The Quadrants

This is the third of a set of excerpts from the Intervention DVD.

As I describe the Quadrant concept, Quadrant #1 is what I would call something like a basic PE class — like the PE class I told you about before. How many sports should you learn in a PE class? In a 3-year period, a lot. You should probably know when you’re done with high school that at a basketball game in the NCAA if you stand there at the line and no one messes with you, that’s worth 1 point. If you stand inside this line and people are messing with you, it’s 2 points. If you’re standing behind that line and people are messing with you, it’s 3 points. I have been to a Super Bowl party where someone scored a touchdown …and I hate to pick on 51% of the world’s population…but a female turned to me and said, ‘How much is that worth?’ Now, no offense, but at a Super Bowl party, you should know that a touchdown is worth 6 points. I am just saying that someone dropped the ball on her education.

You should know basic mobility. You should know basic flexibility. You should know how to do a pushup. You should know that doing 25 pullups is an impressive thing, right? When you are in a high school PE class, right? You should know that doing 60 pushups in a minute…that’s really hard to do…you should know…kind of just know some things, right? How high is the level of any of this stuff? Not very. If your 9th grade basketball team wins the 9th grade basketball PE tournament, you’re probably not ready for Division 1 or the NBA yet. It might take one more day. How many qualities should they learn? Oh, just as many as you can think of.


Quadrant #2 is collision sports. This is high school football. This is Division 1, Division 2, Division 3. This is the NFL. The number of skills that it takes to be at the highest level is simply stunning. To be in high school football…to play high school football today, the strength levels will stun most people. You know? When I see people bragging about how successful this or that is at their local gym, I always…my first thought is, ‘You are at the strength levels of a low-end typical high school.’

Quadrant #3…I always call it Yin and Yang…we don’t do very much or we don’t do it very well. By the way, Quadrant 3 is where most of us live. Quadrant 3 is track and field—most of it. Quadrant 3 is fat loss. How many skills do you need to lose body fat? Well my friend Josh Hillis will tell you that you need a food journal and that you need to do some kind of workout. That’s not a big skill set. How high of a level is it? I’ve talked to…I’ve talked to female physique winners and they laugh about when someone says that they want to lose 20 pounds for their reunion…they laugh about it because it’s like…for a female to go from 14% body fat to 7% or 8% means that you can’t even sniff food for awhile.

Quadrant #4 is a very, very narrow, narrow, narrow band of things. I would suggest the 100-meters in track and field—probably single-event power lifting, for example, like a deadlift specialist, a back squat specialist…by the way and I’m right…there are specialists now in those events. They go to a power-lifting meet and only do one movement. You could probably argue that the Olympic lifts are Quadrant 4. To be a good Olympic lifter…I mean to be a top 10 lifter in the world…you can’t do anything else. If you were to come in and say…someone’s going to ask, you know, seeing an Olympic lifter, the best in the world, and go, ‘Isn’t that unhealthy?’ Shhh. Yes. But he is very fit for that task, you know? He is this tall and he weighs 265 and his legs are this long…I mean, you know…yeah…but at the same time, think about women’s gymnasts. When is the last time that you saw a 6’7” woman gymnast or a 5’1” Division 1 girl volleyball player? But those club coaches always tell them, ‘They might get a scholarship at 5’2,”’ So this is just the introduction to the quadrants.

I’ve gone over the quadrants lots of times in a lot of places and what a lot of people don’t understand is that it is part of our tool kit. Now, you will notice how we start off kind of global. The first 3 are kind of…you know…things you should really think about your whole life. A healthy person would be concerned about these. This is…you know…basically on #3 I told you, ‘Yeah, lift weights. It’s good for you,’ By the way, that’s not bad. If that is all the person hears is, ‘Come in here, get a little stronger,’ we’ve done You know? I know that I can really help you with your life-long goals by getting you a little stronger. I know it’s true.

Basically what I’ve already told you…if we go back to the beginning…is that there are two ways I generally try to help people. The first is when you show up in middle school, I show you the basic four weight-lifting movements, then the basic three kettlebell movements, then I think basic tumbling, basic this, basic sports, basic goals. As you march your way through high school, we keep building it up and up and up. We keep building it up and up. If you’re in the collision sports, we get you in the National Football League. That happens so often when you work in schools in Utah.

Most people are here. The problem with our industry is that most people are here. Everybody is a MMA fighter now. You know, a couple of years ago I was ranked as a body builder. ‘You know, that body builder…well really, you ought to build one,’ You know? I am thinking, ‘Do you lift weights?’ ‘Yes, I do,’ ‘Well, you really ought to lift more,’ Trying to be nice here. Trying to be nice here. It’s not all fat loss. When I gave a workshop right here a year or so ago, I said that, ‘Really, the one thing I can help MMA fighters with is to realize that doing this and this and this and this and this and this and this and that probably gets you in really good shape. It won’t make you a better fighter,’ It doesn’t make you a better fighter at all. There are fighters I put down here too.
Most adults that I work with are not elite nine 800-meter runners. This will shock you but most of the people who call me on the phone are not at the very top end. I think the guy who has this hammered down best is a guy by the name of Barry Ross. Barry Ross is a very interesting guy. I think Tim Ferriss’ new book pretty much made it impossible for Barry to make a lot of money for the next six months because everything you want to know about Barry Ross is in the book. Everything…but Barry Ross, you know. You want to be a faster sprinter? Well, you do mobility. You do deadlifts heavy. You do some kind of push exercise. You go out and sprint as fast as you physically can until any threshold of exhaustion shows up or fatigue and you stop. Why? Well, that’s Quadrant 4, baby.

Quadrant 4—nobody cares about how hard you work. We only care about the answer—the finish line—the solution. How you get to clean-and-jerk? 600 pounds? No one has ever done it before but whoever does it has the correct answer. The rest of us are just wrong.

Most people are in Quadrant 3. Most people are in Quadrant 3. Strength…the number of qualities you need to lose body fat are pretty low according to Josh. We’ll go through this quite a bit today later…you know…it’s a food journal and some kind of movement. You know? I was up at Chico State and Tom Fahey told me, “We’ve known for years how to make people lose body fat. You tie them up to a tree and come back in a few days,” It works every single time. I’m like, there’s the industry for you. Just put…get rid of all of the equipment. Put trees in here and ropes. It will answer everyone’s questions.

So the fourth tool in our tool kit is the quadrants. Now, having said that, here’s the problem in our industry. A lady wants to lose 20 pounds for her upcoming 20-year reunion. So you teach her how to snatch and clean-and-jerk, do gymnastics moves, tumbling…by the way, it all works. It does get people tired. You have them run a 10K, a 5K and a 3K. You have them learn all 7000 kettlebell moves that you can find every single day—new on the Interwebs. We blow her shoulder out and so she goes to her 20-year reunion in a sleeve.

This is the problem with our industry. Most of us are up here but actually most of us should be down here. This is where we should be. So the fourth…and probably most important tool that I am giving you today…make sure you put them in the right quadrant to help them out. In other words, think about this. If I have a 12-year-old, they are Quadrant 1. It’s okay for us to take a lot of time teaching that child the basic movements. It’s absolutely no problem at all to have a little class in here three days a week where you might teach 20 kids at once the basic movements. That’s systematic education. It’s the same idea. You learned the alphabet that way. You learned the musical scales that way. You learned everything systematically.

If Edna comes in here and she wants to lose 20 pounds in six weeks, that’s not the way to go with her. If Ralphie comes in here and he wants to be a better football player…okay…he shows up now and wants to play in the fall…he needs to be up here. If you have an elite sprinter show up here and ask you, ‘I’m running a nine 700 meters, can you get me to 969?’ Tell him, ‘No, I don’t know how to help you,’ I have no idea. That’s the honest answer. You don’t. No one knows how to do that.

This is where…this is what I try to do on the telephone. Now, here’s the thing. One of the first things I ask the person is, ‘What’s your goal?’ By mentally putting them into the right quadrant, how much work have I saved myself to help them with their goal? If they want to play in the National Football League and they say, ‘Dan, I want to spend a week with you,’ this means for that week I have to watch them clean, I have to watch them snatch and I have to watch them squat. I have to help with the bench press. I might want to show kettlebell moves. I might want to show TRX stuff. I might want to show…How many things do I want to show that guy in that one week to help that person get into the National Football League? Now it could be dozens of things. You gotta do this. You gotta do that. You gotta do this. You gotta do that.

Edna wants to lose 20 pounds for her reunion—not so much. By putting people in the right quadrant…and almost universally everyone is a 3…I just gave away…it’s all my method…there’s a gym. By getting people into the right quadrant, intervention—helping them—is now pretty easy. What I now need to do is look at what they know, what their skill set is on the basic human movements and how can I help them move on.

For more of my thinking on quadrants, here’s my Quadrants of Diet & Exercise audio lecture on

Click here to see some of the preview clips from Intervention.

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