Q&A with Owner of Renegade Gym and Legendary Blogger: Jason Ferruggia! (2016)
I am happy to announce that today we have a VERY special guest who goes by the name of Jason Ferruggia.
Why is he a special guest? Well if it wasn’t for him then Fitworld Exposed probably wouldn’t even exist because Jason is the one who motivated me to start writing in the first place. I always found that his blog posts were very basic and straight to the point which was good because he’s not like one of those trainers who beats around the bush with his content.
I’ve learned a lot of things from Jason such as the importance of neck training for safety and looking badass, importance of progressive overload, training for the long-haul, best exercises for size, minimalist living, rap and metal bands, why you need single leg work and bodyweight exercises to add more volume to your program and the list goes on.
I used to print out his articles and the stack was so big that I actually had to give some away because I couldn’t even fit shoes in my closet anymore. The unique thing about Jason is that he doesn’t only discuss training, but also business, relationships, music and everything else that he likes to talk about. This is why his site is so entertaining because he is always talking about stuff that fascinates him. Heck, he even makes boring topics such as rep ranges sound fun because he always manages to put his little spin on it and this contributes a lot to his success.
I always say that if you want to be good at anything then you have to learn from the best and this obviously applies to coaches as well. If you are trying to become a coach, already are a coach or are just interested in what coaches have to say then this Q&A is definitely a must-read.
Today him and I will be diving into some interesting topics about the fitness world and other stuff of that nature so stay tuned!
So Jason, how old were you when you first started training and how old were you when you first started training people? Also what was the first gym that you ever worked at and at what age?
I started training when I was 12. My dad had gotten into lifting a few years earlier so I started doing some stuff with him. Back then everything was bodybuilding. We did whatever the routines were in Flex and Muscle & Fitness magazines.
A year or so later my cousin, Kristine, started dating this dude named Eric who was a professional wrestler. He was 6’4” 240 pounds, jacked out of his mind. It became my motivation to look like him. I spent the next few years doing really high volume bodybuilding routines that got me nowhere. It was just way too much for what I was ready for at the time.
In college, training became my biggest obsession and I started interning in the weight room. I got my first certification when I was 19 and started training people shortly after that.
I saved every dollar I made until I finally had enough money to rent some space in a basement and fill it with my own equipment. That was the birth of Renegade Gym back in 1994.
Did you go to school to become a trainer? Also did you take any training/nutrition/posture trades and if so then which ones?
I entered college as a communications major. I wanted to direct films or host Sports Center.
Eventually I switched over to exercise science. But most of the best stuff I’ve learned has been in the trenches or from talking to or working with other successful coaches. Experience is always the best teacher.
After college I would routinely spend twenty to fifty thousand dollars a year on my education.
I did a bunch of different courses and certifications over the next decade, took many workshops, interned with great coaches and did whatever I could to get better at my craft.
How do you usually assess a client when he/she walks into your gym? You’ve mentioned in your “T-Nation Sucker Punch” interview that it shouldn’t take a trainer super long to assess somebody: “If you can’t properly assess a client in 30 minutes then you should really find a different profession”.
You start by having a conversation. Somehow people overlook that. There are certain questions you’ll want to ask. Find out the real reason they are coming to you and the real motivation for them wanting to make changes.
Coaches and trainers should study motivational interviewing techniques.
Aside from that the next and easiest way is visual. Watch them walk, assess their physique, see how they move though a basic dynamic warm up and some basic strength moves.
Then select anywhere from 5-10 general flexibility and mobility tests. If you don’t want to decide which ones to use on your own go with Grey Cook’s Functional Movement Screen. That’s a great option for all trainers and coaches.
For strength, it depends on the level of the client. But you can’t go wrong with max chins, some type of heavy press, maybe a squat or deadlift and a few others that fit your program and the client. If your program is only bodyweight and kettlebells, then obviously you want to pick a few of those. It all depends on the coach and the client.
The point is to have some big benchmark exercises.
You’ll want to track these over time and be able to show how much progress the client has made in 3, 6, 9, 12 months and beyond.
What is your take on online coaching as far as making assessment are concerned?
Here are the questions we ask. In addition we also need to see physique pics and videos of them doing a number of different movements.
How many years have you been training
What are your training goals for the next 90 days?
Please list any injuries and/or limitations you have (including all exercises you can’t do)
How proficient are you at the big 4 barbell lifts (bench, squat, dead, press)?
Estimated 1RM Back Squat
Estimated 1RM Deadlift
Estimated 1RM Bench Press
Estimated 1RM Military Press
Max Chin Ups
Max Vertical Jump
300 Yard Shuttle Time
Rank the importance of each quality in order, as it pertains to your immediate goals- strength, conditioning, size, and leanness:
Aside from the required rack, adjustable bench, bars, dumbbells and rings, what other unique equipment do you have access to? (Please include all specialty bars, cable stacks, glute ham raise, 45 degree back raise, etc.)
Please describe your training history, and more specifically- what you have done the last 90 days:
Aside from your 4 main training days how much time can you dedicate to training during a regular week?
Are there any scheduling issues we should know about?
What style of training do you feel worked best for you in the past?
What was a dismal failure?
Please describe what diets you have tried in the past, and more specifically- what you have been doing for the last 90 days:
Do you have any food allergies or intolerances?
Any foods you hate or can’t/won’t eat?
What supplements are you currently using?
Anything else I should know, regarding your nutrition plan?
Any additional comments?
Whats your take on a client counting calories vs a client getting their TDEE online and working with that?
If you just want to get in decent shape and lose 10-50 pounds then you don’t need to track obsessively. You can just follow some good guidelines and get where you want to be.
If you want to get in great shape or go from 12% bodyfat down to 8% then you will have to track. There are plenty of apps that can help you with that.
What are your favorite pre and post workout meals for someone trying to lose weight and give me a pre and post meal for people trying to pack on size?
Regardless of the goal I believe in carbs pre and post workout. You don’t burn fat from a strength training session. The goal is to move weight and build muscle. So go into that session doing all you can to maximize your performance and strength. That entails having carbs.
A pre workout meal will always have 30-40 grams of protein, 5-10 grams of fat and some carbs. For fat loss you might limit carbs to 30 grams. For size you may have 75-100 grams.
You would do something similar for your post workout meal.
Both meals should be low in fat and pretty easy to digest.
Chicken and a baked yam is a good pre workout meal. Post workout you could swap out the yam for white rice. Sushi is always a good post workout meal.
Whey protein isolate is another good source of protein pre or post workouts. Mixing that in some oatmeal with a teaspoon of nut butter can make a great pre workout meal.
Some people say that if you can’t Bench 225×5, Squat 315×5 and Deadlift 405×5 then you are considered a novice lifter, do you agree with this?
No. Some people can’t or don’t even do those lifts. I prefer an incline press, front squat, trap bar deadlift and Romanian deadlift to “The Big 3,” for most people I work with.
But I also have clients who never do any of those big barbell lifts, either because the injury risk isn’t worth it for the 12 weeks that they have to train off season or because they are simply too beat up to do them anymore.
It’s also a stupid statement because what if a guy is just super tiny, genetically? What if he starts training as an adult weighing 127 pounds? Compete against yourself and don’t get too caught up on stuff like this.
What are the BIG differences between training females vs males for the most part?
Females recover faster between sets and between workouts. They respond better to slightly higher reps. They can also handle more volume.
Biggest regret when you first became a trainer?
Not hiring help sooner and systemizing things in the business.
What are the requirements that somebody needs to become a trainer at your Renegade gym?
A great personality and communication/people skills. That’s first and foremost. Next would be the show and go. You gotta look the part and be able to do what you’re asking others to do.
What is one of the best ways to keep your clients coming back as long as possible?
Making your gym (or training with you) their “third place,” like Starbucks. It’s gotta be fun and their has to be community.
In one of your leg training workout articles called: “The ultimate guide to bigger legs” where you trained with Ricky you mentioned how you would use the rumble roller before your session. Do you still roll before your workouts or have your training philosophies changed?
If a muscle group or certain movement warrants it. Rolling after or on off days is usually better for most people. Don’t just mindlessly foam roll because it’s what you think you have to do. It has to have a specific purpose. If your quads are tight and that is limiting your performance then spend 4-6 minutes on each quad, moving very slowly from the hip to the knee. Most people just flail around on there for five seconds per muscle group and that does absolutely nothing.
You’ve said in the past that beginners don’t need direct rear delt work until they could deadlift massive amounts of weight, do you still agree with this?
I am currently Snatch Grip High Pulling in the high 200’s and one of my main lifting goals is to get it to 405lb for a single in the next few years. What are some solid assistance exercises that you would recommend for helping someone increase their high pull from the hang?
High pulls from the hang. Specificity is best.
I do like hang cleans, but I find that they could be pretty risky for athletes because if they miss a rep then it could really mess up their wrists. Do you think that you could get most of the benefits that hang cleans have to offer with high pull variations?
Yes. Add in throws, jumps and sprints and you’re good to go.
A lot of people don’t understand what the dangers are of rowing with tight pecs, would you mind explaining?
Is that a thing people are worried about?
I saw pictures of you in your 230lb days when you were a serious meathead, what were some of your lifting stats back then on the big 3?
Nothing crazy. I benched 315 for 11, 225 for 25, squatted 315 for 20 and 455 for 1. Pulled 565 for 1. I know we did a pretty impressive number of high reps with 405 on the trap bar but I honestly can’t remember how many I got.
3 Favorite rap songs from the 90s and 3 favorite rap songs of today (if you don’t have any then that’s fine ha ha)?
Man, that’s possibly the hardest question ever; having to limit it to 3. Off the top of my head I’ll go:
Yoke The Joker- Naughty By Nature
Check The Rhyme- A Tribe Called Quest
Reminisce- Pete Rock & CL Smooth
Of course, this could change at any second, as there are so many I love.
From today I’ll go with:
Fragile- Tech Nine and Kendrick Lamar
Glory- Common and John Legend
Rap God- Eminem
Thank you for your time! If you want to see more of Jason then you could check him out at:
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