Injury Update, New Goals & Why You Must Always Resist Average

Posted by Jason Ferruggia on October 4, 2010

For those who haven’t been following along, I destroyed my right shoulder in September of 2007. My rotator cuff and labrum were both torn and surgery was required. Of course, being the meathead I am I plowed through for another 12 months, during which time I trained with the likes of Dave Tate, Matt Rhodes, Smitty from the Diesel Crew, Craig Ballantyne, John Alvino and some other strong dudes, whose names you may recognize and some others you wouldn’t.

As a man, I am required to go balls to the wall when training with others who may be as strong or stronger than me and can not except defeat. It’s just man law. Or part of my stupid gene. Either one.

I finally got the surgery in September of 2008. Recovery was worse and took longer than I thought. Upper body training was out and since I hate doing most lower body exercises that aren’t called squats or deadlifts I was basically on the shelf for three months. Before the injury I was around 231 pounds, at six feet tall. Going into the surgery on a year of shitty training had me down, probably in the 215 range. While I was home recovering I thought, “Since I’m not training I will just eat like a normal person and see what happens over the next three months.” I wanted to see what my natural adult weight would be after years of heavy training and force feeding. How far had I taken my shithouse genetics, I wondered.

Twelve weeks later I woke up weighing 179 pounds and if I didn’t start gorging myself I’m pretty sure I would have dropped another 5-10 pounds. So when I tell you I’m a skinny-fat, hardgainer by nature, it’s not just some gimmick. I looked like death and friends were horrified to see me. I showed up at a horse race all our friends go to every year that’s basically just an all day party/booze fest, and my friends Kyle and Jeff hit the floor in hysterical laughter at the sight of me.

“Somebody get this guy a sandwich!” Kyle started yelling to everyone in earshot.

Me in 2008 after surgery & a 40lb weight loss

The next week when Jeff was driving our friend Mike to my house for a UFC pay per view, he warned him, “Now,you’re gonna be pretty shocked when you see Jay, so try to stare too long, and just act normal.”

Fast forward to this June, 2010. I weighed in at 224. My shoulder is way better, although, frustratingly, nowhere near 100% yet. Overhead pressing is fine. I worked up to the 100’s for five reps on one arm push presses recently, which was pretty exciting considering that the last time I pressed the hundreds was August of 2007 right around the time of the injury.

I still can’t bench 95 or flat dumbbell press the 50’s without excruciating pain but I’m totally fine with that. If I never bench again it wouldn’t bother me in the least. I’ve been working the blast strap pushups regularly with a weighted vest and zero pain and have recently gotten up to 225 for reps on a Swiss bar incline press. Although I still have to be quite careful on the latter.

I can do pretty much everything else except for heavy curls. They sent a pretty good shot of pain to my shoulder.

Visually, my entire right side is still significantly smaller than my left.

And in my eyes, both my arms look like toothpicks because they are a good two inches smaller than the old days.

Because I used to do so much heavy pressing and a lot of dips my triceps kept decent size without a lot of work. And even though I never did a lot of curls, what little I did was enough. Since I can’t press or curl heavy anymore, and because there are probably some other nerve related issues and what not going on, my arms are now disproportionately small. This becomes painfully obvious to me every time I put on a t-shirt and there’s an extra inch of sleeve blowing in the wind that was never there a couple years ago.

In the spring/early summer I jacked up my Achilles and calf so I couldn’t push the prowler or run sprints like I normally do. That coupled with way too many carbs left me looking a bit too soft for my liking.

Me at 224 earlier this summer

Like Chris Farley’s “fat guy in a small coat,” routine I was going with the smooth guy with small guns look. But I didn’t fully realize it until I saw some pics from this summer.

So when I got home I decided that I was going to lean out and put size on my arms at the same time. These are contradictory goals and not something I would recommend but I had to give it a shot. Although I originally had plans of getting back up in to the 230’s I have gone in reverse and come down to 211. Long term, I think the 200-210 range will be a better, healthier weight for me to live the rest of my life at. That alone is 40-60 pounds above my natural adult weight so that may be enough. I might not even be opposed to 195. The number may be tough to swallow, though. It’s just one of those stupid things…

So right now I’m working on bringing my arms back up over the 18” mark while leaning out. I know this is a goal that is often worth making fun of and if that were your goal I might break your balls about it. But for business purposes I think it’s the right thing to do at the current time. So as much as I despise training arms, I’m plugging away at it. I’ve put a ¼ inch on them in the last few weeks while simultaneously dropping body fat. And my strength is going up across the board. I’m pretty dialed in right now and feeling good.

Well… pretty good. Both of my elbows are shot; especially my left. Just grazing it against another human being in a crowd is incredibly painful. The other day I tried to do a reverse dumbbell wrist curl with a five pound dumbbell and couldn’t budge it. Gaining appreciable arm size with blown elbows will be a difficult task so I’ve started going back for my weekly deep tissue massages/torture sessions. Today I had my elbows worked on to the point where I was nearly in tears. But luckily I have one of the best massage therapists around and her magic hands will get me back go good health.

"No matter what your dad says, we always root for the Giants & Yankees."

I’ll assess the curls on a weekly basis. I have broken my right wrist three times so I have to be careful with too much weight or volume or that starts acting up which leads to other problems.

As far as the leaning down goes that will have to be assessed weekly as well. Unfortunately, when I get too lean my face looks too big for my neck, my teeth look too big for my face, and my head looks too big for my body. It’s a whole scene going on. And not a good one.

Currently I’m lifting four days per week, sprinting one or two, doing morning cardio a few days per week and eating low carbs. I’m getting leaner, stronger and my arms are growing all at the same time. I realize some of you will want more detail than that so I will try to post some more detailed updates in the next few days and weeks.

In the meantime here’s a quick clip of a finisher from a recent lower body workout. I started with box jumps, then worked up to a heavy five rep squat, did two sets of split squats for 10-12, although for the last time since any type of single leg exercise really messes up my right knee (this is due to an old injury I got from doing knee break squats and plantar flexed Atlantis leg curls on a 402 tempo back in the mid 90’s that’s just never healed fully), then did heavy shrugs, glute hams and abs.

After the workout we came up with this little finisher below as a challenge and went through it twice. This is a clip of the second round. And yes, those are only 26 pound kettlebells. I refuse to go heavy on exercises like this. I probably couldn’t even if I wanted to anyway.

So that’s my injury update and current training plan.

I guess the point is you always have to have something to shoot for; a goal to be working toward. Every 12 weeks, set a new one for yourself and do whatever it takes to achieve it. Then set another one. Injuries and obstacles will come up along the way. But so what?  Like John Lennon said, “Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

I’m as injury prone as Grant Hill and Allen Iverson combined, so I know I’ll have something happen before the years over. But I’ll deal with it, work around it and move on. I’m used to it by now and don’t let it get me down or stand in my way.

Always train what’s trainable. Sometimes you’ll slip and fall off the wagon without noticing like I did. We’re all human. But as soon as you realize it, give yourself a kick in the ass and don’t let it happen again.

Being human is one thing, but we don’t have to be like everybody else.

At the end of the day it’s unacceptable to be average.

So do whatever it takes to ensure that that doesn’t happen and always resist average.

What goals are you shooting for over the next twelve weeks? What’s holding you back from achieving them, if anything? And how can I help?