by Johnny Pain

The following is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released “Greyskull LP Second Edition” which is available in the store. This piece is the introduction to the long-anticipated exercise execution section. Enjoy. -JP

“Before I studied the art, a punch was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity the ability to express to the utmost with the minimum.”-Bruce Lee


There is a lot of money to be made in making things a lot more complicated than need be.

This practice of making things “proprietarily complex” as I like to say, is rampant in the strength and conditioning industry. Despite the fact that people in gyms all over the world with little to no training in the proper execution of exercises use them daily with great success, there exists a crippling belief in many that performing a proper squat or deadlift requires a textbook the size of a Philadelphia phonebook to learn from.

This belief is propagated largely by those who make money off of overanalyzing human movement and presenting their “findings” to skinny-fat internet surfers who know much more about training than the “bench and curl” meathead at Gold’s Gym, but who, almost without fail, fall horribly short to the meathead in terms of aesthetics, strength, athleticism, desirability to the opposite sex, frequency of sexual activity, or any other metric more valuable than one’s comprehensive knowledge of the biomechanics of the squat.

Simply put; One does not need an advanced degree in human biomechanics to successfully apply (or coach, yes I said that) the movements outlined in this book.

It is necessary to understand movement to the extent that you are capable of executing an exercise in a manner that will not produce injury, and which will be productive in terms of developing strength. Beyond that, most of what takes place on message boards in terms of “form” or “technique” analysis amounts to little more than the actual masturbation that takes place in front of the same screen after logging out of the strength forum.

The single biggest difference between those who do big things and those who do not is that those that do big things DO big things.

No amount of reading, or watching videos on strength training will teach you more about the subject than getting off your ass and actually training.

If anyone were to contest that idea (and there are plenty that do publicly or internally) would have to agree at the very least that it is impossible to make physical progress without actually taking action at some point.

A common experience shared by many of my consult clients looks something like this:

  • Start training with little knowledge
  • Experience noticeable, exciting progress in aesthetics and strength
  • Develop an interest in training from the momentum created
  • Research and learn more about biomechanics, programming, and diet
  • Progress comes to a halt
  • Blame halted progress on program, end of some sort of stage of adaptation, diet, or some other mechanical component that is not the cause
  • Contact me out of frustration
  • Re-discover simplicity after learning how limiting beliefs cripple one’s progress
  • Divorce limiting beliefs
  • Make significant progress again
  • Enjoy training again
  • Make continual progress

Overanalysis of this stuff will get you nowhere. This is the reason why people who post on the forum looking for a “form check” from me get such simple answers. I give them one item to fix that will have the most significant impact on the movement globally, then request another video if I deem it appropriate. What happens almost across the board when I do this is the follow up post from some other knowledgeable and well-meaning forum member providing insight on the mechanical issues that I surely missed somehow.

What needs to be understood is that I DO see those things, I just do not care that they are happening.

“Correcting” them will do nothing more than add more items for the individual to consciously focus on while performing the movement that they would have gotten strong using “incorrectly” had they not contacted me or logged into the Internet anyway.

I can almost hear the internal dialogue:

“How does Johnny Pain not see him doing X?”

“His eyes/ears/ knees/ etc. are not in the right spot, how is it JP doesn’t see this?”

And then inevitably:

“Wow, JP really isn’t that good of a coach at this stuff”.

I recently had a conversation with a forum member who has become a friend over the last several months. The topic of coaching the barbell lifts came up (OK, you know for a fact I did not bring that shit up) and he began naming a who’s who of “internet coaches” informally ranking them in terms of who was the best coach.

My name was surprisingly low on the list. I lost much sleep over this as you can imagine.

To this I simply asked what constituted his criteria for a good coach. His eventual answer had much to do with a “coaching eye”, an invaluable skill for a coach to have, and an in-depth, comprehensive knowledge of the movements presented.

I suggested that the best coach was simply the one who was most capable of eliciting reproducible results in line with the desired outcomes of the individual being coached.

Perhaps this was my way of making the rules work in my favor (my track record of delivering plus one for my clients is pretty damn solid), I don’t know, but I do know that the ability to deliver is what I look for in a good coach.

Delivery requires communication.

Communication requires acutely tuned senses and flexibility.

Neither of these things require exhaustive laboring over biomechanical texts that you could beat (or bore) someone to death with.

Presenting an idea in a sentence is better than a paragraph and represents a much clearer understanding of the information by the communicator. Presenting in a paragraph is admittedly better than a page, and a page is certainly better than a novel.

Consider the process of learning a foreign language in high school. There is a formalized lesson plan, a textbook, homework, quizzes, tests, projects etc. Recall the process of working through verb conjugation charts and translating lists of vocabulary words. Now ask yourself if you are as competent of a communicator in that language as a nine-year old child who grew up in an environment where that language was spoken, received no formal education in it whatsoever, and has used it to communicate and navigate life daily since.

Of course you aren’t.

Learning a skill does not require textbook, or even a formalized instructor. The perceived dependence on said people or materials in order to make progress is a significant handicap of the informed trainee.

The information presented regarding the execution of the movements in the following section is deliberately simple. It is without complex, anatomical descriptions of the musculoskeletal components involved, and similarly devoid of the idea that there is only one acceptable model for the movement’s execution.


You can chalk this up to my lack of knowledge, or you can attribute it to my having come “full-circle” and learning that a kick is a kick, a punch is a punch.


Johnny Pain is the man behind as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at

Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain



12 Responses

  1. rusty

    Now I’m really ready for the book. Well said.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm

  2. Taylor

    I really like where all of this is going.

    “Re-discover simplicity after learning how limiting beliefs cripple one’s progress”

    April 11, 2012 at 6:34 am

  3. Nick Ballstaedt

    Thanks Johnny,

    I needed this right now. All of my good intentions seem to spin out of control sometimes and I’m glad you put this up so it could bring me back to the simple stuff that works. Thanks for the site, and I look forward to reading more of your books as they come out.


    April 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

  4. sapper09

    Word. If that’s any indicator of what the rest of the book is like, it should be damn solid. Nice one!

    April 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

  5. excellent! TUB (time under bar) thats the best way to learn, THEN teach.

    April 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

  6. Looking forward to the new read John

    April 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  7. Pingback: Training Day 04/13/2012 | Whitemtncrossfit

  8. Rob


    May 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

  9. Al

    Its so obvious you would think that others would grasp this concept too. I coach middle school wrestling (11-14 year olds). Traditional wrestling practices involve teaching and practicing moves (take downs, escapes, pins, etc.) 80% of the hour and a half practice. Then kids wrestle only about 10-20% of the practice if there’s time. I argue with other coaches about this process constantly. My practices, however, involve practicing moves for only 10% of practice and wrestling 90% of the time. Needless to say, my 10-12 kids destroy much larger teams consistently. My wrestlers may not know all the moves or the names of those moves, but they do know how to put an opponent on his back and finish a match. Simplicity always prevails. Nice job JP.

    May 27, 2012 at 12:23 am

  10. Guy Montag

    Can’t tell you how many “new exercise” routines I put on a note card only to quit a week later. This was either due to lack of diligence, or the desire to create a new plan, as if by creating the plan would be equal to downloading the results if I stuck to it, which brings us back to step 1.

    It goes the same for boxing. Everyone wants to fire off some crazy 4-5 hit combination, with some sort of Ryu spin kick,ending with an epic knockout. However in reality, simple straight punches will do the trick.

    June 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm

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