– Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
– In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, in the experts mind there are few
– Do all that’s necessary, not all that’s possible
– Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
– Less is more
New week, same concept. For anyone that reads this blog on the regular you know that I like to talk about keeping training simple. No need to get confusing. Each of the sayings above spends some time on the board at Ambition Athletics. I will be the first to admit that in regard to training, these rules aren’t always the easiest to live by. In that spirit, I recently finished reading the book “Easy Strength” by Dan John and Pavel. I have seen Coach John speak in person, read his articles, and listened to various podcasts, but I am now only truly grasping his concepts of the 4 quadrants and how they apply to various people and not just athletes. Now I can’t easily explain the four quadrants for you right now, especially because there is a whole book dedicated to that. However I will point out a few things that helped me. First I will address what most can relate to.
Quadrant I = PE Class (many qualities, done at low level of relative max of each)
Quadrant II = Most team sports (many qualities, done at high relative max)
QuadrantIII= Other athletes and the average person (few qualities done at low/moderate relative max)
Quadrant IV = The truly elite (few qualities, highest level of relative max)
Coach John says most of us live in Quadrant III. Some think they live in Quadrant II but those are mostly people with training ADD and as Dan puts it say, “I’m going to do this and that and this and that and this and fail miserably.” Quadrant III requires a few qualities at a low or moderate level of relative max. What does that mean for us normal people? Well, working toward technical mastery of just a few things can pay big dividends. Regardless of your goals, whether it is fat loss, to compete in an individual sport or live an overall healthier life, you don’t need to do a million things. Stay focused on the goal at hand. Dominate the basics in the weight room and then practice your technical boxing skills (or whatever your sport is) at practice. I think that for those trying to lose weight, the food you consume, or your diet, is comparable to the athletes practice. For that person, move well and move strong by doing a few high payoff moves, and then focus on your “practice” which in this case is the diet (the hardest part for most). The important thing to remember, as you refer back to the top of the page, is that you will likely be doing less than you think you should. Keep it strong and simple, and trust in the system.
As far as my own training goes, over the past couple of years, with the help of Dan John’s talking about goals, I have really been able to streamline my own training through fewer exercises and a more narrow focus on the goals. Each time I think about it and refer back to my training journals (something that Coach John insists you do!) I can see that I have continued to strip away the “fluff”, or exercises that don’t necessarily bring me closer to the goal. It doesn’t mean that they are entirely wrong but in the effort to reach said goals and make time for all of the other important things in life, training becomes less complicated.
Finally, the talk in the book about Q III and IV athletes and their narrow focus has helped me get a better understanding of where athletes like powerlifters and Olympic lifters are coming from. It is a different world they live in as the training is their sport. The qualities needed are low and the relative max is high. I have been lucky enough to spend some time around some of these high level Olympic lifters and coaches and now have a clearer understanding as well as more appreciation for what they are doing.
Just a few paragraphs cannot do this book justice. That’s why it consists of 253 pages and I am writing only one. If you are interested in getting better and learning quite a bit about strength training I highly recommend it.
– Mike Baltren