Dan John's "Big Three"

MikeTheBear

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
This was a recent "tip" from Dan John over at T-Nation. I've become fed up with a lot of what is on T-Nation but I still read it for Dan John's material.

Here he argues that the deadlift, overhead press, and farmer's carry (or farmer's walk) are the three most important movements to get strong.

Deadlift and overhead press is like PTTP. No controversy there.

What about farmer's walks? I feel that they are similar ("same but different") to TGUs. Both involve stabilizing a load while also moving it.

Here are DJ's actual words:

If you care about being strong then you must do these basic movement patterns:

  1. Picking heavy stuff up off the ground.
  2. Lifting heavy stuff overhead.
  3. Carrying heavy stuff for time or distance.
If your goal is strength and you're not doing these, well, good luck with that. Yes, deadlifts, overhead presses, and farmer's walks are really that important. And yes, squats and pull-ups are good too, but if you can't pull double bodyweight off the ground, press bodyweight overhead, and carry bodyweight for about 100 yards, work to reach those standards first and all your other goals will be that much easier to smash.
 
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Cattleballs

Double-Digit Post Count
Agree with you about t nation. I love Dan John's stuff - instantly makes me want to train.
Don't you think the standards are at a different level? To me overhead pressing bodyweight is much harder than either of the other two. Maybe I'm just a bad presser :)
 

MikeTheBear

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Agree with you about t nation. I love Dan John's stuff - instantly makes me want to train.
Don't you think the standards are at a different level? To me overhead pressing bodyweight is much harder than either of the other two. Maybe I'm just a bad presser :)
I think all "strength standards" to some degree are arbitrary and not based on a scientifically derived ideal ratio. That's fine. Having read lots of Dan John's material as well as stuff from other in the trenches type of guys, it's more about the journey rather than the destination. Dan works with lots of high school kids and I'm sure that for him, 50% or more of the battle is just getting the kids to focus on a productive routine and away from the bench press and curl workout.

For me, the hardest would be the deadlift. The easiest would be the farmer's walk.
 

HUNTER1313

More than 500 posts
A push, a pull, snd a carry. Not much more for well rounded strength. Not specialized strength, but overall roundedness. Sprinkle in pull ups and full contact twists if you want and you're golden.
 

MikeTheBear

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Anyone else bothered a bit by the lack of squats? I realize that Dan addressed the lack of squats in his write-up, but still.
 

MattM

SFG1
Certified Instructor
T Nation is absolute garbage now. It was my favorite when they used to post one article a week like 5-10 years ago. Every Friday.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Anyone else bothered a bit by the lack of squats?
Nope.

If Dan says push, pull and carry, it's because that's what he's found works for most of the people he works with and himself, and he's worked with a lot of people and helped them achieve beyond what you might otherwise expect.

Speaking for myself, if I had to limit myself to one thing, I'd give serious consideration to doing only the carry. Again, speaking for myself, if I am already pushing and pulling, I don't feel the need for the carry as much.

JMO, YMMV.

-S-
 

Geoff Chafe

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Isn't the TGU a vertical carry rather than a horizontal carry? These types of things are always interesting but we should remember everyone is different. So really, it just depends.
I never thought of the Get up as a carry. I had thought of it as a support, but a vertical carry makes sense to me. Dan John puts it in the category of groundwork. I like his theory of we should train upper/lower body push and pull, carry, and ground work.

I like to train get ups and farmer walks together. I train get ups first with a lot of volume. Then heavy farmers walks. I have farmers handles, and I have a 20ft path across my gym. It is too hard to turn with them, so I 18" deadlift them, walk as fast as I can, set them down, turn around, then set, and go again. I ramp to heavy weight for time, or distance, sometimes assymetrically loaded.

Carries, and get ups are a great workout for me. I have recently started training the Bent Press again, and have been doing carries with them.
 

MikeTheBear

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@rickyw What I copied and pasted is the entire article. It was just a "tip of the day" kind of thing, not an entire article.

Here it is again:

If you care about being strong then you must do these basic movement patterns:

  1. Picking heavy stuff up off the ground.
  2. Lifting heavy stuff overhead.
  3. Carrying heavy stuff for time or distance.
If your goal is strength and you're not doing these, well, good luck with that. Yes, deadlifts, overhead presses, and farmer's walks are really that important. And yes, squats and pull-ups are good too, but if you can't pull double bodyweight off the ground, press bodyweight overhead, and carry bodyweight for about 100 yards, work to reach those standards first and all your other goals will be that much easier to smash.
 

banzaiengr

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Hey @MikeTheBear , do you recall in this "tip of the day" what quadrant DJ was speaking from? I only ask because with him it's easy to confuse something he's speaking about that would work for the individual that is in quadrant 4 and not quadrant 3 or even maybe 2. I only ask because I got to thinking that although I wouldn't disagree with someone who only did these three exercises, for someone in quadrant 3 who wants general conditioning I can see where the get up is better thru a movement standpoint. We definitely could get into the everyone is different argument because someone in Q3 needs the type of stability improvement the TGU provides first before pressing overhead. Anyone else have thoughts on this?
 

23rdwave

Triple-Digit Post Count
Hey @MikeTheBear , do you recall in this "tip of the day" what quadrant DJ was speaking from? I only ask because with him it's easy to confuse something he's speaking about that would work for the individual that is in quadrant 4 and not quadrant 3 or even maybe 2. I only ask because I got to thinking that although I wouldn't disagree with someone who only did these three exercises, for someone in quadrant 3 who wants general conditioning I can see where the get up is better thru a movement standpoint. We definitely could get into the everyone is different argument because someone in Q3 needs the type of stability improvement the TGU provides first before pressing overhead. Anyone else have thoughts on this?
Dan is using this as an assessment not a training program. He also likes to test the deadlift and standing broad jump at the beginning and end of the season but isn't recommending to combine them in a program.
 

Geoff Chafe

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@23rdwave I disagree, these are good core lifts to build a solid program around. There are many variations of lower pull, overhead work, and loaded carry, also add in some assistance, weak point, and prehab to suit your needs. I train very similarly myself, I personally need a squat variation also.
 

23rdwave

Triple-Digit Post Count
@Geoff Chafe, I am familiar with Dan's work. A progarm can be built around the big three but he was referencing how to get strong not showing how to do it. Dan loves to pull a weighted sled in the snow while carrying a weighted pack and holding a big rock. Now that's a program. :)
 

tangozero

Double-Digit Post Count
I personally like farmer's walk a lot.

A byddy of mine once said: how often do you see a solider squat himself out of a situation on the battlefield?
I have to disagree with this. If you're doing contact drills (maybe even with a ruck on your back) you'll be squatting a heckuva lot. Including breaking contact out of a situation.
 
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