Pairing lifts with the Celtics

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By Chad Zimmerman

According to Boston Celtics strength coach Walter Norton Jr., the second you start lifting, you're on the clock. "An athlete can only do an hour of rigorous strength training before his body begins resisting the ability to get stronger," he says.

With a fixed amount of time to lift and exercises to complete, Norton pairs lifts to make minutes in the weight room more efficient. "By pairing opposite movements, we can get more exercises done in a shorter amount of time—and that's why our athletes get stronger," he says.

Norton's athletes perform pairs of lifts back-to-back, with a minute between the finish of one exercise and beginning of the next. To make the system work, he groups lifts that work completely different muscle groups.

Try a few of the pairs Norton uses with his athletes. But heed his warning: "It will take you a few weeks to adjust to the intensity of this pattern."

Pair 1

Bench Press

• Lay on bench and grasp bar slightly wider than shoulder width
• Lower bar to base of sternum
• Press bar off chest until arms are extended


• Stand with feet together, holding bar shoulder-hip width
• With slight flex in knees, push hips back and lean forward
• Keeping lower back flat and bar close to legs, lower bar toward ground
• Return to starting position

Pair 2

Standing Alternating Dumbbell Press

• In athletic stance, hold dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level
• With palms facing away from body, press one dumbbell over head
• Return dumbbell to starting position and press opposite dumbbell over head

Ball Leg Curl

• Lay on ground with heels on physioball
• Raise hips off ground making straight line from shoulders to feet
• Using both legs, roll ball toward hips
• Lift hips up, maintaining straight line from shoulders to knees
• Roll ball back out using one leg
• Next rep, use opposite leg to roll ball out

Pair 3

Front Squat

• Stand with feet shoulder-hip width apart
• Hold bar across chest
• Lower hips into squat, keep core tight and knees behind toes
• Squat until thighs are parallel to ground
• Return to starting position

Alternate Grip Chin-Up

• Grasp chin-up bar with one hand facing you and the other facing away
• Pull yourself off ground until chin is above bar
• Keep core tight to avoid twisting

One last thought: "We don't pair the Olympic lifts with anything, because we want maximum recovery for ultimate muscle system potential."

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock