Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 258
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 258
I’m on a train to the airport as I type this WW. My time in Odense was wonderful; Ole is a grand host and the people at the workshops were thoughtful and focused. I don’t always see that.
I have some busy days of travel ahead of me. I need to catch two flights today and a train tomorrow, but I land on my feet for my Belfast seminars tomorrow night. Getting out was a 24-hour trip, which is fine, but it does take a toll on sleep and joint health.
The city of Odense had a Magic Festival while we were here and it was, well, magical. They wanted to use the name of a certain boy wizard, but there were copyright issues. Actually, it was a blessing. Not having to brand and sell everything made everything free. The kids and parents had a wonderful time…as so did Tiffini and I.
The food in Europe, as I have noted before, is amazing. The EU insists on quality and it is obvious to this American that is better. The Danes also have an amazing selection of fish available at every meal and I enjoy my fish and veggies at every occasion.
I have two workshops this week, then I travel down to Galway for some rugby (Go Tribesmen!) and lots of walks and ocean swimming.
This week on the internet, there was an interesting article about an influential strength coach visiting Ireland.
Here is the event information.
As you read this, I will be speaking at Niall’s place in Belfast.
My talk with Pat Flynn this week covered something I think is really important.
This week, I want to return to a concept about Easy Strength that is often missed.
The essence of understanding Easy Strength comes down to a simple concept: understanding heavy. After fifty plus years of lifting, I understand the concept well. Others need more clarity.
People have told me to call this concept the “Rate of Perceived Effort” or, worse, “Percentages,” but really, you tread on thin ice if you discuss percents too early.
I have gone through this before: I have this idea of Sorta Max, Max and Max Max. If you lift once a month or so, you might have a Sorta Max number in a few lifts. Usually in the barbell lifts it is a round number like 100 or 200 or a natural plate number like 135 or 225. It’s often a lie by the way; as people (males) tend to inflate numbers. I always told my daughters that if a boy bragged about a 200-pound bench to lean in softly and whisper: “Dear God, I am soooo sorry.”
A Max would be what you might achieve after some serious effort. Perhaps you focus and train for several years and jump up to a lot more big plates and some big numbers. You discovered the fallacies of linear periodization and the need for some variation. You probably had to use some recovery tools to keep coming back to the lifts.
You know where this is heading: a Max Max is going to be a lifetime achievement where something is on the line. You have a story about your Max Max attempts and, no, you might never see those lifts again. Usually, my Max Max stories begin with: “To win, I needed to take…”
My problem with percentages, of course, is that if you bench 200, doing 90% for a double is pretty believable. 180 is certainly doable for two. Once you get to 300 or 400 pounds, that 270 for two or 360 for two is going to take some training to achieve. If you get to a 600-pound bench to win the big meet, someone mentioning that you should casually be able to do a double with 540 might deserve a face slap.
Heavy is relative…and you know that. I can remember my first serious training days as a chase, at first, for triple figures. I can look back in my journals and see myself struggling with 85 pounds in the bench, front squat and clean. The next year, I struggled time and time again to bench 200. By the time I got to 300, I wondered what the big deal was two years before with 100.
Yet, benching 100 for the first time was a big deal for me. It was HEAVY. I probably needed more mental focus on making that lift than I did for lifts far heavier years later.
To be successful with Easy Strength, you need to understand two things:
What is heavy?
What is reasonable?
Most of the people who email me about Easy Strength want percentages for the lifts. I email them back and tell them to find weights that are reasonable: heavy enough.
Yep, that is vague.
If you have deadlifted 700 pounds, two sets of five with 350 pounds is really light, but still heavy. 350 for five is going to get the systems firing. If it feels too light, add weight next time. If that is still too light, add more the next workout. Find a load that is reasonable, repeatable and doable.
Each time I have done the full 40 days, I have had the odd courage to start lighter than my ego allows. Quickly, I add load. Remember, there is only one rule in the 40 Day approach:
If you miss a lift, you missed the whole idea of the program. Lifting five days a week and doing the same basic moves builds up and amazing amount of volume through the weeks. You are gently nudging your systems to strength.
Yes, it sounds easy.
It’s called Easy Strength
End Easy Strength
This week on danjohnworkouts.com:
The podcast is gaining steam! We’re quickly closing in on 10,000 downloads. Thank you all for listening and sending us your questions and feedback. You can listen to Episode 7 now.
We only have one new essay this week, but it’s one with a lot of depth and it’s worth reading.
Pirate Maps for On-Going Change
I don’t have any obvious updates to the site this week, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes. I’ve been collecting your feedback and am working on a major style update that I hope to release in a few weeks.
I didn’t have a ton of time to play on the net this week, between college finals and travel, but I found some fun stuff.
I was searching for some information on Art Devaney and I found this article I read almost two decades ago on the internet. I am a fan of paleo stuff, so I enjoyed the point. Seeing a bodybuilding template as caveman training made me laugh, but not as much as the paleodiet idea of eating salmon with coconuts (I doubt the historical accuracy here).
Here’s an example split body routine (only 30-40min max — only each body part once a week):
Here’s an example day’s schedule and diet:
Wake up: drink some green tea.
Workout: heavy weights — selected body parts.
First meal right after workout: 3/4 lb chicken breast + 1 cup chopped green pepper and tomatoes.
Mid morning meal: 3/4 lb steak + 1/2 sliced peach.
Lunch: 3/4 lb pork loin + 1 cup chopped onions and cucumber.
Early Dinner: 3/4 lb mix of steak + 1/2 squash.
Later dinner: 3/4 lb chicken + 1/2 cup blueberries.
This includes at least 5 liters of spring water and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (fish body oils). Some days I include more meat or vary the amounts of fruits or veggies depending on how I feel.
Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors. His new book will be a must read for me. This part seems to be well researched.
They were able to do this because of an additional trick in the Homo armamentarium: throwing. Throwing required us to change our bodies in three crucial ways. We needed a high and mobile waist (to create a lot of torsion), loose and maneuverable shoulders, and an upper arm capable of flinging in a whiplike fashion. The shoulder joint in humans is not a snug ball and socket, as in our hips, but a more loose and open arrangement. This allows the shoulder to be limber and to rotate freely—exactly what’s needed for forceful throwing—but it also means that we dislocate our shoulders easily.
What can be said about exercise is that most of us are not getting nearly enough.
We throw with our whole bodies. Try throwing an object forcefully while standing still and you can hardly do it. A good throw involves a forward step, a brisk rotation of waist and torso, a long backward stretch of the arm at the shoulder, and a powerful hurl. When executed well, a human can throw an object with considerable accuracy at speeds easily in excess of 90 miles an hour, as professional baseball pitchers repeatedly demonstrate. The ability to wound and torment exhausted prey with rocks from a relatively safe distance must have been a highly useful skill among early hunters.
Bipedalism had consequences, too—consequences that we all live with today, as anyone with chronic back pain or knee problems can attest. Above all, the adoption of a narrower pelvis to accommodate our new gait brought a huge amount of pain and danger to women in childbirth. Until recent times, no other animal on Earth was more likely to die in childbirth than a human, and perhaps none even now suffers as much.
I bumped into this interview with Art Devaney. I always liked this early work but I don’t know if the following is true or not, but certainly worthy of discussion.
How can diet impact our mood? What would be your advice for someone who struggles with depression?
Starve and exercise. The starvation part of it is to eat up some of these dysfunctional synapses. My saying is, for every damaged molecule, there’s a damaged thought. Those those are injured neurons inside the brain and you just need to get rid of the dysfunctional molecules that are causing those neurons to malfunction. Then, heal the brain with neurotrophic factors. Be outside. New thoughts, new patterns of behavior. When my first wife was declining from a host of other things, I’d take her walking as much as I could. I would tell her bad jokes. Change her surroundings. The typical things people have to do. Being outside is enormously effective. There’s stimuli you can’t even relate to, but you perceive them. Your unconscious brain is what’s going to heal you first.
I was told in 1984 to keep about $1500 available in an Emergency Fund. Basically, it’s the cost of a hot water heater or a new set of tires. The number seems to have risen a bit, but I like the point this article is making here.
But economists Emily Gallagher and Jorge Sabat challenge the oft-cited savings rules in their 2019 report, “Rules of Thumb in Household Savings Decisions.” “People are usually given really high savings thresholds, like you should be saving six months’ worth of income or you should have $15,000 squirreled away,” Gallagher tells CNBC Make It. But those numbers aren’t “based on much,” she adds.
After crunching the numbers, Gallagher and Sabat found a more realistic amount for low-income households, specifically, to aim for: $2,467. If you have that much saved, your probability of falling into financial hardship (not being able to pay rent, bills or medical care) is low.
To get to that number, Gallagher and Sabat, who are also assistant professors of finance, used data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to graph the relationship between falling into hardship in the next six months and how much you have saved as a buffer. They looked at financial information on more than 70,000 lower-income households, which the report defines as those earning under 200% of the poverty line. To put that into context, that’s up to about $30,000 a year for a family of four, says Gallagher. This group represents “about 30% of the U.S. working-age population,” she adds.
They found that if you have very little saved — say $200 to $500 — each additional dollar you set aside dramatically reduces your likelihood of falling into financial hardship. But once you have at least $2,467, “all of a sudden, saving an additional dollar didn’t seem to be that helpful anymore,” says Gallagher. “It still reduced your probability of falling into hardship a little bit, but it wasn’t nearly as effective as when you were at low levels of savings.”
Emergency funds actually always remind me of Easy Strength, honestly. It’s not much, but it is so valuable.
So, until next week, keep on lifting and learning.
For your quick access link, here’s Dan’s full OTP page, including all of his articles, books, lectures and videos, all in one place.
The Sword in the Stone, Part 111
Before we get too far, let’s go back to the second paragraph of this book. I warned you a few thousand words back that the first two paragraphs of the book set up the story:
“In the afternoons the programme was: Mondays and Fridays, tilting and horsemanship; Tuesdays, hawking; Wednesdays, fencing; Thursdays, archery; Saturdays, the theory of chivalry, with the proper measures to be blown on all occasions, terminology of the chase and hunting etiquette. If you did the wrong thing at the mort or the undoing, for instance, you were bent over the body of the dead beast and smacked with the flat side of a sword. This was called being bladed. It was horseplay, a sort of joke like being shaved when crossing the line. Kay was not bladed, although he often went wrong.”
In this new story, being “bladed” becomes the focus of our story.
Let’s pick up, quoting:
In other parts of Gramarye, of course, there did exist wicked and despotic masters—feudal gangsters whom it was to be King Arthur’s destiny to chasten—but the evil was in the bad people who abused it, not in the feudal system.
Sir Ector was moving through these activities with a brow of thunder. When an old lady who was sitting in a hedge by one of the strips of wheat, to scare away the rooks and pigeons, suddenly rose up beside him with an unearthly screech, he jumped nearly a foot in the air. He was in a nervous condition.
“Dang it,” said Sir Ector. Then, considering the subject more attentively, he added in a loud, indignant voice, “Splendour of God!” He took the letter out of his pocket and read it again.
The Overlord of The Castle of Forest Sauvage was more than a farmer. He was a military captain, who was ready to organize and lead the defence of his estate against the gangsters, and he was a sportsman who sometimes took a day’s joustin’ when he could spare the time. But he was not only these. Sir Ector was an M.F.H.—or rather a Master of stag and other hounds—and he hunted his own pack himself. Clumsy, Trowneer, Phoebe, Colle, Gerland, Talbot, Luath, Luffra, Apollon, Orthros, Bran, Gelert, Bounce, Boy, Lion, Bungey, Toby, Diamond and Cavall were not pet dogs. They were the Forest Sauvage Hounds, no subscription, two days a week, huntsman the Master.
Oddly, Gramarye comes to us today as “Book of Spells.” It would be a patchwork of spells and woodcraft and fairy dust that would be recognizable to the fans of the Harry Potter films. White’s point that feudalism was only evil when dealing with evil people reminds me of the issues with capitalism…and socialism…and…
Evil people do evil things. Boorish, rude, inept and rich are a combination for horrid behaviors. Arthur, as King, will preach “Might FOR Right,” but history tends to be full of “Might IS Right” thinkers.
I agree with Wart and I always have. I believe it is the role of the strong to defend the rights of others. I always have. I beg that I always will.
This is Ector’s best chapter, save one of the very last scenes. He doesn’t come off as a grandiose buffoon as he did in hay-making, nor is he slowly getting drunk. He is a kind man of action throughout here. White lays out his resume for us here and we are about to read the letter that keeps him deeply concerned.
Next time, we are off to the hunts!
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