Aged 18 Years

By Chris Moore

In Olympic Lifts, Powerlifting

June 23, 2010

PDF Article

Chris Moore offers seven lessons learned from 18 years under the bar.

Training is just like whiskey.

You start with raw, coarse ingredients. After careful preparation and sustained heat, you can produce something recognizable: a foundation. In time that product will improve. You might even call it good, but that’s only because you’ve never experienced anything better. After years of persistence, you will finally begin to taste the real thing—something that is more than the sum of its parts.

A brewer may fail countless times before producing something noteworthy. It’s no different in the gym. Early, easy gains often turn into periods of frustration. These moments are opportunities for refinement. The craft of programming requires the removal of elements that are not useful and the addition of new ingredients, subtleties and distinctions.

When I first touched a barbell, I was raw. Like many, I began to train in high school to prepare for sport. I lifted just about every day, played a lot of shitty metal music over the weight-room speakers, loaded up the leg press and always made sure to do my curls. There was no reason to doubt what I was doing. I was strong and a decent athlete, but I was ignorant. Refinement came one training session at a time, one competition at a time. Each misstep along the way was an opportunity to learn.

After 18 years of training, I still make mistakes. I no longer listen to shitty metal music, but my training doesn’t always go as planned. However, my time under the bar has revealed some evident truths. This is what I have learned.



20 Comments on “Aged 18 Years”


wrote …

A very well written article. About the only concept I don't agree with is the idea of simplification if that means the athlete is only worrying about the major lifts and therefore not addressing weaknesses. That same thought seems to be espoused by the Starting Strength lovers. Linear progression works, but only to a point and often ends up in injury. I am not totally clear on this author's position so I wanted to state my thoughts here.


wrote …

Just wanted to say, I loved this article and it actually made me think alot about some things I have done in the past. Thank you very much for this article. Probably one of my favorites asides from anything with Pat Sherwood. Chris, I'd like to know if it would be alright to email you with some questions? Best of luck.


Michael Bledsoe wrote …

Chris Moore is a great guy to have around. Smart as any lifter out there but he'll always remind you to just man up and lift big. I get caught up with trying to come up with the best programming in the world and forget the intensity. He's a guy not afraid to tell you that you're being a pussy.


wrote …

Nice article.
I see what you're saying but I think he was just emphasizing the importance of simplicity over complexity. Complex programming is needed as you approach your genetic potential however it takes a minute to get there. (minute, years whatever...haha) If someone is stuck at a 200 pound back squat I don't think it's time to go crazy with a million accessory exercises to push you through your plateau. Back squatting will get them through it; they probably just need to work harder.
Strength is relative to every individual but there is a whole lot that is possible for a whole lot of people if they take the time and make the effort to make it happen.


Michael Bledsoe wrote …

Hi Guys,

This is Chris. I am logged onto the journal site with Mike's login information.

- For Chris Mason...let me say that we are both correct. It's really a matter of where you are in your training career. When I left football, I was sorely burned out on linear progression, straight barbell lifts...basically a very traditional approach. When I started to powerlift, I adopted a very specialized program that targeted all of my weaknesses. I must say, I had many injuries and under-developed areas that benefited greatly from such an approach.

At some point, though, you will run into problems when you focus on weaknesses too much. I became so consumed with incorporating all kinds of specialized exercises that I regressed on the general things. For instance, I was very good a lockouts, extensions, etc. on the bench press, but I could not do dips. I could not do overhead presses, even though I was pressing close to 700 lbs. I lost sight of the fundamentals. For the deadlift, I was so focused on glute-ham, back raises...that I lacked the stimulus that heavy, frequent pulling was providing.

That all being said. My program still includes lot's of variety, bands, special exercises, etc. Only this time around, I keep the lifts "big." Very little focus on small, assistance exercises. I lift as heavy as I can, as often as I can. I lift with max force all the time. I incorporate chains, bands, and specialty bars. To close, my program progresses week to week. It has a direction. But I utilize very specialized means. Make sense?

- Nicholas, feel free to email me any questions you have. It would be my pleasure to share any useful information I may have (

- Nolan, I agree that there are times when complicated training methods are needed. But you know what, I think many people, myself included previously, consider themselves advanced when they are not. I consider advanced to be those who are truly world class. Also, you can be advanced at some things, and a "beginner" at others. For any given exercise, if you can add weight every week and adapt, get stronger, then you should do so.That means very simple programming. I don't care how long you've been training. If you need to adjust load bi-weekly, monthly, or longer, you need an advanced approach. This is something that every athlete needs to honestly assess. Ego should not stand in the way of performance.

Keep the questions coming.




wrote …

Great piece!
Who's the guy with the Hebrew tattoo ?


wrote …

Excellent article, as was your blog on your site about summer nights and memories about your father and passion. It's all connected and you are a wise man to see the big picture. Your ethos reminds me much of Jim Wendler. I use his 5/3/1 program in addition to CF and CFFB workouts. Any thoughts on his use of linear progression for the big 4 lifts through percentages as opposed to estimates on how much to lift next, i.e. "Add another 10 and we'll see"? Thanks.



wrote …

Chris, loved it, thanks for weighing in.

One of the very admirable things of CF Memphis is that a client can show up and get very fit doing CrossFit, or dive into specialization - powerlifting, olympic lifting or MMA. Incredible talent. I learn a lot getting to hang out with CFM, thanks. Paul "Apolloswabbie" Eich


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Thanks for the emphasis on hard work!


Michael Bledsoe wrote …

Eric, This is Chris again. To your point...

My approach right now is to incorporate both, as each has it's place. I've had a lot of success with this. I squat 3 days per week. This is quite unusual for a powerlifter, but I feel it's essential. If a weightlifter can squat 5-9 times a week, then we surely can do better than once.

I agree with Jim about progression. You need to be going in a specific direction, driving a lasting adaptation. Adding weight progressively is a tried and true approach. You must do it. This approach forms the basis of my first squat session.

My second day is a recovery day with low volume and intensity.

Day three is a "random" style day. I have a target load in mind, but no set percentage. I go by feel, which takes years of practice to nail down. I'll use band, chain, boxes, special bars, etc. An example...last week, I put heavy blue bands on the bar. The last time I did that exercise, I hit a double with 425. Before I did that load, I hit 5 speed sets, working up. This time around, everything felt stronger and faster, so I knew I could do more. I took a shot at 455 and hit a very easy 455.

To sum it up nicely, let progression drive your strength gains. Use a random approach to test yourself, drive others, build confidence, etc. They are not mutually exclusive.



wrote …

Thank you for this article. As an athlete, I occasionally find myself riding a roller coaster of motivation: Sometimes, there's no place Id rather be than the squat rack - other days, its a chore to say the least. Regardless, you have to keep up the consistence and regularity - and articles like this really help. Thank you for the invaluable words of wisdom.


wrote …

I liked this article. Intense and simple is how I like my strength work, and I guess I'll just keep doing that :)

The mention of the fight-or-flight response confused me a little, though. I was under the impression that this was a neuroendocrine event activated in times of stress, irrespective of whether the animal would fight or flee. The physiologic changes the response drives are indeed beneficial for both activities. Poor analogy perhaps (or me just being stupid).

A couple of days ago, I did sets of 3 rep squats and a short metcon in the morning. Come evening, and I felt really good. Invincible even. So I hit the gym again, mostly to fool around but I ended up doing 3 rep squats again. This time with a lighter weight but much more bar speed. I felt really good after, too.

Next day my legs were smoking ruins. I had to take an extra rest day (and the elevator at work too :).


Michael Bledsoe wrote …


You are correct. Fight or flight certainly is a physiologic event. I mention it as a way of describing the abstract notion of competition in the gym. Sometimes you must "fight." That comes with benefits and drawbacks, as your legs would attest to. My point is that it is an essential component. In fact, crossfit as a method hangs its hat on competition. Just remember, you must not always fight. Pick your battles, so to speak.



wrote …

Thanks for your reply. Three squat days? My God, Rippetoe would be proud. What about the other lifts and your met-cons? I'm just curious. I've gone down the strength-pursuit road because of the CF mantra "Train your weaknesses." Well, mine has been just that, a lack of raw strength and power. The farther down I've gone, the more I appreciate the two domains, because when it hits the fan, I believe we will turn to these first in order to save ourselves. If CF is nothing else, it is a method for ready-state survival, not solely the sport it is evolving into. Anyway, you might like this article from T-Nation, "Kroc Talk...", especially his 40 rep squat video. I've never seen it done that way. Possibly something to add to your arsenal:




wrote …


Great article. What I love about crossfit is it is brilliance in the basics. Sometimes we try all kinds of flashy "methods" when what we really need it to do more work. Like Coach Glassman said in a video recently: dont try to fix every detail about the air squat, just squat!

Oh, and as a U of M alum transplanted to the west coast: Go Tigers!


Michael Bledsoe wrote …


As far as the other lifts go, my approach has been pretty similiar. I do close grip bench, press, pull-ups, and Pendlay rows as my main movements. Again, a mix of progressive and random programming. For assistance work, I'll do ring work (a real bitch when you're 300 lbs!), heavy dumbbell presses, and dips. Real simple.

Most of my conditioning work is limited to rowing and the prowler. I've managed a 1:35 500 m row...I'll push the prowler with upwards of 500 lbs. I have a meet coming up, so I'm not doing proper metcons. I would like to play with more crossfit specific stuff in the fall - maybe drop my weight back down under 275 and do a local competition. That would be wild.

Let me leave you with this. As Dr. Stone also told me once, you ate never too strong! I don't care what your sport is.


He'll yes!! Go Tigers!




wrote …

Chris Moore,

Thanks for the response. I actually agree with what you are saying in principle. You definitely need to lift big on the big lifts with frequency to build your strength. I made the statement I did because I felt some people might read what you wrote as just bench, squat, and deadlift to get strong. Your reply makes it clear to me, and more importantly to others here, that you know the value of both balls out heavy lifting and assistance work.

Like I said, good stuff! By the way, if you are interested in writing for a site I own (pretty big one) please contact me at I like your writing style.



Hey Zvi,
Mike Bledsoe's tattoo in the photo


wrote …

Awesome article. Inspired would be an understatement.


wrote …

Awesome article. Inspired would be an understatement.

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