The 1st Commandment

In any industry there arises an elite.  They are the voices that shape the direction of that industry and whose work motivates the rest of us.  Amongst that elite are the truth tellers, the ones whose status is a direct result of their integrity and quality of work, and the vocalists, who proclaim their message in the loudest, most attractive way possible, their status more dependant on volume than quality.

You know who I favor.

One of the best truth tellers I know is Chip Conrad.  He in turn is keyed in with many more truth tellers, some of whom are truly next level, greats whose knowledge is rooted in years of first hand experience.

Dan John is one of those greats.  Dan is the author of multiple books and a regular contributor to magazines such as Men’s Health and Outside.  You can also read his work at and on the forum at bodybuilding giant Dave Draper’s site,

At the end of September, Dan and Chip are co-hosting a workshop together.  Unfortunately, I am attending a marketing seminar in St. Petersburg, but to show my support I would like to share some of Dan John’s wisdom.

Dan has written the “Ten Commandments of Lifting”.  Over the next few days, I’d like to share these commandments and my thoughts about them.  We are still working on our kun for Agoge Fitness Systems and I think these commandments fit well into this conversation.

Commandment 1 “Use whole body lifts, rarely isolate a muscle.”

Today’s fitness industry is shaped by its proceeding professionals and, while the landscape is changing, a large part of the knowledge passed down to new trainers comes from a body building paradigm.

In most local gyms, what passes for working out is a variation on the bodybuilding theme.  Most YMCA’s and community centers are stocked with machines specifically designed to develop specific muscles.  The idea is to isolate the function of a muscle, place it under stress and stimulate growth — the definition of body building.

This does not necessarily translate into strength and if strength is your goal, bodybuilding will not help you much.

Whole body lifts build strength.  By this we mean a lift that involves multiple parts of the body either simultaneously or in synchronization.  At it’s most basic this is lifting a weight off the floor, as in a deadlift.

Rarely isolate a muscle.  Never is a very strong word and we have to acknowledge that there are sometimes when isolating a muscle will be of benefit to our goals.  Many of us develop imbalances in our musculature, due in part to habits and patterns of movement that overemphasize one muscle at the expense of another.

Isolating a muscle identified as weak can be an effective means of bringing it up to par.  This is supplemental work done for a specific benefit which when achieved is set aside to refocus on the larger goal.

For most of us our primary motivation for going to the gym is aesthetics.  We all want Jennifer Anniston’s arms or Madonna’s abs, or to look like such and such MMA fighter or the latest male heartthrob actor.  But the truth is there is more to life than sexy abs or a tight butt.

Rest assured an improved appearance will be an added benefit to your return on  time spent in the gym.  Try setting your sights a little higher, there are greater rewards to be reaped.

Stay strong.

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Filed under Fitness, Motivation, Movement, Personal Development, Personal Training, Recovery, Strength, Strength Training

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