“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir

Here’s a little New Year’s day fun for you.  4 rounds of the following, for time:

(A1) Behind the neck push-press: 185 x 5
(A2) Hang clean: 185 x 7
(A3) Front Squat: 185 x 9
(A4) Trapeze bar chin: bodyweight x 11 (chest to bar)

My cumulative times today were as follows – Round 1: 4:20, Round 2: 10:37, Round 3: 18:03, Round 4: 24:56

Lots of work and plenty of movement in that 25 minute span.  Good stuff.  Let’s pick this one apart a bit:

*No real magic to the exercise selections here, but notice that none of the selections are particularly technically demanding.  The last thing you’d want to throw into this mix would be something like a snatch variation or, in my opinion, a full-on clean and press.  I did purposely chose to vary the type of basic movement pattern with each selection, though; push, pull, hinge, squat.  Again, though, no real rocket science involved. 

*I purposely selected a weight-to-rep-scheme that would force a rest-pause in each exercise after the first round.  And, of course, I didn’t want to screw with multiple bars.  One bar in the rack, and one trapeze bar – 3, 2, 1, GO!  Keep it simple!  

*Any magic to 5, 7, 9, 11?  Of course not.  It’s simply a clean mental construct and, as you fatigue, enables you to keep your “eyes on the prize”.  I did utilize enough load, though, to keep weighted exercise reps relatively low.

*What’s a “trapeze” bar?  Simply a free-hanging chin/pull-up bar.  Just an added twist to — and a bit harder than — the traditional, “anchored”, chin or pull-up.

And then there is this — a thought for the new year:

Ouch.  Telling it like it is.

My niece sent me the above photo.  This was posted at the office entrance of a D1 football S&C coach.  I won’t mention the school, the S&C coach, or the 10 young men mentioned here.  The only reason I mention it at all is to highlight a basic human tendency to “take the path of least resistance”.  People tend to think that naturally gifted athletes are somehow immune to this condition, but alas its prevalence among the naturally gifted is one of the more frustrating aspects to training the naturally gifted.  

The other side of this coin is the kid who lacks some of that native talent, but who overachieves via training, studying every aspect of the game, and nailing his nutrition.  And then there are those special few who, no matter how naturally gifted they may be, strive to train for, and compete against, some imaginary foe who is right on their heels.  I’m guessing that the 10 young men on the list above are not in either of those latter two categories.  Talent a-plenty — obviously, or they wouldn’t have even made it into such a competitive environment — but no drive to get better.  And that’s a shame.

So what can the general public learn from this?  That “nothing good comes cheap”, comes to mind.  If you want to be healthy, you’re gonna hafta do a little work, plain and simple.  And if you wanna push the envelope, be an athlete, or compete against the best, you’re gonna hafta sacrifice quite a bit in the way of creature comforts.

With the new year will come every conceivable act advertised as being the new rage form of quick fix, “beach body” transformation.  “Every conceivable act”, that is, absent of this message: You’re going to have to bust your ass in the gym.  A couple of times per week if you’re looking to be healthy, and 6 or more times per week if you’re looking to compete against the best in your chosen sport.  You’re going to have to give up tasty, sugary crap for nutrient dense food.  You’re going to have to go to bed at a decent hour and get plenty of sleep.  You’re going to have to figure out a way to effectively manage your daily stress.  There is no pill, magic potion, woo, or even PED that can compensate for this.  To the extent that PEDs work (and they do, of course), is in addition to the deckplate stuff being covered, not in lieu of it being covered. 

So as we spin into 2013, the only thing that will work in the “body transformation” department is the only thing that has ever worked — consistent adherence to a smartly programmed training regimen, consumption of a crap-free, nutrient-dense diet, and getting a handle on sleep and stress.  All else is minutia.

And that’s a message that’s never gonna win any marketing awards.  But, if adhered to, will allow you to compete against the best in your chosen sport, or live a healthy, vibrant and long life.

Dive in headlong this new new.  Work hard, and live well.  Natural talent means a lot, for sure — but it’s hardly everything.

In health, fitness and ancestral wellness –




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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.


  1. Great message Keith.

    Frankly this should be the message to the rest of the country looking to make meaningful change in their lives.

    Keep up the great work!

    Look forward to getting to Austin one of these days and getting my ass kicked in one of your workouts 🙂

    Best wishes for 2013


  2. HI Keith. Interesting routine. I do have one question for you however: I notice you tend to do a lot of behind the neck pressing. Clearly, you haven’t had problems with this movement (assuming you’re not masochistic or foolish), but I’ve always been advised to stay away from this movement – and, the only time I was ever injured seriously in the weight room occurred about 30 years ago doing this movement. My question: why not press from the front?

    • I feel very comfortable pressing behind the neck, and can actually handle more weight that way vs going front side. But you’re correct — because of individual shoulder anatomy, pressing from behind the neck can cause many people problems. No need to force the issue, simply keep your overhead work to the front.
      …and I’m not quite sure yet about the masochistic or foolish part. The jury is still out 😉

    • Yeah, hard to say. I have no idea what carrots, if any, were involved. Or, if at that point in the game, it would even matter.

  3. My 1st visit to your blog…

    The naturally gifted, LAZY, SELFISH athletes aren’t getting the same shots in the pros (NFL) anymore which is nice to see.

    Humans will always chase the path of least resistance and fail ever time. Human nature requires us to learn this life lesson ourselves by trial and error. The ones who grasp it early on are successful in life, the others will chase the dream forever.

    Happy New Year


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