Five Movements That Will Make An Impact Overnight

This is the fourth of a set of excerpts from the Intervention DVD.

If I were to put these in order as to how I can impact you overnight, the order would be like this: 1) Loaded carries—I can change your life in three weeks…2) Squat; 3) Hinge; 4) Pull; 5) Push.

I can guarantee that your kids…when they show up to Stanford’s weight room, they want to bench press…they want to lay down and bench press. I know that because I worked with a Pac-12 basketball player years ago and all he ever wanted to do was bench press—a 6’9” guy who walked around like this and wanted to bench press. To get you…to get…the first level of intervention then…okay…so intervention 1 is this: Getting you to some kind of loaded carry. If I get that and 3 weeks later you call me up and you say, ‘Dan, you’re a genius,’ I practice blushing often. I go, ‘Oh please. Genius is a true but overworked term but, yes, keep talking,’ ‘Is there more?’


Because if I can get you to just the farmer walk…just the farmer walk…in 3 weeks you’re better. But these guys…okay…so I taught the farmer walk to a ballet dancer and a basketball team and they both worked. Why? Well, how come? Because they weren’t doing them. What? What you will find too are the things they don’t do and you make them do it. I just gave…okay…I thank you very much…I’m glad you could…They will do it. I will have them do it and 3 weeks later, they are better. Having them do a more advanced bench press program? ‘I’ve got 12 weeks. It’s gotta work. It’s got the word ‘Russian’ in it,’ God. If you want to sell things on the Internet, put the word ‘Russian’ on it, or Soviet or secret. You know? I love it. It will sell like…whatever sells well nowadays. Bench press…the magnificent 21 pull up program, the fantastic…okay…we don’t have anything for any of these but if I can get you to do loaded carries and squats, I make you better. If I just get you to do the…what? Let’s not say basics. No, that’s a mistake you are going to make.

The first box after this is called patterning. What are the patterns that are important? Each one of these movements has a basic patterning that we want to make sure we have. The basic pattern, I think, for pushing exercises is the plank in the plank family. I discovered this years ago when I started working with women who couldn’t do pushups. And then I would say, ‘Well, just hold what I call the pushup position plank’ and they couldn’t hold it.

Can I get a volunteer from the audience, please? Oh, thank you. Would you show me the pushup position plank, please? This is the pushup position…oh and he doesn’t see…see how nice he does it. He has his heels together. He is tight here like this.

Now if I have…if I have a female athlete and she can’t hold this for a minute, why would I test her on pushups for a minute? Well because…don’t you see that form? The form said, ‘Pushups for a minute,’ She can’t hold the pushup in place. She can’t hold the pushup position. How many planks are there? Oh, there’s millions. There is the standard plank now. There are all of your variations on the star planks. If someone doesn’t have the upper body strength to hold the plank, why are we pushing them into something else? Planks first. Now…you can say now… Hang on, Dan. You know? Pushing is all…it is…it is all this stuff’…but if you can’t lock down the shoulders. Why are you trying to lean away with an enormous weight trying to press it overhead?

So now, for the pull, everybody knows…okay…we can do pull-ups. We can do this horizontal row. We can do the flex arm hang but you know what? If the person I’m working with can’t do any of those, what are we going to do—just make fun of them? Here class, look. This person can’t do any of that. You know, look. Doesn’t that make you feel better as a person because, you know, Edna can’t do jack squat. What I do is…I just…and there are hundreds of different systems now with the TRX and a bunch of other things…would you show me a bat wing? Pull them up and hold it. Get those thumbs in the armpits for me. Higher, higher, higher. This is an isometric hold. This is working the patterning of the movement. This is a very…there is no failure in bat wings. You can come up with all kinds of different ways to do this but this is the basic movement I try to teach. Thank you very much. Good. So this is the patterning exercise for the pull. I call them bat wings because originally it was a joke but then one day I realized that it kind of actually did look like bat wings from the side. Thank you.

Now for the next one…is the hinge. What is the hinge? Now the hinge…the hinge has an interesting story. We will tell it to you right now. A couple of years ago, I was sitting in my office and this young lady had gone to a workshop and swings were killing her lower back. She started to swing and I said, ‘No, that’s wrong. You’re squatting your swings,’ And then she said, ‘Well, can you help me?’ It was like, ‘Well, hmm…’ and I realized that what had happened in that pause was almost 30 years of coaching in the weight room unpacking itself and about to be vomited out by me because what happened is that I realized that the swing is a hinge and the squat is a squat. When you tie the two together, you hurt people’s lower backs.

It’s like somebody asked me one time why I don’t teach high school kids Good Mornings. Good Morning is when you put the bar on your back and you lean over. It is because if I teach a high school boy on Monday to squat and on Wednesday I do Good Mornings, on Friday who knows what we’re going to see? I can guarantee you this. There are going to be bloody noses because they are going to fall forward on their face squatting in a Good Morning position. You can say, ‘No, that doesn’t happen at my gym,’ Great. You’re a better coach than me and than anybody I have ever hired. But once you start to combine those movements, things get lost. So I went to a board…Josh was there. I realized that we had a continuum here. On one side is what we would call the hinge movement…ideally and, maybe purely, the kettlebell swing.

Over here on this side, we had a movement called the squat. By then, I had already come up with a nice way to teach people to squat called the Goblet Squat. The hinge is a minimal knee bend and maximal hip bend. Folks. This is a hinge. My knees, yes, are bent slightly but it’s that butt back movement I am trying to show you. Don’t worry. We’ll spend some more time on this in just a minute. That is a hinge. It is the most powerful thing that the human body can do. If you’re running down a path…a place called Mount Olympus in Utah…and you see a rattlesnake…a true story…you hinge over it. One does not squat down to the depth of the rattlesnake and then jump over it. One hinges, snaps over it and runs farther saying, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Did you see that? Did you see that?’

The squat is a maximal knee bend and a maximal hip bend. In other words, a squat is a squat. A hinge is a hinge. A swing is a hinge. The mistake most people make when they do kettlebell or dumbbell swings is that they have the weight here and they begin to squat down with it as it goes down so that when they get to this position, you’ve got a weight here…by the way, that’s how I hurt my back in the early 80s.

This lady…a very nice lady that I worked with asked me to move a thing called a typewriter. Typewriter. It was a device that one would press buttons and it would hit on paper and cause letters to appear. No one in this group has ever heard of it.

So she had her little desk here like this. I leaned over because I am as strong as you can ever be, picked it up and my back went, ‘Wwwrrrkkk.’ And I drank a lot of red wine and tried to sleep with my knees on my chest for about six weeks. If you’ll notice the position of the swing I am in right now, this is the, ‘I’m going to hurt myself—the typewriter position.’ That’s a squatting swing. Hinge…Squat…That’s just the start. We are going to do more in a minute.

On this continuum, you can throw things like cleans and snatches over here. You can throw in Zercher squats and back squats over here. You can probably put Good Mornings up here. But you will see from a tension point of view why it is so treacherous to teach someone to snatch and clean and Good Morning in the same week when they haven’t yet mastered the hinge and the squat. Did I say that snatches were bad? No. Did I say that cleans were bad? No. Did I that back squats are bad? No.

Everyone thinks that I am up here as a moral theologian going, ‘This is a bad exercise. This is a good exercise.’ I never say that. I always say, ‘You can’t…if the pattern isn’t there, you can’t yet move up.’

Click here to see some of the preview clips from Intervention.

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