Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 136

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 136

We all know Dan’s big on the idea of park bench versus bus bench training. But how does he get from the park to the bus? Here’s Dan with Ramping Up: Training Rules for the Big Push.

I’m sitting in my room at the Alexander Pub Hotel in Twickenham. We are experiencing a heat wave here and I am “melting” through my clothes. I had a chance to meet with former Javelin world record holder Steve Backley the other day and today I worked with some local athletes with the discus. In an hour, I am doing a hands on with the kettlebell.

I love it here. These students have a chance to do something that literally wasn’t available to me: study strength and conditioning. It’s a joy every day for me. The library is closed on weekends, so I can’t wait to dive back into the books on everything I love. I try to train every day, too, but I also have to balance my schedule.

This is a long stretch: RKC for me last weekend, St. Mary’s for almost two weeks and then one more stop. I won’t see my home for basically June. But, no complaints.

I love it.

The web was fun this week. I know I go to the Art of Manliness a bit much, but I found this article inspiring.


Growing up, Vincent and Anton challenge each other to games of “chicken,” in which they both swim out into the ocean as far as they dare; the first one to turn back is the loser.

Vincent always loses, until one day he shocks Anton by outdistancing him. Anton, who cannot keep up, almost drowns, and has to be saved by his genetically inferior brother.

Years later, after an insatiably ambitious Vincent uses subterfuge to join the space program and earn a place, through merit, on a mission to Saturn, the brothers have a rematch. Once more the underdog bests his fraternal rival, who again must be rescued from drowning.

Astonished at this turning of the tables, Anton asks, “How are you doing this Vincent? How have you done any of this?”

To which his brother replies:

“You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it Anton.

I never saved anything for the swim back.”

End quote

I finished that and this article popped up. Lincoln remains the epitome of the American President. Smart, cordial, kind, caring, self educated…self-made.


“Mr. Lincoln, whose home,” she writes, “was far inland from the Great Lakes, seemed stirred by the wondrous beauty of the scene and by its very impressiveness was carried away from all thoughts of the earth. In that high-pitched but smooth-toned voice he began to speak of the mystery which for ages enshrouded and shut out those distant worlds above us from our own; of the poetry and beauty which was seen and felt by seers of old when they contemplated Orion and Arcturus as they wheeled seemingly around the earth in their mighty course; of the discoveries since the invention of the telescope which had thrown a flood of light and knowledge on what before was incomprehensible and mysterious; of the wonderful computations of scientists who had measured the miles of seemingly endless space which separated the planets in our solar system from our central sun and our sun from other suns which were now gemming the heavens above us with their resplendent beauty.”

“When the night air became too chilly to remain longer on the piazza, we went into the parlor where, seated on the sofa his long limbs stretching across the carpet and his arms folded about him, Mr. Lincoln went on to speak of the discoveries and inventions which had been made during the long lapse of time between the present and those early days when man began to make use of the material things about him. He speculated upon the possibilities of the knowledge which an increased power of the lens would give in the years to come, and then the wonderful discoveries of late centuries, as proving that beings endowed with such capabilities as man must be immortal and created for some high and noble end by Him who had spoken these numberless worlds into existence.”

“We were all indescribably impressed,” continues Mrs. Judd, “by Mr. Lincoln’s conversation. After he had gone Mr. Judd remarked: ‘The more I see of Mr. Lincoln the more I am surprised at the range of his attainments and the wonderful store of knowledge he has acquired in the various departments of science and learning during the years of his constant labor at the bar. A professor at Yale could not have been more entertaining and instructive.’”

End quote

This article ties in well with the Lincoln piece. I got a lot from it.

“So imagine my horror at discovering that the United States is more calcified by class than Britain, especially toward the top. The big difference is that most of the people on the highest rung in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. At least posh people in England have the decency to feel guilty.

“In Britain, it is politically impossible to be prime minister and send your children to the equivalent of a private high school. Even Old Etonian David Cameron couldn’t do it. In the United States, the most liberal politician can pay for a lavish education in the private sector. Some of my most progressive friends send their children to $30,000-a-year high schools. The surprise is not that they do it. It is that they do it without so much as a murmur of moral disquiet.”

I saw Danny and Al last weekend in NYC. One of my goals is a muscle up on a pull-up bar.


One of the things I love most about Progressive Calisthenics is the fact that it is a multi-faceted discipline.

You see, we human beings have a tendency to over-categorize and compartmentalize just about everything. Sadly, this can lead to an improper representation of concepts that can often be better expressed with blurred lines. In other words, not every peg fits so squarely into a hole.

An imaginary, over-lapping Venn diagram comes to my mind when I consider the virtuosity of the muscle-up. It’s a proverbial chameleon of classification. Is a muscle-up strength training or skill development? Conditioning work or muscle building? Power or control? Well, friends, the mighty muscle-up is all of the above and more!

In fact, this ultimate bar experience is the perfect fusion of raw strength and refined technique. It’s an upper body exercise that recruits full body harmony, firing up your muscles while also getting your heart racing. The muscle-up is the only upper-body move in the calisthenics kingdom that employs a push and a pull: it resembles a pull-up that transitions into a dip. But there is a lot more that goes into it. Dare with me if you will…

End quote

I thought this was worth a read when it came out, but a conversation over a beer made me seek out again. It’s worth your time.


Despite the CrossFit scare tactics, despite the lawsuit, and despite the social media melee, the Martins are not standing down and not giving up on their passion. For them it always has been and always will be about the kids. “We will do whatever we need to support the community,” Jeff said. Though they are no longer connected to CrossFit Kids and they mourn the potential that business had, they are excited about their new path.

“We want people to have more education about how to train kids,” said Mikki. “There’s so much research out there on exercise and brain function and what we can do for kids in a really amazing way. We have the obesity problem. We have physical literacy issues. We have sports injury that’s just ridiculous because people are professionalizing their children. There’s so much work for us to do.”

End quote

Clarence Bass commented on this article in his blog. He was recovering from a total hip replacement, and this article is worth one’s time.

“’Everyone assumes your VO2 max declines with age, that it’s unavoidable,’ Bass says. ‘But mine has barely dropped since my 30s.’ Doctors routinely screen his blood to assess his ratio of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or good cholesterol) to low-density lipoproteins (LDL, bad cholesterol), a key factor in heart health. The lower the number, the better. ‘A score of 4 is considered excellent. Mine is 2,’ Bass says. ‘Every time I get tested at some clinic or another, I defy the numbers,’ he adds, pausing at a high point on the hike to savor the view of the Rio Grande Valley State Park. ‘My testosterone level has stayed flat. I attribute that to my diet and exercise, and pushing myself to keep my fast-twitch fibers alive and well.’”

I wrote this in “Before You Go:”


Fast Twitch Fountain of Youth

The final area I look for in evaluating training programs is fast twitch muscles. Years ago, I picked up a book by Phil Campbell called Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness. The book underscored the joke we had in track and field.

“Go to a Masters track meet. Look at the distance runners as they go by and guess their age. To get it right, minus ten (because distance runners look much older than they are on their birth certificate). Then go watch the throwers, jumpers and sprinters. Guess their age, but to get it right, add ten years at least.”

Fast twitch keeps us young. It’s also crucial in a strength program. How you get it can vary from doing the quick lifts to jumping to sprinting to pushing a Prowler, but you need to reach into those fibers that make you, as the commercial used to say, “run faster and jump higher!”

For a middle-aged person, yoga will do marvels for mobility, flexibility, basic movements, groundwork and recovery. Toss in some presses, goblet squats and a few weekly sprints and you have everything covered.

Sprinting digs a deep hole in recovery, though. For high school track and field sprint corps, I have a “rule of 1,200.” Never go hard for more than 1,200 meters in a session. Now that can be two 600s, twelve 100s or whatever, but it’s very hard to sprint fast for more than that in a training session.

End quote

Well, I have to “pop out” and go teach. Until next week, keep lifting and learning.


To complement to Dan’s top article on ramping things up, here’s Dan with Three Secrets to Performance.