What it Takes to Train at Renegade Gym

Posted by Jason Ferruggia on July 21, 2009

Question: Jason, I just wanted to let you know that I have been following your stuff since 2003 and am a huge fan of your work. I am thinking about opening a small, hardcore gym like yours and had a quick question for you. Would you mind sharing with me what kind of application form you use and how you determine who gets to train at Renegade Gym? From what I understand you don’t just accept anybody off the streets, correct? Thanks for all that you do and keep up the great work.

Answer: Andy, thanks for the comments and the support. Years ago I had a formal application sheet that potential gym members/clients had to fill out as a pre screening measure. After looking over that we would arrange for a sit down interview with them. If I liked what I saw and heard the applicant was granted a short term membership to prove their self. If that worked out they were invited to stay.

Nowadays, in an effort to be more time efficient, and just because I have done this so many times over the last 15 years, we have whittled the application process down to this…you come in and you train. That’s it. Your “application” is your first workout. I know within one training session if someone is Renegade material and if they are someone we want at the gym. After that first session I will invite someone to train with us or bluntly let them know that it isn’t going to work out. At this point in my career it usually doesn’t even take a workout any more. One two minute conversation is usually enough. But I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

At Renegade we want and accept only the most dedicated, disciplined hardest workers around. There is absolutely zero tolerance for anything less than 100% commitment. I don’t say that to be cool or hardcore or tough. Because I am none of those things. I say it because I take this business very seriously and am not in it for the money. I do it because I eat, sleep and breathe this shit. I am obsessed with it. I love getting people bull fucking strong and jacked out of their minds. I love helping guys run faster and jump higher. I live to help people hit goals and do things they never thought possible.

The majority of people, however, just don’t have the level of commitment that I expect and demand. That is why I have turned down more clients than I have accepted and will always continue to do so. It’s why I have always thrown an average of probably half a dozen people per year out of the gym. From a business perspective I highly recommend that you do the same. When you’re starting out it can be tempting to just take money from everyone that comes your way. But doing this will ruin your business in the long run. Your clients/ members need to be walking billboards for your company. And if they are lazy, whining schmucks, how is that going make you look when they get zero results and then tell people they train at your place? Never mind the fact that these types of negative, weak minded people will ruin the atmosphere in the gym, bring others down of and basically make you hate your very existence.

At Renegade we demand that if you are going to be a part of the team, you bring something to the table and make the entire group better. If you are not making the atmosphere better you’re only making it worse and just taking up space that we can’t afford to give you. At Renegade it’s not just about you; it’s about everyone else you train with as well. You need to not only elevate your game but also bring everyone else up with you. And if you are the low man on the totem pole, your job is to get to the top fast.

Like the great strength coaching legend Louie Simmons said about his world famous Westside Barbell Club, “I don’t have room for poodles in my gym; I only want pit bulls.” I am not comparing myself to Louie or Renegade to Westside, because there can not and will not ever be any comparison. But like Louie, I want guys (and girls) who are fiercely competitive and will do whatever it takes to constantly set PR’s and be the top dog in the gym.

I expect that every member of Renegade not only “brings it” each and every time they are in the gym but also that they do whatever is necessary to enhance their results outside of the gym like eating more (or less), getting enough protein, sleeping more, foam rolling, stretching, meditating, doing mobility work, sprinting, conditioning, etc. And if they don’t do it I always know. And soon I lose interest in them. We all do. Renegade is similar to the animal kingdom in that once you fall behind the pack you’re on your own and left to die. The rest of the group will move onward and upward and those who are not doing what’s necessary to excel will be forgotten about. In the jungle, the weakest and slowest water buffalo are left behind to get eaten by the lions. Things are no different at Renegade. When you get to the point that people stop caring about your results and your lack of progress you are all but dead. And your complaints and excuses will fall upon deaf ears because nobody gives a shit.

Yesterday was a max effort squat day, and longtime Renegade member Jeff D’Annunzio walked into the gym with a fire in his eyes and approached me like he was going to punch my teeth out. He told me he couldn’t sleep last night nor could he think about anything all day long at work except hitting big numbers on his squat last night. He had his fists clenched and was nearly foaming at the mouth before we even started warming up.

THAT’S the way it should be.

Some guys walk in and don’t even know what we’re training that day and are more concerned with what they are doing after the workout is over than the task at hand. Those are the guys that won’t last long and will never achieve greatness. I’ve always said if I had a 100 guys like D’Nunz and Doyle I would never leave the gym all day long.

For 15 years people have walked through the doors of Renegade Gym and have left their blood, sweat and tears on the floor. And those people have all become family. I have formed some of my closest friendships and bonds inside those four walls and I love many of those guys like brothers.

In all the years since I first started doing this, I have never once tried to sell myself or the gym. I have read almost as many business books as I have training books and I have helped many people in the fitness industry increase their yearly income to six figures. I know all the rules of business and have taught them to many people. But I don’t follow too many of them. It’s just not in me to do so. Like Sinatra, I have to do things my way.

Many of my friends and clients joke around about my salesmanship, saying it’s the worst they’ve ever seen. One of my oldest clients, Mike Schwalb, brought his friend Andrew Slater in once about six or seven years ago, and on the way to the gym repeatedly told him, “Don’t expect any sales pitch whatsoever from Jay. In fact, don’t expect him to say much of anything. He really doesn’t give a shit if you train there or not. If anything you’re gonna have to prove to him why he should let you train there.”

Andrew is now one of my close friends who I go to concerts and party in Vegas with. Something neither of us would have guessed that first day. But when you go to battle with a guy you develop a level of respect and mutual admiration that you can’t get in any other way. And if he starts slacking in the gym I’ll be the first person to get on his ass and let him know it.

I couldn’t possibly count the number of people who have trained at Renegade over the years. The weak fall out rather quickly; the driven often become lifetime members.

My friend and longtime client, Joey “Styles” Scott told me recently that winning the Big East Championship with Seton Hall University and playing professional baseball in the Oakland A‘s organization both paled in comparison to the times he had training at Renegade. He said it was the best time of his life and many have echoed his sentiments.

To create something that special that people love so much is an amazing feeling that no words can describe. There is no amount of money in the world that can replace that. That is why I will never accept payment from just anyone who walks in my door. It’s not about the money.

It’s about creating a place where guys can excel beyond any and all expectations and be the absolute best they can be. And if you’re not prepared to do whatever it takes to be the best… you’re not prepared to train at Renegade.

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