“To rest is to rust.”

– Jack Dempsey

Pizza, donuts, couch, LIFT, donuts, pizza, couch, sleep, repeat. We know the dudes

Hey you want to help with dishes?

No. It might interfere with my gains. I need to lie here like Jabba The Hut and infuse muscle milk intravenously into my femoral artery.

I have succumb to this ideology more than once and I believe the problem lies in where we think we are as an athlete and well…reality. We want to train like the best in the world train, but we don’t look at what they did on the road to get to where they are, or genuinely assess whether we have a legitimate shot at getting to those heights.

CrossFit has invigorated a lot of people to take another shot at professional athletics and has equally awakened a new found cultural love for Olympic lifting, but it has also illuminated how far we are behind other countries and what the average person will sacrifice for the mere chance to stand in the spotlight one more time (myself included).

The best breakdown and philosophy to wrap our minds around this topic is the Four Quadrants by Dan John. Below is a brief introduction to the ideology of the four quadrants, the quadrants themselves, and a bit of information on each. If you would like to read more on this buy Easy Strength by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline, most of this information was gleaned from resources in or related to this book.

Four Quadrants by Dan John

The four quadrants are determined by two simple concepts:

1. The number of qualities the athlete needs to master the sport
2. The relationship to the Absolute Maximum of each quality

Quadrant I: PE Class and General Physical Preparation (GPP) – Lots of Qualities and Low Level Max

This is the quadrant that has been lost in our current Strength and Conditioning/Fitness (I hate those words) model. We get kids who can’t move, who don’t play, and who live on Doritos and Taquitos, but they think they need GNC creatine and specialization to succeed.

“America got into ‘sports specific’ training 15 to 20 years ago and forgot the fundamentals.”
– Gray Cook

“We need to take away wins and losses before the age of 16 and make athletes play every sport, every position, with both hands.”
– Jim Laird

“In the Russian model, GPP is seen as the foundation on which Sports Physical Preparation (SPP) is built. An estimated 80% of a young Russian athlete’s physical training is GPP. Practicing the specific without the general leads to short-term gains, usually followed by injuries and unavoidable long-term plateauing of sports results…premature intensification, like premature specialization, does not pay off in the long run.”
– Pavel Tsatsouline

Quadrant II: Sports and Occupations – Lots of Qualities and High Level Max (i.e. CrossFit)

If we think of football, basketball, lacrosse, etc you need a tremendous amount of qualities and skills to be really successful. Skill, Speed, Power, Strength, Work Capacity, Movement Quality, and on and on. CrossFit is the epitome of Quadrant II.

Yet, many of these qualities compete for adaptation and the coach needs to be able to manage how they interact and how they maintain or peak each of these qualities depending where they are in the training year.

“Quadrant II is nearly impossible to thrive in without having massive support. Professional athletes and American Division I athletes have food, transportation, trainers, doctors, and other support systems that allow them to train so many qualities.”
– Dan John

Quadrant III: Most People – Fewer Qualities at a Low or Moderate Max

In this Quadrant training is purely a means to an end and will be limited by the qualities needed to succeed in said sport or for said goal. Think most of us and most Track and Field Sports.

“There is only one rule in Quadrant III: Do what you say you need to do.”
– Dan John

Quadrant IV: Very Few Qualities (or One) at the Highest Level of Relative Max

“The sport is so narrow and the level of competition so high that there is nearly total focus on one goal.”
– Dan John

Everyone wants to live in this category. We and our mothers all want to think we are special. We imagine ourselves succeeding at the highest level and this leaks into our minds and we lift ourselves up quadrants yearning to claw at Quadrant IV, when it very unlikely that we are ever going to need to be here.

“Balance is the sign of an amateur or a beginner. A professional does only one thing— extremely well.”
-Tommy Kano

Finally, two quotes from Dr. Fred Hatfield or Dr. Squat (First man to squat 1000lbs – Q4)

“Never run if you can walk, never stand if you can sit, and never sit if you can lie down.”

These are the type of sayings everyone likes to quote as rationale for this, that, or the other. Yet, these folks have earned the ability to say them as these are necessary and applicable once you get far enough down the road in a Q4 sport – everything matters. But everything matters for all of us we just see it far less because athletes/people have so many outcomes varaibles they are trying to juggle, their world turns into Quadrant II choas.

“Adaptive capacities of the organism are large but not unlimited.”

Fredo Powerlifter

So if that chubster weightlifter is Behdad Salimi he rightfully could care less about any indicator of his aerobic capacity. He only needs as much as it takes him to recover optimally and we can assume he has built that up over his training career, as he is the best in the world.

Now take a 27 year old who thinks he is Behdad Salimi. Maybe this man-kid even Snatches 300 pounds or 136 kilos (64% of Salimi), but does he have the right to say I need to be waited on hand and foot and can never ever do anything physical other than weightlifting? No. He is not a quadrant 4 athlete (yet or likely ever), even though he plays a quadrant 4 sport.

He almost certainly needs to increase his aerobic capacity so he can train more and recover further, he likely has holes in his movement patterns that need to be fixed that are not going to get any better sitting on the couch attacking pudding pops. He may even need to be a productive member of society and help people or produce something of worth that takes physical or mental energy.

You see Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 4 are traps for most of the general population that thinks they are higher level athletes than they really are. We aren’t honest with our abilities, our training age, or the legitimacy of our training goals, and this realization isn’t meant to stomp on your dreams, it is meant to give you a fighting chance to see them to fruition.

For example, if your goal is to qualify or compete in the American Open (Great Goal/Dream) then you have to assess your strengths and weaknesses, create a training, movement, and recovery protocol, assess the results, and then tweak it as you go. It is very likely to include training for qualities that would never be included in someone like Klokov’s training regimen and that is OK because he likely built these qualities to the extent that he needed them by the age of 12 in Mother Russia.

Also, keep in mind that some of the best Olympic Lifters in the world have used bodybuilding schematics and Quadrant I and III tactics to allow recovery from the brutalness and the mundaneness of Quadrant IV training.

Now let’s say you want to be the best CrossFitter EVAR or maybe you want to make regionals on a team and have been training harrrrd for 3 to 5 years. You need to again assess your strengths and weaknesses and then devise a long-term training, movement, and recovery program that allows you to build certain qualities at different times of the year and then maintain them as best as possible when you are competing or building other qualities that are counter indicative to the former.

You also need to assess how much time you can spend in the Quadrant II fire. Everyone is different in their ability to adapt and you will likely need to jump into Quadrant I or Quadrant III many times throughout the training year to take a few steps back so you can get a running start at your next training phase.

Hey Powerlifters, take a Walk...it will be ok

“If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.”
– Rob Lawrence

I have used these quadrants interchangeably, whereas in reality being in a Quadrant is static based on where the athlete is in their career, the sport in question, and the ultimate goal, but I think jumping around allows you to see how a great coach would program and train athletes in these quadrants. Remember these quadrants provide a framework to help you to be honest with yourself, your objectives, and how to get there. The quadrants themselves are unimportant, it is how you use the information that matters.

“There are two types of people: those who divide the world into types of people, and those who don’t…The happiest and most successful people are those who have figured out ways to exploit their Quadrant to their benefit and, just as important, found ways to understand and counterbalance its limitations.”
– Gretchen Rubin