Wisdom from a Master

This week, I got the opportunity to get a training session from the current all-federation raw World Record holder in the 242lb weight class, Dan Green. The session was hugely enlightening, and after taking a few days to let some of it gel in my mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to review my session and his gym, as well as pass along as much of his wisdom as I can (hopefully without mangling it too badly).

First, Dan knows both bodybuilding and powerlifting, and this is obvious from the moment you meet him. The guy is enormous, pictures really do not do him justice. I felt like I had some reasonable size on me, but I feel like a tiny, tiny person beside him.

Second, he is perhaps the nicest, most down-to-earth ‘name’ I’ve ever met. He isn’t pushy or intimidating, really easy to talk to and work with. And after talking to him about lifting for a few minutes, it becomes immediately apparent that the guy knows what he’s talking about.

Regarding his gym, Boss Barbell Club, I was impressed by the variety of equipment and the focused nature of it. He certainly doesn’t have every machine in existence, but what he does have seems to be very purposefully chosen. I counted two or possibly three cages, a GHR, dumbells, kettlebells, a chest supported t-bar row, a 50-ish% hack squat machine, a prone hack squat type machine (selectorized), a few pulley-based stations, some ab related stations, and even a yoke (similar to this).  Now, most of the equipment has seen a lot of use, but to me that’s no big deal. It all looks to be in good repair, and well looked after.

The most impressive thing about the gym however was that it seemed to be a place where people come to train, as opposed to a place where people stand around and admire themselves (or worse, others) or just shoot the shit in between sets of two-man bench pressing (you know, where the one guy is doing an upright row while the other is benching). Chalk is not only OK, it’s provided, and I even saw a chalked up bench to keep the back from slipping while benching, just like John Phung might use. Overall, the place has a real good vibe.

Anyhow, my reason for scheduling the time with Dan was to simply soak up as much knowledge from the guy on how to grow my legs and increase my squat and dead as much as possible. Also, since I’m completely self-taught, I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any glaring flaws in my form, and I simply couldn’t think of anyone who would be more qualified to critique me than a guy who benches my 1RM deadlift for reps.

Regarding my form, I got a green light from him on it until the weight got heavy enough for form to break down, at which point he saw what my weaknesses were and gave me specific corrective advice. Along the way, we discussed a lot of other lifts and general philosophy for someone who wants to be healthy first, huge second, and strong third (my goals, not his). And to make matters even better, I tied my 1RM squat at 425 and set a new 1RM deadlift at 485 on the same day while running on less than 1000 calories a day and doing WAY more volume than I was supposed to.

Anyhow, in no particular order, here are the nuggets Dan was able to impart on me:

  • My squat gets very posterior chain dependent when the weight gets heavy, which indicates that my quads are weak. High bar squats, front squats, and hack squats (machine) should be used to correct this, make my quads grow, and bring my squat to new levels. He said this was very similar to the problem he had back when he was squatting in the 600’s, and he focused almost exclusively on those three exercises between meets to get his squat to blast past the old plateau. Apropos of this, if you have not checked out his front squat training video, you really owe it to yourself to do so, great video.
  • Dan doesn’t think much of the leg press as a leg builder. He prefers squat movements and the hack squat machine.
  • Regarding the hack squat machine, I’ve had problems with it wrecking my back. He told me that was because I was treating it like a squat and sitting back, causing my back to jam into the pad. What I should do is pull my butt off the pad and keep it above my feet and in-line with my shoulders. This will also keep me from wrecking my knees.
  • While his squat stance looks very wide in pictures, he chooses a stance that lets him get the stretch reflex right at parallel, but also feels comfortable. Since there are no bonus points in powerlifting for going rock bottom, this is the way to be most successful in a meet. When doing high bar squats, he tends to bring his feet in more and go deeper.
  • In regards to quad hypertrophy, he advised that I begin doing what he calls 3/4 reps. Basically, this involves going to the bottom, exploding out and accelerating up about half way and then reversing at 3/4 and coming back down for the next rep. This keeps constant tension on the quads and makes the movement more muscularly challenging without increasing the weight, which is good for avoiding injury.
  • Also on hypertrophy, he stressed to focus on keeping tension in the muscles you are trying to target to make sure the exercise you are doing is benefiting the bodypart you are doing it for. 
  • Stretching the muscles and tendons are very important. Going until your muscle is fully stretched (like at rock bottom on a squat) is important to strengthen the tendons and help the muscle grow. And while he doesn’t practice ‘Extreme Stretching‘ from DoggCrapp training, he thinks the principles of it are sound.
  • Changing exercises often (but not too often) can be good to keep your motivation high and provide new PR opportunities. Again, he seems to agree with DC training’s philosophy of pushing a movement until it stalls and then changing to a new movement.
  • When he has a long break between meets, he often trains for hypertrophy and chooses movements that shore up his weak points, sometimes to the total exclusion of the competition-style lift (such as swapping out the low bar squat for front and high-bar squats). A few months before the competition, he’ll switch back to the competition lift to get back in the groove and break records.
  • During lat exercises (pull ups, chin ups, pulldowns, etc.), I tend to have a problem where my arms and grip gets tired before I even begin to feel the movement in my lats. He said this is common, and is due to the sheer size difference between the lats (which are huge) and the arm muscles (relatively tiny). You can help with he grip portion of it by wrapping your pull-up bar with athletic tape. As time goes on, sweat soaks into the tape and the glue seeps out, making it much easier to grip the bar. 
  • During pull-ups and chins, he suggests going down until you feel your shoulders begin to rise up, and then reverse the lift. He doesn’t think going to a full dead hang is necessary.
  • One of the keys to deadlifting well is to pull the bar into yourself with your lats. Your lats are strong enough that even on a max deadlift attempt, you should be able to hold the bar hard against your quads using nothing but your lats. This keeps the bar from drifting while avoiding potentially harmful cues like ‘pull back instead of up’ or ‘keep your shoulders behind the bar’. 
  • When deadlifting, make sure to completely extend your knees before extending your hip. Quad strength should be able to get the bar off the ground, hams/glutes take over after that.
  • Sumo deadlifting takes a while to get comfortable with. He suggests beginning by pulling from blocks until you feel comfortable with it. This allows you to take the flexibility portion out of the equation and just get the upright stance of the movement down. He also feels that this is a great strength builder, as it allows you to get used to handling a lot of weight. 
  • Use your warmups as practice reps. Perform them with the same intensity and focus as you will your work sets, and avoid the temptation to breeze through them.
  • Pausing in the hole during warmups can be very helpful to build tightness in the trunk.
  • His take on Rippetoe is very similar to Greg Nuckols take on him, which I found incredibly interesting. 
  • Low bar squats build upper leg mass, namely the hip flexors, glutes, and hams, while front squats focus more on the quadriceps, and especially the Vastus Medialis. 
  • He advised me to buy and begin using a belt, which I will do, despite my skepticism on it. He did say to only use it for my heaviest sets, and to occasionally train without it, which makes me feel better about it, however.  
Overall, I couldn’t be more satisfied with the time Dan spent with me, and if you are in the area or can make the trip, I highly advise that you schedule time for coaching with him at Boss Barbell Club in Mountain View, CA.


  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)