Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 112

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 112


Publisher’s Note:  Did you miss this in last week’s busy-ness?  Just making sure you saw Dan’s new OTP author & content page


Happy New Year to you. I kicked in the New Year by watching the newest Sherlock, the wonderful BBC series. I also have watched enough college football to make up for an autumn of watching very little college football.

Many of us make resolutions. I always make a few and I try very hard to take care of them. Sometimes it is pretty simple; this year, I want to do more KB snatches and make more “To Do” lists. I usually don’t do anything too complex on my resolutions.

I have been doing a lot of work on snatches and some of the others exercises I teach at the RKC. We tend to go through extremes when teaching movements: either we teach them with so many steps and drills that we lose the basic idea or we simplify them to the point that we take out the ability to fix people (most people) with issues in movement.

So, I have been rethinking my teaching.  As I went around the internet this weekend, I found this great article by Stef Shelton that sums the basics of teaching the KB swing with simplicity and complexity built in:



1.     Butt to wall
2.     Stick hinge
3.     Plank
4.     Hip Thrust
5.     ½ kneeling hip flexor stretch
6.     Stop and Pop
7.     Hover and pendulum
8.     Hike and Park
9.     Power Swing
10. Towel swings

Verbal Cues:

11.  Don’t let your knees go over your toes.

12. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings

13. It’s a hinge, not a squat

14. Don’t do the tippy bird

15. Let me see the numbers on your shirt

16. Feet are firmly planted to the ground (Shoes off or flat soled shoes is best)

17.  Break the handle

18. Take the slack out of the back

19. Stand Tall

20. Come at me bro

21. Standing plank

Nonverbal Cues:

22. Put a stick or your hand in front of(but not touching) their knee.  (They should not touch your hand or stick when they hinge back)

23. A little “tough love” to their glutes, quads, lats, and abs.

24. Be able to demonstrate a proper swing yourself.

25. Video the client so they can see what they are doing.

26. Alternate the swing with a drill above.

When teaching the swing the instructor should always start by teaching the movement pattern called the hinge with NO WEIGHT.  It doesn’t matter how experienced, strong or amazing the client is or thinks he is.  Injuries always happen when the ego of the client or trainer gets in the way.  When I have a new client, I treat them like they have never picked up a kettlebell before.  It’s just the best and safest way to go about it.

End Quote

Swings are one thing, sleep is another. Could sleep be the “answer” to obesity? I always wonder if the obesity epidemic will be solved as simply as many of the diseases that have plagued humanity:

1. Take a bath
2. Eat some protein
3. Don’t drink water from the source you poop in.

In 100 years, will school kids simply say that we should have turned off the TV and gone to sleep to cure fatness?

“Have you ever noticed that the less you sleep, the more hungry you feel the next day? Research suggests that this is indeed true. But you might not realize how many extra calories you’re taking in (spoiler: it’s more than you’d think).

“In a new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers set out to put a number on those surplus calories consumed by the tired and weary. In recent years, adequate sleep has emerged as a third pillar, along with exercise and healthy eating, as a way to help control weight. Previous studies have linked a lack of sleep with obesity and even type 2 diabetes; but this is one of the first times researchers have calculated the caloric effect of insufficient Z’s.”

But, don’t overthink it if you miss a good night’s sleep!

This nice piece discusses a great way to keep your bearings even when things go wrong.

“The breakdown in logic that occurs when catastrophizing results from thinking that each link in the chain will definitely lead to the next. So you need to take a step back and look at what might reasonably, actually occur.

“To do this, write down each step in your chain of catastrophic thoughts and challenge the plausibility of these events really happening.

“Let’s say that Brian was in charge of an important sales presentation for his company. A large contract is riding on it. But Brian forgets the USB stick that held his PowerPoint presentation. Humiliated, he stumbles through an off the cuff speech that clearly leaves his potential clients underwhelmed and unconvinced. As Brian sits at his desk after the presentation, his mind is reeling down Catastrophe Lane.

“’The company is not going to get the contract because of my awful presentation. So my boss will fire me. I’ll never find another job as good as this one. We won’t be able to pay the mortgage, and we’ll lose the house. If we lose the house, my wife is going to leave me.’

“Brian needs to break this chain of catastrophic thoughts by writing down each link in the chain and then assigning each link a number from 1-10 that represents the likelihood of that event occurring. A 10 means it will definitely happen; a 1 means it’s nigh near impossible. At the same time, he thinks through some reasons why the event won’t happen.

  •     The company is not going to get the contract because of my awful presentation. -8

  Reasons it won’t happen: It was a really bad presentation, but I still managed to get in a few key points on why they’d want to choose us. There’s a chance the clients saw through the rough presentation and were able to understand the benefits of giving us the contract.

  •      My boss is going to fire me. -6

  Reasons it won’t happen: There was a ton riding on the company getting that contract, but it’s not the end of the world. I made a huge mistake, but in the 5 years I’ve been with the company I’ve been their number one salesman and brought in more contracts than anyone else. I’ve been employee of the year twice. It would be really hard for them to replace me.

  •      I’m never going to be able to find another job as good as this one. -3

    Reasons it won’t happen: Yeah, the recession sucks, and it’s hard to find a job but saying I’ll never get as good of a job is dumb. Things will eventually turn around. I may have to work at less desirable jobs for awhile, but I’m prepared for that. I’ve got a stellar resume, and I can out hustle any guy out there. I’ll push and push until I get a job that’s even better than the one I have now.

  •      We’re not going to be able to pay the mortgage and we’ll lose the house. -3

  Reasons it won’t happen: Even just with Jane’s salary we can still make the mortgage payments. We’ll have to rein in our budget to Spartan levels, but we used to live like that and we can do it again.

  •      If we lose the house, my wife is going to leave me. –1

    Reasons it won’t happen: The relationship between Jane and I is beyond solid. We’ve been through much harder things than losing a house. She’s already proven that she’ll stick with me through thick and thin.

“Hopefully in making this list and looking at the real probability of these things happening, Brian could see how quickly the logic of the chain unraveled as it went along. Just the act of putting your thoughts on paper and generating reasons for why things won’t happen that way will significantly clear your head, calm you down, and boost your confidence.”

I like articles that discuss financial security. Good ones tend to tie right into fitness and performance goals, too.

“From the time we are old enough to understand, society conditions us to confuse income with wealth. We believe that doctors, CEOs, professional athletes, and movie actors are rich because they earn high incomes. We judge the economic success of our friends, relatives, and colleagues at work by how much money they earn. Six- and seven-figure salaries are regarded as status symbols of wealth. Although there is a definite relationship between income and wealth, they are very separate and distinct economic measures. Income is how much money you earn in a given period of time. If you earn a million in a year and spend it all, you add nothing to your wealth. You’re just living lavishly. Those who focus only on net income as a measure of economic success are ignoring the most important measuring stick of financial independence. It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep.”

This article might be one of the best summaries of all time about basic good thinking.


The modern world has brought us a lot of great stuff. (I, for one, am a huge fan of antibiotics.)

That said, we know there are things that were better in the past, ideas we can learn from or reclaim.

What’s interesting is recently science and experts have validated many of the lessons ancient thinkers knew but could not prove.

Here are 7 new ideas from the old world that can make your life better.

1) Community is Vital

For 99% of human existence we lived in small tribes. We were constantly surrounded by family and friends.

Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, says it’s obvious why hunter-gatherers join modern society and not the other way around…

…but what are the advantages of the traditional world that they leave behind?

Always being surrounded by the people they love.

Via The World Until Yesterday:

Loneliness is not a problem in traditional societies. People spend their lives in or near the place where they were born, and they remain surrounded by relatives and childhood companions… As one American friend who spends much time in Africa summed it up, “Life in Africa is materially poor and socially/ emotionally rich, while U.S. life is materially rich and socially/ emotionally poor.”

And, no, Facebook is not a replacement for time with friends:

In one experiment, Cacioppo looked for a connection between the loneliness of subjects and the relative frequency of their interactions via Facebook, chat rooms, online games, dating sites, and face-to-face contact. The results were unequivocal. “The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are,” he says. “The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.”

Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and lead to an early death:

When people’s sense of social connectedness is threatened, their ability to self-regulate suffers; for instance their IQ performance drops (Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002). Feeling lonely predicts early death as much as major health risk behaviors like smoking (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008).

The solution? Use technology to facilitate face to face meetings with friends, not to replace them.

We definitely need others, but what did our ancestors know about feeling better as an individual?

Read on.

This article, which was connected to the last one, takes us in the same direction.


Grit. Resilience. Mental toughness. We hear a lot about them these days. But maybe we shouldn’t. Why?

Because there have been good solutions to the underlying problem for about, oh, 2000 years. The ancient Stoic philosophers really knew what they were doing when it came to building mental toughness.

Here are the four Stoic rituals that can make you mentally stronger:

  •     Ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?”: You won’t be surprised and you’ll be better prepared. And that’s a prescription for perseverance.
  •     Use a “reserve clause”: Fate permitting, it will help you persist after disappointment. (If not, it’s out of my control.)
  •     Take the “view from above”: Put things in perspective. Whatever occurred, it’s probably not the worst thing that has ever happened. (And if people shot at you at your last job, it definitely isn’t.)
  •     Ask, “What would Batman do?”: Or Wonder Woman. Heroes really do guide our behavior and give us strength.

Some people might still be a little scared to seriously think about “What’s the worst that can happen?” To be fair, “the worst” can be pretty bad at times. And even the Stoics knew thinking about this was not fun.

But oddly enough, there’s a very nice side-effect to considering awfulness: it can actually make you happier. Yes, happier.

You may have heard of a principle called “the hedonic treadmill.” It’s one of the most depressing findings in happiness research. It says that we eventually adapt to whatever good things happen to us. You get a raise… and then you take it for granted. New car? You’ll take that for granted eventually, too.

But when we imagine losing the things we’ve taken for granted, studies show the effect temporarily reverses — we become grateful. And happier:

The authors hypothesized that thinking about the absence of a positive event from one’s life would improve affective states more than thinking about the presence of a positive event but that people would not predict this when making affective forecasts… As predicted, people in the former condition reported more positive affective states.

You don’t appreciate air conditioning until you step out into 100 degree weather. So don’t be afraid to think about the worst. Much like the “view from above” it helps you put things into perspective.

And try using the phrase “fate permitting” when you’re facing a challenge. Seriously, give it shot. It’s worked for 2000 years. After all…

What’s the worst that could happen?

End quote

Now, the OPPOSITE of traditional thinking is the world of food and nutrition! Look at this article to find your inner frustration.

“But what lesson can we draw from the cautionary tales of eggs and trans fats? We would surely be slow learners if we didn’t approach other well-established, oft-repeated, endlessly recycled nuggets of nutritional correctness with a rather jaundiced eye. Let’s start with calories. After all, we’ve been told that counting them is the foundation for dietetic rectitude, but it’s beginning to look like a monumental waste of time. Slowly but surely, nutrition researchers are shifting their focus to the concept of “satiety”, that is, how well certain foods satisfy our appetites. In this regard, protein and fat are emerging as the two most useful macronutrients. The penny has dropped that starving yourself on a calorie-restricted diet of crackers and crudités isn’t any answer to the obesity epidemic.

“As protein and fat bask in the glow of their recovering nutritional reputation, carbohydrates – the soft, distended belly of government eating advice – are looking decidedly peaky. Carbs are the largest bulk ingredient featured on the NHS’s visual depiction of its recommended diet, the Eat Well Plate. Zoë Harcombe, an independent nutrition expert, has pithily renamed it the Eat Badly Plate – and you can see why. After all, we feed starchy crops to animals to fatten them, so why won’t they have the same effect on us? This less favourable perception of carbohydrates is being fed by trials which show that low carb diets are more effective than low fat and low protein diets in maintaining a healthy body weight.

“When fat was the nutrition establishment’s Wicker Man, the health-wrecking effects of sugar on the nation’s health sneaked in under the radar. Stick “low fat” on the label and you can sell people any old rubbish. Low fat religion spawned legions of processed foods, products with ramped up levels of sugar, and equally dubious sweet substitutes, to compensate for the inevitable loss of taste when fat is removed. The anti-saturated fat dogma gave manufacturers the perfect excuse to wean us off real foods that had sustained us for centuries, now portrayed as natural born killers, on to more lucrative, nutrient-light processed products, stiff with additives and cheap fillers.

“In line with the contention that foods containing animal fats are harmful, we have also been instructed to restrict our intake of red meat. But crucial facts have been lost in this simplistic red-hazed debate. The weak epidemiological evidence that appears to implicate red meat does not separate well-reared, unprocessed meat from the factory farmed, heavily processed equivalent that contains a cocktail of chemical additives, preservatives and so on. Meanwhile, no government authority has bothered to tell us that lamb, beef and game from free-range, grass-fed animals is a top source of conjugated linoleic acid, the micronutrient that reduces our risk of cancer, obesity and diabetes.”

To get us back on track, let’s look at a nice piece on the “missing link” in most people’s training.

However, getting back on the floor and lifting, no matter how old you are, can spark new gains, work around niggling injuries and work muscles that you never knew existed.

Because lifting is not all about standing in front of the mirror to curl and grunt to your heart’s content. Yes, that means you excessive gym-grunter guy.

End Quote

I enjoy the philosophy and finance articles as they enrich my work in the classroom and gym. It is also a good idea to revisit the classics as we begin a New Year.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


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Publisher’s note:  Here’s the newest OTP release, physical therapist Adam Wolf on Improving Fascial Highways.