This is an interview I did recently for Mike Robertson of www.RobertsonTrainingSystems.com
MR: Jay, tell us a little bit about yourself.
JF: Well Mike here is a quick summary for everyone: I became obsessed with weight training when I was younger because I was always the smallest and weakest kid in school. At that time I had two goals; one was to improve my sports performance, but more importantly to me was just to get bigger. I hated being so small and weak.
I learned a lot through trial and error and then started to read and study as much as I could. I made some great gains over the years and went from 145 pounds at six feet as a high school senior to 230 at the same height, at my biggest.
Over the last 14 years I have helped tons of hardgainers like myself to achieve their goals. I have also worked with over 500 athletes in my own private training center in New Jersey.
MR: What brought you into the industry? Once there, who has helped you become the coach you are now?
JF: My obsession with training continued to grow over the years and eventually I decided it was something I could make a living at. I loved training, I loved sports and I loved helping people. I figured I could combine the three and make a great life for myself.
At the beginning I got caught up with the wrong crowd and fell victim to false guru worship. That taught me a lot about how not to do business and how not to conduct yourself. Many people who have heard me tell some of these stories are horrified to hear of some of my experiences but I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything happens for a reason and you learn even from bad experiences.
I think I had to go through that for a reason because since then I have been blessed to meet some incredible people in this industry. The person who has helped me the most over the years just by being a good friend and an incredibly intelligent colleague to bounce things off of has been John Alvino.
Alwyn Cosgrove has become one of my closest friends in the world and he has helped me infinitely over the years. Whenever I need advice in this business I go to Alwyn or Dave Tate.
There are many other guys out there who have become good friends and have been helpful but John, Alwyn and Dave stand out.
MR: Tell the readers a little bit about your training philosophy: Are you a max strength guy? Worse yet, a mobility guy?
JF: Haha, I’ll leave that last one to you.
I’m an “everything guy” I guess you could say. There is no way to describe what I do. Some guys have a specific niche or gimmick I guess that they are known for but I really don’t.
Am I a max strength guy? Yes.
Am I a bodyweight training guy? Yes.
Am I an Olympic lifting guy? Yes.
Am I a “functional training” guy? I guess.
I don’t discriminate. I take ideas and concepts from several different disciplines, use bits and pieces of different theories and systems and combine them all the best way I know how to achieve the desired result.
I think if you become just an “xyz” guy you are missing out on so much more. Some guys think that max strength is all that matters. Get stronger and you will instantly jump higher, run faster, hit harder, gain size and have less injuries.
Well, yeah, maybe. But maybe not. What if strength is not your limiting factor? What if you can squat and deadlift 700 pounds? Is getting stronger really going to make you run faster? What about your mobility or flexibility? Maybe you are just strong and slow and need to add in some plyos and other speed work.
There is never a universal answer that is why you can not just be a strength guy or a kettlebell guy or whatever. It’s all just about picking the right tools for the job. And those tools may change from year to year.
So my general philosophy is to take everything out there that I find useful from gymnastics to strongman training, and apply it when needed in the appropriate situation.
MR: You have a new manual out now titled “Tapout;” what made you decide to write that, and who is it applicable to?
JF: I wrote the book a few years back and recently updated it with a bunch of additional information. I participated in some form of combat sport all my life, from Tae Kwon Do to wrestling to boxing to grapping. The thing is, like I mentioned earlier I was weak and slow and therefore sucked during my early years. Eventually when I learned how to train properly I was able to see a huge difference in my performance.
When I opened up my training facility, for some reason I attracted a lot of combat athletes. With my personality, these athletes, along with football players, are my favorite kind of athlete to train. Over the years I worked with several combat athletes and continually refined my training system always trying to get better results each and every year.
Eventually I was getting better results with these kinds of athletes than anyone else in my area and noticed that there was really a lack of training info out there for these guys. This was a much neglected sport, I felt. That was what led me to write the original version of the book a few years back.
In the book I cover strength training, conditioning, nutrition, injury prevention and many other things for combat athletes.
Tap Out is applicable to any martial artist, fighter, wrestler or mixed martial artist looking to real take their performance to the highest level.
MR: If you could give me a few tips, what in your mind is keeping most trainees from achieving their goals?
JF: Well, like I said before, I think focusing too much on one thing is always a recipe for disaster. I will use myself as an example. I like to go to the gym and lift heavy, all the time. But just focusing on max strength would mean I would be neglecting my mobility and flexibility so I would probably start to feel like crap. Lifting heavy all the time leaves you feeling beat up as well. And what about your work capacity, endurance, hypertrophy, prehab, etc?
Most people make this same mistake and just focus on what they like or are good at. You have to be sure to use a well rounded approach and do all the little stuff that you really don’t want to do but could make the biggest difference in the end.
Too many people train without any plan at all or a training journal. I think that is a mistake.
Too many people neglect nutrition. They try to get huge and swear that they are eating a ton but when someone forces them to write it down and add it up it’s only about 2500 calories. Not too many people can get huge on that. By the same token, people try to get lean by either eating too much or not eating enough, and actually shutting down their metabolism. You need to pay close attention to nutrition and until you really have it down, should probably be keeping a diet journal.
One last thing is this; a lot of people seem to not know how hard to train. What I mean by that is that there has been a lot written about the negatives associated with going to failure. So the baby got thrown out with the bathwater in a lot of cases and now you have people training like complete pussies. This is not a good thing either. You have to work hard. Don’t kill yourself or cause a nervous breakdown but you need to push yourself quite hard if you want to achieve beyond what most people think is possible.
On the other hand, if you are one of the rare people who hasn’t been warned about training to failure all the time, I should note that it is not the best idea to turn every set you do into a fight to the death that ends with you shaking and quivering for thirty seconds before collapsing in a heap. This does nothing but fry your CNS and slows down your progress.
MR: Ok, last one Jay; you have a kick-ass knowledge of music and your article on training music at Elite a while ago brought back old memories. What are you training to right now? Any good music we should know about?
JF: Oh man, you don’t want to get me started on this. We could be here all night, I’m obsessed with music. As far as training goes I listen to hard rock, metal and hip hop. Sometimes it’s a mix, other times it’s just one or the other. Right now I’m in a real hip hop phase.
Here’s what’s in high rotation in the gym lately:
Eric B. & Rakim- Run For Cover, Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em
Naughty By Nature- 19 Naughty III, Sleepin on Jersey, Take it to Ya Face, Yoke the Joker, Poor Man’s Poetry
Ice Cube- How to Survive In South Central, Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside), The Wrong Nigga to Fuck With, We Had To Tear This Mothefucker Up
LL Cool J- How I’m Coming
As for some new stuff, the title track to Jay Z’s new album Kingdom Come is an instant classic and Dig a Hole is pretty good too. Untouchable (Swizz Beatz Remix) on Tupac’s new album is also worth a listen.
MR: Good stuff Jay – how can our readers find out more about you?
JF: Thanks Mike. They can check out my website, www.J1Strength.com for more about me. Combat athletes can check out www.CombatConditioningSecrets.com . I also write for several magazines including Men’s Health and Maximum Fitness and I have my own monthly column in Men’s Fitness called The Hardgainer with a corresponding website called www.TheHardgainer.com where people can find my book called How to Get Jacked.