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"Strength From Within”, Interview with Darell Dansby, PCC Instructor

Darell Dansby PCC Austin, Texas, Back Lever
Dragon Door: What inspired your career as a strength and conditioning coach?

Darell Dansby: I have a big background in wrestling—I wrestled in high school. Then I went to the Army and wrestled for them in Germany. After I came back to the States, I signed on to the Fort Hood Powerlifting team. That’s also when I fell in love with powerlifting. But in 2010, I had a horrific back injury. And basically that’s how I found out about calisthenics.

I started with Zach Even-Esh's Bodyweight Bodybuilding programs, and went to his Underground Strength Coach seminar. Even though I couldn’t go back to the weights—which were my passion—I found that his Bodyweight Bodybuilding program worked for me, and I didn’t have any problems with the training. So, I continued just doing calisthenics and came to the conclusion that my powerlifting career was over.

Just this past December, I had surgery and went through rehabilitation. The PCC was the first course that I’ve done since that surgery. I'd been wanting to do the PCC for a long time, so when it came to my town of Austin, I had no excuses! It was right here in my backyard, so I had to go!

Dragon Door: Given some of the challenges you'd had from your injury, was there anything in particular that you did to prepare for the PCC workshop?

Darell Dansby: Pretty much, I just stuck with the basic calisthenics moves! I also cut down my cardio to one swimming session a week instead of running twice a week. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to be pounding on the spine too much.

Dragon Door: Of all the calisthenics movements, which is your favorite?

Darell Dansby: All of them! Though I would probably have to pick the back lever—and I was able to finally able to get my first back lever at the PCC. The back lever resonates with me.

Dragon Door: The back lever is already a tough move, and the fact that you can do them after a back injury makes it all the more spectacular! Now that you’ve earned your PCC certification, what are you working towards in your training now?

Darell Dansby: Basically, my next goal is to nail the muscle-up. It’s a hard one. At the course, I found out that the muscle-up is not just about strength and power, it's also about the technique. One of the great things about the PCC was that they just didn't explain how to do the movements, they really focused on quality. I really appreciated that and felt like they were speaking my language. It was really refreshing.

DarellDansbyClientObstacleCourse320Dragon Door: How will you use what you've learned at the PCC with the clients at your gym?

Darell Dansby: I feel excellent about what I learned at the PCC. An average client can always use the regressions—you can start anywhere. While someone might not be able to do a muscle-up at first, they can get started with inverted rows. I loved how they taught the progressions and regressions at the course. You can train anyone from an "average Joe" to an advanced athlete and still get them results.

Dragon Door: Is there anything new you've specifically started using with your clients since the PCC?

Darell Dansby: We’ve been going back and refocusing on the techniques from the beginning stages on everything from the push-ups, the inverted rows, to the hanging knee raises. Much to my dismay, at the PCC I found out that I had not actually been doing the hanging knee raises quite property! I was still doing them well, but a few little tweaks made all the difference in the world!

Dragon Door: What changes did you make?

Darell Dansby: I was coming straight down with my legs instead of just a little bit forward. Bringing them a little bit forward kept me from swinging.

Dragon Door: How did you feel about the Century Test going into it?

Darell Dansby: I kind of played with it some before, and I was a little bit nervous. But I also knew that I'd been training for a while and knew that I had it. I really liked that Al and Danny wouldn’t let you slide on the Century Test. At other certifications, they will just give it to you if you try, but that was not the case with the PCC.

While The Century might not look like much on paper, when you get there and focus on the quality it’s a challenge. On a few of my push-ups, they told me that I had to slow down!

Dragon Door: What’s next for you in your career as a strength and conditioning coach?

Darell Dansby: I’m going to continue teaching people about calisthenics, and the importance of calisthenics—especially since it transfers over well to what I’m doing with obstacle course racers. I specialize in preparing people for obstacle course racing and calisthenics is right up there with it.
Darell Dansby With Spartan Race Team
Dragon Door: What a cool specialty! How did you get started training people for obstacle course races?

Darell Dansby: It goes back to my injury. After recovering from it, I found myself going into a deep depression because I couldn’t go back to powerlifting. I had to find something I could compete in and found out about Spartan Race. Because I couldn’t go to the gym and lift weights like I wanted to, on a whim I decided to try a Spartan Race. I knew I could still run, jump and climb so I decided to sign up for it. Either I would make it across the finish line or I wouldn’t!

Because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, I did my first Spartan Race by myself. After that first race, I was hooked and started getting my clients into it.

Dragon Door: What ideas or moves from the PCC do you think would be especially useful for obstacle course racers?

Darell Dansby: Pull-ups, the muscle-up for sure, and any of the squat variations.

Dragon Door: That makes sense. How many people are you training for obstacle course races at the moment?

Darell Dansby: I am running about ten people right now, including a lady who will be doing the 6-hour Hurricane Heat in on October 27th. Next year we’re going to do the 12-hour event together.

Dragon Door: What are the biggest challenges in obstacle course racing, and how do you train for them?

Darell Dansby: The mental side—we have to train them to not let their mental side get the best of them. Over time, we do a lot of mental toughness workout. These workouts are basically structured to mentally push them to where they think they can’t more forward. But, I’m right there with them and they soon see that it’s possible for them to keep going. At first they might start thinking about things too much, or they might look at the workout and think they can never do all of it. But, once we get going they realize that yes, they can do it.
Strength From Within Booth with Darell Dansby, PCC Instructor
Dragon Door: Any other tips for mental toughness for these kinds of competitions?

Darell Dansby: Get outside your comfort zone. Stay focused on the task at hand before moving on to the next one—if you start thinking about all the tasks or obstacles together it will eat you from the inside out!

Dragon Door: Do you have any races coming up?

Darell Dansby: I did my first obstacle course race since my surgery this last weekend. I wasn't originally signed up for it, but there was an opening at the race and my friend said, "We could really use you, Coach!" So, I jumped in and it was like I didn't miss a beat. It was really refreshing for my mind.

After that experience I decided to go ahead and run with my team again on October 28th. Then, in December we’re running the Spartan Beast in Florida.

Dragon Door: That’s fantastic! To what do you attribute your performance in that recent race?

Darell Dansby: Actually, a lot of the calisthenics movements have kept me strong while maintaining my mobility and flexibility. Squats have helped keep the hip mobility necessary for getting into different positions required during the race.

DarellDansbyBackLever thumbnailDarell Dansby, PCC owns and coaches at Strength from Within. Contact him at, 512-731-9290, or Follow him on Facebook and Instagram