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The Secrets of Super Strength




Copyright 2007 by Jason Ferruggia
Relentless Athletics

All rights reserved. No part of this manual may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording,
or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the expressed written
permission from Jason Ferruggia.

Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength

Question: Jim, before we get started can you tell everyone what your best numbers
are in competition as well as what weights you are doing now without any
equipment, and weighing fifty pounds lighter than the weight you used to compete

Answer: My best competition numbers are a 1000lbs squat, 675lb bench and a
700lb deadlift. Fortunately, these were all done at the same competition which is
rare. I posted a 2375 total in that meet in the 275lb class.

After losing a bunch of weight, I still train very much like I did before. I cant train
for health or aesthetics, so I still continue to get stronger (or at least try to). As a
side note, if you train for strength the aesthetics will come.

Now I train with minimal equipment and have Olympic squatted (high bar, close
stance) 700lb, close gripped bench pressed 440lb and deadlifted 605x3.

By the way, I dropped 45lb in about a year. People ask me what I did differently or
what kind of diet I had. Here is the secret. Move more, eat less. There is no secret
diet or exercise plan.

Question: If you had to give a few of your top tips to someone who came to you
and said, I want to get freaky strong, what would they be?

We need to define freaky strong before we do anything. It is not squatting 400lb
and benching 315. Freaky is 1000lb squats and 700lb

In the case of becoming freaky strong there are 3 important factors that will come
into play.

Consistency most people that are incredibly strong have been lifting and
training very hard for a long period of time. Most have been training for 15+
years with a purpose and with incredible desire.

Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
Attitude it takes some serious cajones to lift big weights. Its not normal to
lift this kind of weight and you have to have the right attitude to do this.

Work Ethic those that succeed almost always work harder and smarter than
the next guy.

I wish I had some secret formula for getting stronger. In fact, there is nothing that
magical about it. Those that have strength and have built it these people simply
have the desire to do it. Much like someone who practices his guitar, it is usually the
person that practices his craft that masters his craft. You cant ignore genetics, but
this is usually an excuse made by those who simply dont have the desire to be
strong. It is a shame because they are not honest with themselves and it discredits
the work of others. I hate it when I hear genetics being used as an excuse for being
weak. This is usually said by the Foam Roller Generation. I have busted my ass for
20 years in the weight room and have endured more training than these weasels
ever will. And then they have the stupidity (it is not ignorance) to tell me and the
world that my strength is genetic. That is why they will never be part of my crowd
and my life they are too busy making excuses and selling their souls to be part of
something that I have lived for.


No matter what level you are at the basics of strength training exercises will remain
the same; Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Military, Rows and Chins. The exercises will
remain the same but the application and how they are done; this is what will change.

The interesting thing is this:

You know what to do (Exercises). Now all you have to supply is the programming
(sets/reps/days, etc.) and the attitude. I guarantee that you can find a program on
the internet that you can follow for these basic lifts. So now its up to you do you
have the attitude? See, that is what its about. Strong is simple but not easy. The
exercises have not and will not change. A squat, pull and press have always been
part of the strength world. The barbell will always be the King of the weight room so
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
be wary of all gimmicks. All you need is a program and attitude. And Ill take a
hardcore attitude over a perfect program any day.

Question: When training for strength whats more important, volume or intensity?

Answer: In general, a beginner will need more volume at a lower intensity. This is
because a beginner will be able to make gains in strength and hypertrophy using
higher reps. This is more efficient and safer than maxing out all the time. Now
when I say a higher volume, this doesnt give you license to spend 3 hours in the
weight room. It simply means that he is going to perform a workout with a smaller
percentage of his max and his target reps are going to be higher.

As one becomes an intermediate, the intensity becomes more of a factor. As an
advanced lifter, someone that has been training at a high level for a long period of
time, he needs to regulate his training so that his volume is high enough to maintain
his potential but low enough for recovery.

This gets kind of complicated, but understand that a high level athlete (of any sort)
cant be on overdrive the entire time. He needs to idle and then bring up his
intensity. The problem, and the hardest thing to do in sports, is figuring out how
high or low to idle.

99% of people in the world wont have to worry about this, but this gives you an
understanding of the training process.

In regards to volume and intensity, the two problems that most often see is this:

Beginners use all intensity (maxing out) and little volume.
Intermediate lifters using all volume (doing nothing less than 10 reps) and no

Question: Whats your opinion of training to failure and getting overly worked up in
the gym? What kind of impact does it have on getting stronger?
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength

Answer: First, I believe everyone has to go to failure and get overly worked up. At
least one time. This is because people need to cross the line first to know where the
line is. Since everyone is very different with this, people need to learn where their
limits are.
For example, you often hear someone telling a lifter to stop a set one or two reps
before failure. Well, if you dont know where failure is or how it feels than you are
going to have a hard time figuring this out.

There are no absolutes in training so I cant tell someone not to do this. Sometimes
its fun to do this stuff. But doing this every day or even once a week is usually a
recipe for failure. You will be exhausted, both mentally and physically, and your next
training session will probably be compromised.

This doesnt mean that you dont push yourself or dont exert yourself. You have to
learn how to attack the weights without actually attacking the weights.

Question: How often should you test yourself and really push the limits and max out
in the weight room?

Answer: You have to test yourself. If you dont than why are you training and what
are you training for?

How often you test can be as frequent as every 8 weeks or once a year. This is
going to be dependant on your schedule and your training level. The more advanced
you are the less you will test. A beginner can test every 8 weeks. A true beginner
will technically test himself every time he goes to the gym as he will be getting his
weight room legs and trying to figure out where he is at.

What people need to do is set a goal and a definitive time table for the goal. Then
map out a plan to get there. People fail in this regard for three reasons:

They have no goals.
If they do have goals, they are completely unreasonable.
They dont have a plan.
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength

For example, lets say you have someone that benches 225lb. Invariably, this
person will want to bench 275 or 315. They set this as a goal for 6 months. What
this person needs to do is shoot for 245 in 10 weeks. They will definitely hit this goal
with the right training and nutrition. If they shoot for 275, they will get frustrated
and discouraged and quit. Then they will still be benching 225. Its all about small
goals over many, many years.

Another thing that people need to do is focus on one or two things. I always read
about someone that wants to increase their squat, bench, their body fat and the size
of their arms. They throw everything into a big pot of stew and start working.
Because of their lack of focus on one area, they will invariably fail at all of them.
Work on one of these, achieve it and then move on. This is getting off topic but
something that needs to be addressed.

Question: Lets move on to the big three exercises; the bench press, the squat and
the dead lift. Well start with everybodys favorite lift; the bench press. What are the
most important keys to building a big bench press?

This is pretty simple:

Technique - this is obvious

Strengthening your shoulders - most people need to increase their
shoulder strength via military presses. I have seen too many people
have positive success with this to think its a fluke. Do them standing
and do them in a full range of motion. You dont have to go extremely
heavy on these, but this is the most efficient way to increase your
shoulder strength.

Strengthening your upper back and lats not only is this injury
prevention but this provides a stable surface to maintain your form
and press off of.

If most people address these 3 things they will increase their bench press.
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
Question: Can you walk us through the perfect set up and performance of the bench

Answer: Part I: The Set Up

1. Begin the set up by lying on the bench with your head completely off the bench
and your feet slightly tucked (very slightly tucked) and flat-footed.

2. Take an underhand grip on the bar and pull yourself up and towards your feet.
Your feet must remain in the same spot. What you are trying to do is create a stable
and strong base to push from. As you are doing this, begin pushing your shoulder
blades together as hard as you can.

3. As you set yourself on the bench, the first thing to touch should be your head.
That is how high you must pull yourself. When you set yourself on the bench your
upper back must remain pulled together and tight. Your feet should be still and your
eyes should directly under the bar or slightly forward, towards your feet. Your feet
will probably not be flat. If you are on the balls of your feet, do not worry about it.
This is normal.

4. Grab the bar and maintain your upper back tightness. Just so you know, this set
up is not comfortable.

Part II: The Descent

1. Once you take the bar out of the rack, hold it out in front and stabilize your body.
At this point you must concentrate on the following things: squeezing the bar tight,
pushing your chest up, arching your upper back, driving your heels down into the
ground and pushing your stomach out and up.

Its important to note that your heels my never be on the ground, the mere act of
driving them into the ground will force your body to raise up to the bar and tilt your
pelvis down (think of it allowing your mommy/daddy parts to be driven and tucked in
the bench). There are a lot of things to be doing at this time so my advice is to
tackle one at a time. Once it becomes a habit, move on to another one. If you have
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
training partners, get them all on the same page! They can help you with verbal
cues and you can follow suit.

2. The bar should be held out so that your elbows are pointed out to the sides of
your body.

3. The first movement on the way down is for you to begin tucking your elbows
slightly to your sides. As the bar begins its decent, keep driving your heels into the
ground and bringing your body up to the bar.

4. Keep tucking your elbows to the sides of your body. You do not have to touch
your elbows to your lats; just perform a very natural tuck. This will keep much of
the stress of the lift off of your shoulders. You will thank me in 10 years when you
do not need to have a shoulder surgery.

5. Your wrists must be cocked back slightly. They should not look like you are
performing a triceps extension and they shouldnt be cocked forward or held straight.
The best way to describe this is make a fist and pretend you are going to punch
someone. Your top of your hand should not perfectly line up with the top of your
forearm. These two body parts should form a slight obtuse angle.

6. Lower the bar to just below your nipples. Keep squeezing the bar as tight as
possible and keep your upper back pulled together.

Part III: The Ascent

1. Once the bar touches your chest, immediately push your feet into the ground.
Leg drive is one of the most essential things in bench pressing and something that
most people disregard or are simply ignorant about. Learning leg drive takes time
but once you get it, it will add instant pounds to your bench press. When I first
struggled with leg drive the first thing that I did was think about squatting the
weight up. This phrase helped me remember that once the weight was on my
chest, I simply wanted to drive my feet into the floor and push like mad.

Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
The important thing to remember when using leg drive is timing. Timing is critical or
you will be all over the place, squirming like a fish out of water. You must coordinate
your leg drive with pressing the bar. Think about it like this you must press the
bar and push the floor simultaneously. If one goes before the other look out. But
when you do get it synchronized watch your bench press shoot up.

If you are having trouble with leg drive here is a simple solution. Once the bar hits
your chest you must think, PUSH! As soon as this thought gets in your head, the
strength of your feet and your hands must be brought into the bar. The bench press
should no longer be considered an upper body lift! If you do this correctly, your
entire body will be involved. This does not give you license to lift your ass off of the
bench press, so dont turn a bench press into a decline press. All the power of your
leg drive must be focused into the bar, not in lifting your hips off of the bench.
This is wasted movement and wasted energy.

2. As you begin pushing the bar up, you must also focus on pushing the bar back.
The bar should end up over your nose, mouth or eyes; the position at the end is
going to be an individualistic and something that is going to take sometime to find
out (much more than this 12 week training cycle). The point is that the bar will end
up over your face and its path to this spot must begin immediately but slowly. You
dont want to immediately begin pressing right to your face; this is a sure way to
make your dentist a rich man. The initial push off of your chest must be done with
your elbows still tucked to your sides.

3. As you get about halfway up, the bar should be over your upper chest area. At
this point you must begin making a transition to an elbow-tucked position to an
elbow-flared position. You must simply begin rotating your elbows out and to the
sides. This will allow you to effectively lockout any weight provided that your triceps
arent pre-fatiuged and that the bar position and path is optimal. Just remember
that towards the last half of the bench press, you must begin the elbow tuck to
elbow flare. This does not mean that at the halfway mark you immediately flare
your elbows!

4. As it passes the halfway point (about of the way up) you should focus on
pushing the bar back to its final position and flaring your elbows hard. This final
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
position, if perfect and done with perfect form, should almost feel weightless and
effortless. This doesnt happen very often for most lifters but once you get there,
you will know what I mean.

5. Finish the lift by holding at the top. Dont just drive the bar into the rack. Make it
a good clean lift. Make is something that you can be proud of.

Question: Lets move on to the squat now. What are the most important keys to
building a big squat?

Answer: Again this is easy:

Strong Legs
Strong Abs
Strong Back

Here is what you need to do for your legs (besides squatting) lunges, sled dragging,
belt squats, leg presses and glute ham raises

For your abs straight leg hanging leg raises, ab wheel, side bends and weighted sit

For your back all rowing (for your lats), high rep dumbbell rows is especially
important, back raises, Reverse Hyperextensions and good mornings.

Question: Ok, lets get under the bar and go through a perfect set up and execution
of a squat.
Answer: 1. Get into an athletic stance: For most people this is very easy. Most have
played a sport and almost every sport position is the same. If you played volleyball,
get into a position as if you were ready to receive a serve. If you played baseball or
softball, get into the same stance as you would as a shortstop. If you played football,
the stance of a middle linebacker will suffice. All of these positions are the same;
butt and hips are pushed slightly back, knees are bent, lower back is arched, head is
up, weight is evenly distributed on the feet, upper back is pulled together, toes are
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
slightly pointed out and the mid-section is tight. Notice that each of these positions
are slightly wider than shoulder width; if you are any narrower in any of these sports
than you will compromise lateral speed and will be pushed over. Also, I hope that I
played against you as were surely on your ass and back most of the game.

2. From this position, place your weight on your toes, pivot on them and move your
heels out. After this, redistribute your weight on your heels, pivot on your heels and
turn your toes back to the original angle. If you have any rhythm at all then this will
look similar to a dance move. This will take your stance a bit wider than normal and
put you into an ideal squat position. With some experimentation, you will find that
you may have to go back to the original stance or even go wider; whatever the case
begin with this and experiment. Everyone will have a slightly different stance.
3. Place your hands on your thighs and side them down to just above your knees.
This position should be the same as if you were taking a breather between wind-
sprints or something similar. This is a very basic position. No one takes a breather
between sprints or in a basketball game with their weight on their toes. They will
grab their shorts, push their glutes back, rest their upper body on their hands and
drop their head. Sound familiar? If you have any trouble picturing this position then
take a look at football players in a huddle or a basketball player during free-throws.
They look almost the same. From this position, simply raise your head, arch your
upper and lower back and place your hands as if they were on a barbell. This is the
exact position you want to be in when you perform a squat.

4. At this point, your hips and glutes should be pushed back, your lower and upper
back is arched, head straight ahead, bodyweight on your heels and your mid-section
is held tight. If you are not in this position, repeat the first 3 steps and make sure
you are in this position.

5. Begin your squat descent by leading your body down with your hips and glutes.
Maintain the arch in your lower and upper back. If you are having a problem sitting
back into the squat, you may have to lean your forward. This is not dangerous as
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
long as you keep your upper and lower back arched. About 60-70% of the weight
should be distributed on your heels.

6. When you are about half way down, begin pushing your knees out and opening up
your groin. This is what has been called spreading the floor but I have found that
the term open your groin or show your groin or open the knees to be better
terms when teaching people how to squat. Also, by pushing your knees out and
opening your groin, you will have an easier time reaching parallel and will reach it
quicker. Now the weight will be shifted to your heels and the sides of your feet.

7. For many people, once they sit back into the squat and open the hips, at this point
they can simply squat down. Once your body is in perfect position, opening the hips
will allow them to hit parallel without pushing back. This may be difficult to see when
you read this, but try it out on a box with someone watching your knees. If you do it
correctly then your knees will not move (they will remain over your ankles) when
you squat down. The key is learning how and when to open you groin. This will take
practice and some more practice; this is something that you will not get correct after
a few tries, so be patient.

8. Hip flexibility and mobility is one key in squatting correctly, so this may be your
limiting factor. If you are having problems with hip flexibility and mobility I highly
recommend getting the Parisi Warm up Method on DVD. This video highlights many
of the hip mobility and flexibility exercises that will prepare you for squatting
correctly. Also, it is a great for conditioning and overall body preparation.
Question: Now for the greatest test of strength of all; the dead lift. What are the
most important keys to building a big dead lift?

This is going to be the same as the squat strong legs, strong back and strong abs.

The best exercises to build a deadlift are:

Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
The Secrets of Super Strength
Copyright 2008, Jason Ferruggia. All rights reserved.
Olympic Squats great for quad strength, this will help throughout the entire
Good Mornings great for lower back strength and hamstrings. This is great
for the start.
High Rep Dumbbell Rows great for grip and upper back strength. Great for
lockout strength.
Ab work Great for ensuring that your midsection is safe and strong.

Question: Can you give us some tips and expert advice on how to properly perform
a perfect dead lift?

Answer: The first thing that people have to do is get in a correct stance. To do this,
pretend you are about to perform a vertical jump. Get in your stance and squat
down. STOP. Look down at your feet. This is about the stance you want to be in for
your deadlift. Some people will go a little narrower but this will be the most powerful
and comfortable stance.

Second, put your shins on the bar. This will ensure that you will be pulling in the
safest and straightest line. Place your hands just outside of your legs. Many people
use and over/under grip; this is fine.

At this point, arch your upper back and keep your chest up. Begin pushing your feet
into the floor and pulling the bar up. Do not use your arms and do not jerk the bar
off of the ground!

As you pull the bar off of the ground keep your lower back arched (or arch it as
much as possible) and your head and eyes forward. Complete the lift by standing up
tall; there is no need to overemphasize the lockout by leaning back. This is a waste
of time.

Question: Thanks, Jim. This is truly incredible information and I really hope that
people read through it several times and put it all to good use.

Answer: Youre welcome.