53 Ways to Build Muscle, Gain Strength & Be F*ckin Awesome

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

monson1. Think safety first.
If you are always getting hurt no progress can be made.

2. Identify the exercises that hurt you and stop doing them.
Just because lots of people tell you an exercise is great that doesn’t mean it’s for you. If it hurts stop.

3. Have a clearly defined goal.
You can’t increase your 40 time, lose 20 pounds of fat and gain 20 pounds of muscle at the same time.

4. Train like an athlete.
Blend dumbbells, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises and various forms of movement.

5. Train for strength but don’t try to force it.
It won’t happen at every workout. If you try to push too fast you’ll get hurt. Have patience.

6. If you can avoid it don’t train first thing in the morning.
You’re more likely to hurt your back at that time. If you have no other choice do an extended warm up and use caution. It’s best to be awake for at least an hour before lifting heavy.

7. Train your neck.
It could save your life. And a pencil neck looks hilarious.

8. To spare your shoulders, elbows and wrists press with a dumbbells instead of a barbell.
Unless you’re a competitive lifter. Otherwise this will keep you healthier over the long haul.

9. Do hurdle mobility drills.
Hip mobility is very important and goes quickly as you age. If you have good hip mobility your likelihood of having lower back problems will be reduced.

10. Don’t skimp on your warm ups.
If you’re pressed for time cut down on the main workout, not the warm up.

11. But don’t be “Warm Up Man” either.
Ya know, the guy who carries 17 different types of balls to roll on and warms up for two hours. That’s overkill. A good warm up never needs to last more than ten minutes.

12. Practice deep breathing before training.
Crocodile breathing and deep breathing in the seven month position is awesome before a workout.

13. Squat.
It’s an essential human movement pattern. But you don’t have to do it with heavy weight. Just maintain the ability to do it. Once you can, do some bodyweight squats every day. Like right now. Drop down and do 10. Then make that a habit to do randomly.

14. Start with the goblet squat when you need load.
That’s probably all a lot of people need. Back and front squats can beat up fragile lifters. It’s rare that someone gets hurt from goblets.

15. Don’t underestimate the power of single leg squat variations.
You can get great size and strength gains, while sparing your spine when you focus on skater squats, reverse lunges, step ups and split squats.

16. Make single leg RDL’s a staple.
When done with  kettlebells or dumbbells this is the safest deadlift variation you can do. It’s also phenomenal for the entire posterior chain.

17. For size gains you should feel the muscle.
Don’t just hoist weight. Lower under control and squeeze on the way up.

18. Always squeeze the bell as hard as you can.
Trying to crush it, on every lift you do. This will ensure tightness.

19. Squeeze your glutes tightly and brace your abs on every standing exercise.
This will help protect your spine and elicit more full body tension. Tension equals strength.

20. Always maintain optimal posture throughout your sets.
Never let your shoulders slouch forward, chin poke out or your lower back round/tuck under.


21. Do more moving and supporting on your hands.
Handstands, Power Wheel hand walks, lateral hand walks, alligator pushups, partner assisted wheel barrow walks, and crawling are all great for building up strength and stability in the shoulders.

22. Use thick handles or Fat Gripz.
This will strengthen the hands/grip and build up bigger forearms. It also alleviates helps to alleviate elbow and shoulder stress.

23. Don’t use excessive levels of psyche on every set.
This fries your CNS, increases the likelihood of injury and makes it harder to recover from one workout to the next.

24. Get a sled and use it often.
Sled work is invaluable and irreplaceable when it comes to conditioning. Get one HERE.

25. Incorporate more static/isometric holds.
Front warrior, prone mountain, cobra pose, downward dog, up dog, supine bridge and side lunge positions from yoga are all great to do on a regular basis, either as part of your warm up, or as part of a separate mobility workout you do on off days. Handstands and l-sits are also great for building indomitable core strength.

26. Jump rope.
Doing so will improve your foot speed and conditioning. Plus it’s cool to be able to jump rope well.

27. Do more exercises standing than sitting or lying down.
You sit or lie down to relax. And you spend enough time sitting at work. Stand as often as you can when training.

28.  Pick heavy shit up off the ground.
This is a basic fundamental law of being strong. I like kettelebell deadlifts for this purpose.

29. Carry heavy shit.
Exercises like farmers walks simultaneously strengthen the traps, lower back, grip, hips, knees and ankles. They’re tough to beat. Some other good carries are zercher, bearhug, waiters, shouldered, and racked.

30. Do more pushups.
They’re still one of the best pressing exercises there is. If you are beyond the beginner level figure out creative ways to load them (weight vests, plates on back, chains, bands) or make them harder (steep incline, 1 arm, divebomber, on rings, etc.).

For God’s sake, people, stay in shape!”
– Louie Simmons

31. Decrease your rest periods.
Heed Louie’s words. One of the ways to do so is cut your rest periods when appropriate.

32. Do something active every day.
The body is meant to move everyday. If you only strength train three days you should be out doing something active on the other days. Even if it’s just going for a walk or doing some mobility work to get moving.

33. Don’t train for more than an hour.
Your testosterone levels will drop and cortisol levels will start climbing. Plus, it’s been said that if you’re in the gym for more than an hour you’re making friends, not making progress.

34. Run, jump, climb, and crawl.
It’s what your body was designed to do. Simply lifting weights is not enough. You have to MOVE!

35. Eliminate loaded spinal flexion.
Your spine will thank you later. If you can’t do an exercise with a neutral spine stop doing it. Work on your mobility until you can.

36.  Listen to your body.
When you have nagging pains it’s always better to train around them than through them. Trust me.

37. Take a week off when your body needs it.
For most people that will usually come every 8-12 weeks. The older and stronger you are the more often you will need down time.

38. Take care of your knees.
You only get one pair. If they’re already shot try this.

39. Do reps to get swole.
Low reps on the big lifts are great for beginners. They don’t have the coordination or stabilizer strength to hold the appropriate positions for too long. So it’s safer to keep the reps lower and it helps them learn good habits. When you get more advanced you need moderate to higher reps to build muscle.

female volleyball player240. Play.
We forget to do this as we get older. Kids have a lot of things right. Always remember that “growing up” is a trap. Don’t do it. Go play something right now. I’ll wait.

41. Get at least 20 minutes of sunlight per day.
Vitamin D is critically important to your health and performance and natural sunlight is the best source. During the winter you need to at least an hour or you’ll need to supplement with it, depending on where you live. Of course, getting blood work done to test for a Vitamin D deficiency is the smartest approach.

42. Perform some soft tissue work on yourself daily.
Invest in some of these to keep yourself healthy.

43. Do hill sprints.
They shred bodyfat, crank up your conditioning and toughen you up. Plus Walter Payton did them which makes them awesome.

44.  Go to bed by 10:30 every night.
We are supposed to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. That’s how our bodies evolved. Very few people do that. That’s why very few people are healthy and in shape. I don’t expect you to go to bed at 7pm but you certainly shouldn’t be up til midnight staring at screens. Turn the cell phone, TV and computer off and do your body some good.

45. Get 8-9 hours of sleep.
It’s very difficult to get bigger, faster, stronger or leaner on minimal amounts of sleep. Sleep deprivation will also negatively effect hormone levels, mood, stress tolerance, immune function and concentration. There is nothing more important than getting more sleep.

I repeat, there is nothing more important than getting more sleep. For getting big, lean, strong, healthy, smarter, happier, more productive, less stressed… you name it.

46. Get up at the same time every day.
This will help ensure optimal/consistent hormonal balance and performance levels. You’ll feel much better when you do this.

47. Take naps.
It’s an awesome way to boost recovery and get a little surge of growth hormone. If the whole world had mandatory siestas and was forced to take naps there would be less violence, depression, divorce, war, you name it. I truly believe that.

48. Do yoga.
Don’t be too much of a manly tough guy to take care of yourself. Yoga makes you feel better. There’s a good reason that people have done it forever. Follow along with THESE routines at home.

49. Take contrast baths or showers after training.
Hot as you can handle for 1-3 minutes. Cold as you can handle for 30-60 seconds. Repeat for 5-10 minutes. This helps improve recovery.

50. Get massages.
Being dedicated to this on a regular basis over the last few years has made a tremendous difference in how I feel. Do it as often as you can.

51. Find a float tank and get in one.
This has probably been the best thing I’ve ever done for recovery in a long time. Google the nearest location and give it a try. Let me know how you like it.

52. Do some mobility work every day.
This book has lots of great options.

53. Train outside from time to time.
Bring a bunch of stuff outside and get after it. Or just go to the park and do a bunch of bodyweight stuff on the monkey bars alternated with some kettlebell swings.  But do something.

Start incorporating any or all of those tips today and pretty soon it will be impossible for you to walk into a room without people stopping to note, “That dude’s fuckin awesome.”

If you got any inkling of enjoyment out of this post I’d greatly appreciate you hitting one of the share buttons below.

Thanks for being awesome.

Leave a Reply

67 Responses to 53 Ways to Build Muscle, Gain Strength & Be F*ckin Awesome

  1. Chris July 1, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Great post. Pretty much everything you’ll ever need right there…

    But don’t forget to include some good snatches from time to time. Haha.

  2. steeven July 1, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    have sex with hot womens on your day off !!

  3. joe July 1, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    when you say no grinding death reps, does that mean no more heavy lifts where the fastest you can go is slow?

  4. Travis July 1, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Great list Jason.

    I do most of these and picked up a few new ones as well.

    Lack of sleep is the hardest one for me. I never can seem to fall asleep early enough, but never seem to have trouble waking up early.

    I might add something about nutrition and eating, and something about tracking size gains, and weight increases. Tracking always helps me stay motivated and build more size.

  5. Ryan Magin July 1, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Awesome post J, that’s a product in itself…

    Should be called get jacked for dummies :)…

  6. nisch July 1, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    Great article with a lot of info just to remind me what I have to do to be fckin awesome ! :)
    Copied and on my desk. I’ll read it once a day.

  7. Matt July 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Kick ass list Jay.
    You covered a lot and stuff that many people overlook or simply don’t do (including me)!
    Eating clean…more fruits and veggies could be added, but that can also be a post on it’s own.
    Like Travis mentioned, keeping a log book will help track your progress so that you are besting your previous workouts/weights.
    I would also put DEADLIFTS in there…right up there with squats! Always feel beastly after doing those.
    Not much else I can think to add, but…
    You’re F*ckin awesome! haha.

  8. Bret Contreras July 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Good stuff as usual Jason!!!

  9. Eric Moss July 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    I might be wrong on this but I think you forgot to mention deadlifting. Deadlift more often, curl and crunch less often.

  10. Tyler July 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    Listen to Pearl Jam!

  11. mike July 1, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    I would say that “pick heavy shit off of the ground” would be your answer to the deadlift as not being on that list ;-)

  12. LaRue July 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    I believe deadlifting was covered under, “Pick heavy shit up from the ground”.

    Unless of course, Jay was being literal with that one.

  13. Heather aka Tank July 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Great post Jay…as usual. A comprehensive list. Thanks for emphasizing the importance of spending some time on a foam roller and lacrosse ball…my clients loathe it…but its the appropriate means to proper movement. And thanks to it…I’ve got a breath-taking squat…and the ass to match. If I had a child…I’d read this post to him every night before bed…just sayin.

  14. Vman July 1, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Jay, “your F@ckin Awesome” ha ha ha great post as usual, love the no BS tell it how it is approach and great, simple to follow and implement advice!!

  15. Grant July 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    you done it again Jay, thanks buddy

  16. Andrew July 1, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    Guys he did mention deadlifting. #27 “lift heavy shit off the ground” is a reference to that, among other things. Nice post!

  17. Kirpal July 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    Thanks for this blog Jason. I’m printing this off and posting it in my room. I always appreciate all the tips you give. Thanks again.

  18. Chris July 1, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Great stuff Jay!

  19. Alan Garza July 1, 2010 at 7:52 pm #


  20. Nick July 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Jason, it’s funny you mentioned this, because just last night I realised that the main thing missing from my training was jumps and (med ball) throws.

    A couple of questions: what kind of med balls do should one get and how heavy? And with regards to box jumps, do you coach the tucked leg jump ala Joe DeFranco or the non-tucked jump ala Mike Boyle?

    Thanks for the great post.

    • Jason Ferruggia June 6, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      @Nick- 10-20lbs. Non tucked. You should never land lower than 135 degrees of knee flexion.

  21. Ross July 2, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Awesome post Jason! Quick question: What exactly goes on in the body to help recovery by doing a contrast shower after training?

    • Matt July 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

      @Ross: Ross. Contrast Temperature therapy is an effective method of removing waste products from your muscles. the hot shower brings your blood to the surface of the skin, then the cold shower shunts the blood quickly away from the skin toward your torso. Its a lot more complicated than this, but basically doing that a few times flushes new oxygenated blood into the muscle and flushes out the used up remnants from your trg session. For more info look up CWI or Contrast Water Immersion on google!!

  22. Robbie July 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Great stuff Jason.

    When you say no more then one hour of training does this include your rolling stretching and your warm up?

  23. burkedogg July 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    sick post… more and more ppl need to incorporate this into their workouts!!!

  24. Adam July 3, 2010 at 4:57 am #

    Great stuff! The best thing about coming here Jason is that the advice is you give is so damn simple and so damn straight forward!

    Just a quick question (which anyone can answer). How many warmup sets should you do when working up to a heavy set (whether it be 8,6,4,2 etc) if you wanted to build muscle?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Jason Ferruggia June 6, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      @Adam- Thanks. It depends how strong you are. It will take a lot more sets to work up to 405 than 95.

  25. Peter Fabian July 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Great post
    Consider also–Paying attention no wandering minds, keep your focus/concentration/intensity (related to goals, etc) and breathe

  26. Kelly M July 6, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    @ # 52. Well, I plan on picking this up at some point, but I’m in Canada and doubt I will ever get a chance to see your gym equipment. Lists like these could replace tons of magazines and ‘workin out’ books.

  27. Sick Gnar July 7, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Great tips. Although I find that lists over 25 are easily forgotten or ignored. What would be the top 10 of the 53 tips?

  28. Jason July 7, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    Great post

    love 5 and 3

  29. Dave July 9, 2010 at 5:28 am #

    Excellent tips. Pretty much sums up everything you need in a strength training and muscle building routine.

  30. jasonferruggia July 9, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    Chris- I could never forget about snatches.

    Steeven- Good call

    Joe- No it doesn’t. It means no slow, sloppy, form breaking down, blood vessel popping, grinding death reps. When you go 1-3 reps they will always be slow but they shouldn’t be sloppy or overly slow.

    Travis- I left nutrition out because I am going to do a separate post on that.

    Matt and Eric- The other guys pointed it out already but I’ll reiterate- deadlifts were covered in “pick up heavy shit off the ground.”

    Heather- “The ass to match,” huh? Sounds good to me.

    Nick- I like both styles of boxed jumps. For med balls I like the slam balls from MuscleDriverUSA. 10 & 15 lbs will be good.

    Robbie- I get it all done in an hour. I like the weight training portion to be limited to 45 minutes most of the time.

    Ross- Matt covered it below your question.

    Adam- It depends how strong you are, how heavy you are going, how beat up you are etc. At least three warm up sets in most cases. And if you are strong and working up to a single or triple it could be 8-12.

    Thanks for all the comments, guys. Keep ’em coming.

  31. Thomas Gerstler July 9, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    best post i have seen 4 a long time all the best !!!

  32. jasonferruggia July 12, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    Thanks a lot, Thomas. Glad you liked it.

  33. Lucky July 18, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Holy poop, this was an awesome post. This list should be like on a wall on every gym :)

    • Kyle April 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      Yup, someone should print out the list and make it into a banner or poster.

  34. Eric July 19, 2010 at 7:17 am #

    I love how straight up your writing is. Thanks!

  35. jasonferruggia July 20, 2010 at 6:09 am #

    Thanks, Lucky and Eric.

  36. Ross July 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    @Matt – Thanks a ton, dude!

  37. Jamie August 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Awesome list Jason. That should be printed as rules to live by!

  38. james August 19, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    what does ADD stand for?

    • Matty C May 31, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      ADD = Attention Deficit Disorder. The reduced ability to concentrate for lengthy periods. Basically, trust your program and stick to it. Quit chopping and changing because you want to do something new every week. The sure fire way to killing your potential gains in strength and muscle!

  39. wrestler strength October 29, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Great tips. Every one I read down the list I thought “man this is the best one” …until I would get to the next one and say the same thing! #1-5 are definitely my 5 biggest.

  40. Kasey Brown December 26, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    I like this


    format. I’m going to steal it and start using it on my blog!

  41. Jeremy May 24, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Jason I have been reading your blogs for sometime now. I am always impressed with how true and helpful your information is. Thanks as always!

  42. Lifter May 24, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Nice, everything in a single list ! I am wondering about 12. Do I have to perform every single lift very fast, because I have hard time being explosive, not that I am lifting super slowly, but it’s not fast. Is this a problem ?

  43. YEAH June 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    there are alot of great trainers out there(your#1) but you put it out there so simple
    love it

  44. Ryan July 6, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    You can do all of the above perfectly to the T, but if you won’t build muscle without a proper diet.

  45. Mike Wilson July 6, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Thanks, Jason! This is an outstanding list and a great overall post. Can you elaborate a little on loaded spinal flexion? What exercises cause this?

    One suggestion for the list — Aim to do 100 burpees in a row in 5 minutes or less. Another get shredded and toughening up activity. And — you can do it anywhere.

    • Jason Ferruggia June 6, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      @Mike Wilson- Squats and deadlifts with improper form. Sit Ups.

  46. deb July 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    ssshhhh, don’t tell.. we’re not all dudes even if we are fucking awesome.
    Great post.

  47. Mr. C July 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Great post J. Whereabouts in the template in 21 would you include the static gymnastic holds?

    • Jason Ferruggia June 6, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      @MR. C – We usually put them first. Planche work before pressing, front levers to activate the lats before pulling. Though you could also do them at the very end. As long as they get done and you improve on them.

  48. Moe February 14, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Jason you never cease to amaze me; i grabbed muscle gaining secrets and I’ve been loving it; do you have any tips for patella tendinitis and day two advanced?

  49. jack chen October 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Great post for muscle building. I will follow these ideas. Thank you!

  50. Ian Kelly October 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    Got some great information with this site, i am starting my own one that is similar to this one! Check it out, thanks!

  51. J. R. Clark January 22, 2014 at 5:24 am #

    Wow, cool muscles…keep posting pictures like this. Your post is great to follow. As a saying goes no pain to gain… Will just keep going to achieve a muscles like these pictures here.


  52. Jason Ferruggia November 17, 2014 at 8:15 am #