Shrugged Collective

The Progress Toolkit

I can help you get much stronger in a lot of ways, but I’m not interested in telling you how to train. No one can do that for you. 

The best answer is something like, “It all depends. Want to come train with me for a while?” That’s usually when you discover the importance of your conditions. To be strong, you have to live a strong life. You have to be around strong people – Eating their food, training as they train, drawing from their intense energy, learning to see the load as they see the load.

You can’t fit all that richness into a thousand blog posts, podcast episodes, tweets, you name it. Some things must be experienced. Not all lessons are communicated on the internet. You’ll never get to your strength peek unless you are willing to immerse yourself deeply into strength work.

The barbell itself will teach you. No words required.

I started lifting barbells in my friend’s backyard when I was just a kid. I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11 years old. That’s a pretty early start. With movement minded parents, I might have turned out to be a World Champion, who knows? At least I was eager to lift. We beat the hell out of those SEARS branded concrete plates. We bravely road the Narrow Rack Guillotine Style Bench Press of death! I’ll never, ever forget the first time I pressed 135. “The big plates! …Dude!”

We curled, rowed (the heavy variety), pressed, deadlifted, you name it. We did everything we could think off, and we did it all the time. In time we convinced our parents that it would be a whole lot quieter around the house if they would just score us memberships to the local gym.

The real motive was that we desperately wanted access to a real training environment, just like the ones in our magazines. We got out way, of course, and it forever changed the course of my life. It brings a chill. The nature of my lucky break humbles me daily.

No, I don’t want to tell you what to do with your barbell. You’ll figure all that out. But I do want to help, so I’ll share a key chunk of wisdom with you. If you want to have the best possible result in the gym, get really good at asking yourself questions.

That’s where my toolkit comes in. Use these basic questions as a start. Edit them or add, whatever you like. Just make sure to assess your conditions frequently. Once a week would be fine, although I do the asking every single time I pass by a barbell and plates.

Rack pulls for brunch.

A photo posted by Chris Moore (@barbellbuddha) on


 The Toolkit

Ask as often as you can:      

1. Have you made a strong commitment? 

If you commit to a clear, specific goal you will have a much greater shot at success. Keep up your conditions and you’ll exceed expectations. But if you cannot make up your mind, you shouldn’t be surprised by persistent weakness. 

Your Rx: Decide exactly what you want. “Exactly” means the list shouldn’t be 10 items long. Be as specific as possible, then move heaven and earth to get there. The only thing that will matter in the end is the work you put in. 

2. What is your motive?

It needs to be good. 

Heavy barbells will expose you for what you are, whatever you are. If you’re going in it for ego, attention, praise, all that, then everyone is going to know it in time, you most of all.

You also need an endless source of fire to keep you in the long fight. That sort of energy comes from deep sources. 

Your Rx: Why do you want to be strong? Write down your reasons, and make them good. 

3. Ensure that you a projecting your intentions. 

Write down your goal, tell your friends. It’s fine. Just don’t think for one second that this means you are owed anything. 

Your life remains untouched. 

One of the best thing you can do is practice projection. Sit down with your goals. Consider how long it has taken you to arrive at where you are. Think about a reasonable timeline for grabbing your pie in the sky. 

Map out the months. Imagine them ticking by. See yourself growing stronger, more muscular, confident, at ease, with power, you name it. As I learned from the great Mark Divine, you can be whatever you want, but you have to intensely envision it first. You must set the intent deep.

Your Rx: Sit down as often as you can. Consider the goal, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Establish a generous timeline. You won’t get strong until you learn to believe that it’s a possible thing, you know? Convince yourself however you can. Affirmation is a start. 

4. Have you decided what you DON’T want?

It’s easy to say what you want, we all bark about it daily. But how often do you sit down and carefully determine what it is that you do not want? 

I make the point because people change. It’s one thing to make big goals, but just as often you have to reassess who you are. Do not just keep pushing off wildly in random directions without first considering what it is you really want. 

You will rarely get any of this right, but the act alone is enough. Ask enough and you’ll make cut away more of the fat. You’ll make the best decision more often. You’ll be much more focused, much more strong. 

Your Rx: Just ask, “Is this still what I want?”

The zig zag path.

A photo posted by Chris Moore (@barbellbuddha) on


5. Know your steps

Visualization, goal setting, personal refinement, all that stuff is essential, but it will get you nowhere!

You have to travel. You have to get out your map, spot your goal, align yourself and take the steps. So, know how long the journey will take going in.

Your Rx: What is your goal (ex: Squat 500 lbs.)? Where are you now, be honest (450 lbs.)? How long will you give yourself (3 months seems possible)? Alright, then you know you have to add about 5 pounds to the barbell. Train as hard as you can, rest even harder, and stuff your face with real food.  Do the training. If you fail, it’s your fault. The barbell compels you to start over.

6. What’s in the way? 

All your conditions might be set for now, but it won’t always be that way. Life happens all the time.

Gigs get harder and harder, they dig into your free time. If you’ve got kids then you know 9 hours of quality sleep is fantasy. If your girlfriend just left your ass because you smell like dirty weightlifting shoes and knee sleeves, you have to know that training won’t go great.

Your Rx: Be kind to yourself. In times of sickness, stress, or lack of recovery, put the heavy stuff down. Instead of beat downs, focus on rejuvenation. Go to the sauna if you can. Get a message or two. When you can train, go for movement quality and speed. You’ll be ready for the heavy stuff when the clouds clear.

7. Don’t forget, this should be a good time

At any point, stop if you are having a shitty time, really. Above all, your time is fleeting. Make sure that you burn your days in pursuit of what you want. Nothing else will do.

Your Rx: You know exactly what you have to do. So do it. Have fun. catch yourself during those times when all you seem to do is bitch and moan.

I wish you happy training. Make time for reflection and refinement, you will have an amazing outcome.

Happy Training,



For more

  • Don’t miss Episode 148 of Barbell Shrugged. Learn what it takes to program strength correctly this Wednesday, October 29th.
  • Do you need to gain muscle and strength? You should check out the MUSCLE GAIN CHALLENGE.
  • You can learn additional simple methods for programming your training in Chris’ Simple Strength Seminar. Check it out.


Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?


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