Keep it Simple

As many of you know, I am a big fan of Dan John’s work. Check out this past blog post about the wisdom of Dan John if you are not familiar with him. He recently released his new book, “Can You Go?: Assessments and Program Design for the Active Athlete…. and Everybody Else.” As you can probably infer from the title, it’s about assessments and program design. It’s more than just that, it’s also about setting goals and doing what is necessary to reach them. In a world that can get mired in complicated explanations, I find it refreshing when someone has an approach to simplify things. And that’s exactly what Dan John has the ability to do. I often find myself shaking my head in agreement with many of the simple concepts he presents, and I wonder why I didn’t think of that. Why do I tend to make things more complicated? Dan is able to make it sound all so simple, but remember, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the topics in the book, and if you’re someone who has an interest in health and fitness, you can purchase the book to get the full picture.

I know that there is some debate about the usefulness of assessments for clients. Right up front I want to make it clear, I believe assessments are extremely important. I am FMS certified and find the movement screen to be very helpful in optimal program design. I don’t think that a trainer has to use the FMS screen per say, but I do believe they should do some kind of screen or assessment. I have heard personal trainers who say that they assess the client in their first workout, but how will you know what exercises to include/exclude in their plan? If you choose the wrong exercise that aggravates a joint or injury, by the time you figure that out in the first workout, it may be too late. If you have a trainer and he doesn’t do an assessment and/or screen, I recommend finding another trainer. Dan John has created a simple four step assessment that helps classify people in his Venn diagram, The first three steps of the assessment are questions, and the last step, consists of four tests. According to how you answer the questions and perform the tests, it will determine your place on the Venn diagram and what type of program will be most worthwhile to you.

Once assessments and/or screens are completed, the process of program design can begin. We must take into account what a client needs and what they want. Those two things are not always on the same page, but a good assessment can always bring to light what a person needs to work on. Mr. John then brings up a good point, we often assess the client but we don’t assess the program. Is the program working? Is it bringing us closer to achieving our goals? How often do personal trainers put together a random mish mash of exercises and call it a program. They should be able to justify the use of each of the exercises contained in the program. The author proceeds to explain each of the 7 locations on the Venn diagram and the appropriate goals for each.

He explains that each program will take into account the five tools.

  1. Nutrition and Caloric Restriction
  2. Inefficient Exercise
  3. Strength Training
  4. Hypertrophy and mobility training- the Fountain of Youth
  5. Mental Set

The 1-2-3-4 assessment will give you an idea where the person falls along the Venn Diagram, and according to that number, you will know which of the five tools should be emphasized the most.

There are countless gems in this book and Dan John is always good for a few laughs too. I feel like it would be a disservice to the author if I were to give away anything more. You’re going to have to get the book if your interest has been peaked. What I like most about Dan John is he makes the world of strength and conditioning accessible and understandable to just about everyone, and in today’s world full of sensationalized, over fluffed, and long winded explanations, I find it very refreshing!

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