Barbell Badass with Chrissy King

Chrissy King and I sat down on Tuesday, May 15th to chat about her new powerlifting + conditioning program and what the fitness industry is missing. Below is an Intelligent Verbatim transcription of the interview. Find Chrissy’s Barbell Badass program here, on sale until Friday, May 25th at midnight EST.

JULIE: Chrissy, we are here today to talk about your new program, “Barbell Badass”. I am so excited you’re here because you’re one of my favorite fitness people. You pull over 400 pounds in the deadlift, which is incredible! Why don’t you start by telling us three things about yourself that are need-to-knows.

CHRISSY: First of all, I am really excited to be talking to you too! I love you so much and we met last year but have known each other more, started to know each other more, since social media and you’re one of the funniest people to watch in IG. Obviously, you’re very talented as well, not just funny, but a combo. Anyways, three things that people should know about me. Number one, this is very serious and if I ever come anywhere close to your city, I am going to ask you to tell me where to get the best donuts and, not like Krispy Kreme, but like really good donuts. People should know that, so be prepared with recommendations. That’s number one. Number two, I love to lift heavy weight; it’s one of my favorite things to do. I love powerlifting and I love just moving heavy weight in the gym. And number three, if I could be doing anything in the world all the time it would probably be writing, ‘cause I love to write. So, those are three things that people should know about me.

JULIE: That’s exciting. Well, when you come to Philly you’ll have to stop by Federal Donuts or Beiler’s depending on if you like the cake or the yeasty variety.

CHRISSY: I’ve heard about both of those this weekend from Jen Sinkler and I’m going to both!

JULIE: Okay, awesome.  Do you have a trip to Philly planned?

CHRISSY: It might be in the works…

JULIE: Okay.  I cross my fingers. Awesome.

CHRISSY: I do not have anything concrete, but I think, I think it might be happening.

JULIE: Cool.  Alright, so let’s talk about Barbell Badass.  Give me all the details…the workouts, the set-up, the timing, who is invited to the Barbell Badass Party?

CHRISSY: Okay.  Of course.  First of all, everybody is invited to the party. It’s not specifically for anyone. On my platform I talk a lot specifically to women because that’s who I talk to, but I had other programs before I did Power Conditioning program last year and there were men that completed it so it’s open to anybody. It’s for anyone and I want everybody to come because it’s really fun. So to tell you a little bit about it; I created it because Power Conditioning was a great program people really enjoyed but some of the feedback I got is the workouts were long because it’s a good straight up powerlifting program and the workouts tend to be a little bit longer. You’ve got to be a little bit more committed to it. I mean so people are like “I loved it”, but a lot of people didn’t finish the whole thing and were like “I just never could finish because of the timing”. So I was thinking about it: there’s definitely this idea that barbell work takes a lot longer in the gym and that’s true, that is true sometimes, but I really wanted to create a program where people could do barbell programming, powerlifting type programming, but that’s not gonna take them a huge amount of time in the gym. Because I get it, people have kids, they have families, jobs, responsibilities, everybody cannot commit to 90-minutes in the gym multiple times a week. So that’s where I came up with the program idea because I wanted people to be able to get the benefits and enjoy because I personally think that powerlifting and barbell work is so empowering and strength is really, really fun. So I wanted people to be able to do it even if they don’t have a whole bunch of time to dedicate to working out. And so for a lot of my clients and not ones that train for specifically powerlifting, a lot of my clients are just general strength clients they typically take 45 minutes for the gym like “that’s what I can dedicate to the gym most of the time”. And, some people just don’t want to be in the gym that long, right.

So I’m gonna create a program so people can still do powerlifting type workouts but, they’re gonna be faster and they’re gonna be time efficient. There’s still gonna be a lot of volume so there’s definitely hypertrophy element to the program and you’re gonna get strong but you don’t have a ton of time. The goal of the workouts is they should be around 45 minutes. Some may be a little shorter may be little longer depending on breaks, but that’s an idea of around how long they should take you.

JULIE: Okay, and so between your two programs you would  say if you want to focus just more time on barbell moves you would do power conditioning and if you wanted a little bit shorter time domain you’d do Barbell Badass?

CHRISSY: Yeah, absolutely.

JULIE: Awesome.  So where did you come up with the name of your program and how does it relate to your #TakeUpSpace campaign?

CHRISSY: I thought of it because like I said I love barbell work and so I remember for me, specifically, when I first got into fitness and I started strength training a little bit I wasn’t doing any barbell work, just general strength training, which was fantastic, but something distinctly changed for me when I first picked up a barbell and started it. I remember the first time I squatted with a barbell and it was just a completely different feeling for me, like “this is amazing, this is so awesome”. I just really love bars. Since then I’ve just fallen in love with barbell work. I definitely incorporate other styles of training sometimes, but, for the last however many years that has always been the base of my programming. I just love barbell work. And really honestly, I don’t know, I was just sitting around thinking about what I was going to call it one day and I was just like “I’m gonna call it Barbell Badass because I do feel like a badass. I mean deadlifts for example, deadlift is my favorite lift and you like pick up really heavy deadlift, you just feel so badass. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is so much fun and just so empowering so I was like oh, that’s the name “Barbell Badass”. I got it.

Related to the #TakeUpSpace campaign; I have no problem with fat loss, I help so many of my clients that have fat loss as a goal, but where I am personally, I am not in the place where I want to do a fat loss program for people. That’s not where I am right now—there’s nothing wrong with it, I’m just not there.  I’m really in this place where I want people to just own their bodies for whatever they are and love them and, I mean, that’s a process and I’m saying it like it’s just a simple thing but it’s a huge process. Also, I’m in the space where I’m just like this is my body, this is what it looks like, it’s okay to take up all the space that I feel like taking up in the world. And, that is not just physical but it’s also taking up space in like the workplace or in whatever industry you’re in and so I’m in this place of more, abundant, and so I just wasn’t in a place where I wanted to go on to talk about a program to lose weight or lose fat. I just want to talk about a program to be totally badass and empowered in all areas of your life. So, that’s what I want to do. And, with any program that you follow consistently, if you’re doing a lot of volume and hypertrophy there is gonna be body change that comes along with it, but that’s not even really part of the program that I will be focusing on marketing, ‘cause I just don’t care right now about that.  It’s not that I don’t care about it, it’s gonna be awesome, people are gonna see your strength gains for sure but I’m just not focused on body change right now in marketing because that’s not where I am right now.

JULIE: It kind of reminds me: you just sent out an e-mail about complimenting somebody on their appearance and saying you’re not going to do that anymore. Can you tell everybody why?

CHRISSY: I think it’s such a part of our culture, right? When you see someone that lost weight you’re like “Oh my god, you lost so much weight. You look great!” and, myself included, I had been doing that and it was never that I had bad intentions for saying that…that’s what you say to people who lose weight, but then I started thinking about it that doesn’t actually make any sense because if I’m telling them they look so great because they lost 20 pounds did they not look great before?

Also I think there are so many things that happen with weight loss that we don’t even know. Some people lose weight because they are ill or they’re mentally having lots of mental health issues and we’re congratulating weight losses if like that is the thing that people should be going after. On the flipside, when somebody gains 20 pounds I’ve never been like “I see you put on some weight, congratulations”.

So, why am I really commenting on peoples’ bodies, period. Right? I don’t think it means that people who’ve worked really hard to change their body shouldn’t be proud of themselves—they absolutely should—I  just don’t think that they need me to comment on it. The reason I thought about this more for myself is because I remember this very specific incident in high school when I went on my first diet because this boy at school looked at me and he was like, “wow you’ve been eating good”, alluding to fact that I had put on weight. And, I will never forget that moment.  Then I went on my first diet after that as a result of that. I went on this crazy crash diet because I was 16 or 17 and I lost a bunch of weight. But then what happened was I got so much positive affirmation from people who were like “Oh my god, you look so great. What did you do?” All these things and I ended up on this rabbit trail like for the next ten years of always wanting to shrink my body because I got better praise from people for that. I felt like that’s what I needed to do.

Here I am kinda doing this same thing to other people when I see them. And, it wasn’t an intention of mine, so you know what, I’m going to make a conscious decision not to talk about peoples’ weight anymore. It’s not to say that I’ll never slip up and it will probably happen, but I’m gonna try.

The other part of all this is that I decided I’m not going to use before and after pictures in marketing of my services. There is nothing wrong with that, like there is nothing wrong with showcasing people. I also know that social media is such a tricky thing and so many people are scrolling through and seeing these pictures and it’s a trigger for a lot of people that either A they don’t think they’re doing enough, or two, they need to be doing more. Or, three, why don’t I look like that?

I remember when I started following people right away in fitness and social medial and I was following people which I wasn’t really thinking about Photoshop and all these other things but I was working really hard and I don’t look that that. Why don’t I look like that? Nothing good comes from those kind of thought processes.

I just don’t think it’s necessary and if someone doesn’t trust me as a coach because they can’t see client’s success stories and see pictures—if a client testimonial is not enough for them—then I’m probably just not the coach for them. And, I’m totally oaky with that because that’s fine, you know?

JULIE:    I love that perspective—that your work is not dependent on a photo.

CHRISSY: No, it’s not. And also, I think this also ties into like one of the larger issues that I have with fitness or that is an issue in fitness is at least the idea that [inaudible] we don’t want to all be a trainer or coach because they don’t look the part and there is no such thing as looking the part for fitness in my opinion. Fit is not about a certain size or anything like that so I just don’t want to add to the stereotype that you need to look a certain way or be a certain way to be a part of fitness or to be in fitness or to be a trainer or to be any of those things. The gym space for people who are just seeing this stuff on social media and you see people who look in amazing shape and they’re posting. It can feel very intimidating because when you go to the gym, I don’t look like that or all these things. Fitness has so many benefits for people that are not related to weight loss; it’s just really good for people to move, and I just want to remove barriers of entry in which people don’t feel comfortable in those spaces.

JULIE: Yeah, great!

CHRISSY: That was a really long answer, sorry.

JULIE: No, I love it.  I love it.  Alright.  So let’s talk more about the program.  In your materials you wrote the workouts are not designed to be easy.  If it feels too easy you need to use heavier weights.  What kind of advice would you give to your clients who have never used heavier weights or somebody totally new to the barbell?

CHRISSY: Yes, so the first thing I said, I believe is say this in the program, I know I’ve been saying it out to the beta tester workouts that have been going out is that like it’s okay to start with a lighter weight. I suggest you do that particularly if it’s a new movement, if you aren’t familiar start with lighter weight, make sure that you feel comfortable with that weight and that you’re using proper form and there’s demo videos for all of the workouts or all of the movements. Make sure you’re using proper form before you lift it a little bit heavier. But, if it’s movement that you know and once you’re familiar with it, challenge yourself with heavier weight and the thing about power lifting or lifting heavy that I love is that sometimes it is really hard, right? I love it because it’s a nice reminder that we are capable of doing hard things so I definitely challenge people. It’s a 45 minute workout so it’s not long but that means it’s gonna be intense, and you’re gonna want to use heavier weights and it should not be a walk in the park for the 45 minutes. It’s going to be a tough 45 minutes and then you’ll be done. I like to definitely challenge people to increase their weights and to challenge themselves too. Now don’t go crazy now, but it’s definitely supposed to be challenging and I’m for certain that people will experience muscle soreness the first couple weeks on the program. It will probably decrease as their body gets used to that amount of volume, but it’ll be a little challenging and that’s okay, challenging is good.

JULIE: Yea, good.   Get ’em working.  So you mentioned your beta testers, tell me what their response is to the program.  I saw that you are publishing them online for really anybody who wants to join in before you launch your program.

CHRISSY: Yes, the beta test is making me so happy.  The feedback has been so great and it’s awesome. Doing a beta test is really good because people will give you “this is what didn’t work, this is what I didn’t understand”. It gives you really good feedback so that you can fix some of those things. Honestly it been so great, people are really loving the program so I’m really psyched. Even today, I sent the last e-mail last night (it was really late so it was technically this morning), but people were like “I’m so pumped for Friday”, because the actual program comes out this Friday, but this is recorded in advance, people were like “I’m really psyched for it to release, I can’t wait to get the full program” so that’s really good, I’m really excited about that.

JULIE: That’s awesome. As a personal trainer I have a little selfish question, I want to get a little bit of the behind the scenes of your writing and approach to writing the program. What was going through your mind for specific exercises, in addition to obviously the big three, bench, deadlift, and squat?

CHRISSY: Yeah, so I did the big three, and I obviously use some of the things in my own program. I want to do a five-day a week program so what are the other two movements that I would feel like if you wanted to build muscle, and if you wanted to get stronger, what other things do you need to do.  Front squats…which some people have a love-hate relationship with front squats.  I, myself, had a love-hate relationship with front squats, but possibly love now, but it definitely did not start out that way. But, they’re really good for muscle development and strength. Then overhead pressing, which part of that was that it’s a really good movement for one, but also it forced me to do it because I don’t really overhead press that much, so it would make me do it more too and it’s great.  Overhead pressing is really good for providing upper strength, too.

I figured out the first five moves that I wanted and that’s it. Then I really took some time to think about how 45 minutes is not that long. Right after getting through a main lift we don’t have much time left, probably like half of the workout left. How are we going to get some more volume in and still make it a really worthwhile workout? I ended up deciding to add one accessory movement, that’s a “bigger” movement most times, something like an RDL, a barbell RDL, or something like that. You do that as a secondary. Then, every workout ends with a circuit so that you can get some volume and get your heart rate up a little bit because, again, it’s only 45 minutes.

JULIE: Nice.  I love you’re doing a lot of the hypertrophy, high intensity stuff at the end in the conditioning, right?


JULIE: Yep, love that.  I can’t wait to see the full program, I am very excited.  So you say that you’re a self-proclaimed truth teller, what does that mean to you and what major truth does the fitness industry need?

CHRISSY: Yes, for me when I first was doing online fitness stuff, I was pretty hesitant to talk about things that I thought would be controversial. And, they’re not really controversial but I felt hesitant to talk about those things because I though “I want people to like me” and I don’t want to be too hard. And, online, a lot of people can be light and fluffy and so I don’t want to be this person who is always just talking about all these hardcore things and also I don’t want people to see me like this angry black woman.

All these things were going through my mind, right? Just experiences of life…so I was really hesitant to talk about anything. I don’t know exactly what it was…it was a lot of things that happened, but eventually I was just going to talk about things that matter to me. If people don’t like it I’m actually okay with that. And, if I [inaudible], that’s ok too because these things are really important to me and I think that they need to be talked about. For example, one of the things I talked about is the lack of diversity in the fitness industry. I wrote an article about that last year and it was really scary at the time for me to write that and when I published it, I was like “get off the internet now for the rest of the day” because I was really scared.

I pushed publish and thought “I’m not even going to look on social media at all I’m just gonna go” and I was at work when I posted the link. I was driving because I had to travel for that day and then when I finished driving I thought I’m just going to check now to see if I got hate mail, but the opposite happened. People were sharing it and people were sending me messages like “thank you for writing this”. It wasn’t so scary—this is okay.

Later I wrote an article right after Charlottesville happened. I had a lot of thoughts about not talking about this kind of stuff in the fitness space which is problematic for a lot of reasons.  I wrote that article and then after that I just felt very liberated to speak my truth. Not every post I write is hardcore or really deep, but I definitely use my platform to talk about things that I think are important and things I think about like feminism, fitness, all those things have to be intersectional. It’s really important that they be intersectional so that’s when I say that I am a self-proclaimed truth teller. I want people to be having the conversations that sometimes are difficult, sometimes are really messy, and sometimes can be convoluted and layered and complex, but they’re important conversations to be having. I’m willing to speak about those things and have those conversations. I think there was a second part of the question but I started talking and I can’t remember.

JULIE: That was “what truth does this industry need” and you totally got it.

CHRISSY: There are a lot of things that the fitness industry needs but the thing I do love is that there are so . . . I shouldn’t say so many, but there are people who are out there doing the same kind of messages and collectively with our voices we can change the perception around fitness. In our own spaces we can start to transform the way that people think about fitness, the way that women relate to their bodies, and the ability to feel like they deserve to take up space. I think that there are a lot of voices out here that are now (also, I didn’t start a movement, that’s not what I’m saying), I’m saying that there’s a lot of people talk about really great thing and collectively we are making a difference.

JULIE: Well you definitely are. I love everything you’re putting out and I know that your Barbell Badass Program is going to be a huge hit. Gimme the details of the launch, how do people get it?

CHRISSY: Absolutely. It launches on the 22nd of May. You can get it at I’m posting it all over social media and it’s going to be launching the 22nd through the 26th. The smart thing to do is just get it the 22nd through the 26th; it’s the cheapest it’ll ever be then. I’m really excited about it.  Releasing programs, for me, is a little nerve wracking but I’m really excited about it.

JULIE: Yeah, I’m very excited for you. Let’s wrap this up. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?

CHRISSY: I mean, I could talk all night, but I think we covered it.

JULIE: Okay, Perfect.  Alright Chrissy, I will talk to you later.  Thank you for stopping by.

CHRISSY: Thank you for taking the time to interview me.  It was great.

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