Hot Training Tips From Jay Ferruggia

Today, we celebrate the engagement of ANOTHER fitness expert who is tying the knot to one of the nicest girls in the world.

(Believe me, he’s “marrying up” BIG time!)

I’m talking about my friend and mentor, Jason Ferruggia. Yes, the original Renegade trainer, who I fly down to Jersey twice a year to learn from, is getting married to the wonderful Jen Grasso.

And Jay is celebrating with a sale on his Triple Threat Muscle program here.

She’s a sweetheart, a great cook, and can do 10 chinups and can squat 135 pounds.  Yet I guarantee you the last thing you’d ever call her is, “bulky”. She’s proof that weight training doesn’t cause women to bulk up.

Jen’s going to have her own blog soon showing women what they can do with good nutrition and training, but in the meantime, I have a NEW interview with Jason Ferruggia about the hottest workout and diet tips coming out of his gym these days.

CB: Jay, what’s new in the workouts you are giving folks down at the Renegade Gym in Jersey?

Well, since I am almost unhealthily obsessed with strength training I am always trying to improve upon our systems and find better ways to get faster results. What’s weird is that often times the programs that will elicit the  fastest results are not the programs that make people happiest.

What I mean by that is that if someone comes to me and says they want to get bigger and stronger, the program automatically has to be low volume, has to consist of a limited number of exercises and probably won’t be exhausting in the least.

In other words it will be the complete opposite of something like CrossFit or a typical bootcamp style workout that is so in vogue these days.

A lot of people can’t mentally accept that.

They have been brainwashed into thinking that all workouts must be as tough as going five rounds with Georges St. Pierre.

Conditioning workouts should be, but size, strength and power workouts should not be.

So when you own a gym and are working with the general public on a daily basis you have to take all these things into account and write productive workouts while still making them fun.

What’s fun for me might be very boring for the average guy because he wants to do what he sees Tito Ortiz doing on YouTube. So I try to always stick with what I know will get results while adding a tiny bit of entertainment value in here and there to keep people that aren’t as into training as I am interested.

Some of the things I have been experimenting with lately are an upper/lower/full body split on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. It’s been years since I had tried that so I wanted to go back and play with it a bit. I like it a lot.

Monday will be maximal strength upper body work and Wednesday will be maximal strength lower body work. Both days include barbell lifts and some lower rep assistance work.

The Friday workout is predominantly upper body based but does include some lower body work that doesn’t stress the knee or the spine. So glute hams, back extensions, swings, glute bridges, sled, prowler, farmers walks, stuff like that.

There are typically no barbell lifts on this day; just bodyweight, dumbbell and strongman. And most of the stuff is in a bit of a higher rep range.

We’ve gotten great results with this split and it nicely blends the best of both worlds.

The other thing I have been experimenting with is using percentages more frequently for some of the big lifts. Typically, in the past I would pick a number and have the guys work up to one maximal set of eight or five or three or whatever.

When working with large groups, percentages definitely make things easier and keep the workouts moving a lot faster and more smoothly.

It also helps guys to not pick a weight that is too heavy; which is often a problem when I am trying to oversee everyone at once and can’t always watch each and every set.

However, percentage based workouts are a long term plan based on improving certain lifts. While this type of thing definitely works very well, I’m not a big fan of having guys constantly do the exact same lifts over and over for months on end. And more so with the upper body than the lower body.

You can’t beat squats so they could stay in the program forever. But I really don’t want guys benching fifty two weeks a year. Or doing any form of pressing for that matter. Simply because it’s not good for your shoulders.

I just like to get guys strong overall and have them moving heavy weights on a regular basis, but I prefer to rotate the upper body lifts to keep the shoulders healthy and avoid overuse injuries.

So when we finish up this current percentage based program I will go back to rotating the maximal strength work for the upper body where we just work up to a max for the day of somewhere between one and five (or even as high as 8-10 on occasion) reps.

For the squats, we may stick with the percentages, though. I haven’t decided just yet.

CB: Nice. Now I read on your blog that you are now a self-confessed health nut. So what’s new in healthy choices in your life?

Man, I am so obsessed with being super healthy these days. More so than ever before. I completely stopped using a microwave. The last few years I barely used it at all but now it’s gone completely. I got rid of all plastic and Tupperware food containers. I only eat or drink out of glass or stainless steel containers.

I threw out any soaps or lotions or sunscreens I had that weren’t 100% natural and organic. I even put a shower filter on my shower head. I figured, why have one to drink out of and then go shower in that polluted water, which also gets into your system. That might seem a little obsessive to some people but I’m not taking any risks anymore.

Even though I have always recommended that people get to bed by 10:30 I was never really able to do it myself. I have always had trouble getting to bed on time because I’m usually up reading about training and nutrition. And sleeping well has always been a challenge for me.

But the last few months I have ritualistically forced myself to be in bed by 10:30 every single night. Making smarter food choices at night and cutting off my food intake earlier has helped as well.

I also make sure I get my twenty minutes of sun each day, without sunscreen, for optimal Vitamin D production. And if I want to go swimming I try to avoid harmful, chlorinated pools and opt instead for oceans or lakes.

Because I know how dangerous excessive cortisol production can be I have even been more relaxed and on cruise control than ever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still intense and a little wacked, but I’m working on it.

Jen and I have been consciously trying to eliminate any complaining we may do; no matter how trivial the complaints may be. We’re even thinking of doing a thing where if one of us complains about something we have to put money in a jar or something.

Now we just cut each other off, like if I were to say, “I can’t believe my entire website just crashed,” and then start getting all ticked off and cursing about it, her job is to cut me off, tell me she doesn’t want to hear it and tell me to get it fixed as soon as possible and move on.

We’ve been working on that system, keeping each other and check and trying to always remain positive and never focus on the negative. It may seem silly or trite but I believe it’s important.

CB: Very nice. Jen is awesome. She’s been a great influence on you. Let’s finish by having you tell us what’s new in your diet?

Diet wise I have completely eliminated all fake foods and am really cutting down on grains of all kinds. Many grains cause inflammation and digestive problems so I have been limiting my consumption of them and have definitely experienced improved digestion and recovery from training.

We used to have cheat meals on the weekends where we would eat some
vegetarian meatballs or burgers or ribs, but I can no longer bring myself to put anything fake or processed in my mouth. I only eat food that is 100% natural and organic.

We got a guide to all of the farmers markets in the state and are constantly visiting one of them every few days. Instead of doing a huge shopping load for the week I like to go more frequently and get only the freshest foods.

I’ve been reading and studying a ton about nutrition lately and really believe that eating only natural foods is of critical importance.

I have also consciously bumped up my saturated fat intake through the consumption of a lot more coconut oil on a daily basis and have noticed symptoms of improved testosterone levels.

And I’m sure Jen would agree 😉

As far as cooking and recipes go we have been on a big raw foods kick, making a lot of wacky, unusual recipes that are all 100% raw.

Some of this stuff is quite time consuming to make but the taste is amazing. Unfortunately, I can’t really share any of the recipes since Jen makes most of them. I’m just lucky enough to get to eat them. But we’ll definitely try to post some in the near future.


Thanks Jay.


Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS