Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He has trained thousands of clients during his 14 years as a professional fitness coach, including more than 500 athletes from over 20 different sports. Jason has written hundreds of articles for numerous top rated training magazines and websites and has authored four fitness books. He is also the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building.Jason FerruggiaQuestion: Your transformation was pretty incredible going from 147lbs to 231lbs. How much trial and error did you think you went through training wise until you found what really worked?
Answer: Oh man, I can’t even begin to tell you. I tried so many different methods and systems it was unbelievable. I actually started out as a beginner on a six day a week high volume body part split. This was back in the 80’s so I think I was just looking in the magazines at whatever Shawn Ray or Aaron Baker or Gary Strydom were doing and just copy it exactly. Obviously that didn’t work out too well.
I entered high school weighing less than 100 pounds and after four years of training my ass off and growing almost a foot taller, I only weighed 147 pounds at graduation. So obviously, all my experimentation during high school didn’t work out to well either.
During those four years I was still doing whatever I could find in the magazines and even ordered some courses like Cybergenics and some other stuff that was popular at the time. I think the first training books I had were the Arnold Encyclopedia and one of Dr. Hatfields. I tried everything I read in both of those.
My experimentation during college was quite extensive and quite varied. I finally stumbled upon the HIT movement and Mike Mentzer and Arthur Jones. It was like a beacon of light and I adopted that training philosophy immediately. And for the first time I started to really grow, which isn’t shocking since I was so grossly overtrained. But as anyone who has had a similar experience can tell you, those gains don’t last too long either.
I could be here all day telling you about all the crazy stuff I did but I think it’s pretty safe to say that I was in the game and wasted an inordinate amount of time and money for a good ten years before I really figured out what really worked.
Question: It is one thing to find something that works for you personally but you routinely pack 20lbs of muscle on the frames of your clients in spans of only 3 months. How do you get results like when other people seemingly struggle endlessly to get bigger?
Answer:At this point I have been training people for 14 years. During ten of those years I worked with clients for an average of ten hours per day; and twelve hours per day every summer. Now since I was always a C math student I can’t tell you how many hours that is right off the top of my head but, take it from me, it’s a friggin lot.
When you have that much experience doing anything you are bound to become somewhat proficient at it and just develop a knack for it and for reading people and recognizing commonalities.
Most people are making the same mistakes in their training and nutrition and some even have a faulty belief system that is holding them back. I address each of these issues and we’re off and running.
Training is not rocket science not matter how many people try to turn it into that. But figuring it all out isn’t simple either.
Question: Everyone nowadays is always worried about getting fat when “bulking up” what are some strategies that you use to ensure that you put on more muscle than fat? Or do you even care?
Answer: Well, first of all, a lot of people that worry about that have a fear that is completely unfounded. If you are an athlete, under twenty years old or both, this is not that great of a concern unless you are eating deep fried chocolate donuts and dipping them in butter six times a day.
I have worked with plenty of guys who could eat whatever they wanted to and could still stay lean. In that case you have no excuse for not being able to pack on twenty pounds in a couple months.
If you have trouble staying lean there are a few adjustments you need to make. First off, you need to make smarter food choices. Eat lean proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, lean red meat and cottage cheese instead of burgers, hot dogs and pork chops. Next, be sure to keep your carb sources clean as well. This means fruits and veggies are at the top of the list followed by oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes. By now everyone knows the benefits of eating good fats like fish oil so I won’t bore people to death with that.
If just eating clean is not enough then we move onto more advanced strategies like carb cycling and calorie cycling. This takes some time to explain but to make it really simple for everyone, you should eat more calories and carbs on training days than you do on non training days. Bottom line. Training days are higher calorie days, off days are lower calorie days; pretty simple. Of course it’s more complicated than that but that’s the gist of it.
Question: What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when trying to pack on muscle? Is it usually related to nutrition or training?
Answer: It’s hard to say if it’s one or the other because they do go hand in hand. But if I had to pick I would say it’s gotta be training. It doesn’t matter how great your diet is, if your training sucks, you’re not gonna make progress.
But, you know what, I’m not even going to cover the training mistakes that people make because looking at that is missing the bigger picture. You know what the biggest mistake people make really is? The one thing that everyone seems to do these days, especially with all of the conflicting information that is out there?
It is a lack of consistency and a lack of belief in what you are doing. There is so much information out there these days that people don’t know who or what to believe. And because of this they are confused. They are constantly reading something different and always in search of the next best thing. They do a workout for a week or two and then read so and so’s new article about changing your tempo every rep or some brand new way to fire up the CNS or some nonsense and they try that system. A week or two later they decide that is not working so they switch to something else. And so on and so on.
If you are always changing programs and training philosophies how can you ever make progress? You can’t; it’s that simple. If you don’t believe in what you are doing you will never, ever be successful. That is a universal principle that applies to everything in life. It has to apply to your training if you ever want to make real progress. You can use the crappiest training program in the world but if you are consistent, have the balls to train the way you really should and really and truly believe in what you are doing, you will get results.
Pick a training program, system or philosophy and stick with it; believe in what you are doing and train your ass off. You can’t fail if you do that.
Question: Okay so tell us a little about Muscle Gaining Secrets. What makes this stand out from other products?
Answer: Well, first of all I tried to make it more of an entertaining read than a lot of the stuff out there so I included a lot of stories and personal anecdotes that people could relate to. The topics of sets and reps and proteins and carbs can be kind of boring so I try to spice it up a little bit.
Aside from that, I have tried to make it as simple to understand as possible while still including information that will help anyone from a raw beginner to an advanced lifter. I have had guys who have trained for over twenty years tell me that they learned quite a bit from reading Muscle Gaining Secrets, which makes me very happy to hear. If I can do that while not alienating beginners, then I know I achieved the goal I set out to accomplish.
I have included some unique methods of periodization which have rarely been covered. I detail every single mistake that people make in their training and show how these can be avoided. And of course, a book from me wouldn’t be complete without getting politically incorrect and calling bullshit where I see it. I definitely expose a lot of the gimmicks and nonsense that is out there and do my best to help people save time and money and avoid making all the same mistakes that I did.
Question: You are known in the industry as the go-to coach if you are looking to gain strength and put on muscle size. Can you first just give a little background about how you came to your training philosophy?
Answer: I started out training in middle school and was taking the advice of a nearly 300lb pro wrestler whom my cousin was dating at the time. I didn’t know it then but he was obviously juiced to the gills. He wrote me a program and I got nowhere. This road continued all through high school as I continued to get advice from the muscle mags and whatever else was popular at the time. Eventually I broadened my horizons and started to look elsewhere. I began reading about what a lot of the old timers did before anabolic steroids became popular. I also studied the methods of every popular strength coach and trainer at the time. I read everything I could get my hands on, went to seminars, did internships and basically just became a sponge for training knowledge.
I opened up my own private training facility in the mid 90’s and trained over 500 clients there during the 11 years that I ran it. Most of my clients were athletes with a small percentage being general population people just looking to get bigger and stronger. Through all those years of experience working with that many people I came to some pretty strong conclusions about what works for building size and strength, fast.
Question: There is a lot of conflicting training advice out there online, in books, on TV and especially in magazines. What do you think the top myths or misconceptions regarding weight training are?
Answer: That you need a high volume of training. This is a myth that has been passed down from one generation to the next and people continue to blindly follow this protocol without thinking rationally. There is no hard evidence anywhere that you need to use high volume training to get bigger and stronger. Sure lots of guys with great genetics and/or a great pharmacist make progress on high volume training but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to train.
That you need to hit muscles from a multitude of angles for full development.
That you need a full dynamic warm up before weight training. You don’t. Before sprinting, yes; before lifting, no.
That bodypart splits are the most effective way to train.
Another misconception is that you need a boatload of supplements to make great progress. The bottom line truth is that most supplements suck and do nothing but drain your wallet.
Another sad misconception is that you can’t make great progress without steroids. This is a self defeatist attitude and is simply not true.
Question: Other comments that I have heard coaches say are that the only way to put on any muscle size, is really going to be based on genetics. So they are saying for example that skinny kids can’t and will never be able to put on size.
Answer: That’s the biggest copout under the sun and an excuse that really makes me sick. Genetics are responsible for how far you may eventually go but the fact of the matter is most people will never truly reach their genetic potential. If you use this excuse it shows the world that you have no heart whatsoever and are destined for failure. Using the hard-gainer excuse as a crutch will guarantee you sub par results in your training from now til eternity.
I have some of the worst muscle building genetics imaginable but I never let that hold me back. I have also trained some genetic misfits who made incredible progress and eventually were getting asked what steroids they were on. This is because they had the balls to train like they needed to and had the dedication to eat and rest as much as was needed. Most people simply don’t have what it takes; so the only genetic capacity they may be missing is mental toughness.
For a coach or trainer to say or write that is even worse than just the average trainee or athlete saying that. Making a comment like that shows that you have no heart and no balls, and in that case you should never, EVER be coaching or training ANYONE!
Question: It has been said as you get older it get harder and harder to put on size and strength. Some even say that it can’t be done. What do you say to older athletes or even coaches that say this?
Answer: This is just like the hard-gainer excuse; it’s nonsense. One of my good friends is named Mark Crook (his brother Paul played guitar in Anthrax for seven years and is now lead guitarist for Meatloaf) and we first met right after his 40th birthday when he came to me to help him get bigger and stronger. He took his bench from 155 to 275 in one year and gained over 20lbs of muscle. Mark’s enthusiasm led to a friend of his coming in to my gym a year later and he experienced similar gains. I have had several guys in their 40’s and 50’s experience tremendous gains in size and strength over the years.
It may not happen as fast and as easily as it does for a 20 year old but it can be done. You just have to take into account that your recovery ability may be a bit lower and as such you need to keep your volume lower and be very smart with your training.
Also, you have to remember that most guys don’t even hit their strength peak til sometime around 30 or so. Most of the biggest and strongest guys I know are all in their mid to late 30’s. So the day you hit 40, this doesn’t just do a complete 180 and you shouldn’t be on your training deathbed at 50. Just keep training hard and if you believe you will get stronger then you will.
Question: How about softer chubby or overweight athletes that want to increase strength and muscle mass without looking big and bloated?
Answer: This is a little tougher situation than the skinny ripped guy. You have to be smarter about food choices here and have to do a decent amount of energy system work. If you are above 15% bodyfat you should probably consider getting leaner first and then look to start gaining some muscle mass. When you are fatter your insulin sensitivity is lower, meaning that you don’t tolerate carbs as well and the ingestion of them is more likely to lead to body fat accumulation. In this situation I would recommend keeping carbs low and doing some interval training a few days per week until you get lean enough to switch into a muscle building phase.
That is not to say that you can’t gain strength while getting leaner, though. If you are an athlete you don’t have the luxury of doing typical fat loss workouts and instead need to keep getting faster and stronger. Train like you normally would for size and strength, do your interval training, and keep the diet tight and you will be able to get stronger while getting leaner. Certain lifts like your squat may go down due to you losing some of the favorable leverage that comes with increased abdominal girth, but for the most part you should be able to gain or at the very least, maintain strength while dieting.
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Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He has trained thousands of clients during his 14 years as a professional fitness coach, including more than 500 athletes from over 20 different sports. Jason has written hundreds of articles for numerous top rated training magazines and websites and has authored four fitness books. He is also the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more great muscle building information, please visit www.musclegainingsecrets.com