Have YOU Progressed?

I’ve come a long way…

Sometimes my clients think that I am superhuman.  I move well, I’m damn strong pound-for-pound, I’ll leap a building, I can stay lean rather easily, I’m- okay, okay, I digress… But in all seriousness, most of my clients can, should, and will eventually surpass me if I’m doing my job.  The initial difference between myself and them is that:

1.) I have years of “practice” underneath my belt

2.) I’ve been blessed to have some great coaches help me out along the way

3.) I played often growing up and I’ve experimented with so many different training styles, goals, nutrition approaches, etc… that it’s taken me FOREVER to get where I am today

That last one might confuse you.  It sounds like a negative- and it is, while at the same time it isn’t.

My years of experimentation with play, training and nutrition had a ton of different phases:

  • Phase one: Playground Warrior
    • You might not think that this one is significant, but I believe it’s the biggest one.  You see, I grew up in a rural section of Harrisburg, PA- Fishing Creek Valley Road.  Daily activities included blazing trails in the woods, walking the creek bed turning over rocks looking for crayfish, bmx biking, pick-up games with my brothers and neighbors, etc…  You couldn’t keep me inside.  The problem is, I find that many of my clients, especially the younger ones, are missing this phase of life and PLAY with movement.
    • Once school began, recess and P.E. class were a BIG deal.  We got pretty rough- tackle football, smear the queer (no offense given, just what it was called!), soccer, basketball, dodgeball, and games that we just invented off of the top of our heads.  There were no hard and fast rules, we just played.  If you were small and weak (me), you learned how to use speed and relentlessness to make up for it.  If you were big and strong, you tossed people around and there weren’t any school officials to coddle anyone- they knew we were experimenting with PLAY!


  • Phase two: Organized Sports
    • Organized sports taught me how to play with others, achieve a common goal, celebrate victory, learn from defeat, work hard, PRACTICE, etc…
    • Everyone knows what’s involved in sport.  Moving along…


  • Phase three: Bodybuilding
    • I got into lifting because I didn’t want to be the weak, scrawny, and yet very athletic beast that I was (if I might say so myself).  I began begging for a weight set in Jr. High.  What I wound up getting was some weird weighted blocks that my dad gave me.  I curled them, pressed them, squatted with them, did push-ups, pull-ups on our hot tub room towel rack (it eventually ripped out of the ceiling…woops).  It wasn’t ideal, it didn’t make me much stronger, but it did continue my hunger for weight training.
    • Eventually my parents did get that weight set for me- a Weider multi-use bench- complete with a bench press, preacher curl pad, leg extension, prone leg curl, bars and plates.  I set that bad boy up in my room and learned how to lift (competely wrong I would later learn).  This further experimentation with lifting made me want more, more, more.
    • I finally got a membership to a Gold’s gym, which immediately turned into a job with Subway and a free membership to a new health club called Platinum Health and Fitness (see the full story in my bio).  It was there that I met Greg and Nick, two trainers that took me under their wing and taught me the ways of lifting for muscle gain.  I was freshly 18 and blew up to a whopping 150lbs.  Boom.  Game on.  I became obsessed with muscle symmetry, feeling the “burn,” getting stronger, and taking every supplement known to man.  Just a few months later I would go after my first certification.
    • And yes, I trained for a freaking bodybuilding show.  I got jacked, fake tan, lived on chicken, tilapia, sweet potatos, broccoli, protein powder, etc… for months.  And THANK GOD, that show was cancelled just days before it was to happen.  I can only imagine the shit I would catch for posing with a bunch of dudes on stage to this day.


  • Phase four: College Years and Lots of Coaching
    • I went on to attend Penn State for Kinesiology and came across a ton of individuals all looking to better themselves and others in the iron game.  The difference between myself and a lot of my peers was that I was already certified and working as a trainer.  Many of my peers’ biggest concerns were something in the social realm, but I continued to work and practically live in the gym on a regular basis along with my social life.  I trained TONS of people all through college in a variety of different gyms.  Athletes, men, women, kids, disabled, corporate wellness groups, etc… I exposed myself to all of it.  This vast social interaction would become what I believe to be the most important aspect of my ability to work with so many different types of individuals…
    • All throughout college I lifted for aesthetics with an emphasis on strength.  Please excuse the douchebaggery- I was a college student haha…  I read every book under the sun, experimented with different authors’ programming (to name a few):
      • Maximum Strength by Eric Cressey
      • Power Training by Robert dos Remedios
      • The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
      • Scrawny to Brawny by Michael Mejia and John Berardi
      • Fit to Fight by Jason Ferruggia
      • Secrets of Martial Arts Conditioning by Alwyn Cosgrove
      • Training for Warriors by Martin Rooney
    • I made some pretty big gains in this time but even close to what I’m getting to next.


  • Phase five: Meeting the RIGHT Support Team
    • I’d been working as a trainer/strength coach for 4.5 years by the time I’d graduated college in the spring of 2009.
    • I met Todd in late Winter/early Spring of 2010, and I’m not blowing smoke when I say the few weeks that I spent lifting with him and the guys at his gym before I moved to Virginia were the biggest gains I’d made in all my life.
    • It was somewhere around 6-8 weeks of training and I made some serious gains I wouldn’t have previously thought possible in such a short time frame.
    • I learned that environment was a huge factor. Being in a tiny room with 5 or 6 dudes standing over you yelling to get your air, tense your lats, bend the bar, etc. with extremely loud, angry music will make you move weights you wouldn’t have in any other circumstance.  This was a huge influence in where I am today in owning my own facility…
    • Even after I moved to Virginia, Todd and I went on to become great friends, and eventually business partners.  We talked on the phone, Facebook, and email about training almost daily.  We traded e-books, programs, and gave each other challenges to push each other.  We hit each other up when we needed a keen eye to overlook a program for an athlete.  Support systems in the gym like this, and in life really, are rare to come across, but everyone needs one.


  • Phase six: Opening a Gym and Onward
    • I’m skipping over A LOT of stuff (biggest things are attending a bunch of seminars, continuing to read daily, listen to podcasts often, and working in physical therapy as an aide for 6 months), but long story short- I obviously now run my own gym.
    • I always work out with a purpose and my training is always programmed 3-4 days a week- but I “play” in the gym every day.  As I write this post I am getting up and doing a clean every few minutes while refining technique with two friends.  There’s no goal to get tired, sore, or crush each other- just get better.  Progress.

Hopefully you stuck with me through all of that.  I’ve put in a lot of time from playing with movement to running a training facility- I don’t think we need to argue that one.  And that’s why we can go all the way back to the top of this post to my original statement:

…most of my clients can, should, and will eventually surpass me if I’m doing my job.”

It is my years of doing things the wrong way, program hopping, eating like a baby ant to eating like a grizzly, etc. before figuring out the things that worked that can shorten the path to success for everyone that I work with.  And hopefully they don’t just surpass me on a physical level, but I push them to better in life altogether.

What’s your movement history?

What have you learned?

Who’s your support system?

If you can’t answer all of these questions, or you feel like you’re still somewhere early along the journey like I was at a point- now you know where to go.

Play with movement.


Find a support system. 


Progression. Through. Perseverance.


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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
About the author

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
8 Responses
  1. Bryan Walsh

    “with extremely loud, angry music will make you move weights you wouldn’t have in any other circumstance. ”

    So can we listen to more metal now, I love the screamo , techno and all but death metal and hardcore definitely make a better atmosphere!

    1. Chris Merritt

      Haha yeah man, just different stuff winds up on rotation occasionally, too tall… Get your butt in here and crush some weight and then you get to touch the music. Ask Hughes what happened when he asked to change the music last night hahaha…

  2. Aaron Lee

    Thanks for another great article Chris! As one of the clients who trains at BSP NoVA, I can honestly say that I have made more progress there than I ever achieved on my own. I have lofty goals (both long and short terms) but to reference another one of your articles, with Chris’s help, I have the “big rocks” in place.

    P.S. I will, eventually, surpass you. Might take a decade or so, but it will happen 🙂

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