Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 120

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 120

The most popular page on the OTPbooks.com site (by a long shot) is the page on which we explain planes of human motion, and then toss in a selection of the most useful human movement terminology. Have you seen the page yet?

I spent the weekend in my own home and sleeping in my own bed. That rarely happens to me anymore. Next weekend I pop down to Spring Training and begin a fairly long stretch of weekly travel. I can’t complain: I love Europe, I love evening get-togethers and I love the gyms and training centers. But, it is also nice to be home.

My dog, Sirius Black, loves the snow. That’s good because as I type this, the snow keeps coming down heavier and heavier. Most people I know have a touch of Spring Fever and today isn’t the cure. But, I still got my workout in and all my weekly house chores done. It would be nice, however, to be able to go outside without three layers.

It was a good week on the internet. Shane sent this article to me.  I always enjoy seeing the goblet squat get more and more press.

“The goblet squat makes it possible for most people to squat with good form and to reestablish the squat pattern for those who have ‘lost’ it. This also doubles as an excellent mobility exercise for the lower body.

“Start choosing squats wisely. Incorporate the goblet squat into your routine pronto and make Dan a happy man.”

I own a pretty good size collection of Clarence Bass books. I liked his earliest articles in Ironman and he does provide us amazing insights. This article is pretty simple, but worth your time.

“You are probably wondering how the experts settled on 2 hours a day—aiming for 50% of working hours. The movement goal is well supported.

“The key support comes from two categories of research. First, long-term Canadian and USA national health and fitness surveys found a threshold for “significant risk reduction” at more than 2 hours a day and the “greatest risk reduction” from getting up for 4+ hours a day. Secondly, a number of observational or interventional studies found “pronounced changes” in energy expenditure, blood glucose, insulin, muscle function, and joint sensation when the total accumulated time exceeded 2 hours a day.

“Another area of research deals with telomeres, the DNA “caps” which protect chromosomes and keep us young and healthy. A randomized controlled trial from Sweden put sitting squarely in the bull’s eye. Uppsala University professor Per Sjögren and colleagues found that less sitting, not more exercise, is most likely to preserve and lengthen telomeres. “In many countries formal exercise may be increasing, but at the same time people spend more time sitting,” the researchers wrote. “We hypothesize that a reduction in sitting is of greater importance than an increase in exercise time for elderly risk individuals.” (Subjects were 68 years old, sedentary, and overweight.) Exercise is of course important, but apparently we must get up and move around between workouts for maximum benefit. “Go hard and go home” may be the best approach—IF you get up and move around between workouts.

“Productivity is another reason to stand up and move. (Standing still is almost as bad as sitting still; stand and move.) Key studies from Australia demonstrated that standing breaks and use of sit-stand workstations “improve work productive, quality, efficiency and [provide] a greater sense of collaboration among…employees,” the expert panel wrote. Professor James A. Levine, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic (best known for his book Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It), says that productivity ticks up 15 percent when people stand and move more during the day.”

This piece from Nassim Taleb made a lot of forums this week. The longer I coach, the more I think we need to focus on things that win and lose competitions. Every sport has those specific moments where things are won or lost. Find out what those are and really spend time on those game changers. The article explains why.

“Well, the Starting Strength approach is precisely about extremes, what people in my business call the “tails,” the rare events that are consequential though of low probability. Just as systems learn from extremes, and for preparedness, calibrate themselves to withstand large shocks, so does the human body. Indeed, our body should be seen a risk management system meant to handle our environment, paying more attention to extremes than ordinary events, and disproportionally learning from these.

“You will never get an idea of the strength of a bridge by driving several hundred cars on it, making sure they are all of different colors and makes, which would correspond to representative traffic. No, an engineer would subject it instead to a few multi-ton vehicles. You may not thus map all the risks, as heavy trucks will not show material fatigue, but you can get a solid picture of the overall safety.”

I said something in Denmark that I wanted to remember: “Eat like an adult; play like a child.” Most people do the opposite. This article really did a nice job outlining the whole  idea of “eat like an adult.”

“It wasn’t until after the Second World War, with the arrival of American food aid as well as new fishing and storage technologies, that Japanese cuisine became varied in both seasoning and substance. In the course of the twentieth century, consumption of grains in Japan fell by almost half, replaced by eggs, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and, most of all, fish. These new influences were incorporated into Japanese cuisine, adapted to fit traditional ideas about portion size and meal structure as well as traditional tastes for miso, soy, and pickled and fermented vegetables. By the nineteen-seventies, the country’s food culture had been utterly transformed. Today, Japan is one of the most food-obsessed countries in the world—the first perfect watermelon of the season sells at auction for more than two thousand dollars, and gourmet manga top best-seller lists—and yet it also has one of the lowest rates of obesity in the world.”

Geoff Hemingway needs to write more. This article is sound advice  and we need to hear more from him.

“ACCOUNTABILITY!  Yes dear reader, this is EVERYTHING.  Without accountability, when your challenge gets tough, and it will, you will most likely just walk away.  And why not?  No one will stop you, you took this on yourself, right?   NO WAY MAN!  Put that challenge out there.  Talk about it on social media, tell all your friends you’re in the middle of keeping a food journal.  Shout out that you’re doing 5 pull ups a day from the rooftops!  Ask your friends to join you in your meditation challenge, whatever it takes to have those around you checking in and keeping you on track with your accountability.   Not only will this keep you honest in your challenge, it’s a wonderful way to build an intentional community around something that’s going to benefit you and those around you in the long run.

“So my friends, you now have three great guidelines to determine if a monthly challenge is the right thing for you.  And in reality, trial and error is the very best guideline of all.  Taking that first step and choosing something that will challenge you for an extended period of time is a wonderful way to stay fresh and add new skills to your already expanding AWESOMENESS.”

I did a five-part series on programming over at Dragondoor. All five parts seem hard to find, so here they are for you.

“The problem with programming is simple: the word ‘program’ is sitting right there to start off the word ‘programming.’ And, programs are the problem.

“It’s not an unusual week when someone emails me asking for a ‘program.’ It’s not unlike a patient calling a doctor and asking for medicine. There seems to be a logical follow-up, question:

“‘Um, for what?’

“There are a million programs out there in books, magazines and the internet. A typical bodybuilding magazine will provide about a dozen conflicting and complicated programs guaranteed to terrorize your triceps, pound your pectorals, and blitz your biceps.

“There are programs for fat loss, muscle gain, and athletic peaking. I imagine they are all good and work perfectly as written. Sadly, few people ever follow a program for more than a few workouts. Few of us ever actually FINISH programs. So, when it comes to actually following programs, we end up with dozens of starts and misfires—and miss the big picture.”

Fasting and exercise are a pretty good thing to consider. It might even cause some relief to some issues. This article shows the transformative benefits of fasting.


In the experiments, mice were put on a modified form of the “fasting-mimicking diet”.

It is like the human form of the diet when people spend five days on a low-calorie, low-protein, low-carbohydrate but high unsaturated-fat diet.

It resembles a vegan diet with nuts and soups, but with around 800 to 1,100 calories a day.

Then they have 25 days eating what they want – so overall it mimics periods of feast and famine.

Previous research has suggested it can slow the pace of aging.

But animal experiments showed the diet regenerated a special type of cell in the pancreas called a beta cell.

These are the cells that detect sugar in the blood and release the hormone insulin if it gets too high.

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That’s enough for now. I need to shovel snow again. Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


As Mark Snow tells us this week, the typical fitness client is tired of how most big box gyms offer. His favorite solution? Group or semi-private training, which he always sets up first with the Functional Movement Screen. Here’s his story.