Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 115

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 115


Publisher’s Note:  From Mike Boyle on how to build a successful training business, “Why aren’t you successful? Maybe you’re a jerk.”


I always enjoy my Perform Better weekends in my hometown of South San Francisco. It’s a bit of a case of “You can’t go home again,” but I always meet people who went to St. Veronica’s or South City High. I caught up with a classmate from high school and visited my brother.

And…I brought out a new workshop. I couldn’t wait after I finished giving the talk to go up to my room and fix the problems. The bulk of it was sound, but sometimes you have to “hear” a talk in front of an audience to see the missing links and problems.

Let’s look at the internet this week.

I enjoyed this very short piece on wolves. I learned a lot about wolves in college as my coach’s son, Ralph Maughan, Jr, was an expert and I heard a lot of amazing things about these cousins of my dog, Sirius Black.

“’The main characteristic of an alpha male wolf,’ the veteran wolf researcher Rick McIntyre told me as we were watching gray wolves, ‘is a quiet confidence, quiet self-assurance. You know what you need to do; you know what’s best for your pack. You lead by example. You’re very comfortable with that. You have a calming effect.’

“The point is, alpha males are not aggressive. They don’t need to be. ‘Think of an emotionally secure man or a great champion. Whatever he needed to prove is already proven,’ he said.”

My wife, Tiffini, sent this to me. We spent a day at the place mentioned in the article. It was absolutely beautiful, but the article adds another layer of fun.


Bate: Birds beating their wings while still tethered; from the Old French batre (to beat), eventually “to hold back, restrain”, as in a bated breath.

Booze: From the 14th-century verb bouse (Dutch origin), to drink excessively. A bird that drinks too much water will not hunt, similar to those who are “fed up.”

Fed up: A bird that is no longer hungry has no incentive to hunt.

Haggard: A wild hawk that’s difficult to train. One of Shakespeare’s favourite terms.

Hoodwinked: To prevent a bird from immediately searching for prey, falconers cover the bird’s head until they are in the right place to hunt.

Rouse: From the Old French ruser, when a hawk shakes its feathers. Figurative meaning “awaken” first appeared in late 16th-century England.

Under his thumb: Tightly gripping the jesses, or tethers, under one’s thumb prevents the bird from flying away until it is released.

Wrapped around his little finger: Wrapping the jesses around the pinkie finger adds an extra anchor in securing the bird.

End of quote

OTP is an amazing company to work with in this industry. This is a simple set of rules, but I think worth considering.


Now, after clarity in those three concepts, we can discuss the ideas of ramping up training.  Most master athletes can sum training in a simple way:

“I wish I would have known this before.”

There are some tough lessons as we age. The body seems to be conspiring against us to get more brittle, less stable and weaker at every turn. But, these can be addressed—and defeated—with some simple concepts:

Train the phasics and tonics . . . right!
Focus on speed, speed, speed.
Use your checkbook.
Seek and destroy your weaknesses.
A little bit goes a long way.

Before we get deeper, I have to agree with the criticisms that many will come up with as they read this: You are right! The professionals and Olympians don’t do this!

But at age 35+, with a full-time job and family responsibilities, you probably aren’t the cream of the crop for the Olympic selection committee either.

In my humble opinion, the greatest error of the American Olympic effort over the past 30 years is abandoning the things that work for American athletes and adopting stuff from other countries. I imagine British athletes, who were a dominant force in track and field as well as the O lifts and early powerlifting, would look back a few decades ago and agree they made the same mistake.

Review the lifting successes of the Duncan YMCA team in Chicago in the late 1960s and the parade of names that exploded with national and world records—Holbrook, Karchut, Lowe and others—and you will be left wondering why no one follows their simple “easy week, hard week” training cycle. It works.

The basic lesson of capitalism seems to have been tossed out in the training circles:

If it works, do it.

End of quote

I had a number of people email me this article. It is very good.

“I know this is blasphemy, but our skill guys don’t squat during fall camp. Their hamstrings are already bearing a tremendous force eccentrically from the acceleration and deceleration. Think about the position of a load on the bar and a squat. What prevents the pelvis from dropping out with a load on your shoulders is obviously the hamstrings, which have already been abused from multiple route running, multiple change of direction, multiple accelerations in short periods of time.”

We were discussing the work of Leonard Schwartz at my Q and A on DaveDraper.com and this came up.

Shadow box: 12 minutes
Squat Pulls: 60 reps
Good-morning dips: 60 reps
Press from rack: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%
High Pull: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%
Squat: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%

Shadowbox: 12 1/2 minutes
Squat Pulls: 65 reps
Good-morning dips: 65 reps
One-arm dumbbell press: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%
One-arm dumbbell row: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6, 70%
Deadlift: 1/75%, 1/85%, 1/95%, 6/70%

You can never get enough cool information about Shakespeare. This article adds an interesting twist to how his corps were able to master so much material.

“To explain this skill set, Tribble hypothesises a kind of ‘information underloading’. This means that the theatre environment or ‘ecosystem’ was configured to support actors’ cognitive requirements, through means such as consistency in stage design, to the way in which their parts were delivered to them in playbooks that omitted information unrelated to their role.

“’Such systemic structures facilitated creativity because it meant actors didn’t need to think about routine aspects of their work,’ says Tribble, ‘and that allowed creativity to come forward.’

“This sheds light on how Shakespearean actors rehearsed somewhat differently from the theatrical companies of today but, more importantly, it also suggests an important relationship between place, body and mnemonic processes – what Tribble calls the ‘cognitive ecology’ – that influenced their learning processes.

“’Actors in Shakespeare’s time used different materials and social structures [than actors today] and therefore I think they remembered differently,’ says Tribble.

“A helpful example to illustrate the cognitive interrelationship between space, body and mind is the actors’ mastery of the art of gesture, both to assist recall and help them hold audience attention – in effect a developed form of kinesic intelligence.”

I’m going to actually add several concepts from this article into my life. I rethought a few things after reading this.

“When Winston Churchill was a young cavalry officer, he was always looking for ways to get to the front and experience battle firsthand. With much persistence, he eventually secured a position in the field as a personal attendant to Sir William Lockhart, who was overseeing the British military’s campaigns in what is now Pakistan. When Churchill first joined the general’s staff, he ‘behaved and was treated as befitted my youth and subordinate station.’ But then one day he saw an opportunity to offer a bit of advice that led to him being ‘taken much more into the confidential circles of the staff” and “treated as if I were quite a grown-up.’

“Churchill heard that the general and his headquarters staff had been hurt and angry to hear that a newspaper correspondent who had been sent home from their camp had published a very critical article about one of their recent campaigns. The officers smarted at what they felt were unfair charges, and the Chief of Staff had written up a thorough rebuttal and mailed it off to the newspaper to be published. Churchill at once spoke up and tried to convince the staff that such a move was ultimately a bad idea, and that the piece ought to be intercepted before it was ever printed:

“’I said that it would be considered most undignified and even improper for a high officer on the Staff of the Army in the Field to enter into newspaper controversy about the conduct of operations with a dismissed war-correspondent; that I was sure the Government would be surprised, and the War Office furious; that the Army Staff were expected to leave their defence to their superiors or to the politicians; and that no matter how good the arguments were, the mere fact of advancing them would be everywhere taken as a sign of weakness.’”

My friend, Marcus Santer, had this nice blog discussing one of my core principles.

“As Dan later said when I told him I’d followed his advice: ‘Practicing balance is great, but it’s probably best to do it in an environment that ain’t gonna kill ya.’”


I’m convinced this new prevention habit has saved the future Marcus from a nasty fall and possible death.

That’s the power of prevention.

Yeah, it’s not sexy, yeah it’s not cool, but neither are falls, my friend.

And there’s a reason why developing a prevention mindset is the most important habit of the Healthy Aging Pyramid.

Because a gram of prevention is worth a ton of cure.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


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New on OPTbooks.com this week: Adam Wolf on the frontal plane lunge