Jason Ferruggia interview, Part II

This is the second half of my interview with MF training adviser, Jason Ferruggia. It's kind of like The Godfather, Part II, only more violent.

Sean: What makes you stand apart from other trainers?
Jason: I think the fact that I have logged thousands of hours training hundreds of clients. I've been doing this for 15 years, 10 of which saw me spending 8-12 hours in my training facility, five or six days a week, and sometimes seven. Everything I do, I tend to do to the extreme. I always want to be the best and I knew that to become the best trainer/coach I could be, I would have to put in a lot of time and work with a lot of clients. I started with regular, everyday people but progressed to training a lot of athletes. To date, I have worked with over 700 athletes from numerous college and pro organizations. I also continue to work with members of the armed forces, Hollywood stars, and tons of regular guys who just want to get bigger, stronger, and leaner.
I'm also not married to any one concept or training style and am willing to adapt and try new things. In fact, I am always experimenting and trying to find a better way to get faster results. While some guys think kettlebells are the only tool and others live and die by Olympic lifting or body-weight only training, I try to use every useful training implement I can find and combine them into the ultimate training system. There is a time and place for everything.
Another thing that separates me from a lot of trainers is that I believe everyone should train like an athlete and chase performance goals, first and foremost. When you train with performance in mind, you always end up with a better physique (as long as you are eating right and recovering properly). The same cannot always be said when you train strictly for aesthetics. That goal is too vague. You need to have something you can measure, like your strength going up. When you do that and focus on the type of training that an athlete would do--heavy lifting, body-weight conditioning, sprints instead of time on a stair climber--you will end up with an incredibly impressive physique. 
Sean: Ok. Give us five ways to get stronger.
Jason: In training, you need to focus on big compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and presses, and you need to continually add weight to the bar. While other trainers may argue that you can make progress by doing more sets, decreasing your rest periods, or using set-extension techniques like forced reps, the fact remains that the fastest way to force a muscle to grow is to make it stronger. Do this while training no more than four days a week for 45 minutes per workout.
Hit each muscle group twice a week or once every five days. Train hard but finish all your reps on your own--never let a spotter touch the bar and help you grind out extra reps. That is never necessary and is actually counter productive. 
As far as nutrition goes, you have to eat to grow. Studies have shown that sumo wrestlers have more muscle mass per square inch than elite bodybuilders. And they don't even lift weights! That is because overeating in itself is highly anabolic. Other studies have been conducted where people were fed an additional 1,000 calories per day for 100 days and, without any training whatsoever, one-third of the weight they gained was muscle mass.
Of course, you don't want to get fat, but I think that illustrates how important it is to eat big. The simplest advice I can give anyone looking to get bigger and stronger is to make sure that breakfast and your post-workout meal are the two largest feedings of the day. That should keep you lean, too. Eat more calories and carbohydrates on training days, and fewer calories and carbs on off days.
Another thing that needs to be considered is the hormonal response to training. If your testosterone and growth hormone levels are high, you will get bigger and stronger a lot faster than if they are down. Here are a few things you can do to maximize anabolic hormone levels.
  • Get around 30% of your diet from fat, primarily healthy unsaturated fats. They increase testosterone.
  • Try to drink red wine instead of beer whenever possible. Beer elevates estrogen levels. Red wine, on the other hand, is anti-estrogenic.
  • Get 8 or 9 hours of good sleep per night. This is one of the best ways to increase testosterone and growth hormone while reducing levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Sean: Wow, that's a lot more than five! And I know you can go on and on if I let you. On a lighter note, I happen to know that when you were running your gym, you had a number of hilarious incidents in the weight room. Tell the good people out there one of those crazy stories.
Jason: Too many fun times to list here. One time, about eight years ago, my brother was giving me a lift off on the bench press and we were jawing back and forth at each other. He was screaming at me as he handed me the bar before my set, trying to fire me up, and he inadvertently spit a loogie on my face. I threw the bar back to the rack and got right up and went after him. We ended up brawling on the floor... Good times.
Sean: Anything else you want to add?
Jason: I just want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to the readers of Men's Fitness, and invite them to check out my site and MuscleGainingSecrets.com for more information.
I'll add that Jason is a helluva guy, on top of being a great trainer. He lives what he preaches (give or take a Friday night, here and there), and everyone should check out his column, The Hard-Gainer (advice for skinny guys trying to get bigger and stronger), in the magazine every month. Check out some of his training videos here.

And FYI, Jason is no longer small and weak. He's benched 405 pounds and has deadlifted nearly 600, and at one time bulked up to a solid 235 pounds. So don't give him any crap about your "bad genetics".

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