Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 96

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 96

Last week on OTP: From Mark Reifkind, The Power of Routine

We expanded our annual Folkfest Highland Games to two days and double the events. I am dehydrated and sore, but I threw really well. I either broke or came within an inch (twice) of every field record and rekindled my love for throwing stuff far.

I did a different kind of preparation. I read some stuff by a guy named “Dan John” and actually followed what he wrote. I followed some good advice: more loaded carries, more hypertrophy work for a 59-year-old and more med ball work. I look at the list and I can decide to laugh out loud or throw up in my throat a bit.

It’s a hard lesson. For athletes, from about 16-35, you need to focus on hinge and loaded carries. Get powerful. As Stu McGill would say: you need a hammer and stone. Sure, push, pull and squat, but don’t let bodybuilding and hypertrophy drive the cart.

And….that is what most people do: Look like Tarzan, Play like Jane.

After about 36, there is an earth shift for the athlete. Lean body mass begins dripping off daily replaced by happy, gooey fat. Hypertrophy work becomes at least as important as hinges and loaded carries. Learning to balance this is the key, but it must be done.

Actually, after 56 or so, learning to fall and recover trumps most things, but the emphasis on hypertrophy would become more important probably with each year.

I’m doing a First Person Study of aging. I will keep you informed.

Need more information on loaded carries? Here you go!

“Wenn Du die richtige Übung (Bewegung) einsetzt, kann das Deinen Körper radikal verändern.

“Finde die fehlende Zutat, dann Du wirst schneller mehr Muskeln aufbauen, Fett schneller verbrennen und ordentlich Ärsche auf jedem Spielfeld treten. Nun werde ich Dir sagen, was diese fehlende Zutat für die meisten Kraftsportler ist. Bist Du bereit?”

Loaded carries were the focus of Gray Cook and my discussion on the Essentials of Coaching Continuums video too.

I found this tip on t-nation from Chris. If you read From Dad to Grad, you will find that I have been pushing crockpots for years. My “go to” recipe book is a slow cooker book with the promise of “Just Five Ingredients.” The slow cooker is the secret for keeping the family together at dinner in my experience.

T-nation has been around a while and, thankfully, the old articles still exist. Charlie Francis did a Q and A in the early years and these are still fun to read. These two back to back questions are STILL relevant today (the first one underscores the need to NOT invent stories about performance.).

“Q. Also, I thought I read an article by Charles Poliquin that said Ben Johnson performed a three-rep max squat about ten minutes before he broke the world record. If this is true, could you please expound on how you use this training principle?

“A: As for the three-rep max story, well, I heard that one too! Sorry, it never happened! In fact, it couldn’t have happened, either, since there were no weights at the Olympic warm-up venue.

“For the record, we always lifted after speed work, never before! Ben’s heaviest squat workout was two sets of six at 600 pounds, past parallel. Though, obviously, he could have gone much higher, he never did; after all, that was enough! Of course, this means there was no three-rep max, either!

“Olympic Weightlifting for Athletes

“Q: Do you think the time spent perfecting the full Olympic lifts is an efficient allocation of resources for athletes, throwers specifically? Or could the athlete concentrate on simpler multi-joint lifts and increase bar speed during the conversion phase to gain a similar effect? They could then spend the time necessary to successfully learn the Olympic lifts on perfecting their specific events instead. Your thoughts?

“A: While it’s true that simpler lifts can be perfected more easily, the reason that Olympic lifts are chosen is to use as many muscles as possible in a single lift in order to get the maximum stimulation with the minimum number of lifts. This is a big issue with sprinters where there’s a lot of competition for central nervous system (CNS) energy.

“In your case this wouldn’t appear to be a problem, since lifting predominates in throwing events. I agree that if learning time is a factor, I’d concentrate on perfecting specific skills and stay with the simpler lifts.”

Sometimes, something very simple can make a huge difference. I like this little tip from Bret’s site:

“Hip thrusts are a great, user-friendly, and easy-to-learn exercise that is also beneficial for teaching full hip extension. Additionally, the hip thrust is unique in that it can load end-range hip extension with either bands or a barbell. However, a problem I often notice with both beginners and folks who have been thrusting for a while is that, as a set moves on, reps start to get cheated. This is similar to squat depth inching higher and higher as an inexperienced lifter gets fatigued.

“Enter the ‘hip thrust plus,’ a way to audit your hip extension. It’s extremely simple: pause where you perceive your end range to be for a count of 1 second, and then attempt to extend your hips further. You’ll notice that you probably had a little bit further to go.

Bret’s got a wealth of materials here.

I have always been a fan of Game Theory. I think we were taught it in Philosophy class back in the 1970s because it’s rolled in my head for a while, but this is a good application of the idea. I’ve always hated “either/or” as the answer to things and Game Theory is an excellent way to learn “both/and.”

“Tit for Tat: When children are faced with the job of cleaning up a joint mess, suggest ‘you pick up one, then he picks up one,’ said Mr. Raeburn. ‘We had mixed results with Tit for Tat,’ he admits. His 9-year-old son was able to manipulate his 6-year-old brother into doing more. ‘This probably works better with children who are closer in age, or at least both over 7.’

“Random Dictator: In Random Dictator, a family faced with a choice that affects every family member (what movie to watch, what cereal to buy, which restaurant to go to) has each family member write down a selection, then draws a single one from a hat. One person ultimately chooses — but who ‘wins’ is random.

“Auction: How to decide who chooses the one show that will be watched tonight or gets first play on the iPad on a road trip? Try auctioning the desired reward to the highest bidder, using chores, other privileges or even Halloween candy as currency. ‘This involves some learning,’ said Mr. Raeburn. ‘It’s easy for a child to overvalue something in the moment and get stuck doing way too many chores.’ At first, he says, parents might have to monitor the fairness of the auction process itself — but children who like it may end up running auctions on their own.

Craig Marker always does a nice job taking a concept and looking at both sides of it. I had the military stuff in many fitness programs…as many of you know. Craig gives us some good insights here.

“‘Many of our fitness programs use subtle (or not so subtle) messages to indicate we can train like a military hero. We can go to ‘bootcamp’ or do ‘Hero WODS.’ It might be that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but to go back to James Thurber again, “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” At times, the commercialization of military-like fitness feels like we have gone too far.

This is a nice follow-up to Craig’s piece. I think the study of nonsense is an excellent background to watch those fitness DVDs on TV.

“But there was a twist. The team also snuck in objects which the participants hadn’t been trained on and asked them what they were called. ‘They usually don’t notice because it’s really quite a big, complicated task,’ says Kirby. Without realizing what they were doing, the volunteers would simply make the word up.

“The words shown to the first participant – including the new ones – became the language used to train the second participant. The words from the second generation were shown to the third, the third to the fourth, and so on.

“It’s like a game of Chinese whispers where children whisper into the ear of the person sitting next to them and the sentence changes as it goes from person to person. The alien language evolved as it was passed from one generation to the next – gradually transforming from nonsense into something which resembled a real-world language.

“Gradually, structure began to emerge and the language developed rules similar to those in real languages. After just six generations, the language had a kind of logic called compositionality.

When you do research…I believe the cool kids call it “science”…be careful to live your wishing and wanting to Christmas morning. I found this riveting.

“King has been particularly interested in noncanonical, or Gnostic, texts that assign Mary Magdalene a prominent role as Jesus’s confidante and disciple. Proof that some early Christians also saw Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s wife would be a rebuke to Church patriarchs who had discounted her and conflated her, falsely, with two other women mentioned in the Gospels: an unnamed adulteress in John and an unnamed woman—thought to be a prostitute—in Luke.

“From the beginning, King was up front about the puzzles the Jesus’s-wife scrap posed. Its text spans 14 lines on the front and back, forming incomplete phrases presumably snipped from a larger manuscript. “Jesus said to them, My wife” is the most arresting line, but others are also striking: ‘She is able to be my disciple’; ‘I dwell with her.’

“In our interviews late in the summer of 2012, King said she expected a vigorous debate over the papyrus’s meaning. She stressed that the fragment was all but worthless as biography: It was composed centuries after Jesus’s death. It showed merely that one group of ancient Christians believed Jesus had been married.”

From my good friend, Anne Reuss:

“But her most remarkable research, which has informed present theories of why presence is more important than praise in teaching children to cultivate a healthy relationship with achievement, explores how these mindsets are born — they form, it turns out, very early in life. In one seminal study, Dweck and her colleagues offered four-year-olds a choice: They could either redo an easy jigsaw puzzle, or try a harder one. Even these young children conformed to the characteristics of one of the two mindsets — those with ‘fixed’ mentality stayed on the safe side, choosing the easier puzzles that would affirm their existing ability, articulating to the researchers their belief that smart kids don’t make mistakes; those with the “growth” mindset thought it an odd choice to begin with, perplexed why anyone would want to do the same puzzle over and over if they aren’t learning anything new. In other words, the fixed-mindset kids wanted to make sure they succeeded in order to seem smart, whereas the growth-mindset ones wanted to stretch themselves, for their definition of success was about becoming smarter.”

Anne is going to be a big deal in the fitness industry.

This is a nice summary of what we teach at the RKC for example and the work of Bud Winter. The author really nails the concept here.

“Athletic performance and vibrant health both depend on the ability to switch on and turn off effectively and at the right moment. This rule applies to a micro scale within the range of certain movements, but also to the macro scales of rest between sets and rest days between workouts.

“Think of the requirements of hitting a baseball or returning a tennis serve. The athlete must go from a state of relaxation to full engagement in an instant. If they were too bound up and tense they would never be able to position themselves to connect or return volley effectively. Yet if they could not switch on completely and instantly, they stand no chance of offering an effective counter move. Soccer players must cycle back and forth between full sprinting efforts and complete relaxation or they would never remain effective for an entire 90-minute match.

“Practice cycles of relaxation on every scale to develop your athletic abilities:


  •     Within a Movement: During a kettlebell swing, recognize and utilize the ability to release your body tension during the ‘float’ phase to more effectively engage during the hinge phase.
  •     Between Sets: While resting between sets of movement, practice an active recovery strategy known as ‘fast and loose.’ Actively rest and recover by walking to moderate your heart rate, jiggling limbs to release tension, and focus on deep, slow, belly breaths to encourage full body relaxation.
  •     Rest Days: Use active recovery and mindfulness strategies to optimize your rest and recovery days. Mellow jogs, swims, bike rides, or paddles offer a perfect combination of low impact and restorative movement with a moving meditation. Tai chi, qigong, and yoga present even better ways to mindfully connect with your body and movement. Use targeted mobility and flexibility work and myo-fascial release techniques (both self-applied and from practitioners) to aid in recovery.

End quote

Well, I’m sore and sunburned. Both will be better next week. Until next time, keep lifting and learning.


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Publisher’s note:  For the few of you who missed this, here’s a look at Dan’s newest audio book. We don’t want you to be left behind, now, do we?