Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 131

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 131

Editor: Oddly, after I selected this article as the opening link today, I find the theme of goal setting in Dan’s WW submission today. Here we go then! In the decade (plus) that I’ve known Dan, I’ve found goal setting to be at the top of the great skills he teaches us so well. Toward that, here are Dan’s Key Points in the Goal Setting Process.


Last Sunday was not only Mother’s Day, but also my 29th Wedding Anniversary. This summer, on August 21, I will have been with Tiffini half my life.

As I look back, certainly having Kelly and Lindsay are the high points, but, as I thinking about this yesterday, what changes we have seen. I still have my teaching materials from then and what stands out is the “lack of computers.” We bought our first Mac not long after we were married. You could pull your phone cord off the wall and hook it up to go to something called “Prodigy.” Sunday’s paper would later come with a disc allowing you to go online with something called “AOL.”

When I first went online, I met some people who changed my life. My first two emails were to Clarence Bass and Robb Wolf. Back then, you could find email addresses in threads in forum posts…or whatever they were called then. Tamir Katz encouraged me to start a site to keep my stuff in one place. I used to type my material in html code so it would look right on the screen.

There is “more” online now, but not always better. Truly bad-spirited people ran off the best and brightest of the early forums. Back then, one could talk with the biggest names in strength and conditioning (Dr. Ken, Kim Wood Brooks, Pavel, J.V. and others) just by logging on and asking questions. Then, as Alwyn Cosgrove discovered, zit-faced 14-year-olds posting in the basement ran so many off…or turned them off from the forums.

But, all in all, I think more positive has come out than negative. Bret Contreras, for example, has reshaped the way I think about training. We use the Hip Thrust “machine” daily and now add more and more work for the glute. This earlier article of his is still a classic.

“The glutes can’t get too strong in sports. The stronger they get, the more powerfully they contract in sprinting and the better they protect against low back, knee, hamstring, and groin injuries. Charlie Francis talked about how there were only a few athletes in the world who could maintain ‘sprint form’ in the 100-meter sprint and how sprinters knew they had a bad day if they felt their sprints in their quads.

“Over twenty years ago, he was prescribing reverse leg presses as his main glute and hamstring exercise in order to prepare his athletes for the big race. The reverse leg press was like a donkey kick performed while standing backwards facing away from a leg press on a Universal gym.

“Talk about being years ahead of your time! The reverse leg press is a great exercise, but the hip thrust and pendulum quadruped hip extension are even better.”

Reader Todd Ferry sent this in. As soon as I finish A. Scott Berg’s “Max Perkins: Editor of Genius,” I will start the book that this article discusses. This is a great read.

“It was my husband’s idea to take Dad to see The Lion King, for the razzamatazz and to take his mind off his memory lapses. The three of us walked up the red-carpet steps in the theater foyer when Dad, one step from the top, tripped on something. And fell, and started rolling down the steps. The usherettes froze, the doormen froze, the other theatregoers froze, we all froze. And stared. As an 85-year-old man rolled over and over, bump, bump, bump, all the way down to the bottom. And then sat straight up. Unscathed, unbruised, and perfectly fine. There was a loud sigh of relief from the usherettes. What we had just witnessed was Dad going straight into a parachute roll—arms tucked in and totally relaxed. His Jedburgh training was still second nature to him—it just clicked in. He stood up, dusted down his trousers, enjoying every second of our incredulity.”

I usually say that coaches (and parents and teachers) need to think like “Big Kids.” After reading this piece by Geoff Hemingway, I may just change this to “Big Picture.”


GOAL: “If I just lose five pounds, I’ll be more attractive than I’ve even been, I’ll have money and prestige and I’ll be happy.”

CLOSE UP: I hate the way my body looks. I’ve tried everything to get back to my dream weight of X. I can’t stop weighing myself, and every time the number goes up, I want to die.

COACH / PANORAMIC: If you hate the way your body looks, there are more than likely deeper issues at play here than five pounds. I would ask you to examine what the pursuit of those five pounds is costing you in family or friend time. You’re so focused on working out and eating right, that you’re not allowing yourself any laxity or fun with your loved ones. First step, hide that scale. Second, let’s find some options for you so you can enjoy time with your family and friends without worrying about your weight.

End quote

This article, combined with Geoff’s blog post, is a nice summary of the keys to working in the fitness industry or simply “staying in shape.”


Let me apply it to fitness and training here first. You see, we get so caught up in the nonessential stuff that we miss what’s really important. We argue over things that really don’t matter. Do you believe in full body workouts or split routines? Do you work with kettlebells or barbells? Do you believe in HIIT or long low intensity cardio? Do you stretch before or after your training session? You see, none of that really matters. Do you have preferences? Sure. That’s okay, we all do. But they aren’t what matters. In fitness, this is what matters:

You hinge, squat, push, pull, carry stuff and strengthen your trunk
Perform the above movements well in whatever variation you can
You commit to getting stronger in the above movements
You get your heart rate up
You stretch
You change it up at the very least every 6 weeks

The rest is minutia.

End quote

Dan Martin sent this in. Dan has really improved his rowing times by slowing down. Oddly, I became a better thrower “slowing down.” John Jerome discussed this in his books decades ago; “Staying Supple” even has a great summary of this point. As Paul Simon taught us: “Slow down, you move too fast.”

“’When rowing indoors, you’re able to avoid the ‘fly and die’ approach, where you row too-hard-too-fast and burn out,’ says Schoch. Your move: Slow down your strokes per minute (SPM) to focus on form, says Nick Knight, a London-based Ph.D. with a background in human performance who rowed for four years at Oxford and recently trained a four-man crew to row the Indian Ocean. The best rowers don’t rush up and down—they have a deliberate yet powerful stroke. ‘When you are ready to take your next stroke, don’t just slam your legs down but (without pulling with your arms), hang back off the handles and squeeze with your legs,’ says Knight. ‘As soon as your legs are near locking flat, not sooner, pull with your arms. In theory this is one seamless, fluid motion.’”

It’s odd how one little article can change my perception on a person. I was never a fan of Jay Leno, but this article really surprised me.

“Comedian and former host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” Jay Leno plays it safe when it comes to money.

“From the moment he entered the working world, ‘I always had two incomes,’ he explains to CNBC. ‘I’d bank one and I’d spend one.’

“And he made sure to spend the smaller amount.

“‘When I was younger, I would always save the money I made working at the car dealership and I would spend the money I made as a comedian,’ he says. ‘When I started to get a bit famous, the money I was making as a comedian was way more than the money I was making at the car dealership, so I would bank that and spend the car dealership money.'”

I’m off to England again this week. I will be posting next week’s edition from a hotel in Manchester. But, until then, keep lifting and learning.


Per Glenn Pendlay: “Strength coaches have gotten too dependent on computers, spreadsheets, and percentages. It’s that simple.” Here’s the rest of the article:
Glenn Pendlay: Strength Training is a Process, Not an Event