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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning

Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning
by Dan John

Someone once shared with me the piece advice that you should never trust a man with two first names. Dan John is making me reconsider that particular piece of wisdom. Apparently something of a living legend in certain strength and conditioning circles, I only found him after reading a few posts of his on a random internet forum. I subsequently discovered his website, blog, and articles; I liked what I read, so I bought Never Let Go.

The book is a collection of articles, some of which were previously published online. Of course, having them in print form has a number of advantages, particularly if you haven’t read them before. I had only read one or two of them, so a lot of the material was new to me.

There is a lot of good information in here, from specific programs for developing strength, size, or endurance, to more philosophical thoughts on structuring programming, training for the long term, and evaluating the utility (or lack thereof) of certain programs. John’s background as a religious studies teacher gives him some interesting insights into the way people tend to think in regard to their strength and conditioning programs. He also has been around the block more than a few times (someone apparently made a joke about Dan John having coached Milo while he was lifting the bull), and isn’t afraid to acknowledge his failures along with his successes.

Indeed, one of the things I appreciate most about this book is that Dan John has used himself as a bit of a human guinea pig, and is willing to talk about his experiences doing so, both good and bad. I’m sure that his willingness to point out the flaws in various training programs hasn’t made him a lot of friends, but I appreciate his candor and forthrightness.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Dan John is just fun to read. One of the great difficulties in trying to learn more about strength and conditioning is that sometimes even the good information is presented badly. Dan John’s writing is clear, but it’s also engaging, and at times, insanely humorous. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much reading a strength and conditioning book (or rather, I’ve never laughed so much WITH the author, rather than AT him). Hell, even my wife found some of the parts I read aloud funny.

This book is accessible to anyone, though it’s worth noting that you can’t follow every program in this book at once. Well, you could try, but you’ll probably die. This is the kind of book you read, enjoy, and then go back and cherry-pick ideas from. Right now I’m playing with the “one lift a day” idea, though I’m not doing it exactly as outlined in the book, because of time and strength factors. There’s a lot of other stuff I’d like to play with in here too; I’m sure I’ll get to it sooner or later.

If you must trust a man with two first names, Dan John seems like a good place to start.

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