Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 203

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 203

New this week on OTP: When you use the term “motor control,” you know what you mean. But do you know what motor control means to your listener? To your colleagues? What is motor control and why is it so difficult to define?

Don’t tell anyone, but I had ANOTHER weekend at home. That’s two weeks, maybe more, with only local work. I went to a Pumpkin Festival with my grandkids, the Our Lady of Lourdes Magna Spaghetti Dinner (absolutely amazing meal), watched a high school football game and did a lot of Concept II rowing.

I also read, walked, cleaned, laughed and cooked; I really enjoyed the weekend. I was asked to speak at a workshop in April, and Ethan Reeves, the great strength coach at Wake Forest, gave me a topic that so fascinated me…I wrote a whole new workshop. It reflects my 40th year of being a strength coach and my 53 years of lifting weights. I still love this stuff.

Sometimes, I will listen to a podcast or read an article and just wonder about things. I’m not judging anybody, but especially with the “hackers,” I struggle to understand the two weeks, six weeks or overnight miracle stuff. I haven’t ever found anything truly valuable that has the word “instant” in it.

Well, enough of “how wonderful I am.” Let’s look at what I have been reading on the internet.

I love writing, reading and watching “good” stuff.” I found this fun little interview with Billy Wilder, “I’m ready for my close up,” and really found a lot of life clarity about the art of writing in this interview. After that, I deep dived on this icon.


Asked about his noted art collection, Wilder says, “I didn’t get rich as a director, I got rich selling art. Thirty-four million dollars to be exact, when it went on sale at Christie’s.” When asked for tips on collecting he says, “Sure, don’t collect. Buy what you like, hold onto it, enjoy it.” Later he would offer a number of other get-rich tips: “Back some pornographic films and then, as a hedge to balance your investment should family values rise, buy stock in Disney.” Also, “Bet consistently against the Los Angeles Rams.”

End quote

If you can’t read all of it, you can find more here. Just go “back” on the Parts, or this section here.

I love this: “Bet against the Rams.”

For good writing tips, this was excellent.

Here are Wilder’s ten rules of good filmmaking:

1: The audience is fickle.
2: Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go.
3: Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
4: Know where you’re going.
5: The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
6: If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
7: A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
8: In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
9: The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
10: The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that’s it. Don’t hang around.

End quote

I had an interesting conversation about O lifting this week. In one of the old Get Up newsletters, we had one of the first “eye witness” reports of how the Chinese were training. One thing O lifters do is work hard. I can’t explain it better than this article.


What was the best thing you learnt during your journey which has benefitted your training or performance since your visit?

My best lesson from the trip was just the realization how much hard work goes into becoming a high level weightlifter. I try to always remember that because it keeps things in perspective for me and i don’t get too down on myself if i have a bad lifting day. These athletes have given their whole life to the sport so i always tell myself that i shouldn’t expect to be a great lifter overnight, you have to put in the time.

Could you explain there (sic) philosophies and the importance on absolute strength and speed strength?

They talked a lot about the concept of absolute over speed strength and the verdict was you need to have both. Speed is very important for the sport they said but in order to get the speed for the weights you just have to be strong. That was one reason why they didn’t care about the speed of their squats and pulls, as long as it was heavy it was good. The lifts on the other hand had to be fast.

End quote

I am doing another of The Great Courses. This one is the The Celtic World.Professor Paxton is very good and she warns of “circular reasoning” often. We do this in my field all the time: Bob is large and powerful; therefore, I will do exactly what Bob does and I will be large and powerful. If I fail, Bob sells me supplements and a hoodie. I never understood how the hoodie made a difference, but, as always, I digress. It’s a rare lecture where I don’t go onto the internet or my book collection and look for more information. This little search was really interesting to me as I have been to Egypt and I wish I knew this before I left.


In 250 BC, Ptolemy II hired more Celtic warriors to assist the native Egyptian army in road construction and to put down rebellions. He and his son Ptolemy III Euergetes, who became Pharaoh in 247 BC, also employed Celtic mercenaries. This time they marched through Syria and Judea in a victorious campaign against Seleukos Kallinikos, a ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, in the invasion of the Seleucid Empire, ravaging Mesopotamia and western Persia. During the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopater (222-205 BC), Celtic soldiers had become a part of the culture of Ptolemaic Egypt. Until the fall of Ptolemaic dynasty, they remained a very important part of the army. Ptolemy V Epiphanes hired an army of Thracian Celts to put down a revolt of the native Egyptian population in Upper Egypt. It is also known that the last ruler of the dynasty – Cleopatra – used the Celtic mercenaries.

Many Celtic warriors found a new home in Egypt, married local women and stayed in the land of the Pharaohs for the remainder of their lives. According to the Greek historian Polybios, the intermarriage between Celtic warriors, and native Egyptian and Greek girls were very common.  The children of Celtic-Egyptian marriages were known by the slang term pigovoi.

End quote

I like this young author. There is a lot of truth in this short piece.


In the weight room, do the fundamental human movements:

Loaded Carry

Keep the reps and sets between 15–30 total reps. Like three sets of eight or five sets of five, the classic programs intuitively lived in the numbers the researchers discovered in the lab. Increase load appropriately.

If you need to incinerate fat, you might want to consider long walks before you consider bone breaking and joint jarring protocols. And, after you walk, take some time stretch those muscles and rolls through the joints in some mobility work.

The innovators knew this. The imitators tried to trick you in to something else. And the idiots? Just log on the internet.

We can do better. Master the fundamentals, stick to the basics and take a long walk.

End quote

I will be off on new adventures this week. I go to New Orleans for a few days, then off to Ireland for a month. But, until next week, keep on lifting and learning.


Why is it so hard to bridge the gap between rehab and performance? Taylor Lewis proposes a few methods to improve communication between exercise specialists and the doctors, nurses, physical therapists and nutritionists who also treat your clients.  

The Sword in the Stone, Part 59


“I want my magician’s hat,” said Merlyn sulkily.

Instantly the long pointed cone was standing on his head.

The tension in the air relaxed. Wart sat down again on the floor, and Archimedes resumed his toilet, pulling his pinions and tail feathers through his beak to smooth the barbs together. Each barb had hundreds of little hooks or barbules on it, by means of which the barbs of the feather were held together. He was stroking them into place.

Merlyn said, “I beg your pardon. I am not having a very good day today, and there it is.”

“About Kay,” said the Wart. “Even if you can’t change him into things, could you not give us both an adventure without changing?”

Merlyn made a visible effort to control his temper, and to consider this question dispassionately. He was sick of the subject altogether.

“I cannot do any magic for Kay,” he said slowly, “except my own magic that I have anyway. Backsight and insight and all that. Do you mean anything I could do with that?”

“What does your backsight do?”

“It tells me what you would say is going to happen, and the insight sometimes says what is or was happening in other places.”

“Is there anything happening just now, anything that Kay and I could go to see?”

Merlyn immediately struck himself on the brow and exclaimed excitedly, “Now I see it all. Yes, of course there is, and you are going to see it. Yes, you must take Kay and hurry up about it. You must go immediately after Mass. Have breakfast first and go immediately after Mass. Yes, that is it. Go straight to Hob’s strip of barley in the open field and follow that line until you come to something. That will be splendid, yes, and I shall have a nap this afternoon instead of those filthy Summulae Logicales. Or have I had the nap?”

End quote

The last line: “Or have I had the nap?” reminds us of the issues involved in living backward in time. I think one of the funniest sections in all of The Sword in the Stoneis the next few paragraphs, but let’s wait just a bit first.

The word “sometimes” is important in this key sentence: “It tells me what you would say is going to happen, and the insight sometimes says what is or was happening in other places.”

So, any time in the stories where Merlyn doesn’t instantly react to an issue or problem can be explained with the “sometimes.”

The fact that Merlyn doesn’t know if he is going to have a nap or not usually includes the word “muddled.” Living backward must be extremely confusing and I far prefer having empathy for Merlyn rather than turning him into a dimwitted magician.

Harry Potter fans will note that J. K. Rowling also walked on a narrow balance beam with Dumbledore. She was very good at noting Dumbledore’s kindness and empathy, but occasionally, especially in duels and basic “Harry saving” moments, she let us know how terrifyingly powerful this wizard remained.

Merlyn’s powers are always hard to grasp. In turning Wart into a fish, he consulted Neptune. His used his wand to tap Wart into a hawk. Later, Wart’s transfiguration into an owl will be accomplished by Wart eating a mouse…that tastes rather like a peach with the skin still on it.

The Broadway Musical, Camelot, did a nice job with Merlyn’s backsight. It is, in a sense, part of the downfall of King Arthur and His Court as there is an important piece of genealogy that Wart should really know. His son, Mordred, is also his nephew.

Do the math.

In Camelot, and some other various Arthurian movies, Merlyn (Merlin in the other stories) forgets to explain Arthur’s family tree and incest brings down everything. Although I have read many of the other books, I have never had the devotion toward them that I do to The Sword in the Stone.

But, part of the job of the epic is to go dark. Epics feast on love, death, and living. Bad things happen. Good people make mistakes. Bad people win.

Epics are life. In a sense, we are all living our own epic filled with adventures and sorrows and joys. I always say “yes” to the adventures, sorrow and joys.

Until next time.


Why is it so hard to bridge the gap between rehab and performance? Taylor Lewis proposes a few methods to improve communication between exercise specialists and the doctors, nurses, physical therapists and nutritionists who also treat your clients.  



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