“I was always honest about my weak points. This helped me grow. I think it’s a key to success in everything: be honest, know where you’re weak; admit it.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

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If you follow my training log over at the TTP Facebook group (and you should!)  you’ll see the cornerstone of my training is done in the “push / pull”, A1) / A2) method.  This is also a cornerstone of my client’s training at Efficient Exercise.

This method, of course, is not my idea.  I’ve just tweaked it according to my available tools and time constraints; as per my rendition of the Five Ts.  Same tune, as it were; different riff.

Now, you won’t find upteen peer reviewed studies supporting this method’s efficacy.  But it’s lineage can be traced back to the earliest days of “modern” bodybuilding.  And there’s a reason for that: it survived in-the-trenches testing; it worked.  If you don’t think that Education of a Bodybuilder is still relevant in this day and age, you’re totally missing the boat.

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And at the end of the day, results are what matters. theory < PRACTICE, as it were.  You buy the shots, and we’ll discuss theory all night.  But when we’re in the gym, we’re gonna get to work and do what produces RESULTS.

The method is simple; I call it the “push / pull” framework.  You’ll also hear the term agonist / antagonist method.  Here are three very, very simple (and actual/culled from my own workout log) examples to illustrate:


A1) blast strap (TRX) tri extensions x 10
A2) barbell bi curl: 95/10
8 rounds

Another take; two “pushes” / one “pull”:

A1) front squat x 3 at 185
A2) ARXFit leg press x 2, 2
A3) Russian leg curl (with iso holds) x 5
3 rounds

…and another:

A1) Nautilus pullover: 245/7
A2) weight dips: 90/5
3 rounds

Another wrinkle.  This time, with a metcon-ish feel:

A1) front press: 145/4
A2) chins: bw + 35/4
EMOM, alternating exercises. 20 minutes (10 sets of each)

You get the idea.

Why is this methodology superior to straight sets, or even super sets?  The jury is still out on that.  Best guesses are that this altering between agonist and antagonist movement somehow “tricks” the neurological system into a more complete (and faster) recovery of the muscle groups acting as the antagonist for each particular motion.

Which, when you think about it, makes sense.  For instance, for the triceps to contract, the biceps need to relax.  And it may be that this more complete relaxation accelerates recovery…and helps to preserve strength deeper into the set/rep scheme.  And vastly so over that of the traditional straight set / recovery / repeat model.

And again, in practice, it just friggin’ works.  Which is why the majority of my personal workouts (and all of my client workouts) are framed this way. More work done per unit of time being the beautiful thing that it is.  Especially so for the busy professional.

This methodology also fits perfectly within a HIIT / HIIRT protocol.  Again, this is why my 30-minute, brief, brutal and basic Efficient Exercise workouts are so effective.  Simple?  You can’t get much easier to program.  Easy? Not on your life.

If / When relevant studies do emerge on this modality, we can use them to further refine the system.

But for now the system, as is, is a damn effective technique to master.  Simple, yet brutally effective.


Heal thyself, harden thyself; change the world –




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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.


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