Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 83

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 83

Here Gray Cook tells us how and why to get the toe touch before doing deadlifts.

Well, I am “between” travel now. Sweden last week, England this week, but I am happy to be drinking coffee in my kitchen on this oddly cool June morning. I’m also excited to tell you about my new lecture DVD, which On Target will be releasing later this month. It’s called Now What? and it’s what I do AFTER assessments. Do the assessment… and then Now What?! We’ll talk more about it in the coming weeks.

I’m amazed how many people don’t know about a series of articles I have been writing over at Dragon Door. They concern one of my favorite workshops, the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification.  So, let me post them here and see if I can answer fewer questions on the basics of KBs.

This first article gives the basics of the HKC.

Sometimes, when I repeat the same answer to a question more than a few times, I begin to wonder why people even ask me questions.

Exercise for Fat Loss?
“Swings, goblet squats and Turkish get-ups.”

Elderly clients?
“Swings, goblet squats and Turkish get-ups.”

Travel related issues for elite athletes and collision occupations?
“Swings, goblet squats and Turkish get-ups.”

Most people come to coaches and trainers wanting a magic wand treatment, Harry Potter and the Six Pack Abs, but what they NEED is hip flexor stretching, t-spine mobility, rotary stability and basic movements. They NEED to move. They NEED to open the hips and spine and shoulders.

I think this is my best article on the HKC…what to do next:

You will be doing goblet squats and suitcase carries. Suitcase carries are like farmer walks, but you only load one side…as if you are carrying a single suitcase.

8 goblet squats, then march away with the kettlebell in the left hand for about 60 feet (the length of the gym is best)
7 goblet squats, then march back to the starting location with the kettlebell in the right hand
6 goblet squats, left hand suitcase walk
5 goblet squats, right hand walk
4 goblet squats, left hand walk
3 goblet squats, right hand walk
2 goblet squats, left hand walk
1 goblet squat, finished

This variation adds up to 36 squats while you are under load for about three minutes. Your anti-rotation muscles will be working overtime with the asymmetrically loaded walks, and then they will have to join in to support the squats. You get the benefits of squatting—which includes mobility and flexibility work—plus the additional boon of three minutes of time under tension.

This article deserved a wider audience, I think.

Our gym’s basic “Buns” workout:

Hip thrusts up to 25 reps (We have gone much higher, but 20-25 works “best.”)
Squat variation for 10 Reps
Kettlebell swings (heavy) for 15 Reps
Mini-band walks with the bands around the lower legs and socks for as far as possible in each direction.

Mike Warren Brown added a key point for every glute-focused workout: hip flexor stretches. The rest periods should consist of a variety of hip flexor stretches. His argument—and Vlad Janda would agree—is that the hip flexors pull the pelvic “bowl” forward as our bodies become more comma-shaped from constantly sitting. Glute work actively pries on the hip flexors, so give them the chance to really unlock during the rest/stretching periods. It is NOT unusual to hear people say that their backs feel much better after buns and hip flexor stretches. Getting “the box on the bowl” releases the stresses on the back.

During the mini-band walks, keep side-stepping and reaching as far as you can with the lead foot. It also helps to go “heel first” as you push sideways: the lead heel leads the whole body. A delicious cramping feeling in the outside upper glutes indicates when you are indeed working the right area.

Hip Thrust
Mini-Band Walk (if applicable)
RKC Hip Flexor Stretch

The devil is in the details, but goblet squats make for an easier workout than double kettlebell front squats. In this workout, the squat is the exercise that tends to cascade pain and anguish into the other moves. Using the thighs to push the tired glutes along is certainly nothing new, but this workout seems to be a “One Stop Shop” for glutes and gluteal amnesia.

I enjoyed writing this next article. With just a basic toolkit of five exercises, how can you measure how things are going? This article also shows the “issues” with tests and assessments: people are born to do some tests and others learn to tweak the test to end the test’s ability to assess. There is nothing wrong with either of these two things, but our job is to strive for continual improvement.

The Five-Minute Get-Up

I first heard about “slow motion” competitions from Dan Millman of the Peaceful Warrior series. His idea for true mastery was to do your event as slowly as possible. Without an implement, practicing the track and field throwing events as slowly as possible teaches insights for orbit and transitions that can be unexamined at a normal performance speed and tempo.

RKC Team Leader Chris White mentioned that he did “Five Minute Turkish Get-Ups” at our recent RKC in San Jose. I wanted to slap myself for missing such a simple idea. Rather than crash through a bunch of reps, glide and hold each position then do a full body “check in” to see if you are aligned and appropriate.

At first, try adding leg or foot lifts at every logical stopping point. I find simply picking up each foot highlights issues with positioning or compensations. Parts of the get-up include hinges, squats, rolls and lunges. Picking up a foot can sometimes explain why we seem to thrash or cheat through a particular position.

I would imagine the ultimate get-up challenge would be continually moving over five minutes. For mortals like me, a “naked” get-up done very slowly while attempting to be seamless would be the first line of assessment.

This article has some background and history on my training, plus the importance of tumbling.

Let’s just take foam rolling. Actually, I often wish someone would just take it away, but I understand what we are doing here. An alternative to foam rolling is….rolling! Shoulder rolls on a wrestling mat not only prep me for life’s slips and falls, but I also have to get the added benefit of rubbing my fascia with a lot of load. Cartwheels are part of my Loaded Carry family: this is literally a moving plank and a great way to check in on your body connections.

The Turkish get-up can be a boon for getting people to remember what it is like to get up and down off the floor. Pat Flynn regards the TGU as a Loaded Carry and I think he gets it right: it is a Loaded Carry with extra benefit of also being an exercise where you reorient yourself with the floor.

TGUs and Shamrock’s “scrambles” would be a fun and enlightening workout for anyone. The scrambles are children’s games like leap frog and jumping over sticks: these are rarely seen in most training gyms but a lot of fun to both do and coach.

I hadn’t seen this article in years. Wow, “bizarre left hip injury!” That was an injury that lead to a dead leg! It is fun to see the roots of so many things that I teach today…with more clarity.

Here is the thing: I’m 51 and learning more about sport than at any time in my career! I have adapted, stole, developed, forgotten and experimented with every great idea in lifting history and I was asked to share some insights. If you don’t mind, just let me spill out some thoughts quickly:

1.     “Order” in training is fine. But, it’s also okay to do something sometimes and not do it at others.
2.     Once you find something that works, keep on doing it. But, don’t keep doing it until it doesn’t work!
3.     Success, in sport and life, usually depends on what happens when it is finished. In other words, don’t judge the success or failure of something until it is over. I would argue that you still don’t judge it for months or weeks later, too.

To make a long story short, success in sports (and life) is not linear. You can’t plan to meet the perfect person the day after you finish grad school. You can’t plan the best day of your life. And, you certainly can’t plan to peak in sports…but you can plan to be good on a particular day or week or month or year. This season, I tried my best to allow myself to be at my best when I needed to do my best. It’s a tall order.

It’s not been a stunning week of web articles. I found a few that interested me, but perhaps it is vacation time and few people are finding life-altering things to discuss. I found this a good article, but I also was surprised by the fact that we still don’t know so much about common killers.

“Other heart attack triggers abound; I have touched on some of them before. Heart attacks are more common in the morning and perhaps more common on Mondays, but what can you do about mornings and Mondays? In the 2 h after sexual intercourse, the risk of heart attack more than doubles, but for regular exercisers, the absolute risk of heart attack after sex is very low (3).

“Beer binges can trigger heart attacks. So can smoking marijuana, it seems, notably by aging male baby boomers (8). Other likely triggers include cigarette smoking and heavy meals. Cocaine is a potent trigger: heart attack risk rises more than 20-fold soon after use (7). We know how to avoid these triggers.

“A special hazard for sports fans is watching their favorite team lose (2). As you know, the word “fan” stems from “fanatic.” A more recent study of World Cup soccer found that the intense strain and excitement of viewing a dramatic soccer match — win or lose — more than doubles the risk of acute heart attack, particularly in men with known coronary heart disease (12).

“In summary, we can identify a likely trigger in about 50% of all heart attacks. And we can pose practical pearls to prevent these pitfalls. We need more research to learn why the other 50% of heart attacks occur when they do. Onward and upward!”

I’m sure this article will get a rise from our gym nutritionist, Ashley Palmer! But, I found this interesting.

“Their report claimed the low-fat and low-cholesterol message, which has been official policy in the UK since 1983, was based on “flawed science” and had resulted in an increased consumption of junk food and carbohydrates.

“Lord McColl said eating fat was important because it kept people feeling fuller for longer, and advised overweight people to start adding fat into their diet.

“’Fat enters the small intestine and greatly delays the emptying of the stomach,’ he told peers.

“’As the stomach emptying is delayed it gives the feeling that one has had enough to eat. Later when the fat has been absorbed the stomach then starts to empty again, It’s a beautifully balanced mechanism which tends to prevent us from eating too much and prevents us from getting obese.’”

Speaking of Ashley Palmer, this is her three-day emotional eating Boot Camp. This starts on Monday; it’s free!

This is a short audio, but, WOW, is this good. Gladwell highlights a truth that I have seen throughout my career in education, sports and life.

Just click on the short interview today. Gladwell has great insights into morality and greatness here.

I’m off to England on Wednesday. If you missed “why,” here is the announcement.

So, until next week, keep lifting and learning.


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