Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 110

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 110


Publisher’s Note: In this week’s featured article, Mark Cheng discusses emotional attachments to specific exercises or training forms. Are you or your clients stuck in an exercise identity loop?


I saw Rogue One last night. It is a Star Wars movie that finally makes sense. It fills in the backstory of the original show far better than those horrid prequels. I actually enjoyed the movie.

I was watching Creature Features when I first heard about the original. They showed a clip, the scene where Luke and Hans battle the four fighters, and I was simply amazed. I was in junior college and I had no idea how important this film would be to me.

It was a remarkable few years of films: Jaws, Animal House, 10, and Star Wars all seemed to change movies. Burt Reynolds and his friends were making films and the rest of Hollywood was pumping out good stuff like Kramer Versus Kramer and all the rest, but they were nothing like these other movies.

Let’s put it this way: You didn’t quote Dustin Hoffman at football practice, but you would quote Skywalker or Bluto.

And, it is hard to believe it has been about forty years!

Now let’s look at some interesting stuff from the net this week.

Dane Miller is quickly becoming my favorite person to study in the throws. You might not understand what I just said: I have been throwing since 1970 and I have been with multiple gold medalists and world record holders, but Dane seems to speak “my language.” A great piece here:

“Decrease parts, improve movements.  What I mean by this, is focus on the entire MOVEMENT of the throw.  Sure, a glider will benefit from a large standing throw, just as a spinner will benefit from a smooth half turn.  BUT, this still is a PART of the competitive movement.  Focus on the entire movement and what that movement entails and you will see a quick growth in technique and distance.  Many throwers have a weakness in the circle, it could be out of the back, or a slow transition phase through the middle, or maybe they can’t control the speed at the front.  By improving the movement as a whole, this will help the technique improve….as a whole!”

BikeJames got some love:

“A patient came in this week with an interesting story. An avid cyclist, we had treated a few issues in his knee, including his anterior compartment, with HD (high-dose) platelet rich plasma. This treatment helped his pain, but he still noticed issues after cycling. He went on a quest to optimize his cycling posture and eventually found a local Colorado company that was redesigning high-end pedals by thinking back to old-fashioned pedals. He explained the new concept to me and reported that his kneecap pain all but vanished when he made the switch from clip-in pedals to this new type.”

Reframing is always a good way to “start.” Dani does a good job here:

“Whatever happened to humility? And when did body love become a greater virtue? C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Yet it’s seemingly more important to put yourself on a pedestal for no reason than it is to place your focus on things outside yourself.

“If you think about it, insecurity and narcissism aren’t really opposites. They’re both the result of fixating on yourself too much. Body love is how people rationalize that fixation.

“Incidentally, whenever people broadcast their love for their bodies, I’m always reminded of the guy or gal who gushes all over Facebook about how much he or she loves their significant other when their relationship is on the rocks. Is it denial? Compensation? Or maybe they’re doing the reverse of what’s expected (overkill, really) to try and “be positive” about a bad situation.”

This is worth watching. I had no idea that Basque lifting was so diverse. It’s a half an hour well spent.

I’m not sure what to quote from this article, but this is worth a moment of your time. I have a paragraph here, but all of these are good suggestions.

I love openculture.com. This article discusses a book that changed my vision of the universe, plus has a cool side story.

“A conversation the despondent author has with his muse, Lady Philosophy, the book seeks the nature of happiness and the nature of God, in the midst of great loss, disgrace, and tyranny. The Consolation of Philosophy belongs to a long tradition of prison literature that extends to Don Quixote, “Civil Disobedience,” and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Almost a thousand years after Boethius’s 524 execution, one late Medieval reader of his book—perhaps inspired by the text, or not—left the drawing you see above on the last page of a 15th century English illuminated manuscript.”

I was wandering through the archives at dragondoor.com and discovered a trove of older articles on KBs. Steve Baccari is often cited in books for coming up with the Program Minimum (swings and Turkish getups), but you can read a lot more depth here:


PART 1: Joint Mobility Drills

These are the so-called ‘recharge’ or ‘readiness’ exercises you can find in Pavel’s book Super Joints. We do 10-15 each morning, if you do a morning run not only will it get you ready for that but it will also prepare you for anything else that comes your way.

PART 2: Slow Strength Work

We do this prior to skill work such as hand pads. Most coaches would consider this unconventional training for a boxer.

Pavel explains in his Power to The People! book, slow strength work using heavy weight, low reps and an adequate rest interval has a tonic effect on the nervous system and will actually improve your skill.

This circuit is two exercises both done with kettlebells; see-saw presses followed by a one to three-minute rest interval, then front squats. We do three sets of five reps in each exercise. I have also incorporated Turkish getups and windmills into the slow strength day workouts with my more advanced athletes.

Part 3: Strength /Endurance Circuit.

This circuit is done after sparing; it is a short simple two or three exercise circuit. One arm snatches, followed by a one-minute interval of jump rope. An example: perform the one arm kettlebell snatch ten times with each arm. Immediately follow up with by one minute of jump rope. Alternate these two exercises for six to ten minutes. This circuit is great for cutting weight and developing strength/endurance and cardio for a fighter.

An important note: skipping rope is extremely easy for my fighters, this is not the case with most fitness people I have seen. They may want to substitute the jump rope
with jumping jacks or running in place.

Later you can add or alternate bottom up cleans into the circuit. Any fighter who does this exercise will see its benefits immediately.

</end quote>

Steve goes on in this piece to expand it to MMA fighters:

“Start out just as it is described in Enter the Kettlebell! with one-five minute session, twice a week. When your form is perfect, it is time to increase volume and decrease intensity. Instead of 1-5 minute rounds, just grease the groove with get-ups and add crush curls.

“For the ‘Grease the Grove’ protocol see Pavel’s book The Naked Warrior.

“Alternate get up 1×1 with crush curls 3-5 reps per set. To perform crush curls, take a kettlebell and place your palms on the round sides of the bell without your fingers on the kettlebell and crushing the kettlebell between your palms begin to curl the kettlebell.

“Why the crush curl? Two reasons. First I have not met an MMA fighter that does not suffer an elbow or shoulder problem, most have both. I have found the crush curls to help rehab these areas. I don’t know the scientific reason for this and I don’t care to know. This exercise also helps drive home the point of total body tension, if you don’t think so try crush curling a 24kg bell. 24 Kg is not a lot of weight to curl with two arms, right? I will guarantee if you don’t tense your body you will drop the bell on your feet, at that point 53lbs. Will feel like a ton. As a bonus you will cure the closet curler.

“The closet curler is an otherwise normal fighter who when in the gym, Dojo, or school does everything he is supposed to do, he also does his road work, i.e. Man Makers. But when he is home alone and knows no one is watching, he rolls a preloaded easy curl bar out from under his bed and does high rep curls. Not just a couple of sets either. Like an alcoholic doing shots of whiskey he does rep after rep chasing the pump. The worse afflicted with this disorder will have a vintage 1979 Arnold Arm Blaster to help with the process. They do not think about how this will hinder the next days training, it is very hard to hold your hands in a fighting position let alone throw punches with sore biceps.

“You can explain this to him all day? and he will say he is not going to do it anymore, BUT unless you give him a positive outlet for this affliction he will continue to chase the pump. By adding crush curls you will satisfy his craving in a productive way and your fighter will still get two tickets to the gun show!”

I later expanded this article in Easy Strength:

“Casey Sutera, one of the fine young coaches I work with in the weight room, came from an outstanding Division One football team. They were taught sprint work, agility work, every form of lifting and much, much more. He taught me a few important concepts worthy of note from his experience:

“Attention to detail. I love this concept. It is one of the cornerstones of the RKC and, to be honest, every quality organization. If there is one lesson I have learned about QII coaching it is this: it always comes down to the little things. The best of the best programs insist on the little things, for example, today we wear the blue tops and the white shorts. If someone shows up in blue shorts and a white top, we punish them. Why? Well, I don’t know why. But I know this: under pressure, under stress, we revert to our training. If any aspect of our training is slip slap, our response to pressure will be the same. NFL games are usually decided by five plays. Often, it is the infamous stat ‘Missed Opportunity to Make A Big Play’ that decides whether a team lives on the bottom or wins the Super Bowl. Big Plays come from ‘luck,’ but it takes a lot of discipline, work and effort to get “lucky” at the high end of sports.

“Shrink the Gap. I love this concept. Casey’s program used it as a way to relate the idea that the athletes with the lowest commitment to excellence had to be brought up to the athletes with the highest levels. That “gap” is wide in many things. The movie Office Space is a wonderfully funny look at the restaurant and cubicle world, but the same gap is evident even in something that seems wonderfully self-motivating like elite team sports. I took this concept into the weight room. I began to look at our award boards and our “big lift” charts and noticed something interesting: our championship teams certainly were present in the lists, but our years with problems were actually better represented!

“I have coached sophomore boys (age 15) who have benched 385. I have had two deadlift over 600 and another boy did a double from the floor with a 315 clean. These are outstanding lifts for any age at any time. But, to win in QII, which is almost universally team sports, everybody has to be strong. To shrink the gap, we looked back over our standards and realized that we seemed to do best when the bulk of the teams were at certain levels.”

It was fun going through those archives. The KB world was an optimistic and positive place a decade ago and the articles reflected camaraderie. It is a good reminder as we celebrate the holiday season.

Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


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Publisher’s note:  What should you do today? Mark Reifkind on the power of routine.