Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 132

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 132

Question for you: Why isn’t anatomy taught this way in school?
As I type this, I’m sitting in the Manchester Airport Escape Lounge waiting to head back to the States. It was a wonderful trip meeting new people and having a lot of fun.

I came here for Josh and Liz’s wedding. I learned an interesting thing: “Josh” isn’t Josh’s name. His name is David, so as so often happens in life, clarity is key.

Preston, England, has a wonderful wildlife refuge called “Brockhole.” Brock is the old name for badger and this was a great place to take long walks and see some beautiful birds. The Visitor’s Center floats on a lake and the whole place seems like you are miles away from civilization. Actually, the place is located just off a major motorway.

I did have some time this week to read and reflect on some upcoming events. I will be doing some work with the collegiate basketball coaches this week and I have a full month of lectures and workshops coming up.

Fooling around on the internet, I came across this GREAT article. Frankly, if you don’t have six-pack abs at 21, you probably have been partying way too hard. Lee Boyce cuts to the core here:

“These, male or female, are the Kim Kardashians of fitness: Strategic, thrifty marketers, and generally not too hard on the eyes – and they use each of these attributes to their advantage to feign expertise in the one area where they usually lack it.  All of a sudden, people who hardly know how to coach a basic squat or press pattern release gimcrack online programs for sale, become boxing trainers, sprinting coaches and kettlebell instructors based on one workout they did of each, and have diversified their portfolios as online ambassadors for boutique gyms, supplements, and apparel.

“All of this gives big-platform fitness the bad, flashy, aesthetics-only, paid-motivator, anything-goes name it has. And the public eats it up.”

As long as we are going in this direction, Open Culture shared this insightful letter by Helen Keller that still speaks to us into this century.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them.

“You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books for all time to the German soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people.

“I acknowledge the grievous complications that have led to your intolerance; all the more do I deplore the injustice and unwisdom of passing on to unborn generations the stigma of your deeds.

“Do not imagine that your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God sleepeth not, and He will visit His judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung around your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.”

I always like lists. I thought this small point was worthy of further brain function.

Brain Enhancer Number 6: Learn Something New.

“This is another ‘no brainer.’ If you love to play the piano, take up tennis. If tennis is your game, take up the piano. Learn a foreign language, take a different route to work or change the people you hang out with. It doesn’t matter what you do, you just need to do something different. Like your muscles, your brain responds to learning new things by changing its structure and function. My own solution to this was to have a baby daughter in my mid-60s. Believe me, Rafaella has kept me on my toes and my brain is working extremely hard to keep up with her! It’s very difficult to be a crusty old fart when you are constantly interacting with a two-year-old!”

Hmmm. Speaking of…

“After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, ‘You are going to die young because of this.’

“And then there was this from a 2015 New York Times magazine profile of Trump:

“Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster,” he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ‘That’s exercise.'”

I’m a big fan of AOM and this piece really connected the dots from the past 30 or 40 years in the weightroom…and life.

“While lifting comes in for the lion’s share of attention and glory in the modern fitness landscape, the ability to carry the things you lift is just as important, and even more practical. Whether you’re lifting cement, sandbags, or grocery sacks off the floor, your toddler out of bed, or your comrade off the battlefield, you typically don’t hoist them and stand there in a static position — you carry them over to where you need them to be.

“Carrying calls on a type of strength that most of us don’t exercise much, either in the gym or our day-to-day lives, and thus training this capacity must be intentional, and the proper technique for how to hold and grip a load must be studied and learned.”

This might be the single best template for training I have ever seen. Yes, I am mentioned, but the insights of this article are well worth your time.


What movements to pick:

We’ve learned from honorary Ninja Master, Dan John, there are only about five things the human body can do. Once you know those five things, there are tons of variations you can play with. Whether you are a rookie to the weight room, or the Buddy Valastro of lifting, including these movements will give you the recipe for success.


That’s about all you need. If you can include one of each of these movements in your workout, it’s going to make a killer batter. It’s that simple.

Let’s play a bit.

How many different exercises can you come up with for each of these foundational movements?

Squat: Goblet Squat, Front Squat, Back Squat, Split Squat…
Hinge: Trap Bar Deadlift, Hip Thrust, Sumo Deadlift, Single Leg Deadlift…
Push: Dumbbell Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Push Up…
Pull: Pull Up, TRX Row, Kettlebell Row…
Stabilize/Core: Plank, Farmer’s Carry, Deadbug, Crawl…

List everything you can think of using kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, cables, and bands. If you can’t come up with much more than these – no worries! Using only the list started here is more than enough to work with for a quite a while.

How to Put Movement Together:

Think of this as the Easy Bake Oven of programming.  We are going to create two groups by picking a Lower body movement, an Upper body movement, and a Core/Stabilization. It could look something like this:

Group 1
Lower Body:     Hinge – Trap Bar Deadlift
Upper Body:     Push – Dumbbell Bench Press
Core:     Deadbug

Group 2
Lower Body:     Squat – Double Kettlebell Squat
Upper Body:     Pull – Lat Pull Down
Core:     Bear Crawl

That’s it. Plug in your choice. It doesn’t have to be complicated or complex at all – in fact, the simpler the better in most cases.

How many sets/reps:

Sets and reps will vary with your goals. For simplicity, let’s use two options.

Option 1 – Your goal is to get Strong As Fuck (SAF).
Option 2 – Your goal is to Burn Fat and Build Muscle (BFBM)

End quote.

Just a great piece.

I will have a chance to get back into training this week and continue sketching out my next book. Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


Learning anatomy is painless when it’s taught the Immaculate Dissection way. Look at these preview clips to see the unusual way they teaching it: