4 Quadrants to Fix Your Goals

In his book Intervention, Course Corrections for the Athlete and the Trainer, Dan John presents useful and practical advice for training anyone. He outlines 4 quadrants to help trainees and coaches make sure that they are training towards the right goal. It sounds simple, but a lot of people make this mistake and never see progress for their efforts as a result.

John qualifies training goals into four quadrants.


Using a combination of the Level of Skill, and the Number of Skills required divides movements into these 4 categories. Here are a few examples:

Quadrant I: Elementary physical education: many skills at a low level. You do a lot of stuff, but you don't have to master any of them.

Movements: Basic body awareness and mobility

Quadrant II: Collision sports. This group has a high number of skills at a high level. Division sports up to NFL. These are the people who are paid lots of money for being so good at so many things.

Movements: Run, tackle, jump, catch, throw, and pivot with proficiency and under fire.

Quadrant III:  Where most of us fall... a few exercises at a moderate level.  We all do basically the same stuff everyday; sit, stand, bend over, turn around and carry.

Movements: Fundamental exercises such as squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, and pull up

Quadrant IV: Few skills at a high level.  

Movements: Very rare such as elite Olympic lifters and a few other unique sports like curling

Great book. You should read it :)

Great book. You should read it :)


Identifying goals sounds simple.. yet, how many group fitness classes are marketed toward quadrant III with workouts for quadrant II?

How much skill does it take to lose weight? Not a lot. Even getting stronger doesn't take an assortment of different exercises. The straightest path to get there is to learn a few key exercises with correct form and full range of motion and progress.

For someone who wants to lose weight or gain strength are the risks associated with the injury prone training style of collision sports worth it?

Learning the basic movements is foundational to life. We must know how to bend down, stand up and sit down (squat), pick things up (deadlift), push (bench), and press without hurting ourselves less we suffer a slipped disc from an everyday activity. Unfortunately, the trappings of the modern world have set us up for failure unless a concerted and purposeful effort is made to learn and hone these most basic and fundamental movements.