Never Let Go by Dan John

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Fit knowts is a book summary service dedicated to health and fitness—we find the golden nuggets of information within great health and fitness books and deliver them to you in five easy-to-read pages, or about 15 to 20 minutes of audio.

Today we’re going to take a look at Never Let Go by Dan John. As always, our summaries are available at as 5-page PDFs or audio summaries of 20 minutes or less.

Never Let Go is actually a compilation of articles that Dan John had previously written for Testosterone Muscle Magazine and they've been reprinted as a single book. It's a fantastic book and the subtitle is, A Philosophy of Lifting, Living, And Learning. It's just under 400 pages and it details everything that Dan has learned over his years as a strength athlete and coach. He is a thrower by trade and has competed at all levels of Olympic lifting as well as Highland Games and the Weight Pentathlon. The five key insights we’ll be looking at are GPP, which is general physical preparedness, Systematic Education, Physical Capital, The Litvinov, and the One-Lift-a-Day Program. The last two are a couple of programs that Dan describes in his book that we thought you might be interested in, just as some examples. There are several of them listed in the book, but these two examples stand out.

What is Never Let Go about? Dan’s philosophy says, “The body is one piece and all training is complementary.” To that he adds, “There are three kinds of strength training: putting weight overhead, picking it up off the ground, and carrying it for time or distance.” This is Dan's style, he's very direct and simple and everything's laid out. If you think about it that way, it pretty much sums everything up. This gives you an example of what the writing is like in Never Let Go and what Dan’s style is like.


General Physical Preparedness

Let's jump into GPP. General physical preparedness, Dan describes as his base level or his foundational base layer of training. Where this comes into play is that he described that a few years ago he had woken up pretty much out of shape. He'd lost his GPP, his general physical preparedness. He could still throw pretty far but from the example, his cardio wasn't great and even throwing pretty far, he had noticed a dip in his competitive results, he no longer had that endurance in competition to go for a whole day or a weekend.

GPP is a great insight because it's determining what your base foundation level of fitness is, your general physical preparedness and for all of us it will be different. For example, with running, maybe it's your pace time or your 5K time. For lifting, it could be your deadlift and how your heart rate is measured with your max deadlift, things of that nature. This is a great insight to test yourself on or to find that baseline for yourself, your general physical preparedness.


Systematic Education

Adding to GPP and in the same kind of realm is systematic education. For Dan, what systematic education is about is that there's no way to know if something is working unless you have experience and you're building on your knowledge systematically. The example that he gives is that when you rely on your previous years of experience, you're able to approach new training ideas in a systematic way in breaking it down and deciding if that new thing works or not.

What the author actually does is, he has one or two workouts that he reverts back to, one or two workouts that he can do basically in his sleep that he knows inside and out that he knows gets him certain results. From that baseline of those one or two workouts, he hits that foundation layer, or that GPP, and then adds in the new thing such as working with TRX straps or any kind of new machine or training program, then he will see how much it's actually working. When you have that control, that systematic education of your previous experience and knowing what those results are, that's when you can add in that new thing to see if it actually works.


Physical Capital

Next, we have physical capital and physical capital is a great insight and it’s one that we quite love. Your physical capital is the sum of all of your training, nutrition, and recovery tools. The recovery tool is probably the one that gets dropped off the map most often.

What Dan is alluding to is, that like a bank account, we can deposit and contribute to training, nutrition, and recovery everyday, he breaks it down into three really simple things. If you can make a deposit into that account each day, your physical capital is going to grow, right? You're working with those assets to give them more value over time. The same thing happens if you neglect them—they are going to depreciate and some very quickly. Actually, if you don’t contribute to them every day, all three of them – training, nutrition, and recovery – will depreciate and your physical capital will be on the decline as well. It's similar to his position, in the beginning, three ways to train: picking up weight off the ground, lifting it overhead or carrying it for time or distance. Focus on those three things and you'll be able to increase that capital every single day and, over time, your physical capital is going to appreciate significantly.



One of the last two key points - The Litvinov and the One-Lift-a-Day Program have to do with two programs mentioned in the book. The first is the Litvinov, which is named after Sergey Litvinov who was a world champion hammer thrower in the 80s. This is effectively a workout for, as Dan describes, anyone who wants to get faster, leaner, and more muscular. Those are three characteristics that a lot of people tend to look for in any kind of program.

What happened was that Sergey Litvinov arrived at the World Championships in that condition—faster, leaner and more muscular—and won a gold medal. He beat out an American thrower, John Powell. Powell observed that in not adapting his training program in that training cycle, he was not as successful in competition, other throwers were doing something different and that's when he discovered the program of Sergey Litvinov and that the condition that Litvinov came to the World Championships in was very different than that of Powell's—he wanted to emulate that of course.

Dan writes, “If you're interested in becoming leaner, faster, and more muscular, the Litvinov is the workout for you.” It's a truly simple workout that combines lifting with running. You're going to lift and then you're going to run. You can do any big lift, Dan mentions cleans, clean and presses, clean and jerks, deadlifts, front squats, overhead squats, or snatches, for example. Any big or any compounding movement for 8 reps and then immediately run 400 meters. You are going to repeat this three times and then go home. That's what he says. Repeat it three times and don't do anything else. Probably some recovery or some mobility work would be fine, but that's the workout.

As always, any kind of program that we mention here should involve a consultation with a medical professional and be something that you're ready to do. Don't go out there doing a workout that you're not ready to do and that you haven't been medically cleared for.


The One-Lift-a-Day Program

Our last one here, the One-Lift-a-Day Program. Dan describes this program as the program that has caused more days off of school and work than any other program. Effectively, people get extremely sore doing this and it's very simple and in line with everything that Dan is about in Never Let Go. The One-Lift-a-Day Program consists of picking one lift each day and doing that lift for the entire workout, and every subsequent week you're cutting your volume in half.

How that might look is, for instance, week 1 you have 7 sets of 5 – this is one lift so let’s say it is squats. You do seven sets of 5 squats for week 1, that’s it. Week 2, you have 6 sets of 3, in week 3 you have 3 sets that are dropping down in reps—a 5, 3, 2. Your first set is 5 reps, the second set is 3 reps, the third set is 2 reps, and then week 4 is off. You're cutting the volume by half with each successive week.

What Dan says is that you're also cutting the B.S. out of working out. You're getting in and out of the gym relatively quickly and also doing something that's really effective. That is the One-Lift-a-Day Program. As he mentioned it's the program that he has seen cause the most days off from work or school than any other workout, good luck!

Okay, team, the book is Never Let Go by Dan John and our five key insights were GPP, systematic education, physical capital, The Litvinov and the One-Lift-A-Day Program. As always, you can subscribe at to get unlimited access to our library of summaries or you can sign up for a monthly subscription. Have an awesome day.