Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 133

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 133

After nearly 15 years of producing books and then videos and lectures, it was only a couple of years ago that we started regularly publishing free site content. Since that time, one page on the site outdraws all the others…by a long shot. It’s Dan’s Exercise Program Design Fundamentals. Go check it out.
I woke up to a flag on my lawn today. It’s Memorial Day in the USA and, like most of our holidays, it doesn’t seem to be celebrated like it used to be. I understand that, time passes (as do we) and things change.

I remember years ago at Judge Memorial, a high school here in Utah, we had daily announcements. Announcements are part of the pain of teaching and I am sure every office worker has something similar. In Office Space, it was the memos. This one Friday, the Xerox machine had gone down (a daily occurrence) and so one of the deans read them over the loudspeaker.

The next Friday, he came back on and said: “As it is a Friday tradition, I will read the announcements.” At that school, if we did something twice, it became a tradition. My issue with that is simple: if EVERY thing is a tradition, then what do we cherish?

My friend of blessed memory, Archbishop George Niederauer, wrote a book, “Precious as Silver.” His basic insight is that there are “things” in your life, like your grandma’s silver, that you just keep…you cherish. I have a friend who lost her brother in Vietnam War and she wears a bracelet that he wore as a child. It is a constant reminder of him and it is truly a memorial.

I have an old copy of Plato on my bookshelf signed by an “Aileen Barbara McCloskey,” my mother. Since she married in 1943 and took on the last name “John,” this book, printed in 1909, meant something to her.

And, it means something to me.

Let’s look around the web. Tim Anderson wrote a brilliant piece and he told me this would become a series. I can’t agree more with his answer to “If you could only do one exercise, what would you do?”


I know what mine would be, and it probably isn’t what you think. For me, given my experience with Original Strength, I believe I would choose walking. WAIT! Not just walking, but walking with a weighted backpack (you might call this rucking). And, I would also have Indian clubs, small hammers, or long dowel rods in my hands to load my shoulders as I swing my arms.

You thought I’d say crawling, right?

Here’s the deal, we are truly made to walk, and walking is supposed to be the “every day reset” that should keep us STRONG. You’ll just have to trust me on that. Anyway, loaded walking is a reflexive strength training bonus – it is a reset but the extra load enables you to become more physically able to conquer life’s challenges.

When you wear a “heavy” backpack, gravity and the weight of the pack team up together to pull you backward. Reflexively, involuntarily, your center muscles fire to keep you upright. If you hold clubs, hammers, rods or whatever in your hands and swing your shoulders while you walk, you are feeding your nervous system more information from the light load in your arms AND you are deliberately using all four of your limbs to walk, keeping your body reflexively tied together; like crawling, but standing up.

Loaded walking, as I’ve described here, generates reflexive tension and reflexive muscular reactions similar to crawling. Every step is a reset, a strength building/keeping/enhancing reset. It keeps you able to live your life with strength, power, grace and mobility. How? It builds legs like pistons, abs like stone, a heart and lungs that do not tire, a fast, efficient nervous system, and a healthy brain. Who wouldn’t want all of that?

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I sent this article to all of my students. This is also a great way to look at competition, by the way: “What might cause you problems during the competition?” This is a great article.

“A new study published in Psychological Science by Stanford psychology researchers has validated the idea with experimental data. In two different experiments, students in a control group studied for exams in their ordinary way. Those in another group received an exercise called “Strategic Resource Use.” “They were asked,” Stanford News reports, to think about what might be on the exam, “and then strategize what kinds of resources they would use to study most effectively.” Then they reflected on “why each resource they chose would be useful” and how they planned on using them. It may seem like seriously front-loading a study session, but the intervention paid off. Students who got it scored on average a third of a letter grade higher than those who didn’t.”

Josh Hillis always has good material, but I liked this article a lot. I really enjoyed La La Land and this whole article made me smile.

“Jason Walsh also told People, ‘I think of strength training like building and maintaining the foundation of a house.  The house is only as good as its foundation. Having a strong foundation is everything, so strength training should be the focus, with conditioning, mobility and flexibility work as secondary or bonus work.’ Walsh suggests a 3:1 ratio of strength training to cardio. ‘Cardio is nothing if you don’t move well. Staying strong supports the skeletal system, stabilizes joints, makes your cardio safer and more effective. If strength training is done right, you get plenty of cardio from lifting as well. Cardio comes secondary.'”

A few weeks ago, I wondered out loud about how Art Devaney is doing. Well, he has returned to the web, especially on Facebook. This is a good summary of his training.


The changes are simple:

I most often eat just two meals a day, as was the practice in Medieval England and many other places and locations around the world even today. Now and then, I eat three meals.
I exercise, not counting play as exercise, a bit more; usually 4 times a week. The workouts are usually well less than half an hour, but they are done in new way (next post).
I have been using Branched Chain Amino Acids far more.

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I’m a fan of full body workouts. Getting high numbers of sets and doing full body work is always a balancing act, but this article goes back in time for some solutions.

“Bodybuilding legend Leroy Colbert was very adamant about full-body training and said he never trained productively any other way.

“In Colbert’s time, the norm was 3 sets per body part. He explained that after 3 sets, lifters would often drop the weights like they were on fire because they believed that doing more than 3 would make their muscles shrink. Nevertheless, Colbert went against the grain, started doing 6 sets per body part, and the rest is history.

“I’ve successfully recommended this type of routine to dozens of lifters and used Colbert’s method exclusively to gain 16 pounds of mostly lean bodyweight while keeping my waist the exact same size.”

This week, I travel to Jamaica. After that, I have a long stretch on the road. But, until then, let’s all keep lifting and learning.


The Olympic lifts require a state of relaxation—Stuart McGill has an interesting way to screen for its presence: box jumps. Here’s Stuart McGill on testing athletes using jumps.