Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 121

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 121

You know that proprioception refers to knowing where a body is in space, its kinesthetic awareness. But where does that awareness come from? Body maps. Did you also know we have the ability to influence those maps? There’s a lot more to it than most people realize. Here’s an overview of human body maps.

I’m getting ready to go the airport after a great weekend in Tempe, Arizona. I got a chance to go to a few baseball games and hang out with some strength coaches. Baseball, like basketball and boxing, came late to strength training so it is always interesting to see them trying to overcome bodybuilding training protocols rather than performance work.

It’s a lesson of sorts. Track and field has a long tradition of strength training that proceeded Arnold’s “The Education of a Bodybuilder,” which seems to be the turning point for bodybuilding becoming the paradigm of strength training. Fortunately, track and field athletes can readily tell if something is working or not: performance gets better…or worse.

With team sports, it is always hard to see if something is helping or hurting. Hypertrophy work—bodybuilding—is always going to be popular as it makes the athlete look bigger, and bigger might be better. Or not.

My baseball friends use the methods outlined in my book, Intervention. They have found that focusing on the Fundamental Human Movements with appropriate sets, reps and load seems to help the athletes perform and stay a bit ahead of wear and tear injuries. Nothing is perfect, but this is “pretty good.” And, like I tell people: Pretty good is pretty good.

On the web this week, I found this article to be interesting. I have begun to reread the last stories of Sherlock Holmes recently and I was pleased to find out it will also make me live longer.

“Some say reading novels is escapism from real life—or even a way to live vicariously. Reading is also a sedentary activity and might be likened to watching television because of its passivity. Yet a new study from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health shows that reading novels increases longevity by up to two years. The researchers summed up the study: ‘The benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.’

“The cohort of people studied by the researchers consisted of 3,635 participants in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. All were over 50 years of age. Reading habits were one measurement taken at “baseline”—the beginning and norm for the study’s participants. It was found that book readers survived non-book-readers by some 23 months. Book readers experienced an average of a 20% reduction in mortality risk for 12 years after the study too.”

My friend, Kevin Cradock, is looking at some interesting stuff in his research. This point is usually missed in coaching and quick fix programs:

“From a practice perspective, findings of this manuscript suggest support for implementing a graded approach to gradually increasing frequency and intensity of intervention content, structuring interventions so that the key components are delivered by credible experts (i.e. exercise physiologists and dietitians) and alignment of behaviour change techniques to target behaviours following a comprehensive behavioural diagnosis.”

Too often, we front load (dump!) a bunch of stuff to our athletes and clients on Day One and don’t look at intervening, checking in and reestablishing motivation (or whatever causes behavior changes). So, “good coaching” needs to also consider progressive interventions as well as progressive resistance. This article, which I think is brilliant, offers us an interesting insight into Cradock’s studies.


Consider also that the majority of lean body mass “gains” for non-enhanced lifters happen in the first two years of training. I’m talking lean body mass, not fat mass. By year five, you are likely to have hit close to the upper limit of your possible muscular bodyweight.

So if you train for five years, 80% of gains came in year one.

If you train for 10 years, 80% of gains came in years one and two.

If you train for 25 years, 80% of gains came in years one through five.

How many lifters say their first program or year of training was the time they got the strongest, the fastest, and grew the most? 99% of them.

With the 80/20 Principle, you can analyze a training program, your lifts, your workouts, your diet, your recovery, your time, and so on and so forth. The 80/20 Principle is not a “rule” that you must follow; it’s a tool of efficiency that can be used in any domain. Use it to great effect.

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I was watching an interesting mini-series on Netflix, “Fleming: The Man Who Would be Bond,”  and I was amazed to find out how one of my favorite authors was also responsible for much of the myth and lore of WWII that fascinated me throughout my life. His Commando unit information can be found here and the fact that so much of it is still not available to the public tells a story by itself.

If you want to look like James Bond, try these workouts from my friend Michael Krivka. And, why not go all in and shower like James Bond?

I like TedTalks generally. This one is a nice summary of diabetes. I do like her stand on obesity. This idea that obesity is based in gluttony and sloth is just a bad understanding of, one, science, and, two, moral theology. Now, to mess with your head, watch the follow-up.

The exact opposite!

Obviously, I agree with this article.


  • Strength train….if you already do, KEEP DOING IT.  If you don’t, find a professional that can help you get started safely on a program that is appropriate for your needs and body!
  • Keep strength training.  Keep showing up!  You are literally investing in your health AND your life time after time in the gym.
  • Experiment with different ‘styles’ of strength training to find your favorite.  You can train like a powerlifter, a lean and mean kettlebell enthusiast, a bodybuilder, you can try circuit training, metabolic conditioning, easy strength (one of my faves), gymnastics training, parkour, etc.  The options are endless, and there are entry points for every BODY.

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Besides WW coming to you on Wednesdays, I would like to remind everyone that I have a blog that comes out every Monday, too. They are short pieces on training with simple workouts or program ideas. Nothing fancy.

Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


Progress doesn’t happen without a plan, and for Glenn Pendlay, a plan doesn’t happen without an old-school training log. It can work for you and your clients too. Glenn’s new article explains his thinking and recording methods.