Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dan John's 10 Things Every Lifter Should Be Able to Do - how do I measure up?

Like a lot of folks, I like seeing how I measure up.

I also really like Dan John. He's got a knack for simplifying the complex without dumbing it down.

He recently wrote an article on "10 Things Every Lifter Should Be Able to Do

I'll take a look.

1 – Bench Your Bodyweight

This I was eventually able to do, with a lot of help from John Impallomeni at DeFranco's Training in Wyckoff, NJ. I managed it despite long arms, an iffy shoulder, and not even really worrying about my bench press in particular, getting 205 for one at a bodyweight of about 190-195 at the time. I was very proud of that, but I probably won or lost 0 matches based on getting stronger in this.

I was never great at benching weight-wise, but I learned to be good at it technically.

I always had a history of shoulder issues, thanks to some very aggressive arm bars and a tendency to bounce out of the bottom of pull-ups. This caught up with me, so I can't bench bodyweight right now without risking injury. I'm on the way back, and I expect to meet or exceed this one again.

2 – Deadlift Double Your Bodyweight

I never got there. I pulled 335 on a straight bar for one, 320 on a trap bar for one, also at around 190-195.

This one I was always disappointed in. Finding out just how messed up my neck/shoulder area is explains a lot, though - I could generally break the bar off the floor and get it up smoothly, or couldn't move it at all. It wasn't grip - I pulled 335 double overhand, no problem. What finally set off my bad shoulder wasn't all the pressing and pull ups I did, but pulling a moderate deadlift load weekly for a few weeks and it finally gave up on me.

3 – Hold a Two-Minute Plank

Not a problem. It's a good test.


4 – Sleep With Only One Pillow

This tells me Dan John sleeps on his back. I used to sleep with one, on my side. A chiropractor insisted I add a second pillow, and miraculously my one-sided neck tightness dramatically decreased, as did some lingering issues I had for almost 20 years.

So this seems like an odd standard. Yes, one pillow for a back sleeper. Or one for a side-sleeper if you get one of those special thicker side-sleeper pillows at IKEA.

5 – Sit on Floor Without Using Hands, Knees, or Shins

No problem. Getting back up is tricky sometimes, especially if my hamstrings or glutes were worked hard the day before.

6 – Balance on One Foot for 10 Seconds

This one surprised me. 10 seconds? The standard I'm used to is 60 seconds, knee held up high. Advanced is eyes closed. 10 seconds? Not meaning to brag, but I had to do an exercise today where I stood on one foot for over a minute while oscillating a weight.

It seems like a low standard. If you can't do 10 seconds, it's something to work up to quickly - just take your shoes off and practice. Aim for 30 seconds per side to start.

7 – Hang for 30 Seconds, Pull-Up

No problem. I know it's a compensation pattern for me to manage this, but I can manage it. It's a great standard. The routine he plugged in to the standard is interesting, too.

8 – Long Jump Your Height

I used to be able to do this, I'm not sure if I still could. I'll have to get back to everyone on this after my trainer tells me to try it (yes, I'm a trainer but I have a trainer - experts know expertise and value it.)

9 – 30-Second Bodyweight Squat and Hold

No problem. I'm used to sitting in a squat, and "squat and hold" is a standard I've held myself to for years.

10 – Farmers Walk Your Bodyweight

Depends on the distance, but sure - 190? No problem.


I felt like reading this list that the audience is really T-Nation's, not a general one. Male, 20s and 30s, loves training. Many of those standards - especially 3, 5, and 6 - are good standards for everyone.


I have to say, though, all of these standards-type articles are just a way to detect holes in your own abilities. The actual standards don't matter. Use them as fun, as information, and to ask you about things you may or may not be able to do. Don't worry if someone else's standards don't match yours - just use them as inspiration to try new things and get you motivated to improve your skills and strength without compromising your health. That's, ultimately, what it's all about.

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