“Chance favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur



Time…or more aptly, lack thereof.  When discussing the Five Ts with my clients – or even when evaluating my own program – time is more often than not found to be the most restrictive obstacle to overcome.  Whether it be time available to devote per workout, or cumulatively throughout the week, time is over and again the most restrictive factor standing between a client and his or her fitness goals.

Or so it would seem.

Because the fact of the matter is that a hell of a lot can be accomplished in as little as one hour (two, smartly-programmed, 30-minute sessions) per week. In my post Managing the Variables, I wrote:

…If you’re looking to be a high level, competitive athlete, days off are going to be few and far between.  Get over it — that’s just part of the Faustian bargain.  Great health, on the other hand, can be accomplished in as little as 1 hour of smartly-programmed training (plus some daily movement) a week.  You’ll have to find your “home” somewhere within that wide spectrum, depending upon what you want out of the S&C game.  And depending upon how much time you’re willing to invest in the process.  Diminished returns is the name of the game here.  Of course I don’t have any verified numbers to offer you, but I’d say a pretty solid, in-the-park swag is to say that you could reach, with smart programming, maybe 80% of your genetic hypertrophy potential in as little as an hour per week. Want to bump it to 90%?  Better invest another 3 hours per week.  Trying to top out?  Better be willing to throw another 7 hours on top of that.  And be damn sure your nutrition, sleep, recovery and stress management is flawless.  You get the idea.  And this is just the hypertrophy side of things.  Sport-specific technique is another issue entirely, though the diminished returns idea is applicable here as well.

100% of the health benefits and 80% of the phenotypical expression in 1 hour per week.  Not too shabby.

Okay, so let’s say that you’ve bought into the idea that an hour per week of intense exercise is a pretty damn good return on investment.  And let’s say that, although 90% might be more to your liking, you’re just not willing or able to part with the additional 3 hours per week required to get there.  I get it.  I’m just happen to be one of those freaks who does have the time, inclination and recuperative ability to push that 90% threshold and beyond.  My clients, for the most part, do not have the time, inclination or recuperative ability, and it’s my responsibility to give them as much as possible in that one hour per week that they are able to commit.

So, how about some specifics?  How would one go about attempting to program a 1 hour per week, solid template?

Well, let’s first assume the that body performs 8 basic movements — vertical push, vertical pull, horizontal push, horizontal pull, squat, hinge and (the wildcards) sprint and/or carry.  There are a million angles and variations on these themes, of course, but these are the basics that we’ll need to cover.

Next, let’s agree that we should touch on (“surf”) as many portions of the force-velocity curve as possible — for the sake of both enhanced hypertrophy and enhanced health and wellness.  That means that over a number of workouts, we’ll hit on as many varieties of rep tempos, intensities (in the academic sense of the term) and time-under-load (or rep count) variants per movement as possible.

Third, let’s agree that Autoregulation will be the overriding modality that we’ll follow. And that we’ll strive for some kind of a  PR (volume, density load, etc.) in every movement, every workout.

And finally, let’s just assume that the intensity (common use of the term) — or “temperament/tenacity” according to my Five Ts — should always be sky-high.  Not artificially/stimulant/face-slapping high, mind you, but steely focused.  Or in the immortal words of CT Fletcher, an “it’s still your mutha fuckin’ set!” brand of intense.

Now, let’s walk through the construction of a couple of half-hour workouts, seeing if we can both hit all the basic movement patterns, and do a little intense, force-velocity “curve surfing” along the way.  Here is how I programmed one particular Efficient Exercise client last week; we’ll deconstruct these two workouts in a moment:

Monday –
A1 Powermax 360 cross-punch x 30 secs.  15 sec pause, then
A2 75 lb T-bar swing x 20
3 rounds
B1 ARXFit chin x 5 reps
B2 Hanging (stirrups)  knees-to-elbows.  “Pin” knees to elbows for a “beat”, then lower slowly. 5002 tempo
2 rounds
C1 ARXFit incline press x 5
C2 Pendulum Hip press x 21.  1st round -7-rep rest-pause, increase weight at each 7-rep pause.  2nd round, Rest-pause sets of 7,6,5,4 and 3 with top-out weight of round 1. 10 second pause between sets
2 rounds

Thursday –
A1 Powermax 360 cross-punch x 30 secs.  15 sec pause, then flye/reverse flye x 30 secs
A2 55 lb T-bar swing x 20, pause 15 secs, another 20
2 rounds
B1 ARXFit leg press x 5
B2 Russian leg curl x 10
2 rounds
C1 Dips x 7 reps, pause 15 sec, 5 reps (same weight)
C2 ARXFit row x 5
2 rounds

Ok, so a couple of things stand out here.  First off, I have access to some specialized equipment that helps me hit the extremes of the force-velocity curve — ARXFit, for the high force/low velocity portion, and the powermax 360 allows me to hit the high velocity/low force section.  I can utilize what I feel is the best leg press on the market – the Pendulum hip press – to safely scorch the lower body when the client is already in a highly fatigued state.  You will just have to plug-and-play according to what you have available to you (another of the Five T tenants .  For instance, ballistic push-ups could be used in lieu of the 360, and barbell equivalents could be used in lieu of the ARXFit work.  Not perfect, but nothing in life ever is.  Doing the best you can with what you have is the name of the game.

Now, you might be asking where the overhead and heavy hinge work is.  Yes, these movements will be cycled through in subsequent workouts.  In other words, this is not a simple A, B repeating workout setup — it just one small part of a larger, overall, constantly-changing whole.

And so the theme of each workout is to find some way to PR on each and every movement and/or exercise grouping.  Or, we can benchmark numbers in a novel move or combo.  For instance, let’s consider the Dip/ARXFit row combo in Thursday’s workout.  We could shoot for an out-and-out load PR (in the dip), or maybe a rep PR at an established load in each exercise.  Total work output or max average force output would work in the row.  Or maybe we could look at this from a combined density (or work output) standpoint…you get the idea.  Lots of exciting options, here.  And not as complicated as it might sound, either, if you keep a good set of PR-specific notes.

The goal is to constantly change challenges, and keep things fresh.  Give the mind and body something new to conquer.  It’s been my experience that insofar as linear periodization works (and it does), it does so in specialized instances.  It works, ironically, for rank beginners.  And it works, too, for those specialized athletes whose life revolves around the sport of lifting (be it power or Olympic).  This is probably a subject for another post, as fleshing it out gets a bit convoluted.

Autoregulation, on the other hand, works exceedingly well for those whose life, health or sport is augmented by weight training, and/or for those who are unable to devote their every waking moment to either working out or maximizing recovery.  We’d all love to be (and live like) Olympic caliber athletes, but alas that’s not the case.  We’ve got to somehow account for all those other stressors in our lives (not to mention the missed workouts, etc.) that would jack with our pretty and clean, linear progression calculations.

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. By the way, I based on discussions here I bought Biology for Bodybuilders by Doug Miller and The MAX Muscle Plan by Brad Schoenfeld, who promised to offer something else. Both explicitely state “HIT absolutely works.” Not HIT is the best, Brad actually says the opposite, but for it’s intended audience, it works.

    • Right on. Both Doug and Brad are pretty damn sharp individuals. And, they both have plenty of in-the-trenches experience.

  2. Becase of your frequent mention of the force-velocity curve, I’ve started to do a bit more reading about that subject. I see that at intermediate force & velocity, muscle power output hits a maximum. Is that point treated as something special when you design workout routines?

    The PowerMax 360 seems mainly of use for upper body exercises. Is there anything you use for lower body work to hit the same part of the force-velocity curve?

    • Yes, I treat the power zone as my “home base” so to speak, and I surf the rest of the curve insofar as to support ultimately bettering my output here in all of 8 basic movements (if that makes sense?).

      The PowerMax 360 seems mainly of use for upper body exercises. Is there anything you use for lower body work to hit the same part of the force-velocity curve?

      Sprints, jump squats, plyos, etc.


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