Well, it’s that one time of year where we Americans show our thanks by over-eating and then zoning out on the couch to our favorite TV movies and sports.  All of this before we rush the stores and trample each other for the “best deals of the year.”  But hey, in all honesty I’m doing it too- minus the shopping stuff.  And I have a lot of big things to be thankful for this year:




  1. A healthy business that is flourishing after barely a year of life (Beyond Strength Performance NOVA).
  2. Make that two healthy businesses in the first year of life (Disciple MMA Academy).
  3. An awesome platform in Beyond Strength Performance (ummm that would be the blog that you are currently reading) to share my passion, along with my brother from another mother, Todd Bumgarner, with the world.
  4. An amazing girlfriend, Jess Blazer, that has been such a huge support system to keep my head above water while I got all of this up and running.
  5. The opportunity to spend WEEKS on the road with my best friend, Dustin Pague, working three UFC fights (lifelong dream realized!)

That list could go on and on…  I don’t need a pat on the back or anything, and I’m not looking to sell you on some magical system for happiness.  In fact, you don’t need to have big things like those to be thankful for.  We have it made, all of us.  There was a quote that Jess showed me last night that was something along these lines: “whatever you’re dealing with, someone else is praying for…”  Think about that.  We take A LOT for granted.

So with that being said, here are out little things we would like to be thankful for at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA:

  1. Melanie is a member of ours that has opened a lot of peoples’ eyes.  Next time you think you can’t do something, go back and read the original post that I did on working with her, here.

    • Well, it has been a few weeks since that original post, and she has continued to provide us with inspiration on a daily basis.  Our newest goal has been to get into a half kneeling position from both sides.  Last week (on Thursday November 15th to be exact) I had to manually place her in the position to get started.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to work with someone dealing with CP, the only way I can describe the spasticity is that it’s like trying to keep a clothes pin open.  You can open it, but it’s going to go right back to it’s typical position.  Well, it’s much of the same with CP, but unlike a clothes pin, there are neural pathways at play.  These neural pathways will eventually respond to the positions that you force them in to.  That first session of working on this was a battle, but a few awesome things happened.
      • Once I placed Melanie in the position, along with some help from a wall, she was able to hold herself there (removing her arm from the wall and purely supporting herself from 1-2 seconds).
      • She described an intense stretch that brought a warming sensation to her legs.  She explained that it felt like blood was rushing to her legs like never before (I do not know for sure what the warming sensation really was).
      • We preceded Thursday’s session with a few sessions of manual stretches for the hip flexors along with glute activation techniques.  This was integral (I believe) in what I am about to tell you…
      • While she was in the position we worked some reactive neuromuscular training (RNT) through manual force on her legs (my hands) and progressing her to a Cook band.  If you are unfamiliar with RNT, here is a clip from Charlie Weingroff: YouTube Preview Image
      • We finished off Thursday’s session with some glute bridges and sit-to-stands from a much lower bench than she was previously used to (I did not tell her it was lower and she nailed it…).
    • When Melanie returned on Saturday, I was actually in Richmond cornering Ryan Farhat, one our pro fighters (who won!), so she worked with Dustin Pague.  I left Dustin the complete program for the day and asked him to keep me in the loop on how the session went.  When I talked to him the following day he told me it went great.  It wasn’t until I received the following text from Melanie that I realized how great:
      • * Melanie is a Tennessee fan.  It’s been a difficult year for her, and we pick on her- A LOT.  And it’s not just us.  Her Physical Therapist, Jesse Lewis, started it…
    • So when I had her in on Tuesday this week (November 20th, to give you an idea of how short the time-frame is on all of this), I was shocked to see her perform her tall kneeling positions with relative ease.  Want to see what I mean? YouTube Preview Image
      • Side note: I am kicking myself for not filming the first session of attempting tall kneeling so you could see the progress made in five days! [I am also kicking myself for such horrible music in the background during the videos that she is in haha]
    • So there is a takeaway message to all of this that you can apply to any athlete and fitness enthusiast alike, I promise.  Are you ready for it?
      1. Own positioning first.  Reach proficiency in static mobility/stability to properly attain good position first.
      2. Build reactive stability/tension on top of great positioning.  Once you own the position, add in drills from there.  For Melanie, this could mean that we eventually progress on to perturbations from a tall kneeling position.
      3. Build strength! Once you can own the position with some reactive stability and proper tension, build strength!  For Melanie this could possibly be Pallof variations, chops, lifts, etc…
  2. “Small” gains.

    • No gain in the weight room is small, hence my quotations above.  I had multiple female members this month attain the coveted bodyweight unassisted pull-up- for reps.  We used cluster sets to build their numbers up.  Two of them did 3 x (3 x 3) with 10seconds between clusters and about 120seconds between sets- that’s 27 unassisted pull-ups in a session!  One of them was my girlfriend (not to brag or anything, coughsherockscough), but she was frustrated that on week one she crushed 3 x (3 x 2) and had some difficulty with her 3 x (3 x 3) the following week.  That “little” gain is 9 additional pull-ups though!  No small feat… Small gains are really just personal records (PR’s).
      • The other girls are Brittney Valentine and Jennifer Sutingco…  I know I said two, but that’s because Jen was busting out pull-ups straight out of the womb!
      • Use cluster sets in your programming to build some work capacity with your big lifts.  Trust me, it works.
  3. PR’s.

    • There’s no feeling like owning a lift you’ve been after for a while.  Jon Hughes, one of my pro MMA fighters has taken on my love for the deadlift.  Well, Jon got ridiculously strong, relative to where he was at the last few months… How about crappy form and struggling with 185# on the deadlift all the way to decent form and 405# in 8 weeks? YouTube Preview Image
  4. Bryan Walsh.

    • Bryan is one of my athlete’s (MMA and Muay Thai) that I train.  However, he is also the mastermind behind our t-shirt design.  Just take a look at this bad boy! 
    • Be on the look-out if you’r interested, we will be taking pre-orders next week!
  5. The ability to move and have fun playing in the weight room!

    • No explanation needed here.  I am just so thankful to get to do what I do on a daily basis.  Move well, move more often, and HAVE FUN! YouTube Preview Image

Happy Thanksgiving!!


Progression through perseverance,

Coach Chris


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Chris Merritt
Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA
Chris Merritt
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Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA
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