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Never Let Go by Dan John – Book Review

Never Let Go by Dan JohnWhen I heard from a friend that Dan John had a new book coming out, I went and placed my order right away.  Unfortunately, that backfired as Laree Draper (wife of Golden era Bodybuilder Dave Draper) had already intended to send me a copy as part of being on the insider list.  I couldn’t have been more excited.  This is a review of that book.

For those who don’t know of Dan John, well it’s your loss.  Truly a more friendly, knowledgable and helpful individual in the field of strength training may not exist.  Dan is located here in Salt Lake City where I pursued ice speed skating and while I’ve only had a chance to hang out with him sporadically, it’s always worth the time.

You see, Dan John has been in the lifting weights since about the history of recorded time.   He’s seen it all, done it all, and tried it all.  His knowledge and experience is encyclopedic; coupled with his willingness to share that information with anybody who cares to show interest….well that’s a good combination.

Which brings us to Dan’s ‘new’ book. I put ‘new’ in quotes since the majority (if not the entirety) of the content actually consists of articles that Dan John wrote for T-nation.  Again, this isn’t a bad thing either since his content is usually pure gold (and always seemed out of place on that particular site).  I may not agree with everything Dan has to say but I’ll read every word and it never fails to give me something to think about.

Dan John: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Now let me say upfront that Dan’s content may not strike a chord with those who think that the only useful training is based upon the most modern discoveries in neural physiology or molecular biology.  That’s not who Dan is and that’s certainly not what Dan writes about.

If that’s the case and you don’t get this book, it’s your loss.

Altogether we get so fixated on what’s new and/or “cutting edge” (and make no mistake, I’m as guilty of this as everyone else) that we forget our history or the fact that guys got very big and very strong with the simplest of workouts and training objects long before any of the science was around.

That’s what Dan writes about.  As I noted above, he’s been in the trenches for nearly 4 decades and has literally tried, seen and done it all.  His approach to training may not be “cutting edge” but it works which is why a lot of people fly into Utah to learn from and/or train with him.

Anyhow, enough kissing of Dan’s expanding butt, on to the book.

Never Let Go by Dan John

As I noted above, the book is essentially a collection of his articles from T-nation.  For all I know, every article is from there.  I had seen several of the pieces before but many were new to me.  When I received the book, I plowed through it in about 3 nights. I’m sure I’ll read it through cover to cover again to catch any gems of insight that I missed the first time around.

Each chapter is fairly short (for those of a short attention span) and they are all written in a nice conversational tone.  I’ve had dinner with Dan and he writes the way he speaks (or is it the other way around?).  Funny too, there are several laugh out loud comments in the book.

You’ll be exposed to all kinds of interesting ideas in the book, from the One Lift a Day Program to the Litvinov to a way to kill yourself with a PVC pipe filled with water.  Where else do you think you can find this type of information?  Nowhere is where.

For just about anybody involved in the field, I really can’t recommend this book too highly.  For those who are old and jaded like me, Dan may give you an insight into some decidedly old school approaches to training that flat out work.

And for those newbies who are killing themselves with the most complicated cutting edge computer generated training programs, learning about some very simple but effective ways of training may be just what you need.

I’d note that not every article is about training, some are just about Dan’s experience, some of it is pure motivation, some of it is about how to think and learn about training and eating.

To pad out the review, I’ve included the entire table of contents below, just to give you some idea of the breadth of the book:

Free Will and Free Weights ~ The Rule of Five ~ The Velocity Diet Experience ~ The Rest of the Story ~ The One Lift a Day Program ~ The Tabata Method ~ Fat Loss in Four Minutes ~ A History of Dieting ~ The Classic Top 10 Tips ~ Systematic Education for Lifters ~ 5 X 5 Variations ~ Three Mentors, Lifetime Lessons ~ Geezer Wisdom ~ The AIT Formula ~ Self-Evident Truths ~ What You Know Versus What You Do ~ PVC and Presuppositions ~ The Litvinov Workout ~ The Gable Method ~ Strong Eye for the Weak Guy ~ The Best Exercises ~ My Secret Coaching Methods ~ Nautilus, Crossfit and High/High ~ Blood on the Barbell ~ A Religious Studies Professor’s Review of HIT ~ New Associations, New Muscle ~ Coach Pain’s Slosh Pipe ~ Lessons from Southwood ~ Recovery Methods 101 ~ That Guy ~ Are You Making Progress? ~ Disdain Medium ~ The Big Five ~ Secrets to Long-Term Fitness ~ One Hard Thing ~ Principle Lessons ~ Three Basic Concepts ~ Goals and Toilet Seats, A Men’s Room Epiphany ~ Goal-setting for Motivation ~ The One-dumbbell Workout ~ The Journey to Excellence ~ The Philosophy of Physical Capital ~ Improve Your Fitness Literacy ~ Afterword ~ Suggested Reading

If you can’t get at least one useful idea (my criterion for a good product is that I learn one useful thing out of it, if I can say that it was a worthwhile purchase) from that list, then either you’ve been in the field longer than Dan and know everything there is to know already or you’re not paying attention.  Most likely the latter.

Finally, it’s worth noting (in this era of overpriced internet products) that the price is right.  At $24.95 plus shipping (for over 400 pages of content) from Dave Draper Online, the information to cost quotient is off the charts.

Even if you’ve read every article of Dan’s on T-nation, you should buy this book.  Dan is one of the good guys, I mean the really good guys and he deserves your support.  That’s on top of what you’ll learn from reading it cover to cover a couple of times.

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5 thoughts on “Never Let Go by Dan John – Book Review

  1. Dear Lyle,

    I plan on buying this book.

    On a side note (long, since I’ve learn from you 😉 ), I’ve bought all of your books (except “The Stubborn Fat”, since… well, I’m far from that last stubborn fat 🙂 ) , recommended your books to everyone that wants to listens and also made a Powerpoint presentation of your “Flexible Dieting” book, and presented it (stating very clearly that it’s the resume of your book) to friends and colleages (i’m 35, a computer science major, working in the IT industry).

    The physiology and psychology of Sports nutrition and exercice is my hobby).

    I wanted to tell you that I bought “Why Zebras don’t get ulcers” because…. well, because you recommended it. Now that I’m reading it, I understand why you love it: the author writes in your same “no bullshit”, “funny” tone and explains really, really complicated things in simple terms.

    Now I know, from that book, that stress impact every topic that you love and I’ve learned to love also: fat mobilization, growth, nutrition, etc.

    Just as “Why Zebras don’t get ulcers” was a great recommendation, I’m sure this new book will be also.

    Keep up the good work.

    Santiago, Chile

  2. “The more I know, the less I understand” seems to be how I feel reading a lot of information out there when it comes to strength training. And even some well-respected authors seem to offer more cloudiness than clarity with certain writings along with presenting ideas that sound great in theory but don’t seem to be designed for the real world.

    Dan John, however, always cuts to the chase and offers simple and effective solutions. Thank you for the heads up on his product, Lyle.

    In the spirit of not forgetting that people have built champion physiques and high levels of strength for decades and long before we “knew better” based upon the latest research, gadgets, and supplements, it would be interesting to see your take on some of the ideas presented in Coach Thibaudeau’s latest Q and A thread on the T-Nation forums. While I respect his drive to optimize nutrition, especially around training, the pervading sentiment seems to be that a lot of what has been done with nutrition in the past is far from optimal and relatively ineffective compared to the new strategies being laid out. Adding to the murkiness is the heavy reliance on some of the newest products offered over on that site (some not yet released to the general public).

    I fully recognize that going on T-Nation is likely not something that holds large interest for you, but it would be highly educational to hear your take on some of the ideas presented in the following thread in a future post here. He touches on protein cycling and maximizing muscle protein synthesis, his latest para-training nutrition guidelines, meal composition and timing for creating hyperaminoacidemia, and some other stuff. Separating general advancements in nutrition from convincing you that everything you’ve known is essentially far from most effective and that you need products x, y, and z on a regular basis can be quite difficult.

    You’re literally one of the few who calls a spade a spade and doesn’t let personal agendas or product sales color your perception. And if you don’t have the time or desire to check out and present your thoughts on any of those topics, I completely understand.

  3. Dear Jack,

    I agree. I’m subscribed to T-Nation’s blog, and once in a while there’s some good stuff.

    But the thing that bothers me is the “product placement”. Every article @ see were they “promote” their stuff then that article loses credibility.

    Hope Lyle continues “independent” about recommendating products, books, training schemes and the like.


  4. This is a great, great book. Best training book I’ve ever read — great stuff, and this man has a sense of humour!

    As a smallish, pushing 50 basement trainer, late to the game, who lifts weights that are laughable to most — I read the review at Dave Draper’s a few times before taking the plunge. Just thought it was too advanced and too academic for me.

    I was very wrong.

    I’m almost finished and feel that pang of regret upon finishing a great book. Also, I know that I’ll be reading this one again, and again, like for example Stuart McRobert’s “Brawn”.

  5. +1 to what everyone else said … it’s a great book. He has a way of writing that just makes so much … sense. It’s informative, motivational, and it all has the ring of truth to it. Two thumbs up.

    Oh, I also liked Mark Rippetoe’s “Strong Enough?” book. Similar but different wisdom.

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