The 'What The Hell' Effect

This is a phrase I first heard Dan John talk about in his book ‘Easy Strength’.


It’s a phrase used to describe the phenomenon that occurs when you incorporate certain exercises into your training that give you a greater return than most - a clear and measurable return.


The only problem (if you can call it that), is that you can’t get a handle on why you get such a return from each exercise. You can have an educated guess as to why you see the carryover; the speed of the movement, the transition from explosive contraction to relaxation, the fibre type recruited, the movement pattern…


They’re all good guesses. But if something works, does the ‘how’ really matter?


Dan John uses the example of kettlebell swings for remarkably improving the performance of swimming and cycling athletes. The two seem fairly unrelated right? Yet, performance goes up time and again, so why question it?


Often exercises get lost in a training plan. It’s hard to work out if your 10km road runs or 400m intervals are contributing most to your 5k time. We don’t know if it’s the incline press or the overhead press that’s increasing our bench.


It’s hard to tell which exercise or training modality is contributing more, so you continue doing both of them.


We don’t want this. We want to be as efficient as possible with our training. It’s important to remove anything unnecessary from the program. We call this trimming the fat.


Ideally you have a simple program, you execute proficiently, your performance improves, and we waste no extra energy or time on things that don’t matter.


Enter the ‘What The Hell Effect’.


Incorporating the following exercises into any program will generally carry over to improved performance. Obviously, this is impossible to say. It depends on how you perform them and the intensity at which you do so. But execute these exercises competently and I’m confident your performance will advance.


The 4 ‘What The Hell’ exercises are:


1. Kettlebell swings


2. Ab rollouts

3. Loaded carries



4. Hill sprints

Mix up intensities, sets, reps and loading. There’s no real need to go heavier than a 24kg bell for kettlebell swings – speed of contraction is more important than load. Ab rollouts can be difficult to master but once you do, you’ll start to feel the carryover immediately. Mix up your loaded carries, perform suitcase carries (one arm), farmers carries (two arms) and dead ball-bear carries. You should also mix up the load (light loads for long durations and heavy loads for short). Hill sprints should remain hill sprints. I’m not sure if the carryover is there for hill runs or jogs. Sprint up the hill for 5-20 seconds then walk back down and repeat.


I’m also convinced more and more every day that goblet squats, overhead pressing, pull-ups and using heavy dead balls for loading movements are essential to most programs. In fact if all you did was the exercises listed in this article, you’d have a pretty great program.


If you’d like help with incorporating these exercises into your training plan or you’d like help with technique, please don’t hesitate to reach out today. We’re happy to help.


Good luck with your training. #one22 #strengthcapacityresilience


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