Workout Wednesday #2 ….inspired by Dan John

I turned up to the gym at 6am this morning with all intentions of jumping on the stepper or spin bike again for my cardio, but for some reason or other completely changed my mind when I got there. Normally I am a huge proponent of planning what you want to do at the gym before arriving but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling it at all so decided to try something new! Inspired by a recent Podcast on Food for Fitness featuring Dan John, I decided to do something a little bit different and try some of the movements which he is such a huge fan of. I have read his book ‘Never Let Go’ before and had listened to him on a podcast with Ben Coomber in the past, so I knew what type of Coach Dan is, and the movements which he believes are the most beneficial for your workouts, ie the ones which will make the most impact. He proposes that there are 5 movements that you should incorporate into your workouts; 1) Loaded Carries; 2) Squat; 3) Hinge; 4) Pull; 5) Push. He goes into detail further in the book about why these movements are so important and why we should all be doing them. Here’s a short clip of him explaining them.

Funny as this may seem...this is actually a loaded carry! I am sure many of you have faced the struggle of carrying all your shopping bags from the car in one trip? and how out of breath you are afterwards?! Now try incorporating a similar movement into your training!

Funny as this may seem…this is actually a loaded carry! I am sure many of you have faced the struggle of carrying all your shopping bags from the car in one trip? and how out of breath you are afterwards?! Now try incorporating a similar movement into your training!

Out of those 5 movements, I imagine that you are familiar with 4 of them and if you go to the gym the likelihood is that you are practicing them in some form or other. The one which is probably neglected the most is the loaded carry. What is a loaded carry? Simply what it says on the tin! You lift something heavy up and walk with it. It could be anything according to Dan, a trapbar deadlift, some dumbbells, a kettlebell, a heavy bag etc, just pick something heavy up and walk with it, for 10metres or he even mentioned athletes who load up rucksacks and walk for up to 5km with it on their backs. (Obviously that is a fairly advanced progression though.) The loaded carry will not only work on your aerobic capacity but it will also help develop proper posture; as by putting your body in such a compromised position it is forced to line up exactly how it should; your ribcage is on top of your pelvis, your head is on top of your ribcage, your ears are in line with your shoulders. It is basically the equivalent of a walking plank as you have to tense your whole body to maintain correct posture and carry out the lift. He also pointed out that the suitcase carry (simply carrying the load on only one side) is the best ab exercise you are ever going to do.

In the podcast he also touched upon the importance of ground work, this could be Turkish Get-Ups, Bear Crawls or tumbling; “If you farmer walk, goblet squat and did some tumbling, used not only for your survival but your thrival – you would thrive and survive doing those three. I just gave you a million dollars of advice right there. What you do with it is up to you of course.” When asked why tumbling in particular was so effective, his response was ‘you clearly have never tried them before!’

I love how passionate Dan John is about exercise and workouts when he speaks, he also has a way of stripping everything back and making it so simple. Upon listening to this podcast I knew that I wanted to give some of the ideas touched upon a go and this morning seemed like as good a time as any.

A) Rowing Sprints

5 x 30:90 @ Level 5

I started the workout with some rower intervals, 5 sprints of 30seconds with about 90seconds rest in between. I always forget how hard these are until I do them and almost regret choosing them as soon as I set off on the first sprint! But I know how beneficial they are and it’s a good variation from the spin bike or the treadmill.

B) Turkish Get Ups

5 x 8kg

3 x 10kg

I have done Turkish Get ups in the past but recently have been neglecting them. My gym only has an 8kg KB and then jumps up to a 16kg one; however I do believe we are getting some new ones in the near future. Therefore I had to do my 10kg reps with a dumbbell, which I find more challenging. The Turkish get-up targets everything, it helps improve mobility, stability, posture, work capacity, strength and studies have shown that there is correlation between performing this exercise and improvement on more recognized lifts such as the deadlift and squat. Here is an article by Tony Gentilcore which goes into more detail about why they should be included as part of your programme. I didn’t go really heavy this morning as I haven’t performed them consistently for quite some time; instead I took my time and really concentrated on the quality of the movement.

Didn't get a photo of me doing this exercise this morning, but here's one from a few months ago!

Didn’t get a photo of me doing this exercise this morning, but here’s one from a few months ago!

C) Naked Turkish Get Ups

3 x 10

No, this doesn’t involve stripping off and performing the exercise, but rather doing it without any weight! Lie on your back and then stand up, then repeat. You will amazed out how out of breath this will make you!

D) Loaded Carries

Farmers Walk 10x10metres with 20kg plates

Suitcase Carry 10x10metres with 20kg plate

This was my first time doing this exercise properly so wasn’t sure what weight to go with or how long the walks should be. I am satisfied that what I chose was challenging enough this morning and now have a baseline from which to work from. I could really feel my posture tightening up like Dan John said it would, especially on the one sided suitcase carry, as you have to really work at maintaining alignment during the movement. I will be surprised if my abs and obliques don’t hurt tomorrow that’s for sure! Upon googling information this morning, a lot of different variations of the loaded carry have come up and I am looking forward to trying out a few more and incorporating them into my workouts, I especially think that they will be beneficial at the end of some of my sessions as a metabolic finisher.

suitcase carry in action!

suitcase carry in action!

E) Tumbles

3 x 10 forward rolls

If anyone had peered into the studio this morning they would have thought I had lost my mind! Have you ever seen anybody doing forward rolls of cartwheels in your gym?! I can’t remember the last time I did consecutive forward rolls, I was out of breath after each set! I can see why this type of movement would increase your metabolic capacity. If anything I tried this exercise on the fly, I could remember from the podcast him talking about doing forward rolls, but not really how to set up a circuit with them. Next time I do them I will research online the best way of incorporating them.

F) Bear Crawls

3 x 10metres

Such a simple movement which looks easy but certainly isn’t! It basically feels like a travelling plank so your core is working overtime. It is basically crawling on all fours without your knees touching the ground, in my head I have to repeat left arm forward; right leg forward; right arm forward; left leg forward; just to ensure that I do the movement properly and don’t get mixed up and land in a heap on the floor! I really enjoyed incorporating this movement; I could feel my core working as well as other stabilising muscles especially in my shoulders and hips. It is amazing how such a simple, back to basics movement can challenge your whole body and have you breathing heavy in such a short amount of time. Here’s a video I found this morning which explains the benefits of performing the bear crawl as well as how to perform it with proper form!

can't tell the difference really....

can’t tell the difference really….

Upon reading this blog post and workout, you may think that it appears a little bit unstructured, and you would be right. I really enjoyed revisiting some exercises which I have neglected in recent months and trying out the new ones which I hadn’t done before. It is always good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new; it just keeps things interesting as well as more motivating. However I know that to get the best impact from all of these exercises I will need to look into properly programming them into my workouts and when is best to perform them!  I think I am most likely to incorporate them as part of metabolic conditioners or finishers at the end of my workouts, especially up to going away to Thailand. I have only touched upon some of the benefits of each movement here but I would really encourage you to find out more and read up on why you should be doing them in your gym sessions! I will let you know how I get on!

Love Abi xxxx


  1. Jason
    11th November 2015 / 5:03 pm

    Military press into overhead carry is my current favourite exercise!
    Suitcase carry is far better than any “side bends” I see repeatedly being done with more carry over and muscles worked.
    There was an interesting article on t-nation regarding the bear crawl, but I’ve never fully implemented it into a routine because it’s a little hard to know/check your form training alone!

    Nice blog 🙂

  2. Jason
    11th November 2015 / 5:51 pm

    Military press into overhead carry is my current favourite exercise!
    Suitcase carry is superior to weighted side bends in every way.
    There was an interesting article on t-nation regarding the bear crawl I have never really implemented the exercise fully into a routine because it’s a little hard to know/ check your form training alone!

    Nice blog post 🙂

    *Sorry if this is a double post

    • 12th November 2015 / 11:51 am

      Oooh I will have to give that exercise a go for sure and let you know how I get on. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment, I really appreciate it! 🙂 xx

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