My Path Down The Iron Trail

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

Guest Post by Renegade Inner Circle Assistant Coach – Kyle Matthews

Kyle-FW_frontI grew up painfully shy and can remember being self-conscious for as long as I can remember. I grew up playing sports year around. I played football, baseball, and basketball from the earliest age possible until I got to high school. I was always active.

I also never excelled at any of those sports. I hadn’t developed the competitive spirit yet and my shy nature killed any aggression that I could have used to my benefit. Until I started pop warner football, that is. I loved football. I could finally let all of the aggression out that was building from being so self-conscious. There was only one problem; I was so fat I couldn’t make weight to play on the team with all of the kids my age.

I had to play with kids 2-3 years older than me and when you add that with the fact that I was late to hit puberty, it ruined the fun for me. My dad got me a personal trainer around this time to help me bulk up a little bit and add some muscle so I could compete. It didn’t work. It wasn’t the right time for me. I got smashed all practice, every practice. I was okay with that for the most part and I stuck with it for three years. Three years of getting my ass kicked was enough though.

Then high school came. I gave up team sports because I wasn’t very good at them. My attention switched to skateboarding and snowboarding. Growing up I always messed around on a skateboard so by high school I was a little shredder. Again, I stayed active but I was still a chubby kid. I blew my knee out for the first time my sophomore year and that put an end to my dreams of becoming a professional skater/snowboarder. My rehab was shitty and I never was quite able to shred the way I used to. I had to find another hobby.

I was friends with everyone in high school. From the stoners, to the geeks, to the jocks, I was buddies with them all. Don’t get me wrong, I was still painfully shy, but by some strike of luck I managed to make friends with everyone. I was the quiet “nice” kid. Out of all of them, I always envied the jocks the most. During my junior year, I started hanging out with the jocks as my primary group of friends. Although I didn’t really fit in, they always liked me for some reason. Maybe it’s because having a short fat friend made them look better, I don’t know.

I remember being so self-conscious about being a fat kid, I used to go to the gym after school while everyone else was doing high school kid stuff and run on a treadmill until I literally couldn’t run any longer. There was a mirror in front of it and I used to stare at myself running while dreaming of an athletic version of myself staring back at me.

Around this same time, I found the Iron. I didn’t know it then, but it changed my life forever.

I fell in love with the Iron. One of my best friends was the school hero and a state champion wrestler. I started lifting weights with him and the rest of the wrestling team. The coach was always really good to me and because I was always working hard and not fucking around, he never had a problem with me training with the team.

Kyle-RenBarClean2I followed bodybuilding splits from all of the big magazines and even tried to mirror the diets of the pro’s. After 2 years of serious lifting, I made almost no progress. My strength was up and down but never even close to impressive. Off to college I went, still holding the dream of some day being jacked close to my heart.

I moved into a dorm with a friend of mine. We partied like we were…well…freshman in college. My diet consisted of shitty cafeteria food, Cup-O-Noodles, EasyMac, and Coors Light. I went from chubby to full blown fat in one semester flat.

I was still lifting but I had to lift in the same weight room that all of the sports teams trained in. The only time that fit my class schedule was when the football team was training. Imagine being an 18 year-old shy, slightly dorky, acne faced, fat kid trying to lift in a room full of 180-250 pound jacked athletes.

I was too much of a pussy to prove myself to them and they could smell that fear from a mile away. They ate me up like I deserved and ran me out of there in a hurry.

I switched colleges and moved down to San Luis Obispo, CA. It was heaven. Hot chicks, college life, and all the partying anybody could ever wish for. This is when I started to take training more seriously.

I had ZERO self-confidence and knew I needed to get jacked to get me some of that fine college tail. For some reason all of the dudes at this gym gave me some respect. I’m sure it’s because they saw my dedication and knew that I was a meathead in the making. I found a program online, which I will not mention, but it essentially helped me drop about 30 lbs.

I was insanely dedicated but I had just torn my labrum so I was limited to cardio. I used to wake up at 4:30AM to hit the elliptical for an hour before class and go back in the evening to lift what I could with a blown out shoulder.

The problem was, I dropped all that weight in all of the wrong places and went from fat to painfully skinny-fat. Bottoming out at an all-time low, I weighed in at 159 lbs. So there I was, five feet, nine inches tall, soft, and 160 pounds soaking wet with still about 20 lbs to lose in order to get a 6-pack. That was not the look I was going for.

Here is what I looked like at 160 lbs:

I was happier when I was fat because I felt like with clothes on at least I looked a little bit muscular. I didn’t want to be skinny; I wanted to be jacked. So I got fat again. And not just fat, I got fatter.

My heaviest weight was just over 220. One morning I looked in the mirror and was so disgusted with what I saw I knew I had to do something.

With a quick Google search I somehow found Muscle Gaining Secrets by Jason Ferruggia. As soon as I downloaded the e-book I didn’t leave my room. True story.

I will never forget sitting in my bed that day completely engulfed in MGS. I read it cover to cover and everything just seemed to click.

From the stories he told of his battles with the Iron to his no bullshit training philosophy, it just all seemed to make sense. I snapped a “before” picture like he told me to in the book and went to work immediately.

The before picture was terrible. I never intended on showing anyone that picture, it was only for my own reference. But boy was I wrong about that. If I had known that picture was going to be posted on the internet, I would have at least smiled or something.

Three short months after later, he announced the first transformation contest. I was all over it. I sent him my current picture and said that I had a picture showing pretty good progress from when I started the program (the one I took the day I bought MGS) and asked if he’d be interested in seeing that one too.

Of course he said yes. This is the transformation that took place during my first 3 months training under Jay.


I trained my dick off for the contest. I refused to accept failure. I knew I had to win from the second I started. I wanted to prove myself to Jay and I believed whole-heartedly that Jay’s method were going to set me free from that awkward self-consciousness that was so deeply engrained in me.

I was training for the contest so hard that I ended up with a L4-L5 annular tear and a L5-S1 herniated disk. It didn’t stop me. I trained through it, like an idiot, because I wanted to win so badly. Here is what I looked like at the end of the contest at 172.5 lbs:


Shortly after finishing the contest. I blew out my knee again. Bad. It required 2 surgeries to fix making a grand total of 4 knee surgeries under my belt. I’ve got screws and steel wire holding it together now. I like to call it my “good” knee because I figure with all that metal in it, it’s gotta be stronger than the one that’s just regular human parts, right!?

Jay wrote me up a program and I was back in the gym as soon as possible…literally. As soon as I got my stitches out and the doctor cleared me to sweat, I was back in the gym on crutches. My training partner used to rack all my weights, bring me DB’s, help me get up to chin/dip bars, etc. It was awesome.

I got more respect from the hardcore dudes in that gym than I ever have before, even now. The thought of my gimpy ass trying to train and crutching around the gym like a moron still cracks me up. I lost a lot of my gains and was hungry as shit to get it back. I wasn’t going to let some silly crutches get in my way. That was, and still is, my mindset. Nothing can get in your way if you don’t let it.

Here’s a shot of what my legs looked like after 12 weeks on crutches with ZERO load bearing. I wasn’t even allowed to touch my toe to the ground.

Again. I got back after it. I kinda had to re-learn how to walk and squatting was sprinting wasn’t allowed for a year, but that was fine.

“At least in a year I’ll be able to squat and sprint again,” I reminded myself. A year is a whole lot better than never.

For the record, I just started squatting again about 15 months ago and I think the surgery was February 2009 (maybe 2010?).

After my knee was good enough to train, I went on a full scale, all out war with food. I wanted to gain back all the size I lost from the surgery and more. Most of my training was upper body focused so my upper body just EXPLODED over the next year. I ate my way to a very bloated 215 lbs and got strong as shit.

I always wanted to bench 315. It had been a major goal of mine forever. On the day I set to hit a max, I hit 315 first and it felt like 135. Next, I hit 335 and blew it out of the water. So I called for 350 just to push it a little further. Again, I blew through it like nothing. I think I could have hit 365-375 that day but seeing as how my goal was 315, I was more than satisfied with 350 and decided to quit while I was ahead. Accomplishing that is still one of my favorite memories.

Here is what I looked like at 215:

A week after that max, I tore my pec close gripping 295 on my second rep for a set of three. Back to the drawing board, yet again. When I recovered enough to train, it was right around the time Jay announced the second contest.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect because I was a little soft from tearing my pec. Again, I jumped all over it. Here are the before and after pics from that contest:


Then I attended the Renegade seminar in February of last year. It stepped my training up to a new level. Onward and upward.

Here is a pic of me taken last November at 192 lbs.


For some reason, being lean at 200 lbs has always been a goal of mine. After Jay saw the above picture, he told me I could get there around the same bodyfat by summer. I decided to make a run for it and eat big. I got up to 201 around the time Jay announced the recent contest.

I was already starting to get pretty soft so after I hit 204, I decided it was time to re-comp and see if I could slowly (over about 9 weeks) get down to a solid 200 lbs to finish the contest.

This is where I finished the contest and ended as of two days ago weighing in at 200.5 lbs 1 min after I shot the pictures.


My point in all of this is that I want to share with you how far I’ve come and what obstacles I’ve had to deal with. I don’t have great genetics. I wasn’t born an athlete. I’m just a normal guy who has committed the last 12 years of his life to making himself the best he could possibly be.

If you’re struggling with training or diet, I’ve been there.

If you’re skinny-fat, I’ve been there.

If you’re fat, I’ve been there.

If you’re injured, I’ve definitely been there.

You can overcome anything. I’m proof of that.

These changes don’t take place over night. It takes time, dedication, and more than anything, persistence. You WILL have some roadblocks in your way. Jump over them and keep moving forward.

Fuck that; fly over them. Set goals. Lead by example. Dream big. You can have anything you want, as long as you want it bad enough.

So my question is this: Do you want it bad enough?

Join Kyle in The Renegade Inner Circle today to read his blog and have direct access to him and other coaches to help you on your transformation.

And follow him on Twitter @BigKMatthews