The Evolution of Chris

I moved to Wichita Falls in January of 2009 and didn’t know anybody at all. I became friends with Brent when he would come into the gym and train by himself. Shortly after, I met Chris. I’ll keep the sappy stuff to a minimum, but since then he’s been one of my best friends and is a hard working, hilarious, and caring friend who has always been there for me. You guys see his videos these days and see a guy who is stronger than cat piss, but it wasn’t always so. I want to show you how far he’s come so that you understand that you’re fully capable of it too.

Chris deadlifts 705 at the Raw Challenge at the Arnold:

In early January 2009, Chris wrecked his shoulder doing a jerk in a weightlifting meet (he probably required surgery). A few weeks later he knew he wasn’t going to be able to do the Oly lifts any time soon and wanted to get as strong as possible. This is where our “training relationship” started; we became training partners and I started programming his training. If you’ve never had a true training partner, you’ll know that it’s an intimate relationship where you feed off of their energy when lifting. To this day, I still get exponentially more amped up when Chris is lifting than I ever have for my own lifting.

At this point, Chris was squatting in the mid to high 300s for reps and was deadlifting in the low 400s for a set of five. He did not lift in high school but had been at it a couple of years. His favorite lift was and is the deadlift. We were on a linear progression together, though we couldn’t always train during the week together (I was always present during his session since I was always at the gym). Early on, I asked Chris what his goals were, and without hesitation he said, “I want to deadlift 600 for 5.” When he said that in March 2009, I looked at him, thought about where he was at (about 425×5 or so), and I said, “That would be sweet.” It was a lofty goal, but I thought one day he could do it, though it would take some time.

Every time Chris deadlifted, he would wear this old, hole-ridden Arkansas football shirt. He happened to wear it on every deadlift session to the point where I started joking around and saying, “Hey man, is that your deadlift shirt?” He laughed and was like, “Yeah man, I’m gonna wear it when I do 600 for 5.” And so that became his thing. He would wear this ratty-ass shirt with holes in it when deadlifting, and we made jokes that it would explode off of him as he pulled the fifth rep at 600.

Let’s begin our timeline.

July of 2009 — Chris deadlifts 515×5. This set a milestone as the heaviest weight he had ever deadlifted period, and the heaviest he had done for a set of five. Something about this video makes me laugh. Maybe it’s cause Chris looks like a kid, or maybe it’s because when he deadlifts this weight nowadays, he rips it off the floor so fast the bar flings back and forth at the top. I dunno.
Note that there was a two month period where Chris couldn’t squat because of a groin strain (it was somewhere in the April/May/June time frame)

September of 2009 — Chris deadlifts 600 for the first time, then hitched 625. We worked his “one set of five” deadlift progression up to 545, and it was close to a limit set. I hadn’t decided what I wanted him to do on the next deadlift day, so when he walked in (with that smelly, ratty Arkansas shirt), I said, “Let’s do 600 today.” His eyes got all wide; 600 was a barrier, a giant milestone for Chris. He got pretty nervous, and he had to wait until after squatting and pressing to do it.

November of 2009 — Chris and I are now on the Texas Method. I’ve since started competing in Olympic weightlifting and he’s continuing to get stronger. I embedded this video because I want you to see him squat 500×3. The set isn’t very hard, but it isn’t easy. He also misses a fifth rep on a 215 press and does some haltings (which I do not recommend).

April of 2010 — 2010 Texas State Meet (all meets are USAPL, I’m handling him at the meet unless otherwise noted, and Chris competes raw and un-drugged). Chris squats 600 for the first time and deadlifts 633 (no video).

May of 2010 — Chris pulls a routine 600 without getting amped.

July of 2010 — First national raw meet. He misses a third squat at 606, misses his second bench of 368 due to the lower back cramping (I waved the third), and misses a heartbreaking 650 deadlift on the third attempt.

September of 2010 — Chris deadlifts 600×3 in training.

October of 2010 — Chris squats 585×2 in training.

November of 2010 — Chris squats 600×2 in training (still using Texas Method, modifying it and tweaking it as we go and developing it into what the second e-book consists of).

April of 2011 — Fast forward to the 2011 Texas State meet (I wasn’t there). Chris squats 644 on his third attempt, misses a third bench at 385 (363 on second), and deadlifts 661. He’s also a good dancer.

August of 2011 — 2011 Raw Nationals (no video). Chris squatted 622 on his second (missed the third), made a 374 bench on his second (missed third), and devilishly deadlifted 666 on his third.

November of 2011 — Chris deadlifts 625×3.

December of 2011 — Holiday Classic in Arlington. Chris misses third squat, but got 639 on second, benches 380, and deadlifts a solid 677 (I wasn’t at this meet, Mike/Chris used it as a training day). Later in the month he rack pulled 650×3.

January of 2012 — I realize my programming fault on his squat, modify things, and Chris squats 610×2, 620×2, and 630×2. He also rack pulled 675×3 and then 700×1.

February of 2012 — Chris squats 640×2 on his third double (did 600/620×2 as well).

March of 2012 — USAPL Raw Challenge at the Arnold Sport Festival. Chris squats 661, close grip benches 374 (shoulder hadn’t been enjoying the regular grip), and deadlifts 705.

April of 2012 — Chris aims to deadlift 600 for max reps with the minimum goal of 5 reps. Three years ago while weighing about 245 and deadlifting in the mid 400s, Chris told me he wanted to deadlift 600 for 5. Let’s see what happens:

Edit: You can view Chris and Mike‘s YouTube channels for additional training footage.

600 for 6. Three long years of ups and downs. The one constant thing in Chris’ life is that he trained hard every. single. week. The only time I can remember him missing a session is when he was sick for several weeks before the Arnold this year. Training is a priority in Chris’ life not because he thinks he has to do it, but because he loves it. I’m glad to have been a part of the journey in being his friend, training partner, and coach. Mike is also an integral part in Chris’ training, coaching, and handling (at the smaller meets) and has the same mentality with his training.

The deadlift shirt has been retired and hung in Mike's training garage.

If you’ve ever doubted yourself or thought a goal was too lofty, then look at where Chris started. You see him deadlift 705 and think it’s a lot, but he was just an average lifter three years ago. It’s absurd to claim that he’s genetically superior, because if he was, he would have been hitting this weight three years ago. He didn’t just all of a sudden squat 661 and deadlift 705, he had to earn it every step of the way. Remember that you may have come a long way, but you still have a journey ahead of you. What are you committing to today?

31 thoughts on “The Evolution of Chris

  1. Most impressive! How/did his bodyweight change over this time period? What’s the next goal? Please say 800. One day I want to make a pligrimage to Mike’s garage. Also, I can imagine after training you guys sitting down at the tables in the background of the place in 2009 like it was an episode of “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifinakis.

    Chris weighs in the 290s right now. We’re trying to lose some body fat in the short term. He got up to about 285 when I still lived out there in 2010.

    Edit: And I’m not speaking for Chris, but I know he wants to deadlift 800 some day.


  2. Yea, loved this post. Haven’t posted on this site in a LONG time, but had to reading this. So inspirational.

    Definitely interested in Maslow’s question regarding BW. Obviously the universe doesn’t give a crap about your strength to body weight ratio, but I’m still curious.

  3. Inspiring post, proof that hard work and dedication pays off. This spoke to me, probably because I’ve been feeling fatigued the last week or so, and have been lifting like shit. I’m curious as to how Chris dealt with a “off” training session or week. My approach has to just keep lifting, but things are not improving.

    I’ll let Chris answered that, but as the programmer, I’ve set up the template/system so that there isn’t a lot of compounding fatigue on the lifter. He’s calling me in a sec, so I’ll just dictate what he says.

    Edit: I’ll put the response in a separate comment.


  4. Awesome stuff. Great thing about lifting is you hit your goal after a year, two, or even three and 5 seconds later you have that next target number in mind. I hit my 500 dl goal a month ago and now the only number I see is 600. This stuff is inspiring.

  5. Excellent work, Chris. It’s great to see someone persisting through the years with their shoulder firmly pressed into the wheel. On to 800!

  6. I always thought Chris has lifted for powerlifting longer than 3 years.

    I’ve lifted heavy for about the same time. Since Jan ’09 to now, my bodyweight has gone from 170 to 200. My numbers in Jan ’09 were something like high 200s squat, 245lbs bench, low 300s deadlift, 165 press to currently 435lbs squat, 325lbs bench, 555lbs dead, and 215lbs press. Definitely not as big of a jump as Chris but some good progress.

  7. This makes me feel better about my recent decision to make a 143 kg/315 Lb snatch my goal, with a C&J of at least 120% of my snatch. I’ve been second guessing myself about it, mainly because I’m the only one on my team- I’ll have to do my own coaching and programming, and that hasn’t turned out that well in the past. But, this is a long term goal. I haven’t even been able to Oly lift seriously for lack of facilities, and I’m willing to make this a decade long goal. I’m not going for a championship here- I don’t have to race my own body, though I’m young enough at twenty. As long as I can make steady progress, I don’t need to make fast progress.
    I appreciate what you’re doing here Justin, I wish I had a good coach… Maybe I’ll learn enough from my efforts to be a coach for someone else? Nebraska does need a lifting club…

  8. Would it be fair to say that Chris has exceptionally high genetic potential, with it being understood that it takes tremendous work to approach ones potential?

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  10. This post makes me want to punch the clock at work and head straight to the fucking gym.

    I had a less than stellar bench day last week,so next time it comes around I’m going to grip it and rip it.

  11. This post was a perfect read, after I read it last night I PR’ed on my squat and bench. I went Chris Riley Reckless and then PR’ed on my deadlift also. Overall the best night I’ve had in a while.

    Thanks again,

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  13. Simply awesome! I’ve been using the Texas Method consistantly for the past 10 months. I pulled 507 in competition in Dec 2012 and 550 in Jun 2013 using a linear periodization. Since then my pull hasn’t really improved much only pulling a set of 5 or a triple once a week (I do the RDLs/SLDLs on assistance day too).

    Justin: What sort of programming did you do after Chris’s (and your) LP to take him from 425×5 to 500×5?

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