I’m particular about who I listen to when it comes to fitness and nutrition. If a fitness pro is smart, experienced, and can write, then they have my attention. If they’re up on the latest research, I’m listening even more. If they have strong opinions this is good as well, as long as they’re open-minded. But when someone I listen to is also generous and accessible, I respect their opinions even more.
My friend and popular strength expert JC Deen of JCDFitness has all these qualities, so I was pretty excited when he released a “course,” if you will, called LGN365. It’s a comprehensive set of materials (manuals, exercise demos, video interviews, calculators) in which JC shares everything you need to know to get swole. Or lose fat. Or just get your damn self in gear and start changing your body.
I interviewed JC with the hopes of gaining – and giving – more insight into his training and nutrition philosophies.
Q. We’ve come to expect a one-size-fits-all approach from fitness “experts,” who insist on a great deal of restriction in diet and lifestyle. What’s your position on fitness programs and diets that require doing things a certain way or are very restrictive?
A. I’m a BIG believer in following a plan. After all, if we’re not consistent, then we’ll never make the progress we want. I require my clients to do things a certain way (my way), but it’s fairly flexible. In saying that, I’m a big believer in making this fitness thing work for us. What does that mean exactly? It means putting the pieces together in a manner that fits your life and schedule – not following some cookie cutter plan, or trying to mimic your favorite athlete.
Q. You provide a lot of information about the different strength programs out there, but the programs you provide in LGN365 are middle-of-road. Which program(s) or experiences influenced you the most when you designed these workouts?
A. The biggest influence I have when it comes to setting up the upper/lower splits like I did evolved from an experience I had with my first ever coach, Lawrence Hosannah. The training styles that influenced these programs are DC Training, Myoreps, and coaches Roger Lawson, Martin Berkhan, and Børge Fagerli.
Q. In your interview with Alan Aragon, you talk about how much you hate meal timing and meal plans. Can you expand on the “why” behind this? Also, how do you feel about cheat days and cheat meals?
A. In general, I hate meal plans because they’re restrictive. People, especially those of us in fitness, tend to get zeroed in on the minute details. This often makes some of us too worried about the specifics of meal plans and meal timing. My problem with this is because it does nothing for us in the long term. How can you expect to think for yourself if someone always does the thinking for you?
My goal is to help people be self sufficient with their training/diet routines. If I give someone a meal plan, they may never learn how to make meal substitutions, or even create their own menu.
I don’t particularly like cheat days for what the name implies. Cheating? Cheating on what? How do you cheat on your diet? In my eyes, it’s all just food. Some of it’s dense, and some is not. If you want to have something that’s abnormal from your regular diet, just work it in a few times per week, satisfy that craving, and then carry on.
Q. In the LGN365 Hypertrophy manual, you say:
Cardio on mass gain plans has its place, but not on my watch. If your goal is to take complete advantage of the opportunity to build muscle mass and strength, traditional cardio (running, jogging, long-distance endurance training, etc.) has no space in my programming. The metabolic pathways are completely different, and doing extra cardio on top of your already taxing strength training will likely hamper your gains.”
Do people (particularly women) typically listen when you give this advice? How should someone who’s concerned about keeping his/her endurance strong approach a weight lifting program?
A. Some do, some don’t. I don’t say that cardio is completely off limits. I merely say that if your goal is to build as much lean tissue as possible, adding activities such as long-distance running, biking or other similar activities are going to hinder recovery, and also burn more calories.
I think modest walking, and doing something fun on your off days is great, but if you begin doing extra cardio, or running 3-4 miles on your supposed “off” days, you’re not very serious about making progress.
Q. Looking over the materials included in LGN365, I notice the theme of self-acceptance, of not trying to attain someone else’s ideal. For example, in your interview with Alan Aragon, a nationally recognized nutrition and strength expert, you both discuss how much weight “should” be gained during a bulk phase. The response – as much as you’re comfortable with – is surprising. Can you talk about that more and why that’s important?
A. Yeah, so just to preface this with some context, I do give some rough numbers in terms of body fat percentages you might want to aim for before you choose a specific goal (fat loss or muscle gain), but here’s how I generally feel about it.
It’s not up to me to decide that you need to lose fat or build muscle, to cut or bulk. It’s more up to you and how comfortable you are with a certain look.
Are you cool with having love handles? Okay, so maybe you don’t need to diet. Not so comfortable with the muffin top? Then maybe it’s time to diet before adding some muscle.
Some guys are completely fine with losing all of their abs in the search of muscle and strength gains. Some guys aren’t. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. When I was interested in an underwear modeling career, going much above 10-11% body fat was NOT something I wanted to deal with.
Nowadays, I really don’t care too much as long as I don’t feel sloppy. I also like to be fairly strong, and looking good in clothes. For me, this means eating well, and staying consistent with my training. This doesn’t mean under eating all the time and focusing on keeping a full row of abs.
The most important part of any of this looking great naked stuff is feeling good about yourself, and your progress. That’s why I hate to be so demanding when it comes to making a choice about fat loss dieting or muscle building. Do what you want, and what you’re comfortable with.
Q. Do you recommend an undulating periodization program, changing the intensity throughout the week, or do you use a more linear approach (4-6 weeks in a stage at a time)? Why?
A. I like to build in the progression, as I do with my hypertrophy programs, so I guess you could call them undulated, as I continually change the intensities.
However for fat loss training, I just want you maintaining your strength at all costs. If you gain some (and many do), then by all means, it’s icing on the cake.
Q. In the LGN365 Getting Started Guide, you provide pictures of people with differing body fat levels, which (in my mind) give a relatively nonjudgmental depiction of each body fat range (particularly the women). I’ve never seen this done before and love it as a simple way to estimate your own body fat. What gave you the idea to do this?
A. I stole this idea from Leigh Peele. She wrote an article a while back with a ton of images showing body fat percentages on various people with various levels of muscle mass. I wanted to do it this way because of two reasons:
Most don’t have access to getting a legit body fat composition test
This way you get to learn more about yourself. By learning how to guess-timate your body fat levels using the mirror method, you don’t have to rely on anyone to give you an actual test (which could be inaccurate) and it also helps us to not get so hung up on the exact numbers. Exact numbers don’t matter – the over all effect does.
Q. Regarding the muscle gain and fat loss calculators you provide, what’s your recommendation for someone who can eat more than the calculator estimates and still has trouble gaining muscle?
A. Eat up – there’s really nothing more to it. If you’re not eating enough as per the calculators, you need to recalculate with the next activity multiplier. I even make mention of a client of mine having to eat upwards of 24 calories/pound to gain weight. Some people are much more active than they realize.
Q. Do you believe there such a thing as a “hard gainer?”
A. Yes, because there’s evidence all around us. However, it’s not always a problem with genetics that keeps them from gaining weight, muscle, or strength. It’s more so a problem with their approach.
Most hard gainers do not do two things right. That’s eat and train correctly. Neither one of these concepts are difficult in concept. One just has to commit to doing what it takes – even if it means eating until they feel sick and training more intelligently.
Q. What do you believe are the five most important things in attaining your fitness goals?
- Maintain a marathon mindset. You’re not going to build the physique you want in just a few weeks. This stuff takes time, patience and diligence. Enjoy the journey.
- Don’t develop the shiny-object syndrome. In other words, don’t be the person who jumps from program to program or diet to diet because it seems to be so much better than what you’re currently doing.
- Keep an open mind. Realize that you’re going to discover many things about yourself along your fitness journey. You may learn something this month that seems to make all kinds of sense, only later to find out that it’s completely false or irrelevant.
- Accept yourself. Your faults, weaknesses, and shortcomings. Also your accomplishments, feats, and experiences. Accept that you are you and no one else. You have your own genetics, and goals to achieve. There’s no reason to try and be like anyone else – aim to be the best version of you possible.
- Be Goal-Oriented. Set realistic and positive goals for yourself. Be relentless and put in the work every day. Every. Damn. Day.