The first time I met Jay Ferruggia was in a hotel in Vegas.

I’ve never met someone do damn sure about who he was and what he was all about.

He set a new bar for me.

After hanging out I gained even more respect for Jay because, like me, he NEVER stops trying to improve, trying to be a better version of himself, tweaking things, trying new ideas, throwing out the crap and moving forward.

That’s how over time he forged the Renegade Diet which is one of the few ‘muscle building’ diets I totally subscribe to so you keep your health and energy where it needs to be as well.

He’ll admit mistakes and lessons learned and appreciates that fucks up are all part of the journey to….whatever the hell we’re all headed to.

It’s about the journey and it’s about getting your ass out of bed every single day with the intention of leaving another giant footprint on whatever landscape you find yourself in.

Then we started drinking Grey Goose. And it all went tits up….

I hooked up with Jay to get his thoughts on some ideas and concepts around strength training….

JLT: Right mate, you’re always learning and I know you went from big meat eater to no meat, then reintroduced some. What was the thinking behind that?

JF: I consider myself a very socially conscious person. It was kind of a moral and political decision based on some books I’d read and who I was spending a lot of time with in those days.

Eventually I learned both sides of the story and what I believe to be the truth. In retrospect I’m glad I tried it because I learned some stuff and definitely incorporate a lot more healthy foods into my diet now. It also helps me have a better understanding of how to help vegetarian clients I may work with.

JLT: Cool now, I know you had a period a while back where you lost some weight and you said there was a reason for it. Can you explain what happened and why you made some changes?

JF: I’ve lost and gained weight a few times. The first time was due to my shoulder surgery. After years of stupid decisions in the gym I finally had to go under the knife.

After that I couldn’t train for a while so I decided to just eat like a normal person and do nothing. I just wanted to see what would happen after all these years of big eating and hard training. Sure enough, my shitty hardgainer genetics had not been tamed. I went from 227 pounds down to 179 in a few months.

After that I worked my way back up to my old weight but realized that I no longer felt as good weighing quite that much. I’m tiny by nature and wouldn’t really weigh more than 150 pounds without training.

So me being even 200-210 is more than 50 pounds above my normal adult weight. That’s a decent amount for my body to handle. But mentally I don’t like being below 200 pounds.

It always fucks with me. You can never escape the skinny guy mentality.

JLT: Yeah I know that feeling – do you think it’s good to keep hunting one best way to eat or is it like training, where we need to keep ‘periodizing’ what we do?

JF: Well, I think what I do now and with everyone I work with is the best way.

But there’s no single version of it. We tweak it for everyone based on a variety of factors.

And I think everyone should experiment to see if they can tolerate more fruit, more starchy carbs, if they do better on less protein, if cutting out nuts makes a big difference, and on and on.

You should always be fine-tuning and playing around with things a bit if you want the best results. Now, that DOES NOT mean you should become some OCD freak about it.

But just try cutting certain things out or bumping certain things up and see what it does for you.

JLT: Simple shit – tell us about your Renegade Diet and how that has grown from your years of research and personal experience.

JF: I’ve tried every diet and nutrition plan under the sun. When the Warrior Diet first came out I was all over it and loved it.

I personally hate eating a lot during the day. I don’t have the time and when I do I always lose my mental edge and want to go to sleep. I like to get shit done and be laser focused and hyper productive.

Eating big meals takes that away.

So I loved the undereating approach but I lost size as so many people did. So I wanted to tweak it a bit. I continued to read everything I could from nutrition experts like Robb Wolf, Nate Miyaki, Martin Berkhan, Chris Aceto, Art Devany, Paul Check, Chris Mohr and many others.

When my step dad got diagnosed with terminal cancer I became obsessed with finding the absolute healthiest way of eating. So I got back to reading more of the vegetarian and raw stuff as well, read about inflammatory foods, digestive health and all that.

Eventually I combined all that into The Renegade Diet. So it’s the healthiest mass building diet out there and also the easiest and least intrusive.

JLT: Right now I don’t want to ask you the usual ‘favourite mass building exercises’ question – not because it’s not important but I want to know what you think REALLY makes the difference between those who will train those exercises with intensity and those who just like to gather more info but never apply it.

Hmmm… Interesting question. That kind of describes most people.

They want to search for more information more than they actually want to train.

Nowadays everyone suffers from information overload and paralysis by analysis. The end result is that they never really get any bigger or stronger.

Back in the 80’s and 90’s we didn’t have to deal with that. But today people are fucked.

If you’re someone who really knows how to eliminate distraction and take charge of your life you’ll make progress.

You’ll take the advice of the top experts out there and you will instantly apply it in the gym, understanding that building size and strength takes a shit ton of hard work, time and dedication.

If you want to keep clicking and clacking all day searching for a “better way” to get big and strong instead of actually pounding the shit out of the best, tried and true compound movements then good luck to ya. Ain’t gonna happen.

JLT: So then what would you say that is the REAL difference between the guys who pack on muscle and those who don’t? Is there anything you’d add?

JF: If you make the conscious decision to stop wasting time and stop searching for answers you’re on the right path. Once you pick one proven plan and stick with it for at least 12 weeks you’ll be way ahead of the game.

At that point you really just need to make sure you’re eating and sleeping enough to fuel that growth.

One other critically important factor that isn’t discussed as much as it should be is that you have to train smart. A lot of guys beat the shit out of themselves and are always suffering from minor injuries. It’s tough to make progress when you’re always hurt. Don’t do that. Train smarter and listen to your body.

JLT: I’m a skinny bastard by nature, currently training for a K1 fight. What is your best advice for someone who actually DOESN’T want extra mass for sporting reasons but DOES want strength and power that does some damage. How can we train for strength and power without much change in size?

JF: Keep the reps low, extend the rest periods and eat just enough to recover but no more.

So your training would basically be explosive power stuff, maximal strength work, some assistance work for injury prevention but with a low enough volume that it wouldn’t cause hypertrophy, and conditioning.

JLT: Yeah missing out the middle of the spectrum. Now more and more is being made of hormone testing and understanding what’s really going on inside. Given that some people are likely to be pissing in the wind trying to put on muscle with all sorts of hormone imbalances, what would your ‘poor man’s’ advice be based on ‘typical’ issues in the average guy.

JF: Well, you’ve gotta keep your test up and your cortisol down, right? And you need to improve your insulin sensitivity. Those are probably the three biggest concerns for guys looking to get jacked. You could talk about thyroid and adrenals as well, but that may be getting a bit too complex.

To keep your test up and cortisol down you need to train hard and heavy, get in and out of the gym in under an hour, don’t overdue it on the cardio, minimize stress and get enough sleep. I’d also recommend living your life with passion and doing something you love. Otherwise all the test will be sapped out of you if you’re hating every second of your existence.

Insulin sensitivity is improved firstly through training. You’ve gottta train hard five times per week. That could be four strength training sessions and one sprint or just five strength training workouts. But be doing something intense five days per week.

Then you just have to be sure that you eat carbs around training and at night. Those are the two best times. That should keep insulin sensitivity where you want it to be.

The adrenals control everything and can get fried from a variety of things. One thing I can recommend is to not overdo it on the stimulants. A cup or two of organic coffee per day is fine but you shouldn’t be living on those crazy pre workout coke/ ephedrine stacks.

Also, if your iodine levels are low your adrenals may not be up to snuff. I usually first combat this by having people have ample amounts of iodized sea salt and by having them eat sea vegetables like kelp. As simple as it sounds it usually helps.

JLT: I have to be honest, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder at the moment about people just watching videos of pro athletes, people with one leg and paraplegic triathletes and not realising it’s going to make jack shit of difference to them in the gym apart from maybe helping them get their shoes on and get out the door.

What do you think your average pigeon-chested ferret should really be doing to maintain minute-by-minute motivation to eat what he has to eat, do his prehab work and of course, lift the required iron?

Just decide what you want out of life.

Do you want to be a badass in all realms- fitness, social, business, or do you just want to be exactly like everyone else?

Only 5% of the people on the planet will achieve anything noteworthy.

The rest will just linger in mediocrity. Is that what you really want?

I don’t need a single motivational video or quote to know that that sure as hell isn’t what I want. So I wake up every morning knowing I will outhustle and outwork everyone else because I’m not satisfied being like everyone else.

If you are then that’s your life to live with.

JLT: For sure. Where do you draw the line on the balance between variety in training and repetition for progression?

JF: If you’ve been training for a few years you need more variety. Advanced guys need a lot of variety to keep them healthy. You get tennis elbow by repeatedly swinging a racquet that weighs a few ounces. When you repeatedly do the same movement with something that weighs 100-400 pounds you’re asking for an overuse injury.

That being said, if you want to get good at something you have to do it often. So you have to find the balance.

Beginners definitely need far less variety and should stick with routines much longer than advanced guys. A newbie could probably do the same 5-8 exercises for 52 weeks straight during his first year of training.

Later on down the road you’ll get to the point where you need to rotate things much more frequently to stay healthy.

JLT: Yeah and you’ve become more of fan of bodyweight training. What the best way to use BW for gaining size and strength?

Combine it with weight training.

You’re always gonna need some big lifts if you want to pack on as much size as possible.

So hit your squats, deads, high pulls, rows and presses then move on to bodyweight stuff for slightly higher reps to pump on. They build size, athleticism and lead to healthier joints.

JLT: Yeah so we’re getting the big hitters in first. In your experience is there much difference between the mistakes amateurs make and the mistakes that pro athletes make because although things are now changing, from what I’ve seen bullshit information is passed around the pro ranks as much as the local gym sometimes?

Yup, a lot of pro’s make the same mistakes amateurs make, for sure.

To become a pro athlete you’ve most likely got to have pretty decent genetics, right?

Not everyone, but it’s rare that a misfit with two left feet makes it to the NFL. So you’ve got some kind of athletic ability and you’ve got outstanding work ethic.

Those two things could get you very far in life and you could make it to the pro ranks in spite of your training not because of it.

But, and this is a big but for strength coaches out there that think they can do more magic than they’re really capable of…

That doesn’t mean that if Adrian Peterson or Kobe Bryant come to you after years of training what you would deem to be “incorrectly,” that you’re going to be able to make them better. “Oh man, Kobe’s been doing leg extensions all these years? Once I get him squatting and doing glute hams I’m gonna make him the greatest of all time!”

No, you’re not. The best you can do at that point is not injure him and hopefully prevent future injuries. That’s it. The guys who need the most help are at the high school level.

JLT: What’s your favourite joke?

Tough to say.

I think everything is funny. I literally laugh all day long.

I can’t go more than an hour without cracking jokes and busting out laughing about something. I never understood people who are so serious and how you couldn’t have a sense of humor.

I thank my quick-witted Scottish mother for passing that down to me.

JLT: Jay, thanks for your time and I’ll see you out in Cali soon.

PS Jay’s Muscle Gaining Secrets is INSANE. Great for slapping on muscle….