Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 273

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 273

Winter has decided, in Utah, to shift a few months over. Today, I woke up to about eight inches of snow and as I type this it keeps coming down. My dog enjoys watching me shovel snow, so at least he is entertained.
All the schools are closed and the roads are nearly impassable here. Fortunately, I shop well and I have my slow cooker filled with a stew for dinner. I believe the phrase is “we are going to hunker down.”
My life is going well. My training has really been at a high level recently. I had a good size group come over yesterday to learn some O lifting and I was happy to see that Mike Warren Brown’s advice to me to do more of our complexes not only help me physically, but put me in a nice place when I teach the lifts.
I start travel again this week. I am off to Boston for Mike Boyle’s gathering (last week’s WW has the details). My talk this year is on “Bounce,” this ability to come back better after an issue (injury, knocked down, whatever). Much of my career in the past two decades has been flying around to various military bases and teaching a program called “Resilience.” I have friends with over a dozen deployments and “bouncing back” is not just a cool thing to say but a life reality.
I have a critic online who likes to point out that I have had surgeries. If you want to play American football, you probably will get injured. I broke the end of my elbow off in a game and never missed a play. If you O lift, you probably will get injured. I have some wrist and shoulder issues from this great sport. And, if your DNA gives you “Pistol Grip Hips,” and it runs in my family, you are going to, sooner or later, get new hips.
I have no issues with surgeries, set-backs and sacrifices: it’s part of a nearly sixty-year career in sports. As the great poet, Chumbawamba, pointed out:
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I call this “Bounce.” In a few minutes, I will bounce out and shovel snow again!
I have a workshop in Sweden coming up and quite a few others in Europe. Over the next few weeks, I will share the details with you.
This week on danjohnworkouts.com:
Here’s Episode 22 for the podcast. We’ve received so many questions lately, we’re going to start doing two podcasts a week from time to time. We’re doing our best to give you what you want.
New essays posted in the member’s area this week:
My Conversations… What I Am “Listening” For…
My Fat Loss Clients and “Everything Works”
The One Arm Press
We’re Number Two!
The January Special was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who signed up. We’re excited to have you and we hope you get as much out of the site as we’re putting into it. If you missed the special and still want to take advantage, email me at brian@danjohnworkouts.com. I may have a few codes left…
Have a great week!
And, as always, my podcast with Pat went well.
Let’s fly around the internet this week. I think this article has a great point about habits and routines. I call routines “rituals,” but you get the point.

Imagine intending to wash your hands and the water suddenly shuts off. If you’re in the habit, not doing the behavior would feel strange, even uncomfortable. Even if the magic habit fairy told you your hands had been cleaned and there was no need to wash them, it would take you several days, if not weeks, to undo this habitual behavior.
I experienced just such a predicament when the water to my bathroom sink was shut off because of construction in my building. I needed to use the kitchen sink to wash my hands for a week. Even though I was fully aware that the bathroom sink wasn’t going to work, I kept turning it on day after day out of habit. Every time I lifted the faucet handle and no water came out, my habit was interrupted and I’d get annoyed. I knew the faucet wouldn’t work, but I kept attempting to do the behavior with little thought.
A habit feels uncomfortable when we don’t do it, exactly the opposite is true of routines. This is where people get into trouble confusing habits and routines. They expect routines to be as effortless as habits, while the only thing about routines that’s easy, is how easy they are to skip. Not doing an effortful task, like doing the laundry or writing in a journal, is easy to forget because such behaviors are not a habit, they are a routine that requires effort.

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I thought this was a fun article. It’s also a good reminder about what to do today.


    One of the more fun things you could do 5,000 years ago was: drink communally. Though there are many different drinking shapes that appear in the Early Bronze Age, the “depas amphikypellon” is definitely the best example of communal drinking. Most other drinking vessels from other contexts are flat bottomed with only a single handle. However, the round bottom and paired handles means that this cup has to keep moving around the drinking circle. In fact, this vessel is a piece of the Southwest Anatolian drinking set which also includes a series of pouring vessels such as pitchers and even cooking wares. As communal drinking increased in popularity, these vessels spread from the area known as Turkey today into the Aegean, signaling the movement of the practice of communal drinking.
    An important background piece is where the world is, particularly Europe, 5,000 years ago. That would be after the fully-formed Neolithic revolution which saw sedentary lifestyles, the emergence of agriculture, and people just generally being more permanent. So that’s how drinking can actually occur really in a large-scale manner—there’s time to ferment wine or brew beer, because you’re not picking up in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and moving all around a much larger landscape. Most likely, you’re in a family group, living near other family groups. So you brew some beer, and I brew some wine, and we kind of meet up one day and have a party. At first it was just because you’re creating excess—because you have more than you can consume, and stuff goes bad, and they don’t have the preservatives that we have. Though some fermented things are naturally preserved, they still want to move through their stock.
    Today, we’re super-comfortable interacting face-to-face with strangers. In the ancient past, people were more wary of their interactions. Communal drinking allowed people to drop their guards and cooperate in things like building canal systems, or going out and getting raw materials, or building a trade network. In the Bronze Age, especially in Europe and the Mediterranean, you see the emergence of a highly complex trade network that incorporated 20-30 or more different cultures, and this kind of communal drinking is, it seems, the way that some of these kinds of soft contracts were being enacted.

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I’ve always kept a place in my heart (and coaching) for isometrics. This article explains some of the values. I like it most for coaching techniques as you can finally get the athlete to understand “HERE…this is the position.”


LAW # 2: HEBB’S LAW. an increase in synaptic efficacy arises from a presynaptic cell’s repeated and persistent stimulation of a postsynaptic cell.
In a nutshell: Only by repeatedly exerting high levels of force can you teach your body to get stronger.
Hebb’s Law is a law of neurological learning. It basically says that nerve cells that fire together, wire together—or, to put it another way, if you repeatedly apply Henneman’s Size Principle by trying to exert maximum amounts of force, over time your nervous system will get better at recruiting those big, strong fast-twitch fibers.
Maybe when you start training, you can only recruit 20% of your nerve fibers—but when you become advanced, you can recruit maybe 80%. Repeatedly cajoling your muscles to generate high forces actually rewrites your neurological software over time. This is all thanks to Hebb’s Law. Whatever your sport or discipline, you need to drill, drill, drill to get bigger and better.

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I watched the Netflix thing on “Goop.” I expected it to be far worse. I actually enjoyed some parts of the materials, especially having Valter Longo of Fast Mimicking Diet fame. A five-day diet comparison is a bit of reach, but I love FMD. So, I went to the site. This article ties in with the book, Spring Chicken, but the research on the supplement recommended here isn’t as clear as the interview makes it. Drink red wine with friends and talk and laugh….don’t take a pill.


There are plenty of ways to be cold. You can wear less clothing. If you live in Boston, you can go out in the cold. You can sleep with fewer bedsheets and burn off energy while you are asleep at night. You can jump in an ice bath. I just go into a cold tub, which is four degrees Celsius, and try to spend a couple of minutes in there, then follow with a sauna to warm up, and cycle through that. When I was researching for my book, I was skeptical, because cryotherapy sounds like a fad. But when I looked into it, the science fit. We know from mice studies that if we manipulate the systems that control body temperature, we can make them live longer.
We have a lot more data about heat than we do about cold, because sauna bathing has been around since Roman times. It’s been associated with dramatic reductions in cardiovascular disease. In one study from Finland, people who spent between four and seven days a week in a sauna had a twofold reduction in fatal cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality. We don’t know exactly how the heat works, but I hypothesize that it’s probably turning on the same defenses that all of these other stressors do. We know that if you turn up the temperature on a yeast cell, it will activate the sirtuins, and they will live longer as a result. The same processes may occur in our bodies, too, at least superficially on the skin.
Some of the sirtuins respond to cold, some respond to diet, and some respond to DNA damage. We try do a variety of things that wake up the sirtuins out of their complacency and get them to work harder. Otherwise, we’re just at the whim of their decay and entropy over time. I don’t think it’s sufficient to do just one of these things. I think the combination is key, which is why I do all of those things.

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Marty Gallagher has been on a roll. These two articles are brilliant. Moreover, he got me to read Charlie Francis’s “Speed Trap” again. Utah State discus throwers are “all over” this book: Mike Mercer, Ain Roost, and L. Jay Silvester all show up…and maybe don’t want to be reminded why. This first article is a great beginning of a discussion about 100%:


The parallels between Francis-style speed training and elite strength training are intriguing. The Francis approach could be described as a maximum intensity-minimum volume approach. the strength system we advocate is maximum intensity-minimum volume. He and I came to many of the same conclusions in two different arenas, pure speed and pure strength. To optimize strength-training workout performance, each session should be executed only after undergoing a full and complete training recovery from the previous high-intensity session.
    Less can be better if less is more intense
    Do fewer things better
    To improve strength or speed, equal or exceed (some expression of) 100%
    There are many different expressions of 100%

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This follow-up piece is a real challenge.


What if all strength training takes place once a week? On the same day and time. No strength training of any kind for the next six days. In a single session, perform squats, bench presses, deadlifts and overhead presses. If you have the time and energy, add power cleans and some arm work, biceps and triceps. All on one day, all in one session.
Then take the next six days off from strength training. You can do other athletic conditioning or sport drills – just no strength training for the entire week. What better way to ensure recovery than six full days of complete rest?
Recovery should not be thought of in terms of body parts – recovery should be thought of as a whole-body event – recovery is about the entire body recovering, fully and completely, before engaging in another high intensity training session.
One aspect of the recovery process the Iron Curtain coaches alerted Francis to was that in addition to full and complete muscular recovery, the central nervous system needed to be fresh and rested. The CNS becomes agitated, overexcited and overwrought by mental stress. Extreme physical stress also adversely impacts the CNS.
Muscular recovery and CNS recovery are not synchronized, synonymous or linked to one another. Recovery is multidimensional. There are a myriad of effective protocols, tools, modes and strategies designed to accelerate recovery…massage, steam, sauna, whirlpool, ice bath, nutrition, post-workout replenishment, etc.
Multi-time world powerlifting champion Kirk Karwoski and I coach a bunch of local powerlifter/athletes at a rural location at the base of the Catoctin Mountains. Regular guys from a small town gather every Sunday to squat, bench press and deadlift. This is the only time this group can gather. We do all three lifts on the same day. Most will do some overhead pressing and arm work after the three lifts. Others just do the three lifts and leave. That is it for the week.
The lifters obtain the benefit of Karwoski and my merciless coaching. 90% of our Sunday crew are unable to train during the week for a variety of reasons. These men are firemen, electricians, warehouse and construction workers that have neither the time nor energy to train during the week.
Despite being relegated to training once a week, these men are, to a man, making sensational strength and power gains and concurrent increases in lean muscle mass. The conventional wisdom is, ‘Oh, too bad, if only these guys just had more time to train, they’d really get results!’
These men are, through necessity, blazing a new recovery paradigm.
Is the goal to embark on every strength training session fresh and rested? It should be.  These lifetime drug-free men are training once a week are getting dramatic results, week after week, month after month, year after year. We are in our fifth year and many of our lifters have been with us since the beginning and have yet to plateau. Don’t tell us once-a-week training doesn’t work – we have too many flesh-and-blood examples that prove otherwise.

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This should be enough for now. My neighbors are all plowing and shoveling and maybe it is time for me to join them
Until next time, 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 126

As soon as this question had been put, Master Twyti was fetched into the conversation, and a brief confabulation followed in which all sorts of technical terms like “lesses” were bandied about. Then there was a long walk in the wintry forest, and the fun began.
Wart had lost the panicky feeling which had taken hold of his stomach when he was breaking his fast. The exercise and the snow-wind had breathed him, so that his eyes sparkled almost as brilliantly as the frost crystals in the white winter sunlight, and his blood raced with the excitement of the chase. He watched the lymerer who held the two bloodhound dogs on their leashes, and saw the dogs straining more and more as the boar’s lair was approached. He saw how, one by one and ending with the gazehounds—who did not hunt by scent—the various hounds became uneasy and began to whimper with desire. He noticed Robin pause and pick up some lesses, which he handed to Master Twyti, and then the whole cavalcade came to a halt. They had reached the dangerous spot.
Boar-hunting was like cub-hunting to this extent, that the boar was attempted to be held up. The object of the hunt was to kill him as quickly as possible. Wart took up his position in the circle round the monster’s lair, and knelt down on one knee in the snow, with the handle of his spear couched on the ground, ready for emergencies. He felt the hush which fell upon the company, and saw Master Twyti wave silently to the lymerer to uncouple his hounds. The two lymers plunged immediately into the covert which the hunters surrounded. They ran mute.
There were five long minutes during which nothing happened. The hearts beat thunderously in the circle, and a small vein on the side of each neck throbbed in harmony with each heart. The heads turned quickly from side to side, as each man assured himself of his neighbours, and the breath of life steamed away on the north wind sweetly, as each realized how beautiful life was, which a reeking tusk might, in a few seconds, rape away from one or another of them if things went wrong.
The boar did not express his fury with his voice. There was no uproar in the covert or yelping from the lymers. Only, about a hundred yards away from the Wart, there was suddenly a black creature standing on the edge of the clearing. It did not seem to be a boar particularly, not in the first seconds that it stood there. It had come too quickly to seem to be anything. It was charging Sir Grummore before the Wart had recognized what it was.
The black thing rushed over the white snow, throwing up little puffs of it. Sir Grummore—also looking black against the snow—turned a quick somersault in a larger puff. A kind of grunt, but no noise of falling, came clearly on the north wind, and then the boar was gone. When it was gone, but not before, the Wart knew certain things about it—things which he had not had time to notice while the boar was there. He remembered the rank mane of bristles standing upright on its razor back, one flash of a sour tush, the staring ribs, the head held low, and the red flame from a piggy eye.

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“Lesses” is a good word to keep around; it’s the dung of prey. I think it is something I can add into a daily conversation. I think it will aid some talks, more or lesses.
Wart’s shaking off of the nervousness reminded me of high school football. We played games at night at South City and I can remember talking with Frank Caesar before a game and we both talked about how lousy we were with that strange stage fright nervousness we had before kick-off. Once the game started, usually with the first contact, it would vanish into that hyper state of alertness, like the “yarak” of our hawks in this story, and I don’t ever remember being more alive.
Football, American football, can end your career on one play. It’s a collision sport and the body gets knocked around, up and down, on almost every play. Yet, my eyes burned bright blue.
What I find most lovely about this selection is how Wart is buoyed by his neighbors. I think humans are hard-wired to be communal.
Listen to me talking about bravery: Wart and the band are facing a serious threat here:
“The boar did not express his fury with his voice. There was no uproar in the covert or yelping from the lymers. Only, about a hundred yards away from the Wart, there was suddenly a black creature standing on the edge of the clearing.”
“When it was gone, but not before, the Wart knew certain things about it—things which he had not had time to notice while the boar was there. He remembered the rank mane of bristles standing upright on its razor back, one flash of a sour tush, the staring ribs, the head held low, and the red flame from a piggy eye.”
Red flame from a piggy eye. The boar is a dangerous opponent. The nervous stomachs were well deserved. Now, the battle rages on.

DanWandering Weights is published each Wednesday by On Target Publications


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