Greg Glassman is a controversial choice for Coach of the Decade if you define coach in a certain way, or you think Glassman is all about marketing, or you're mad at CrossFit because, well, they really do make some fitness professionals pretty mad. You can't say the same about Dan John. So, here’s an antidote to the CrossFit bug to balance it out for all those people who were mortally offended by our choice of Glassman as Coach of the Decade. Perhaps the Coach of the Next Decade?
Dan John is, in many ways, a better coach of coaches, teacher, educator, and speaker than Glassman, than many more visible figureheads of the industry. His books are gospels for many fitness professionals. He has a great pedigree as a competitive athlete and could be seriously considered a true polymath, his expertise extending beyond strength and conditioning.
He should also be raised as the exemplar for training and coaching in the coming decade. If the last decade has been a steady descent into the circus trickery of Instagram fitness, inspired by the box gym concept, the next decade should be an antidote, a return to basics, simplicity, and the realization that all that glitters is not gold. That's where John comes in.
Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, Loaded Carry
John's five basic movement approach to training has become a mantra for many coaches and trainers. His work with Pavel Tsatsouline on Easy Strength is probably the simplest and most applicable template for driving a fitness program based on persona, rather than a generalist approach.
Unfortunately, John is probably less well known among practitioners and average trainees – even more in an age where social media popularity seems to be valued more as a ranking tool than actual expertise and experience – than Tsatsouline and Glassman. However, if there was ever a time for his approach to dominate the fitness industry it would be now.
Striving for mastery … that focus is the essence of Dan’s training: a relentless striving for mastery in the fundamentals done as often as possible for decades.
Dan John, Coaching, And The Importance Of Mentors
Simplicity, Longevity, and Making it Big
We get stuck in these stupid, deadly clichés of who we are supposed to be as fitness trainers. We fall into drill sergeant mode; we think we’re in some bad army movie from two decades ago.
Or you get this hot female personal trainer who was a gymnast and she became a college cheerleader and one time she woke up and she weighed 118 pounds and was just disgusted about the way she looked in her bikini in Malibu. So, what happens in our industry is we get these clichés who are our front line.
There's no Luddite-ism here. Social media serves a purpose, but it has also helped amplify the worst aspects of the fitness industry putting style over substance. It has all happened just as we started to experience a sort of post-bodybuilding boom in strength training because of, yes, CrossFit, but also leading into a renewed interest in weightlifting, powerlifting, and more so recently, strongman.
Dan John hasn't changed much at all in the last two decades. He has stuck firmly to doing fundamentals well, doing them forever, and never losing sight of the simplicity of it all, knowing that just because something is simple doesn't make it easy.
Nowadays, aside from the circuit tricks that pass for fitness and training posts on social media, there are CrossFit competitions, and CrossFit-like throwdowns, Ninja Warrior, The Beast and a host of mass appeal events designed to promote strength, agility, and endurance in ways that were unheard of when the only strength athletes with a large audience were bodybuilders.
There are more competitions, more competitors, and more competition for attention. In the meantime, the fundamentals of what it takes to be strong for life are getting swept aside by what looks good or grabs the most attention.
Greg Glassman and CrossFit helped to push the world of fitness into an area that is, for want of a better word, freaky. Right now, we may need to reach for people like Dan John and try and forge a path in the coming decade that strips away the neon and glitz, and gets us back to sound principles that can be applied effectively across all demographics.
After all, fitness is as simple as just wanting to have a better quality of life. Isn't it?