Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 108

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 108

Publisher’s Note: How to successfully run a business is usually the least interesting topic for trainers and coaches, but doing the business part right is what makes the rest work. Lucky for you, Thom Plummer makes the business side of fitness fun. Here’s an example.


I’m at the end of two weekends “off.” I haven’t had two weekends back to back at home since the beginning of the year. It was nice visiting friends and family and I finished the audio on my next book.

The audio is tough. Reading your own writing is harder than you think. It is boring and I always feel like I went through all of this before…and I have. It does get easier and easier every time, but it is still hard.

I also had a chance to finish some books. I always have a stack of books ready to read, but I need the time to do it. “Ready Player One” turned out to be an unexpected delight. I finished the whole Percy Jackson series not long ago and I find that I am reading more sci-fi this year than usual.

Actually, much of the fitness world is sci-fi, so it makes sense. Let’s go around the internet a bit and see what I liked this week.

I like articles like this that list and explain some simple things to do for health,fitness and longevity.

“A good part of the way you think, feel, and function is based on your gut, or more accurately, the bacteria inhabiting your gut. As such, we need to help both populate the gut with bacteria while also doing something to feed those same bacteria. Enter sauerkraut, which is made by allowing a mixture of shredded cabbage and salt to ferment for several weeks.

“Adding just a little bit to your diet every day might help nearly every aspect of your health, from digestive health to heart health to skin health. Only buy the refrigerated stuff. Just make sure you don’t cook it, though, because that kills the good bacteria.

“If you insist on attempting to fulfill your gut-bacteria needs with yogurt, at least avoid the stuff with sugar as it feeds competing bad bacteria. Buy stuff that doesn’t look totally industrialized and taste-wise is pretty much indistinguishable from a Dairy Queen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard. You know, eat stuff that your great-grandmother would recognize as yogurt.”

Circuit training gets reinvented every generation or so. I just got a series of emails with pictures from Toni Nett’s books explaining plyometrics before they were invented by someone else (who had obviously just read Nett’s books!). This is a good one.

“It is highly doubtful whether the experienced lifter could adapt this concept of training to his own program. Considering his level of strength development, it would necessitate the use of very heavy weights to further increase this level. This factor, alone, would prohibit his carrying out the exercises at a speed or over a sufficient time span that would be required for development of the other two qualities.

“It is possible, however, to develop a high degree of muscular endurance and a reasonable level of cardio-respiratory efficiency through use of weight training regimen and calisthenics.

“The writer has suggested on many occasions in his work that the use of running routines is the simplest, most effective, time and every saving method of developing cardio-respiratory efficiency and muscular endurance in the legs. Many authorities have pointed out that 1/2 hour of continuous body movement calisthenics or circuit training will accomplish the same objective, and, in addition, develop muscular endurance in the arms, shoulders, back, and abdomen.

“Because of the highly specific nature of muscular endurance and in the interests of economy of training time, we have recommended that lifters combine the development of muscular endurance in the arms, shoulders, and back muscles with their skill training routines. This is especially true for the young, relatively inexperienced lifter who must do hundreds of repetitions with light weights in order to develop the skills of lifting. It is equally true for the experienced lifter in the snatch and jerk.

“Russian lifters of championship caliber during the competitive season will engage in skill practice with a light bar or broomstick on their off days.”

Bret was poking some fun here, but this summary is excellent.


• An exercise is judged by how it is supposed to be performed, not by how the jacktards screw it up.

• If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.

• There are no contraindicated exercises, just contraindicated individuals. Learn how your body works and master its mechanics.

• If you can’t perform an exercise properly, don’t do it. If an exercise consistently causes pain, don’t do it. If an exercise consistently injures you, don’t do it.

• Earn the right to perform an exercise. Correct any dysfunction and become qualified with bodyweight before loading up a movement pattern.

• There exists a risk-reward continuum and some exercises are safer than others. It’s up to you to determine where you draw the line. Don’t bitch about your lack of progress or poor joint health as you lie in the bed you made for yourself.

• Exercises performed poorly are dangerous, while exercises performed well are beneficial. If you use shitty form, you’ll hurt yourself. It’s only a matter of time.

• If you display optimal levels of joint mobility, stability, and motor control, you’ll distribute forces much better and be able to tolerate more volume, intensity, and frequency.

• Structural balance is critical. You must strengthen joints in opposing manners to ensure that posture isn’t altered. If your posture erodes due to strength training, it means that you’re a shitty program designer.

• Body tissues adjust to become stronger to resist loading. The body is a living organism that adapts to imposed demands.

• Your training will be based on your needs, your goals, and your liking. Different goals require different training methods. The loftier your goals, the more risk entailed.

• There are two type of stress: eustress and distress. Keep yourself in eustress and you’ll be okay.

• If you believe an exercise will hurt you, it probably will.

• Injuries in the weight room have more to do with poor form and poor programming than the exercise itself. Exercises are tools. You are the carpenter. A good carpenter never blames his tools.

• Rather than drift along with popular trends, it’s more fruitful to learn how the body works, which will allow you to understand the pros and cons of every exercise and make educated decisions in your programming.

End of quote

I think a lot about Dick Notmeyer this time of year. I found this OLD article from BFS and it was fun to review the resources Kim found to talk about Dick.

“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.’”

For more on Dick, read this.

Laree sent this to me and I’m not sure I agree with this article. I have spent too many years in religious studies to accept that we humans have a bunch of free will. Yes, like a muscle, I think you can build it, but community is the only way I have ever seen it work…for most of us. But, you must always read things you don’t agree with in any field.

“Michael Inzlicht, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the principal investigator at the Toronto Laboratory for Social Neuroscience, believes willpower is not a finite resource but instead acts like an emotion. Just as we don’t “run out” of joy or anger, willpower ebbs and flows based on what’s happening to us and how we feel. Viewing willpower through this lens has profound implications.

“For one, if mental energy is more like an emotion than like fuel in a tank, it can be managed and utilized as such. A toddler might throw a temper tantrum when refused a toy, but adults learn to ride out bad feelings. Similarly, when we need to perform a difficult task, it’s more productive and healthful to believe a lack of motivation is temporary than it is to tell ourselves we’re spent and need a break and some ice cream.

“But sometimes a lack of motivation isn’t temporary. Feelings are our bodies’ way of conveying information our conscious minds might miss. When a lack of mental energy is chronic, we should listen to our willpower just as we should listen to our emotions.

“Most studies to date have looked at willpower as a force that helps people do things they don’t want to do, or that helps them resist temptations they’d rather give in to. But if we adjust the perspective and treat willpower as an emotion, it could instead be seen as providing insights about what we should and shouldn’t be spending our time on.”

I will be in Santa Cruz this weekend doing an RKC and then easing up for the rest of this year. I’m looking forward to 2017 and a new year of training and travel. Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


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Publisher’s note:  Gray Cook’s the repatterning guy, right? We all know that. Here’s why we call him that.