A few weeks ago, I linked to Jason's blog so everybody could get familiar with this crazed, shaven-headed Jersey boy... who happens to be one of the most reliable sources of training information out there. Now I bring you an interview with Jason so you can hear him tell you in his own words who he is and why he's qualified to teach you how to train.
Sean: Tell us how you got into fitness?
Jason: Growing up, I was always one of the weakest, skinniest kids around. I have always been obsessed with sports, but being small and weak wasn't exactly conducive to achieving my dreams of having a superstar career in the NFL or NBA. I was in eighth grade and didn't even weigh 100 pounds. I decided to do something about it, and I wanted to get bigger, stronger, and faster.
Around the same time, my cousin started dating a professional wrestler who was absolutely enormous and became something of a big brother to me. I started following his advice to the letter. He wrote me workouts that I thought would make me look like him, but he had incredible genetics and, on top of that, was juiced to the gills on steroids. What worked for him didn't work for me.
I experimented and made sporadic gains, but was largely frustrated. But that only made me more obsessed with what it took to get bigger and stronger. I went to Arizona State and studied exercise science. I took every seminar I could and read everything I could get my hands on. I watched training videos between classes and tried every workout system under the sun. Many of the lessons came the hard way, but I eventually smartened up and started learning what worked for the genetically average, drug-free lifter.
Sean: How did you get into training people?
Jason: I started when I was in college, at 19 years old. I worked in the University's weight room during the school year and as an independent trainer during the summers. My business grew so rapidly one summer that I decided to stay home and finish school in New Jersey while taking on new clients. I founded Renegade Strength & Conditioning in 1994, and a year or so later, I opened my own private gym with the money I had made training clients. I was 21.
I never spent a cent on advertising--new clients came to me through word of mouth. My gym was packed, day and night. I would train as many as 100 high school, college, and pro athletes in a single day. Fifteen years later, this is still how I make my living, and I love every minute of it.
Sean: So what were some of the mistakes you made along the way, in terms of training and nutrition, that you now make sure your clients avoid?
Jason: I made so many mistakes I don't know where to begin. I used to do what the pro bodybuilders did in the 80s. Monday was chest day, Tuesday was back, Wednesday legs, Thursday shoulders, and Friday was arms. I did 15-20 sets per body part and workouts typically lasted two hours. Some people still train like that, but they aren't getting anywhere--unless they're on a boatload of steroids.
Another mistake I made was training strictly for the pump. A lot of skinny guys go to the gym just to get a pump with countless sets and reps, and they're missing the big picture. A pump is simply blood trapped in the muscle. It is not synonymous with muscle growth. You can get a good pump by doing lateral raises with soup cans but that doesn't mean you'll build any muscle. You can also get a good pump training with heavy weights and a lower volume of sets, but getting a pump alone should never be the focus of your workouts.
I also did a lot of isolation movements, like leg extensions, cable crossovers, and concentration curls. They do very little to build muscle. Had I known better and stuck with big compound movements like squats, dips, and chinups, I would have been much better off.
Nutrition was another thing I ignored in my early years. To achieve any kind of physique or performance goals, you have to eat properly. Back in the day, I didn't eat anywhere near enough calories to build muscle. Later, I ate too many. Your body can only produce so much lean tissue so fast and if it requires 5,000 calories per day to do that, 10,000 is not going to lead to double the results. It will only make you fat.
Another mistake I fell prey to was the protein scam. There is no way you need 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle. Most guys don't even need one gram per pound. Over the last few years, I have cut my protein intake dramatically and have asked my clients to do the same. There have been no negatives whatsoever, and some guys are even getting bigger and stronger in less time than before. They're also sleeping better and get sick less often. Excessive amounts of protein have been shown to pull calcium out of the bones and can be a major contributing factor to arthritis and osteoporosis. This is obviously more of a problem for older lifters, but it's a waste of money for anyone to force-feed himself tons of protein. You should aim to get 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound daily. That's it. With all this said, I'm not against supplementing with protein if you can't get the amount you need with whole foods. I like Sun Warrior Protein, which you can get at TheUltimateProtein.com.
For more of Jason, uncensored, check back here later in the week. I will unveil part 2 of our interview, with more great muscle-building training and nutrition tips.