Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 109

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 109

Publisher’s Note: New on OTPbooks.com, here’s Chris Holder with a popular article about coaching with confidence.


I’m just getting ready to go to the airport and then go home after an RKC weekend. I was very pleased with the group. One thing that keeps spinning in my head is how much positive feedback we get about the basics.

The longer I coach, the more amazed I am about the importance of the foundation, the basics and the fundamentals. Students enjoy the discussions of high performance and all the tricks of elite training, but the feedback is universally more positive when it comes to the basics. Learning the hinge and squat seems so much more crucial than all the bells and whistles (and clichés).

The best of the best, the Alphas and Apexes, know that the fundamentals are the key to success. When we get it right, we master the basics…the simple stuff.

I need to remind myself of that every day.

As I wandered around the internet, I found this on Open Culture, my favorite spot on the web. This is just a fun article and a nice thing to think about.

“We’ve told you about the great Japanese word ‘tsundoku,’ which describes the act of buying books and letting them pile up unread. It’s an affliction–or state of affairs–I’m sure many of you are personally familiar with.

“Now let’s say you move that huge pile of unread books to a new home. And you’re wondering what’s the quickest way to get them in alphabetical order. Above, a handy lifehack to save you time.”

This article and video ties physics back to philosophy. I just enjoyed this piece.

“At the ‘Chasm of Ignorance,’ our journey through the domains of physics ends, and we end up back in the airy realm where it all began, philosophy. Those of us with a typical general education in the sciences may find that we have a much better understanding of the field’s intellectual geography.”

Lee Boyce has been publishing a lot lately. I thought this was a good article with an interesting point about form.

“If you need to improve grip strength, then strap 300 pounds to your belt and grip ‘n rip on pull-ups. If your goal, however, involves actually developing the intended prime movers of a pull-up, then you’re probably wasting time by loading up on the exercise.

“Most people don’t have great form while doing bodyweight pull-ups. When they do achieve good form, they think strapping an extra plate to themselves is the reasonable next step. The next day, when they’re sore on the outsides of their “upper wings” they think they got a great lat workout, not realizing that the real bellies of their lats are far below, and they just used their rotator cuff muscles and arms to do their workout.

“Not many people have earned the right to load the pull-up. Those who do typically have insane development to show for it… and they’re also under 200 pounds. Most people would get the lat development they’re looking for if they simply didn’t add weight and focused instead of perfect form.”

Josh Hillis has been talking about the importance of strength training versus cardio work for fat loss for years. This “first person” article supports that idea.

“’I’d run until I couldn’t run anymore, and I’d barely eat a thing. Yes, I might have lost 5 kilos in 2 weeks. But once I consumed a normal amount of food again, I’d put 7 kilos back on. It was the classic yoyo effect. There was no consistency.’

“Fields tried this weight loss method unsuccessfully for around five years, and says she ‘felt trapped in my own body,’ until a friend introduced her to powerlifting 18 months ago.

“’I fell in love with the sport instantly,’ she says.

“With help from a coach, Fields learned proper form and started on a nutrition course that focuses on your daily protein, fat and carbohydrate intake.

“’I started noticing changes with my body within about a month,’ she says. ‘Not only had my strength increased dramatically, but my whole body composition changed. My bum was perkier than ever and my clothes were getting loser.’

“Now, 18 months later, Fields has lost 17 kg. — about 37 lbs. — that she was never able to drop with cardio workouts alone.”

I’m not sure what the “truth” is about the work of Ancel Keys as there seems to be a big divide today over the research. This would be on the negative side.

“In the Time magazine article Keys is paraphrased as stating ‘Americans eat too much fat. With meat, milk, butter and ice cream, the calorie-heavy U.S. diet is 40% fat, and most of that is saturated fat—the insidious kind…that increases blood cholesterol, damages arteries, and leads to coronary disease.’

“Keys based his claim that saturated fat increases blood cholesterol on the experiments he’d done. But the experiments were not performed using real foods rich in saturated fat. His experiments used saturated fats that had been artificially created from vegetable oils using a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated vegetable oils contain not just saturated fat but also trans fat and a whole host of other unnatural molecules. Trans fat does indeed raise blood cholesterol, as well as lead to heart attacks and strokes, and has been since shown to be so unhealthy cities like Manhattan  and San Francisco have outlawed its use in restaurants.”

Dan Martin sent me a text. He quoted Harry S Truman: “Take a two-mile walk every morning before breakfast.” It tied in exactly with this article from Pat Flynn.

“Fasted exercise is one of the best ways to get certain flabby parts of your body that are not wanted to sort of just wither away. It is very effective and I would like to walk you through a couple of ways to do it. How does that sound?

“The first thing you should know is fasted exercise is a compound stress which that is when you take one stress (exercise) and add it to another (fasting). It is not for everyone. For example I would not have my grandmother do it. She is 84 and on the precipice of Life Everlasting. So I would say to her, Granny no!

“Now on the other hand if you are generally fit and healthy and not decrepit, fasted exercise can be the boost you need to break through a weight loss plateau. A plateau is a sticky point, it’s a term we fitness professionals tend to use. There are other benefits as well, my little rabbit. Such as increased neurogenesis, which what that means is new brain cells are being born.

“So when you know that fasted exercise works as a compound stress then you know it is not some magic thing but rather a practical mechanism for controlling calories and increasing lipolysis. Which lipolysis is just a sort of technical way of saying how it helps to burn fat.”

I have a ride coming to take me to the airport. So, until next week, keep lifting and learning.


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Publisher’s note:  Did you come up blank when your mom asked you what you want for Christmas? Here’s an idea: Dan’s new video, Now What?

Not a big video fan? How about Dan’s book, Can You Go?

Still plenty of time for delivery, but the window’s closing faster than we expect.