Elite strength sometimes plays by its own rules. In most cases, it is built incrementally over decades, spanning tens of thousands of reps and hundreds of training cycles. But sometimes, someone comes along who is so strong and so young—not to mention so ripped—that they challenge everything you thought you knew. Jesse Norris is one of these.
At 22 years old, Norris is one of the best powerlifters in the world. In the 93-kilogram (198-pound) weight class, he holds a raw world-record deadlift of 826 pounds, and a three-lift—bench, squat, and deadlift—total record of 2033.7 pounds. That's over 10 times his body weight. Norris achieved both of these titles at the Reebok Record Breakers meet in November of 2015.
Jesse Norris All Time World Record Total - 2033 @ 198
Watch The Video - 1:15
Even though he continually competes and wins among the world's best athletes, Norris was a relative unknown until recently, even to many powerlifting fans. The secret is now out, and Norris has been gaining popularity through social media and videos, but don't expect him to change as a result. His quiet demeanor and humble attitude remain constant, and the publicity hasn't had any impact on Norris's ability to move weight.
In an effort to learn more about this budding superstar, we sat down for an interview at Bodybuiding.com headquarters.
On His History With The Iron
Have You Always Been Strong?
Yes. Well, relatively. I first started lifting when I was in eighth grade. Basically, the whole class would go through a course, and then we'd do our first max. Mine was comparable to everyone else. But afterward, I dedicated more time to the weight room than everyone else.
So, by the end of the year, I set the eighth grade records. I just kept going from there. I found powerlifting in high school and started doing it more frequently.
Where Does Your Drive To Do Well Come From? Why Try So Hard?
In the beginning, I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to get stronger for other sports. I was never really recognized. I'm not sure if that's because my brother was always in the spotlight, or if it was because I was trying to be a football player. So I put a lot of effort into getting better.
Once I started winning and getting more attention, it was about finding my limits and continuing to break those limits. It's very fulfilling. And now I know that I can help inspire young people to try new things.
Would You Say You Have A Natural Gift?
It's definitely a combination of my work ethic and my genetics. In the beginning, it could have been just work ethic, but as I start to fine-tune everything and find my body's limits, genetics start to become more of a factor.
Are Your Parents Athletic?
Definitely. My family is athletic. My brother is similar to me. We have good genes. He went to the Olympia strongman competition and placed second, so he's obviously talented as well.
On Strengths And Weaknesses
What Is Your Biggest Weakness?
My biggest physical weakness is mobility. I have a really bad habit of not stretching or cooling down. Unfortunately, it causes knee pain and low-back pain, so that's something I need to get better at.
Mentally, I suppose my biggest weakness is going into things expecting something bad to happen. I don't have a positive outlook—I expect the worst. Sometimes, that can work in my favor, though. If I have a really great day, it usually surprises me.
Going Into A Meet, Do You Expect To Fail?
It's a mix. In the days before a meet, I think, "Oh man, maybe I'm going to bomb. This is going to be bad." I just get these bad thoughts rolling. And then, as I walk up to the bar, I'm usually a lot more confident. I tell myself, "I've done this before. I know what I'm doing. I've trained for this."
The weights don't scare me, but I do get nervous sometimes. Getting under a heavy squat, you see guys blow out their knees and terrible things happen. So that makes me nervous, but it's not really the weight. When I get under a bar, I feel confident. It's just what I have to do. It's what I've been training for.
If You Miss A Lift, What Do You Tell Yourself?
It depends on the situation. When I miss a lift, I start thinking about technique. Then I play trial and error. If I've fixed whatever I think was wrong, but I don't get it again, then I know it just isn't going happen that day. I just try to brush it off and move on. There's really nothing you can do about it sometimes.
What Are Your Strengths?
Being relaxed. I don't get upset about things. I brush things off. Whatever happens, I keep rolling. I'm persistent. The frequency and commitment I have to training is far beyond the realm most people can do. My determination. I go in every day, no matter what. I try to push though my workouts and hit an extra rep or set every time I go in.
Do You Like Competing?
Yes. I don't compete often, but I try to do two or so meets a year. Obviously, the meets are fun because I get to meet new people and compete against them. And I think competing brings the best out in me.
You Seem So Low-Key About It. You Don't Seem To Psych Yourself Up To Lift.
When I see people do that, I just laugh. Basically, you are what you do. Adrenaline runs out. You can't expect to always have emotions fuel your fire.
Do You Start Meets With A Weight You Know You Can Hit?
Yes. That helps. It also helps knowing where I am that day. Obviously, no one can peak perfectly for a meet, or at least not all the time. So usually, my first lift is one I'm really comfortable with. It's one I know I can hit even on a bad day. But if the weight moves slowly, I know it's going to be a bad day, so my next lift won't be a big jump.
Do You Do Your Own Programming?
I haven't always, but now I do. It's just a mix of programs I've used in the past. I've taken what I liked and what I know works and integrated it into my own thing.
Does That Take A Long Time To Learn?
Yes, that takes a few years of consistent training. A lot of people just follow programs and that's that. I always just put weight on the bar and did as many reps as I could. I just figured it out from there.
What's Your Competition Routine Like?
My warm-up is pretty particular. It's consistent. I always warm up the same way. But the numbers I try to hit during my attempts are all by feel. So, if my knee doesn't feel great, or my body just hurts, I won't go heavy.
On The Sport Of Powerlifting
Powerlifting Is Not An Easy Sport. How Long Has It Taken You To Figure Out The Technique?
Every day is a mental challenge. You have to know yourself and your body. When you're training for high-level meets and you don't want to go out and miss a lift, your training has to be spot-on.
If you're having a bad day and you just try to brush it off and think you're still going to hit a PR, that can be a problem. It's more about knowing yourself and calculating what lifts you need to win, because everyone will be out there trying to do their best.
The mental aspect is huge, but so is the programming, the training, the nutrition, and the recovery. All of that is taken into account in that final moment on the platform.
Not All Powerlifters Are Both Strong And Ripped. How Do You Maintain Your Physique?
I've always wanted to have a good physique. I feel better about presenting myself in front of a company. But, I think my physique also helps the appeal of the sport, which helps the sport grow. So, those things, and I'm comfortable with my weight. I don't have to try to cut a ton of weight or force-feed myself to make weight before a meet. My nutrition is on and the way I lift helps me keep a good physique.
I've thought about moving up a weight class, but my main goal is to find out how far I can go at this weight. I know I haven't reached my full potential. I'd like to find that and then see what happens.
The deadlift, because it's my easiest and best lift. Just pick it up—nothing too technical.
What Do You Say To People Who Are Interested In Powerlifting Or Want To Be Like You?
I would say, train for powerlifting, of course. And then I would say do a local meet to see if you like it. If you have fun, then stick with it. If you don't have fun, then try something else. It's not worth your time if you're not having fun.
What Goals Do You Have For Yourself In The Future?
I have goals as far as my next numbers, but I love the fitness industry and I love working out. I'd love to turn it into a career and continue with it for the rest of my life.
I'm not sure. I have a knee injury that's been bothering me. But I know I'll be at the 2016 Arnold Sports Festival with Kaged Muscle supplements. Hope to see some of you there!