

Yes, it is a template of sorts, but it is what I recommend for athletes who use strength training as a supplement. I also recommend that they strive for a
Double Bodyweight Deadlift
Bodyweight Press of some kinds
"Double figures" in the Pull ups

as a general rule. Nothing perfect...just an idea...



Just wanted to say thanks for the articles. implemented many with positive results. went from a weak 185 bench to 265 in 5 months. still weak but growing.

just a fat bastard working!