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Dan Johns History Lesson
By Kim Goss
Published: Winter 2003

Most athletes reach their peak in high school, with only an exceptional few going on to college or the professional level. For athletes in such sports as gymnastics and figure skating, retirement may even hit as early as junior high. But for 46-year-old thrower and weightlifter Dan John, retirement is not an option, as he can still hold his own with many college athletes. And when he’s not training to break another age-group record, Dan is sharing his knowledge and experience with young athletes to help them achieve and surpass their goals.
Weightlifting and throwing are sports about numbers, so let’s start with Dan’s best lifts. At his peak condition weighing 242 pounds, Dan snatched 314 pounds, clean and jerked 385, cleaned 402, back squatted 605x3, and deadlifted 628. When asked what his strength was in lifting, Dan replied, “The absolute certainty that I could make any lift.” Currently Dan is a national champion in his age group and has recently succeeded with lifts of 248 in the snatch and 319 in the clean and jerk at a bodyweight of around 230. Dan has starred in several BFS videos; he can be seen in the Total Program Video power snatching 250.
In his other love, track and field, Dan’s personal best in the discus is 190’6”. He still consistently throws in the 160s, and sometimes into the high 170s when the wind cooperates. He also has lifetime bests of 51’9” in the shot put and 201’6” in the hammer.
For his personal training and coaching activities, Dan put a throwing ring in his backyard and built a weight training facility in his garage. His weightroom is fully equipped, and his basic tools include four Olympic bars, chains for squatting, a women’s bar and a thick bar. He trains local and out-of-state athletes, and doesn’t charge a cent for his services. “I’ll work with just about any kid who is serious and is willing to train hard,” says Dan.

Foundations of
Muscle and Power

Born in South San Francisco, Dan played defensive back in high school and participated in track and field. As a freshman at Skyline College, a junior college in the Bay Area, Dan knew he needed to learn the Olympic lifts. While attending an Olympic lifting meet he was introduced to Dick Notmeyer, a weightlifting coach who operated a gym in his garage in nearby Pacifica, the Pacifica Barbell Club. Notmeyer, who charged his athletes a whopping 25 cents a week for coaching and use of his facility, took Dan under his wing.
After just four months of heavy lifting, Dan’s bodyweight went from 162 pounds to a rock-hard 202. But there was a catch. “Part of the agreement of becoming a P.B.B.C. lifter was to swear to not use one’s newfound strength for the ‘pursuit of evil,’” says Dan. “The oath was stated in a solemn occasion that included much secret mumbo-jumbo and extraneous flourishes. This oath, as far as we know, has never been broken.”
Although Dan has studied lifting training theory extensively, he emphasizes that the early days of working with Notmeyer provided him with good advice that carries through to this day. “Dick believed certain things worked,” says Dan. “You had to snatch, you had to clean and jerk, you had to front squat and you had to eat a lot of protein – everything else was negotiable.”
In addition to having a simple training philosophy that worked, Notmeyer was able to get amazing results from his athletes because he was able to keep them interested and motivated. “Whenever things got dull, Dick would invent a contest. We had contests for everything. Pull-up contests, sit-up contests, who could squat their bodyweight the most reps – we even had this one contest that involved jumping out of a window! Your mind was engaged, and that was one of the best things I learned in teaching that applies to my own coaching.” And to guarantee the highest levels of focus and intensity, Notmeyer allowed his lifters to listen to country music “to ensure that no lifter would be caught spending time listening to music or be unduly sidetracked by a favorite tune,” says Dan. “Dick even allowed group-singing of Eddie Arnold’s great yodeling ballad, ‘The Lonesome Cattle Call,’ which,” Dan says, “would attract cats from all over Pacifica.”
When he lived in the Bay Area, Dan was fortunate to be around many of the best throwers in the world. What did Dan take from associating, and sometimes training, with these athletes? “In the late 70s it became very obvious that to be competitive in throwing you needed to be accomplished in the Olympic lifts and the power lifts. Everybody, I mean everybody, was snatching, cleaning and jerking, and doing the three power lifts. John Powell was a world-record holder in the discus at that time, but he also competed in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. Al Feuerbach, who was a world-record holder in the shot put back then, won the national championships in Olympic lifting and the shot put during the same year. You need to be explosive and strong to throw far, and these lifts were the way to get explosive and strong.”
While at Skyline Dan earned a scholarship to Utah State, where he majored in history. “It was a tough decision to go to Utah State because I would be leaving such a great environment for lifting and throwing, but I knew I needed to grow and to extend my vision of the world.” After graduating Dan worked briefly in a cheese factory cleaning up, and it was at this point in his life that he made a critical discovery: “I don’t like cleaning up burnt cheese.” Thus enlightened, Dan returned to school to get a master’s degree in history and religious education.
At his athletic best, Dan was a competitor in what many regard as the “Golden Age of Throwing.” “When I was a senior I threw 190, which was just a remarkable throw – until you compared it to national records,” says Dan. “It’s funny, because I was up at a track meet in Las Vegas this fall and I met a college coach from Delaware. When we got to talking about the numbers that I threw on Sunday, he said I would have dominated his conference. I thought, ‘A 46-year-old man would have won his conference – that’s amazing.’”
Dan’s athletic accomplishments and practical coaching wisdom eventually caught the attention of BFS President Dr. Greg Shepard. The first time Dan met Greg was in 1980 at the Hill Air Force Base Powerlifting meet, where Dan was competing for the Utah State Powerlifting Team. Recalls Dan, “It was about two in the morning during the deadlift competition, and I was sitting around in the warm-up room when Greg came up to me and asked me what I was opening with. I said I was starting light at 573 pounds, just to get a mark, and I think it almost knocked Greg down. After that we kept bumping into each other at competitions, and then I started working out at the Upper Limit Gym when it opened up. That was a great place to work out because the Utah Jazz trained there, and Greg and his BFS staff made certain they took their lifting seriously. One day when I was working out Greg asked me if I wanted to work at the gym, and I accepted. That started my relationship with BFS.”
If there’s one major struggle Dan has had as an athlete, it’s with his bodyweight. In college it was as high as 272, which Dan says was pretty solid because he was lifting hard. Dan was able to lean down after college; he quit training from 1981 to 1987 to concentrate on his career. When he got back into training he allowed his bodyweight to go up again, and by 1995 he accepted the fact that he was fat and had to do something about it.
To get lean, Dan went on a low-carb, high-protein diet. Dan’s description of a good breakfast: “meat, eggs and other stuff.” A bad breakfast: “not meat, eggs, and other stuff.” In a few months he dropped 50 pounds. “It’s funny, I got down to 206, and I found that I could throw the discus just as far as I did when I was heavier – and my injuries disappeared.”

The State of the Sport

Although Dan says the US stil

Dan John, Dick Notmeyer, (Farrah Faucet) Eric Seubert and Howard Will at the Pacifica Barbell Club, Pacifica CA
Dan John, Josh Fields, Dick Notmeyer, Eric Seubert, Danny Fields and Howard Will (benching) back in 1977
Eric Seubert, Dan John and Dick Notmeyer at Dick and Joy’s 50th wedding anniversary.
1977 At his peak condition weighing 242 pounds, Dan snatched 314 pounds, clean and jerked 385, cleaned 402, back squatted 605x3, and deadlifted 628.
Dan John throwing a weight
Dan and BFS Editor Kim Goss at the BFS offices in Salt Lake City, UT.
The John family (left to right) Kelly, wife Tiffini, Lindsay and Dan.

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