Interview with John Romaniello
“Author, coach, and self-professed pretty-boy John Romaniello has been running amok in the fitness industry for nearly a decade. Having trained everyone from youth soccer player to MLB pitchers, runway models to not-so-model citizens, John has earned a reputation for mixing excellent fitness information and cutting edge strategies with a personal approach to programming. Romaniello now runs Roman Fitness Systems with a tongue-in-cheek approach to fitness–and himself–that shows a genuine love/hate relationship with both. Equal parts narcissism and self-loathing, Roman writes with passion and humor, show-casing his belief that training doesn’t need to be the serious, stern, science-laden monotony that is pervasive in this industry.”
John currently manages a fitness facility in New York, and has some profound ideas on body composition manipulation and life in general, so I asked him to do an interview for Fitport and Mind and Muscle. While originally declining, he reconsidered after I Fed-Exed him four fitness models in a hole-punched box, equipped with spatulas, rubber scrapers, pyrex measuring cups, and various other breakfast making materials.
MM: Thanks for taking time to do this interview John.
JR: You bet, I appreciate the offer my good man.
MM: What’s you’re time restraint here, date with a tranny in 15 or anything?
JR: I have another interview in about an hour but other than that I’m clear. Regarding the trannys, I actually order them direct to the house now, and they usually keep themselves entertained with the Wii until I’m ready for them; so no rush there.
MM: Who’s the other interview for?
JR: David Sinick—he runs a site about fitness-marketing.
MM: Don’t know who he is, I’ll have to check that out.
JR: It’s interesting. He interviews a lot of the bigger guys in both online fitness, and online marketing. Ryan Lee, Rocco C, etc
MM: I’ll definitely take a look. Some of the Ryan Lee type shit makes me want to slam my dick in the oven door, but then again his mailing list is bigger than the population of most small countries.
JR: Haha, I can see that. But as you pointed out, he’s got an insane list, and is clearly successful. I do find myself having the occasional ethical quandary—those guys are extremely ‘clean cut.’
Like – I would love to mimic their level of financial success but I don’t want to have to stop blogging about my dick in order to do it.
Because the day I stop writing about my dick in order to make money…well, that’s when the terrorists win, Marc.
MM: Yeah, there’s a fine line between retaining respect/doing what you want, and selling out to the inbred masses.
And where else will people go to learn about your dick?
JR: Well, in person. But at the most I’m reaching…maybe 3-4 people per day. Which is really just not enough.
MM: And costly, you have to send them off with antibiotics and autographed books.
MM: Ok, back on track…for starters, you manage a gym in New York. Give us a run down of a typical day at your gym.
JR: Well first off, gym management is very multi-faceted; that is, it’s one job that’s made up of a thousand jobs. It’s training, scheduling, etc. I work long days, and if something goes wrong, I’m the guy to fix it. Even when I’m working, I’m sort of always on call. That being said, I’m doing what I love, we have a lot of awesome people at my place, and there’s quite a bit of downtime–we’re screwing around 60% of the time. Productively screwing around, that is. But training takes up the bulk of my day, of course.
MM: What is your typical client base, at least currently?
JR: It’s seasonal – in the fall, I get all the moms coming to me after a summer off, now that their kids are back to school; dads too, of course. Naturally, I prefer moms.
MM: Typically fat loss?
JR: Moms, dads, and my middle aged clients (I’d say about 30% of my total clientele) are pretty health based, with a fat loss edge. It’s pretty age dependent. Most of the guys want to keep up with their kids, maybe drop a few pounds. The moms usually want to “drop a size” but usually wind up dropping a lot more than that.
I mean weight, not panties.
I don’t sleep with married chicks.
MM: You just sleep “at” them.
JR: Ok, correction, I don’t sleep with married chicks who are also clients. Annnyyywaaaaayyy (jokes, people, jokes)…
MM: Any bodybuilders or fitness competitors?
JR: I’ve trained a lot of fitness models, but not a lot of fitness competitors. When I was doing fitness modeling, which I haven’t done much of the past two years, my agency would refer a lot of guys to me, and those contacts still produce new clients.
MM: The fitness models are MUCH better to be around, in my experience, for a dozen reasons.
JR: Much, MUCH, better—fitness competitors are a finicky bunch and if you’re not an established guru, or trying to be one, it’s an uphill battle.
MM: And now that we just lost all of our fitness competitor readership…we love you, you’re just a handful.
And I want to come back to your fitness modeling thing, but right now I’d love to dig into some of your training insight for a bit.
You’ve mentioned a creation of yours called “Dynamism”, explain that.
JR: Dynamism is pretty much my own brand of fat loss training. The main theory is that a lot of people have shitty fat loss weight training programs, and they have no idea that they suck. You look at a fat loss program, and you see “seated military press” and it’s like, “Really? REALLY? You really put that in there? Like, REALLY?”
MM: So you’re after the more active, standing, movements?
JR: Exactly. With Dynamism, we do nothing seated. In fact, I haven’t sat down during a workout in 5 years. Everything is based on using big, calorically expensive movements. So not just multi-joint stuff, but also hybrid movements and combination lifts. We use complexes as well, but mostly with athletes and advanced clients.
MM: Without giving away training programs, can you throw out some typical exercises? And, what do you think of the circuit training programs I use, like Lose Fat Like You’re on Crack…barking up the same tree?
JR: Yes, many of the principals are very similar to what you prescribe with your circuit programs, which are great by the way.
The core of all of my programs involves lunges, step ups, push presses, explosive lifts, the occasional kettlebell drill–all with fast transitions. I haven’t designed a fat loss workout that didn’t include some varietal of the lunge in years.
And here’s where it gets ‘controversial’: without trying to echo Mike Boyle…I very sparingly use traditional squats for fat loss, to be honest. Now, of course we recognize that squats fit into the category of “big, calorically expensive movements” and for that reason they do have a place in fat loss programming.
However, for my part, the main idea is that if even 30% of your leg exercises are done with both feetrooted to the ground, you’re getting maybe 50% of the results you could be, and in probably more time than it should take.
You had a great little piece in the last Fitport eNewsletter on complexes that I loved – most people who put complexes into their own program just string a bunch of random “hard” exercises together. You mentioned a deadlift/overhead press example. Obviously the deadlift is limited by how much you can use in the OHP. So that’s a dumb progression.
Note: since this interview John published a great article on this very subject here. Give it a read.
MM: Interesting, I’ve never looked at it like that. So quite a bit of unilateral stuff? What about jumping exercises; jump squats, jump lunges, etc?
JR: Yes, we use unilateral stuff all the time, and jumping exercises (regular and depth jumps) are huge. I’m going to give away something I probably shouldn’t, but your readers might get a lot out of it, so here we go.
JR: We use a lot of “breaks” during training with athletes and intermediate to advanced clients. So, one of them is something we call a “Dynamic Interrupt.” It’s where you literally stop a weight training session, and just do dynamic and plyometric exercises for a pre-set time period. So I’ll pull guys off the bench and just have them do a circuit of bodyweight jump squats, mountain climbers, push-ups, planks and such–then it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming.
It’s something born from training clients in a crowded gym. Sometimes you have things planned, and the bench you need is taken, and then the next thing you may have been planning on is doing is taken waste time.
MM: And this is for fat loss programs or other workouts as well?
JR: Great question! It’s not fat loss ‘specific’ but it is most effective for fat loss programming. It’s something also we use when the goal is to increase conditioning, endurance or speed.
MM: I’d imagine a nice boost in work capacity as well.
JR: Most certainly.
I’ll say that I think for most “mass gaining” programs, it’s a terrible idea. But let’s say I have someone on a 4-day rotating program for fat loss. One of those days is probably a heavy training day, to maintain strength and size, a 5×5 program or something similar. I’ll throw a Dynamic Interrupt in there between a series of exercises, mainly because I think it helps fat loss and from what we’ve seen, is not hurting the goal of that particular workout. But again, that is a single workout within the context of a fat loss program.
MM: Any performance drop on a strength day, vs. training without the DI’s?
I’d imagine if so, that over time that drop would disappear.
JR: You see a small dip with athletes – but they are usually coming to you with a program they’ve been doing at school or with the team, so they have training records that are useless. They’ll be able to deadlift 2x bodyweight. But only for 3 sets, and only with like 5 minutes of rest between. When you put them in a program like mine that drops a lot but after 4 – 6 workouts, it’s back up. So the performance drop-off, I’m usually attributing to shitty conditioning, and generally low work capacity.
MM: That’s exactly what I’ve seen with my circuit style workouts, an initial dip, then back to baseline with increased work capacity, then eventually even stronger with much higher work capacity.
JR: Exactly, I would imagine it’s probably very similar with both results in addition to a lot of the programming aspects.
MM: For sure. We have come to similar conclusions about training efficacy over the years…possibly one of the reasons I’m interviewing you right now instead of Jillian Michaels.
MM: So what does your training look like, personally? You’re sporting a physique most people would blow a homeless man with The AIDS for. Same kind of stuff?
JR: Similar but not the same. I’m more experimental with my training, because (obviously) programming is very goal dependent. Well, I usually don’t have a goal other than “keep looking awesome.” I tend to have a pretty clean diet, and I run around all day, so even though I’m a former fat kid, I stay pretty lean.
So my own training is usually to either bring up a PR or try out a training theory that I’m personally working on, or someone else is.
MM: Former fatties, take note. So do you stay ripped all year long? What’s your body fat range (high point and low point throughout the year), if you don’t mind me asking?
JR: Ripped is a relative term. It’s weird that for me, at this point 10% seems “fat.” That would be unreasonably high for me at this point—although if I was actively trying to putt on mass, and was eating for size, I’d allow for more latitude. That aside, 9% is the high end of range, and I normally hit that during the holidays and towards the spring. “Shredded” for me is visible abdominal veins and little to no love handular fatitude. I have some insulin management problems, so even at measurably low levels of bodyfat my love handles are like stoopid fat.
MM: So are you a fan of constant recomping, or cut/bulk/repeat?
JR: I hate to take the easy way out but it really just depends on the person. Generally speaking, if you are and have always been generally fat, and then you get lean and want to put on mass, don’t let your bodyfat get above 12%.
If you are or have always been skinny and putt on mass, but now want to diet off some fat, don’t “cut” for more than like 6 weeks. And above all keep track of measurements and don’t be fucking stupid with your diet.
MM: That’s good info, I like it.
Ok, what about supplements? You? Your clients? Favorites? Staples?
JR: I’m a big fan of fish oil. So about 4-5 years ago, I start trying to convince my mom to supplement with fish oil, for health and fat loss. I bought her bottles of it, I left her articles.
She’d give me the run around, “oh, the pills are too big.” “I can’t remember to take it.” This went on for like 3 years; I’d bug her nearly every day about it.
Eventually, I gave up. I have too many women in my life giving me bullshit to deal with it from my own mom. So then one day, I’m at her house visiting, eating whatever food she foolishly forgot to hide and she STORMS into the kitchen and says “So! Do you know how Jennifer Lopez gets that great skin!? It’s from fish oil. It’s great for your skin, helps you look good from the inside out. And apparently, it’s really good for your health and your heart, too. Did you know about this stuff? How come you never told me about fish oil?”
I swear to god, I almost fucking killed myself.
MM: Brutal. We never think to take the J-Lo angle. I had a CEO I couldn’t get to take anything unless I lied to him and told him Warren Buffet was doing it.
What doses do you take/recommend?
JR: I like Christian Thibs recommendation – for fat loss, 1 gram per body fat percentage point. So if you’re 12% take 12 grams.
MM: I’ve seen that advice, seems pretty reasonable.
JR: Now, I personally have an addendum, if you are above 20% bodyfat, figure out what your goal bodyfat is vs. your current bodyfat, and split the difference. So if you are 25% and your goal is to get to 15% just take 20. Otherwise it’s just too many pills and no one would take them.
MM: I try to get people to use the oil, but that can be quite a task.
JR: I try as well, but most people respond with endless bitching. Even the pills are an obstacle for so many people.
I always say this: when you started drinking, you didn’t “like” beer, or vodka or whiskey, you drank it because you had a goal. That goal was to get fucked up and make some really questionable decisions, and have sex with some really questionable people. You went out of your way to “acquire” a taste for something that has an extremely temporary benefit.
Well, fish oil is like that. Only your goal is to get ripped, and make even MORE questionable decisions, only with MUCH LESS questionable people, because you will be hotter, and you can raise your standards. That’s a permanent benefit. Well, you have the option to raise them. I personally haven’t. But that’s just me.
MM: Aye, but its having the option that counts. At least you’re sticking to the gender you started with. And dress up games don’t count. If they do, I need to burn my Mr. Rogers costume I have girls wear on the first encounter.
JR: No, don’t–Kanye brought cardigans back, they’re in style now.
MM: I’m trying to bring in black ankle socks with dress pants and dress shoes, but I’m having trouble finding supporters.
JR: Well, I’m taking credit for the vest, which I started wearing about 4 years ago. Then Timberlake started doing it and it took off. I’m currently bringing back pocket watches, so get in on the ground floor and I’ll say you were a trendsetter.
MM: I’m in on both counts. That’s a pretty sweet item to pull out when you’re trying to escape from a mind-numbing conversation…”Look at the time, I have to run, I have a meeting with the CEO of Braniff at Dorsia”
JR: Ah, yes…7pm rezz at Dorsia, then I have to return some video tapes.
MM: To the three people that got that joke, we love you.
If anyone is still reading, any other supplements you like?
JR: In terms of other supps – I like a good post workout shake, obviously. I’m also a big fan of fat burners as you get closer to your goal. I still dig Hot Rox, which I use on and off when dieting.
I used to love the Avant supps, HEAT Stack was awesome and Phenogen destroyed love handles like you destroy emotionally damaged girls majoring in psych.
MM: Ahh, the good ol’ days. I still have a secret stash of HEAT I’m keeping locked away for a future fat loss phase.
Speaking of that, Avant Research is releasing a new stimulant/fat burner, basically an amped up version of HEAT, named Vigilance.
JR: Excellent, I’ll keep an eye out for it.
For pre/post workout, I used to be addicted to Surge, but they have changed the formula a bit and the flavor isn’t the same. It’s still a great product, but I feel like I stopped using it in silent protest because I wanted Biotest to bring back the old formula. The problem with silent protests is that no one knows about it, which is lame.
MM: Unless you sit in a clocktower with a sniper rifle and a crazed look in your eye, raining subjective literature about the superiority of the old formula on a terrified crowd scurrying beneath you.
But yeah, I must admit, as whacky as Biotest gets with their claims, the original Surge was about the best tasting thing I’ve ever sipped on.
JR: Haha, yes, and hanging in a clocktower takes real commitment. Something that conniving females stripped away from both of us many moons ago. Also for post workout, I love the not-so-cleverly titled “Workout” by ProGrade.
But overall, I’m kind of minimalist when it comes to supps, aside from protein powders and meal replacements which aren’t “supplements” to me—they’re food, and I think everyone should use them or they are bound to fail in terms of diet.
MM: Check. And they’re cheaper than a perfectly constructed meal. So I have to back you up on that assertion. Whole food is best, but a high quality MRP shake is a no-brainer for times when the perfect meal just ain’t happening.
Moving in a different direction, you have a psychology degree, so how does that come into play with clients as far as motivation?
JR: That’s a great question, and due to my background I have strong interests in motivation, and really getting people to the core of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Most people trying to motivate you are bullshitting you and themselves. I mean, there is certainly something be said for intrinsic motivation and increasing self-believe…but buzz-terms like “unlocking” the secret of your mind is an annoying way of saying “trick yourself into sucking less.”
In the initial meeting, I normally spend about 30 minutes telling people why they’re wrong about their motivational assumptions.
There are really not that many motivations in life to do anything, ever. Most things come down to sex/procreation, and self-fulfillment/self-actualization. Everything else, no matter what it is, is really just a derivation of one of those two things.
People don’t admit it, but for me, it’s pretty clear. If you ask most people why they do anything, the root of it is sex.
“I work for money.”
You want money to buy stuff, so that you can increase your visible social value, so that you can get more sex.
Education is a way to get money or power. Power and money are just there to make it easier to get sex. Or, education and self-edification is based on self-actualization.
Everything people do comes down to trying to increase Darwinian fitness levels.
Most people have a strong desire to just tell me I’m wrong and that I’m a sex crazed lunatic for suggesting that sex is their motivation—they think I’m saying that they do not, in fact, love their dog. I don’t believe that. Instead, I am merely suggest they bought their dog in (possibly large) part because on some deeper level they thought it would make them appear to be a better husband/father figure.
I’m not saying you can’t love your dog, or your friends, or your girlfriend. I’m just saying that most things have a strong undertone of sexual motivation, and speaking generally, almost no one wants to admit that.
Fitness/physique enhancement is the one area where people should EASILY be able to see the connection, and everyone acts like a bunch of school girls in denial. This infuriates me. Why is it so hard to be honest with yourself and admit that sex is your prime motivator for improving your physical appearance?
Even if you hide behind clichés and platitudes like, “I want to improve self-esteem” you have to be blind not to see that the driving force behind physique improvement is self-esteem, and that the driving force behind that is the sex drive.
You ever tell a housewife that she doesn’t actually care about her health or ‘fitting into her old clothes’? But that her motivations for seeing a trainer are really improve her position in her social group, and get her husband to fuck her again?
MM: Great stuff, I love it. A lot of personal training is figuring out how to motivate the person in front of you, regardless of the degree of science and physiology you’ve mastered.
So where can people get more of your enlightened commentary, products, homoerotic pictures, etc?
JR: My website/blog is constantly updated; people can check that out here:www.romanfitnesssystems.com.
I have a super-badass program debuting on February 15th called “Final Phase Fat Loss” that will be available on my website (and a separate site just for that program.) FPFL is probably the best thing I’ve ever written—it’s a comprehensive program geared towards helping lose the last 5-15 pounds. Basically, it’s a program constructed from the methods I use with my models, actors, and myself to get ready for pictures, stage events, and sex parties.
Currently available, I have a 6 week program called “Body Comp Blitz” that was included as part of a package for people who signed up to come to an event I’m speaking at in January called Transformation Domination LIVE, organized by Joel Marion. I’ve actually been too lazy to put up a storefront for Body Comp Blitz, but I’m selling it directly through PayPal, so anyone who is interested can e-mail me at Roman [at] RomanFitnessSystems.com for more information on that.
MM: Excellent, and we’ll try to get these in our Mind and Muscle store as well. And speaking of homoerotic, John and I may be doing some joint projects in the near future, so keep your eyes open for that.
Thanks again for doing this interview John, really great info.
JR: You bet, thanks for having me.