Why do you have a blog and why should I listen to you?
Growing up I was a skinny fat-ass who was more injury prone than Allen Iverson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Reggie Bush combined. I was also overly stressed and depressed.
So if you’re struggling, trust me when I tell you I’ve been there and have learned the hard way.
After 18 years in the fitness industry, training over 700 clients I feel like I have a lot of life changing information to share. I’ve authored hundreds of articles for numerous magazines and websites such as Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, MMA Sports Mag, Maximum Fitness and several others.
I’m the chief training adviser to Men’s Fitness Magazine and on the advisory board for Live Strong.
My goal is to help as many people as I can to avoid making the same mistakes that I did. Cuz, man did that shit suck…
What do you do on a daily basis?
Human beings are meant to be active so I always do some kind of physical activity every day. That usually ends up being four strength training workouts per week and another hill or sled sprint session or two.
Every morning I take a 20 minute walk and I do mobility and flexibility work after that. Mobility is one of the most underrated factors in your overall health and ability to perform at the highest level. It’s also one of the qualities you lose fastest as you age. To maintain it you’ve gotta train it.
I spend at least an hour per day reading because I know that the old maxim is true,
The difference between where you are today and where you’ll be five years from now is the number and quality of the books you’ve read.”
On top of that I stay busy running my business which includes coaching, writing, designing programs, consulting and overseeing Team Renegade.
What’s your favorite strength training exercise?
That’s a tough one. The log clean and press is right up near the top. If I could only do one exercise that might be the one. They pretty much hit the entire body and are just a really cool, bad ass, fun exercise.
If I could only choose one implement, however it would be rings. I love bodyweight training and most of the best upper body exercises in existence can done on rings.
What about conditioning?
Hill sprints, no doubt. Walter Payton was my childhood idol and got me to start doing them back in the mid 80’s. As I get older I sub out some sprint sessions for a date with the Prowler simply because it’s less stressful on the body.
What’s your favorite healthy meal?
Probably a nice grass fed steak, huge spinach and mixed greens salad with vegetables and a couple Japanese Yams or Jasmine rice. Follow it up with some berries and raw cashew butter.
What’s your favorite cheat meal?
I was a little chubster growing up and am still a fat kid at heart. I have to fight my desires every day because boy, do I love to eat.
If I could only pick one cheat meal it would probably be chicken parm with pasta and meatballs, followed up by a brownie sundae with coconut milk ice cream.
Or maybe strawberry rhubarb pie instead. Being half Scottish we had that a lot growing up and it’s one of my all time favorites. Yeah, let’s nix the brownie and go with that.
Do you drink? If so what’s your drink of choice?
Yup. During my twenties and early thirties I drank an average of 1.5-2 times per week I’d say. Nowadays I probably average once a month. Vodka and soda with lime is my drink of choice. Although, in Jersey no one I knew ever called it soda. It was vodka and club. Just FYI.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Next to fitness music is by far and away my biggest passion. I’m obsessed with music and listen to everything from Creedence to Jack Johnson to Metallica.
My all time favorite bands are Pearl Jam and Public Enemy.
A Tribe Called Quest would be a close third. I love pretty much all old school hip hop; from NWA to EPMD. Anything from ’85-’95.
Some other bands and solo artists that are among my favorites are:
• Bob Marley
• The Who
• Bruce Springsteen (When you’re from Jersey you gotta love The Boss)
• Rage Against the Machine
• Henry Rollins/ Rollins Band/ Black Flag
• Jay Z
What are your all time favorite movies?
I’m a big fan of social dramas that deal with serious issues. Some of my favorites are:
• Braveheart (I’m half Scottish despite the super Italian last name, which makes it even more meaningful I think)
• Shawshank Redemption
• American History X
• Almost Famous (Being the huge music fan I am and all…)
• Hotel Rwanda
• Malcolm X
• The Rocky Series
• The Star Wars Series
• Lean on Me
What are your all time favorite TV shows?
Seinfeld, The Sopranos and The Wire. Oh indeed…
What are your favorite sports teams?
The New York Yankees and New York Giants. Like Jay Z said, “You should know I bleed blue.”
I’m also an LA Lakers fan but to nowhere near the extent I am a fan of the Giants and Yankees.
My Life By The Years; the Short Version
1974- Entered the world in Summit, New Jersey as a natural born fat ass whose head would shake when food got near him. Damn, I love to eat.
1988- Started high school at barely 100 pounds and a shade over five feet tall. I was the epitome of the skinny-fat hardgainer with the worst genetics imaginable.
I was also one of the only white kids I knew who was listening to hip hop and dressing in the style at the time which seemed to fit my rebellious nature I had developed over the years.
1992- After four hard years of training and standing a foot taller I graduated high school weighing a whopping, skinny-fat, 147 pounds.
With an even more impressive 1.7 GPA and what may have been a record for time spent in detention I always made my mom damn proud. I don’t know what she reacted to worse, the report cards or the girls I brought home. Come to think of it, it was probably the tattoos.
In August of that year I headed off to Towson State in Maryland since they were the only college that would accept me. Although I’d argue that my SAT scores weren’t bad for someone who checked C the whole way down and got done in New Jersey state record time.
It was during this time that I became obsessed with strength training and figuring out how to break my genetic curse. I read everything I could on the subject and finally got my first personal trainer certification.
I also go the hell out of Towson as soon as I could since it was a commuter school at the time and bored the hell out of me.
1993- After spending a year at Arizona State reading about training, working in the weight room during the day and partying my ass off at night I was on academic probation.
When I got home for Christmas break I went to the gym one day and was much weaker than normal. As it was I only had the strength of prepubescent girl but this was odd even for me.
My next training session was even worse and I felt like I was going to die. Turns out I almost did. I had to be rushed to the hospital that day because my lungs had filled up with fluid. The doctor said if I had gotten there an hour later I would have drowned.
Apparently some of the foreign exchange students who lived on my floor had brought tuberculosis into the dorm and I caught it.
I thought nobody had that since Doc Holliday.
I’m sure all of the junk food and booze had my immune system primed to catch anything at that point.
I spent the next three months on bed rest and dropped over fifty pounds. I had to be on prescription medication for a year. That’s when I lost my hair, which in retrospect was a good thing, since most people seem to think I look quite hilarious with it.
1994- After three months in the house doing nothing but reading about strength training and watching videos on the subject I got back in the gym again.
Shortly after that I started training people and saved enough money to open Renegade Gym in Watchung, New Jersey a few months down the road.
I wasn’t allowed back into school yet at that point and with business growing rapidly I had no intentions of returning to Arizona. I couldn’t give up what I had started to build.
1995- Transferred to Seton Hall University and continued to work my ass off to grow the business. The more clients I could get the more guinea pigs I would have to test my theories on.
2001- After training hundreds of clients and building up a successful training business I started writing for the first time. English was one of the only subjects I was any good at in school and since I felt like I had so much to offer I decided to give it a shot.
2002-2003- Renegade grew exponentially during these years and I was working 12 hours per day, Monday through Friday and another six hours on the weekend.
I also met my good friend, Mark Crook, who changed my life and helped propel Renegade to the level that it’s at today.
Aside from my clients, I had a group of about 6-8 eight guys that I trained with four nights a week and we had some of the most intense, productive workouts I can ever remember.
Looking back I can honestly say that these were some of the best years of my life and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
2003- Dave Tate had been impressed enough with my work that he asked me to be on the Q&A Staff at Elite Fitness Systems. This was a HUGE honor as the only other private strength coach on the staff at that time was Martin Rooney. The Sport Specific division consisted of me, Martin, Buddy Morris of the Cleveland Browns, Tom Myslinski of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Joe Kenn of Arizona State. To be in such incredible company was humbling.
Around this time I was 231 pounds and the strongest I had ever been in my life. A far cry from the skinny maggot I was a decade earlier.
2004- Took over The Hardgainer column at Men’s Fitness with the blessing of my good friend, Alwyn Cosgrove. Over the next few years I wrote hundreds of articles for Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, Shape, MMA Sports Mag, Today’s Man, Muscle & Fitness Hers, Maximum Fitness and a few others.
2005- Was notified that the building Renegade Gym had resided in for the past twelve years had been sold and that the new owners were taking over the entire building. All tenants had six months to get out. I searched high and low but was never able to find a perfect spot and get the necessary zoning permits in time.
I called my friends Dave Tate and Alwyn Cosgrove for advice as I was at my wits end and unsure what to do with the rest of my career. They both agreed that twelve straight years of twelve hour days had left me a bit burnt out and that this was a good thing. It would give me a chance to step back and recharge.
It also gave me a chance to start this blog you’re reading right now.
Luckily, my friend was just opening a new training center and I brought half of my clients there and was able to keep Renegade alive. So while I continued to train people on a regular basis it was at a much more manageable pace than the one I had kept for the previous twelve years.
Early 2006- After making six figures per year training people for over twelve years I lost it all.
It was a combination of many years of bad decision making and reckless living. I will explain the entire story in a future post very soon. The long story short is that I spent money like MC Hammer and ended up completely broke. But I made a commitment and promise to myself to completely turn things around within 18 months.
August 2006- After six months of hard work I released Muscle Gaining Secrets, which was based on my many years of in the trenches experience and went on to become one of the biggest selling muscle building ebooks in history (which still gets regularly updated every year).
2008- My first mainstream book, Fit to Fight, was published by Penguin.
Later that year, after more than two decades of heavy, and often times stupid, training (plus some other sports related stuff that had nothing to do with the gym) I needed shoulder surgery.
While recovering I went from 227 pounds down to 179. Apparently my skinny genetics were still in full effect after all those years of eating and training. When I was rehabbing my shoulder I found a spot to reopen Renegade Gym and within a month had the papers signed and the door open.
2011- Finally made a long time dream come true and moved to Santa Monica, California, although I still keep a place in Jersey and fly back regularly to check on the gym while I continue to scout out locations for a possible Renegade West.
Present- I continue to train a small group of exclusive clients, fly back to New Jersey to check up on my gym regularly, coach clients online, consult, write and live my dream on a daily basis.
This blog that started with a handful of readers now has several hundred thousand and is one of the top five most widely read strength and conditioning blogs out there.
I couldn’t be more appreciative, humbled and honored.
You have my word that as long as you keep coming back I will keep doing my best to provide you with fresh, high quality content and will remain dedicated to helping you achieve your goals in any way I can.
Thanks for reading (if you’ve made it this far),