Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 194

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 194

Dan on OTPbooks.com: Dan gives us four pathways to work capacity. Can you guess all four? Click now to read or download Dan’s Four Ways to Fire Up Work Capacity.

I spoke at Perform Better in Chicago this weekend. I’ve noticed something: the best and brightest in the industry can be found sitting in the workshops. As I was referencing asymmetries, I was able to point out Taylor Lewis and note his work with Cystic Fibrosis and symmetry. As I went over the importance of community, I was able to thank Mark Fischer for his insights on niche and community he taught me in Clayton, Missouri, a few years ago. When I made a lame joke, I looked over to Josh who was “signing” for Anne Reuss, a brilliant young trainer who is also deaf, to see how he strived to make sense of an “Old Man Joke.”

Every chance I get, I sit down, pop open my notes and listen to the best and brightest. I take Master Classes and The Great Courses online, subscribe to dozens of blogs and read at least a book a week in our field.

Sometimes, “I don’t get it,” to quote one obnoxious young lady I taught in high school. After never taking notes, fooling around in class, and missing all her assignments, oddly, “she didn’t get it.” That isn’t my issue: in this field, you need a grasp of chemistry, biology, physics, biomechanics, anatomy, history and sport. When I am trying to understand the issues with the shoulder in one lecture, I see the amazing gaps I have in the basics of human anatomy. I get up walk over to the next talk and realize that my knowledge of biochemistry is flawed.

And, like we were warned in college: the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

This keeps me coming back every year. I bought another sled and more bands. I walk through the book section, ask about the prices on this and that, and seek that new wave before anyone else gets out into the surf.

I found something interesting on the top of T-Nation this week: one of my old articles. This site has been repurposing a lot of my material to these small articles to reflect the reading ability of the internet generation. I was told that my usual articles get “TL/DR” as a response: Too Long/Didn’t read. I fear for the future.

“Hey, Homer, cut to the chase: did the Trojans win?”

I found the opening section of this article to really be true still.


The answer to the question, “How do you train?” is always evolving. For me, though, I think there are several “truths.” Now, I have to be careful, because I might change these truths next week.

1.     I’m an idiot.
2.     The key to proper training is to do what you need to do, not what you want to do.
3.     If you’re ignoring a basic human movement, well, that’s the weakness in your program.
4.     You need to be sure your load and reps match each other.
5.     The role of some things are simply to refresh and recharge.

End quote

If you are dying to hear what we are doing “new,” here you go:


The 30 for 30 for 30 workout has been a life-saving and eye-opener for me.

This site popped up in my Pocket feed and I am devouring it. This article, on chess, is also a primer for any and all thinking.


This is what his story can teach us:

I. Ask the right questions to narrow your focus. The world is noisy, and most information that we absorb is unimportant. It doesn’t make sense to dive right in looking for answers. It’s far more important to ask the right questions to zone in on what matters. This limits the decision-making to information that’s relevant, and it allows us to dig a little deeper and understand what the mission of the strategy actually is.

II. Balance calculation with imagination. We intuitively reason by building on existing processes and systems, and it limits creativity and innovation. It favors the old, and it overlooks hidden opportunities. The future isn’t predetermined, but we make it so. A better way to think is by imagining where you want to go and reasoning backward. It’s the most effective way to make big leaps because it bypasses accepted inefficiencies.

III. Leverage strengths to maximize your advantage. Most who want to achieve something start off by looking for shortcuts. The tips and the tricks. This can be an efficient way to speed up learning, but following someone else’s blueprint is often counterproductive. No two people are the same, and as a result, it makes more sense to use general rules of thumb and then recognize and cultivate personal strengths to gain an advantage.

End quote

That article popped me over to this one. My hands hurt from applauding after this section:


Many tend to think of being educated as something that has to do with the number of years of schooling we have or the degrees we earn. Asimov did indeed meet those criteria, but his real education was broader than that. It was deeper than what he learned from instruction.1

In fact, this real education is what added to the subtle depth of his fiction, and perhaps more importantly, it’s what allowed him to reliably write about so many diverse, interesting topics. Fortunately, exploring his story, we can dissect precisely how he did that by:

• Expanding the boundaries of the imagination

• Learning at the edge of his knowledge

• Respecting the importance of self-education

Becoming educated is a gift of the modern times we live in. And it’s a gift anyone can earn.

End quote

This next selection is from a “must-read” book for me. It is one of the great coach/athlete relationships of all time.


And sometimes Coach Wooden surprised Kareem with how well he knew how to do it. In 1968 Kareem was urged to join the U.S. team that would be competing at the Olympics in Mexico City. As a patriot, Coach Wooden expected no less. Kareem was not receptive.

“For me, that was an especially sore issue,” he says. “Dr. King had just been assassinated. I wasn’t feeling very patriotic. But what really affected me was the fact that I was going to have to work with Avery Brundage. Avery Brundage is the individual who told the Jewish players on the 1936 Olympic team that they couldn’t compete because it would annoy Mr. Hitler. And, you know, he was still the chairman of the [International] Olympic Committee, and I wasn’t gonna do anything with him. So, for me, it was an easy decision.”

An easy decision that Kareem thought might cause a rupture in his relationship with Coach Wooden. But Wooden never mentioned it. And then, many years later, Kareem learned that John Wooden had recalled and processed the lessons he’d begun learning at that dinner at The Bat Rack.

“Yes. John Wooden received a letter from a woman that was upset that I was considering a boycott of the Olympic Games,” Kareem says. “And then Coach Wooden wrote back to her and said that he had seen firsthand what black Americans have to deal with at times, and he understood why a protest would be something that any black American with common sense might want to consider. He got that. I have that letter, and, you know, I printed it, and it’s published.”

“How did you come into possession of that letter that Wooden had written in response to the woman who wrote him?” I ask.

“Coach Wooden gave it to me. He had saved it, and he said that he thought I should have it. It’s one of my prized possessions, you know, because it’s written in his hand.”

As a very large black man and an astonishingly successful player in hostile arenas, Kareem was often the target of abuse. From time to time, John Wooden witnessed it. He tried to reinforce the idea that Kareem should try to refrain from judging everybody on the basis of the actions of those who insulted him.

End quote

Before I let you go, I was rereading the great philosopher, Calvin and Hobbes, the other day and stumbled on this great piece:

Calvin: When a person pauses in mid-sentence to choose a word, that’s the best time to jump in and change the subject! It’s like an interception in football! You grab the other guy’s idea and run the opposite way with it! The more sentences you complete, the higher your score! The idea is to block the other guy’s thoughts and express your own! That’s how you win!

Hobbes: Conversations aren’t contests!

Calvin: OK, a point for you, but I’m still ahead.

I thought this was a good reminder for me as I continue my journey through life, lifting and everything else. Until next week, keep on lifting and learning.


Here Dan gives us four pathways to work capacity. Can you guess all four? 
Click now to read or download Dan’s Four Ways to Fire Up Work Capacity.

The Sword in the Stone, Part 50


“Might we give him the Triumph Song?” asked Balin, relenting.

“Certainly,” said the peregrine.

And they all sang together, led by Colonel Cully at the top of his voice, all belling triumphantly in the terrible moonlight.

The mountain birds are sweeter
But the valley birds are fatter,
And so we deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter.
We met a cowering coney
And struck him through the vitals.
The coney was like honey
And squealed our requitals.
Some struck the lark in feathers
Whose puffing clouds were shed off.
Some plucked the partridge’s nethers,
While others pulled his head off.
But Wart the King of Merlins
Struck foot most far before us.
His birds and beasts
Supply our feasts,
And his feats our glorious chorus!

“Mark my words,” cried the beautiful Balan, “we shall have a regular king in that young candidate. Now, boys, chorus altogether for the last time”:

But Wart the King of Merlins
Struck foot most far before us.
His birds and beasts
Supply our feasts,
And his feats our glorious chorus!

End quote

Balin seems to be coming around, but Balan is our new friend. We come to the end (finally?) of my favorite chapter of the book…among many favorite chapters.

Cully continues to be hard for me to understand. On a recent flight, I watched a movie, The Death of Stalin, and Field Marshall Zhukov, played by Jason Isaacs, gave me some insights. Isaacs, who played Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter series, stole the show in just a few scenes.

Brash, funny, tough, mean and kind, Zhukov is a career soldier who has seen it all and is willing to do what needs to be done.

When I reconsidered Cully in this light, he makes more sense to me. Yes, he is willing to kill one minute then lead the chorus in congratulations. T. H. White’s complexity as a writer comes shining through with the description of a single character…and a bird, at that.

This final chorus, again, reminds us that everyone in Merlyn’s strange world knows who Wart is:

But Wart the King of Merlins
Struck foot most far before us.
His birds and beasts
Supply our feasts,
And his feats our glorious chorus!

The play on words, Merlyn/Merlin and Feats/Feet, take us back into the whole chapter and “Never to Let Go.” Like the goat who gave the Imperial salute to the caged Wart, we are calling the young boy: the King of Merlins.

Next chapter we start off on another adventure but it includes Kay, some insights on Merlyn’s magic and a fun story. We also meet, perhaps, Wart’s first crush.

Until then…


Work capacity is that ability to perform work, which determines a level of fitness that will, in turn, determine the level of preparedness. 
It’s an issue for people in the military and in collision sports. In fact, lifters, off-season athletes and pretty much anybody and everybody would benefit from improving work capacity. Here are four ways to do it, three you’ve probably heard of and one that may surprise you.

Click now to read or download Dan’s Four Ways to Fire Up Work Capacity.

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