Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 52

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 52

Publisher’s Note: You see that #52 above? Yep, you know what that means! Today marks the one-year anniversary of Dan’s Wandering Weights, coming out weekly without a single miss. We celebrate his dedication to writing by giving you a look at his new book, Before We Go.

“It’s been a quiet week here at Lake Wobegon.” I’ve been listening to Garrison Keillor say those words on Prairie Home Companion since college. Well, it was a quiet week here in Utah.

A shout out to my friends connected to Highland High School. Our Intentional Community has a number of people involved with the team. Down 35-14 with three minutes to go, the football team came back to tie the game in regulation and win in double overtime. 21 points in three minutes in a high school football game is simply amazing.

The rest of the weekend was long Autumn walks. There is nothing like the contrast of bright blue skies and fall colors.

And…the quiet ends. I’m off on a long series of road trips, literally around the world, and we will be launching Before We Go as this is happening. So, as I take off around the world, let’s see what’s going on in the wide and wonderful world of lifting and fitness.

Weights before cardio, after cardio, during cardio? For whatever reason, MOST people I read and follow do lifting first and then “finishers” or circuits or complexes last. I know that too much heart rate work early tends to impact load in the weightroom, so we’ll probably find most trainers and coaches will naturally slide to weights then cardio. There is nothing earth shattering here, but it is always good to see something validated. Well, “validated” is a strong word, but with exercise studies, I’m always glad to see experience confirmed rather than denied.

“So, weights first is the way to go? Well, I assume I should write that doing both on separate days and thus doing having 5-6 workout days per week may have even more pronounced effects on the body composition of obese young men. In the end, though, I have no evidence to prove that doing the same amount of cardio on a separate day would actually have yielded greater improvements in body composition. Against that background and in view of the fact that three workouts per week is everything that fits into the busy schedules of the average trainee, we are left with the confirmation that (a) doing (intense) cardio and weights in one session feasible and effective when the goal are health and physique improvements and that (b) if you or your clients combine both, you better start with the weights, not the cardio part.”

I liked this nice summary of the Soviet weightlifting system from yasha.

One thing, not an argument, but my old lifting partner Vasili used to tell me that in the Soviet Union many of the people involved couldn’t read or follow the program for various reasons, often illiteracy. He also noted that most of his early training was on barbells with bends and twists and rarely were there squat stands. But, there was a respect and discipline (and religion? See the article) that trumped whether or not this was 68% or 71% of the proposed attempt. I like this line:

“The following is paraphrased and translated, and I must preface it with this: Perspective changes the definition of anything. If you ask a student to define what the school system is – they will have a very different answer than that of a teacher or a school principle. To that end, I tried to capture two very different perspectives on what is the Soviet Weightlifting System – one from the perspective of an athlete, and another from a coach.”

The article is worth a read just for its great insight. Geoff Hemingway sent me this and, wow, do I think this is great. I spend a lot of time doing Turkish getups and various ground-based training daily, but I think I need to up my game now. Great stuff!

“‘The secret to falling safely is three words: bend, twist, roll,’ he said. As you start to fall, bend your knees in the direction you are falling and twist at the waist, turning your shoulders away from the fall. That will change the point of impact. Instead of one spot on your hip taking the entire brunt of the fall, the force will be spread out along the length of your leg, thigh and pelvis. When you hit the ground, roll to further dissipate the force of the impact. That’s what he practices each morning by standing next to an air mattress and falling onto it. He advises beginners to start from their knees until they’re comfortable with the ‘roll’ part of the procedure. It also will help them regain comfort with being on the floor.”

Reader Christopher Tuttle noted that Dr. Jason Fung has already looked into something I mentioned last week: mixing Atkins with IF.

“Aetiology is a medical term that means ‘the underlying cause’. What is the underlying cause of obesity? We spend almost no time thinking about this problem. Why? Because we think we already know the answer. We think the answer is that Excessive Calories causes obesity. Therefore, if too many calories is the problem, then the answer is Caloric Reduction. But there’s an obvious problem. Caloric Reduction has been done to death. And it doesn’t work. No matter why it didn’t work, the bottom line is that we’ve all done it, and it doesn’t work. The underlying cause of obesity turns out to be a hormonal, not a caloric imbalance. The hormone at the center of the debate was insulin. If excessive insulin was causing obesity, then clearly the answer lay in reducing insulin.”

For the practical side, go here. The weight loss ideas are nothing radical, but I like this list:

1.     Choose a low-carb diet
2.     Eat when hungry
3.     Eat real food
4.     Eat only when hungry
5.     Measure your progress wisely
6.     Be persistent
7.     Women: Avoid fruit
8.     Men: Avoid beer
9.     Avoid artificial sweeteners
10. Review any medications
11. Stress less, sleep more
12. Eat less dairy products and nuts
13. Supplement vitamins and minerals
14. Use intermittent fasting
15. Exercise smart
16. Achieve optimal ketosis
17. Get your hormones checked
18. Consider weight loss pills / drugs (if desperate)

So, 15 is exercise (smart). I agree. I can’t believe how often we circle back around to “smart” as being the problem and answer to so many of the things we do in our gym.

Generally, I think there are two sides to training: movement and breathing. With powerful movements like hinges and squats, the breathing has to more like a locomotive. For planks and grinds, that high tension (I call it “Anaconda strength”), tight breathing that sounds like “Tsssst Tsssst” helps keep things strong. And, recovery work needs recovery breathing; I tend to teach the puffing breathing, if the person can’t naturally adapt to it.

This leads us to see that the two big engines are movement and breathing. Perhaps the thing that ties it all together is fascia. I really liked this article on fascia (I just finished the 10 sessions of Rolfing so maybe my ‘hearing’ on fascia is better).

It seems to get inside the issues with solving the problem of understanding fascia:

“The essay reveals how much Findley’s work is influenced by Still’s osteopathic philosophy, which he summarizes in four points:

“1. The human body functions as a total biologic unit

“2. The body possesses self-healing and self-regulatory mechanisms

“3. Structure and function are interrelated, and

“4. Abnormal pressure in one part of the body produces abnormal pressures and strains upon other parts of the body.”

That’s a nice summary of good rehab work. It is also a good summary of training, too.

I sure appreciate readers sending in follow-up material. To save time, just email me atdan@danjohn.net if you want to talk.

Until next time, enjoy the fall and prepare for what is next.

Winter is coming.


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