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Lessons in Lifting and Carrying from a Master

Dan John, in a T-Shirt, carrying a sandbag, dragging a sled. In the snow!

Have you ever been over to the T-Nation website? It’s a vast knowledge base of all things strength and conditioning with a host of top coaches contributing articles. One such coach recently featured is Dan John, he’s a legend in the field with over 40years experience under the Iron and around 30 years coaching. He knows his stuff.

In his recent article 40 Years of Insight (part I here, II here) he gives out some of the best information I’ve read. Little things like, Never pass a pull up bar without doing a few, master the Squat movement (note: movement not lift), Put your money where your mouth is (ie compete or present workshops), Press weights overhead and possibly most important, It’s the movements you’re not doing that impede your progress.

Any Wild Geese regular will already be familiar with Pull Ups, Overhead Pressing, Squatting and putting their money where their mouth is. We mostly train with bodyweight and kettlebells so squats and presses are a mainstay, although we bring out the bars for heavy squats and deadlifts. But it’s the movements he talks about that interested me. He lists 5 cardinal movements that need to be trained, these are:

Push Pull Hinge Squat Loaded carry

I love this list, it’s so simple yet so comprehensive. Push and Pull are your primary upper body lifts, Presses, Chins, Rows, Push ups etc. Hinge is your hip dominant drills such as swings, snatches, deadlifts etc Squats, well that’s squats, lunges, pistols and the like. These are all staples in most people’s training.

But loaded carries, who does them? Other than strongman competitors I can’t think of anyone I’ve met who trains these. And why should you?

Well, let’s have a think. Heavy carries load the entire skeleton, every muscle is called into play, especially the core. I don’t mean the core as in your abs, I mean core as you would think of it in Apple Core. If you were to use an oversized apple corer on a human (I’m sure you can think of someone…) you’d pull out the spine and all the deep muscles that are responsible for holding us upright against gravity. Loaded carries hit these so completely that Dr McGill has referred to the drill as a standing plank. Carries are completely natural and uncontrived. As much as we talk about natural movements and functional training, most exercises have been created, contrived, to perform a specific purpose. But not carries, it’s as simple as lift it up and put it down over there. There’s no problems with range of movement, in fact if you can walk, you can carry. Heavy carries are incredibly taxing on the entire system, which is why I like to use them with weight loss clients as much as my fighters.

We usually use kettlebells, either one or a pair held by the sides, on the chest or locked out overhead. Often we use the sandbag which can be hugged against the chest, over one shoulder or in the crook of the arms. But now we have a  new toy. You see, up till now we’ve been limited with the weight we could use, but not any more. We commissioned a steelworker to build us a power cage with pull up and monkey bars and he threw in a pair of custom-built Farmers Walk handles.  Which just arrived today!

New Pain Toys!

These little beauties weigh in at around 30kg each but can be loaded with extra plates:

Plate loaded

We’re going to be having some serious fun with these, and my guys will go from strong to animal. There’s little else to build unified, whole body, inside out strength.

I can’t wait for the power rack to arrive, I’ll be posting photos as soon as we have it.

Chat soon


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