Monday, March 16, 2015

A conversation with Bodybuilding Icon and Ultrafit founder, John Defendis. By Dr. Michael Dusa

A conversation with Bodybuilding Icon and Ultrafit founder, John Defendis.
By Dr. Michael Dusa

MD: Hi John. Thanks for agreeing to speak with me. I do have to say this to start off, as I do with all my interviews, before running the final piece I post a little preview with the Icon's picture and a few brief words. I did this with you and I believe you got an insane amount of "likes" by fans and others-you are quite the popular fellow!

JD: Mike first I want to say I truly appreciate the opportunity to spread my words and communicate to all those who are interested in what I can offer as far as information and history goes. The people, in general, have been very kind to me over my career. It gives me even more thrust to help as many people as I can!

MD: Tell me about your early years.
John with his mom in 1982 at the
 first Ultrafit office
JD: I couldn't convey my truth properly without mentioning my mother. In 1968, when I was only 10 years old, she had a heart attack. This hit me and my family like a ton of bricks. It was just my father and the kids. My dad was a bodybuilder and he taught me how to train when I was only 10. At 13, my mother had her second heart attack. Finally, when I was 16, she was taken by Tomahawk helicopter from Jones Beach to the hospital-she had her third heart attack and she weighed 320 pounds. By this time I was well into training and learning everything I could about nutrition. I put my foot down and put her on a home program of light weights and improvements in her food consumption. Well, she went from 320 to 140 pounds in 22 months! This not only changed her life-but it indelibly changed mine, too. God allowed me to save her life-this is my truth. She is 81 years old now.

John's dad pumping biceps in 1947
at the age of 22. 
MD: Outstanding. And now you have helped thousands upon thousands of people be delivered to optimal health and fitness...and your mom was the prototype. So you started with the weights and exposure to bodybuilding at the age of 10.

JD: Yes. My father-I remember him bringing home magazines of Dave Draper and Arnold on the covers. It was the 70's and Dave was wearing that cool head band of his. I really, really got into training. When I was only 13 I had one of those black and white composition note books, in which I wrote, "I will be Mr. America." That was my goal. I knew this. It was very clear in my mind-crystallized.

MD: You know, if your goal is clear enough, you can get exactly what it is that you want.

JD: Yes. I pounded away and did my first competition at the age of 15 years, it was the Suburban Teenaged New Jersey. I remember going with a few friends. There were four teens in my class, including me. But, here it is: there were only three trophies! Somebody was gonna be out. After the prejudging, we went to a movie to kill some time. I was pretty confident-after all, my friends all told me I had easily and most definitely won the class. This was not the outcome. As they were calling out the three finalists at the evening production, my name was not announced. I was in a funk. 

I approached an official backstage and told him, "You made a mistake."

Winning the 1977 AAU Mr. NY City
"No," I was told.

"I won."



Mike, let me tell you...this was THE watershed moment of my life. Yes...I did feel like Sissy Spacek in the movie "Carrie," when she was at the prom, in all her glory...finally accepted by all the uppity kids when-all of a sudden-she gets a bucket of blood dumped on her head. I had that feeling of emptiness inside me that day. It was the defining moment of my life. I couldn't even do my posing routine because if you didn't place, you didn't pose. I never wanted to feel like I did that day again.

MD: A most rude of awakenings in your nascent bodybuilding career.

JD: You know, there are so many facets of learning I gained from this that are with me to this day. Today...everybody gets a trophy in events, games, competitions, spelling bees. Whatever. I will say that the new generation has ruined our country.

Mike, do you remember the famous "Agony of Defeat?"...You know, on Saturday afternoons way back when there were only three TV channels plus UHF, there would be ABC televison's "Wide World of Sports." They had the montage at the beginning of the show that included the guy taking that incredible spill on the ski slopes? Just when that part was shown...the voice over blared..."The Agony of Defeat." That line resonates with me to this day.

MD: Yes. And so I never went skiing in my life!

JD: (laughs) The Agony of Defeat is an absolute, incontrovertibly necessary element of growth in society. We have largely lost this mode of thinking. People are seeking comfort. Comfort really will not come before growth, which almost always entails you will undergo pain.

For my company, Ultrafit, a defining descriptor of our philosophy is that of "Relentless Pursuit." Think of it in terms of a shark and when it senses blood has been spilled-you see the spark of relentlessness in its eyes. This is also the look a champion gets. I wrote "Be the Shark," which details embarking on achieving your goals with relentless pursuit. You can find it on my website.

MD: I'll be sure to include that John.

JD: Thanks. I was lucky to adopt this thinking when I was very young. Another defining momenht was when my mom was in the hospital for one of her heart attacks. I was not tall enough to see through the window to the room in which my mom was in, so my father lifted me up to get a look at her. I still remember the devastation I felt at that moment. It was a feeling of helplessness. Think about it. Your primary caregiver is gone. Its scary and devastating. You know, this still kindles the passion for what I do today. I know the danger of being 150 pounds overweight, of having sky-high blood pressure and cholesterol. God forbid-your kids would be devastated if anything should happen to you. Through it all, our father was a trememndous source of support for my brother, sister and I.

MD: Rough tidings for your and your family, but heartening because you became stronger from it all.

JD: Yes. And today? Well, too many kids don't have this. The family unit has largely imploded. I mean, I did not take 4th place in my first show. I took LAST place. EVERY teenager should experience the pain, the hurt of not achieving a goal. Their parents protect them from the real world...they remain insulated from the true rigors that will test them and allow them to prove their mettle. It ends up like this: Up the road, their boss asks them to do something. Well, they don't want to do it. If they are told to improve their performance...screw that...they quit. Man, when they grow up...IF they grow up...they are so screwed.
A teenage John Defendis
The world is harsh, let's face it. It's harsh for everyone. I went through a divorce last year, and it proved to be the toughest year of my life. But I have a lot of responsibility with a very successful buisiness and so many employees and clients depending on me. I could not let the tumult define me. My success is about doing what I love with passion to help others as well as myself attain goals. I had to compartmentalize my thinking. It takes a very strong mind and stronger convictions to do this.

Today? Someone accopmplishes something-whatever it may be-and they think its all about them. Let me tell you something-nobody cares. You want to know a critical step in defining yourself as a true champion? Use your notoriety and whatever accolades you have to help guide others. If you attain victories and fanfare and just do it for your ego-this is useless. You are a loser if you think its all about you.

Im not defined by how much money I make. I certainly do use my accomplishments as a conduit to helping others. I've been asked how long I plan on "milking" my Mr. USA win. Forever, that's how long! Mike-you have your doctorate. You earned that 25 years ago. So you mean to tell me you no longer use the knowledge you gained to help others? Nonsense. You will use it forever. I am in the Hall of Fame with Jack Lalanne and Arnold. Being aligned with such individuals and achievements benefits everyone that I touch. People come to me and yes, they believe in me, but not in themselves. They believe in me, and this ultimately helps them believe in themselves. Understand me now-I am right in the game with them. Their success is my success. I respond to every sigle e-mail and post directed to me personally.
"I am John Defendis"
John pumping arms at age 16
MD: You totally have your skin in the game. People can certainly tell if you are the real deal or not. After that first teenage show, how did competitions progress?

JD: (laughs). Bro. I lost my first nine teenage shows I entered. Around this time I must convey to you that I was nothing but a cocky, 16 year old kid. Some of the people will remember the famous Mr. America Gym. This is where I began my three,most challenging training years. I remember the first day I walked into the place. There was Steve Michalik, in the midst of one of his ferocious workouts. I thought nothing of it to walk right up to him and announce, "I'm John Defendis." (laughs). He just flatly told me to get the hell out of the gym!

MD: Kinda reminiscent of Arnold walking up to Gironda that one, fateful day, so many years ago...

JD: LOL. Yes. It was. Well, of course, I was not to be denied. I went back that night, but didn't immediately think to venture into the gym. I was watching through the front window when a hand grabbed my shoulder from behind. I spun around and it was Michalik, asking me why the hell I was back.

"I want to be like you," I told him this. Just like that. I remember it clearly.

MD: Man John. I have heard all the stories about Steve. Scary stuff. At least, you'd think it would be to a 16 year old. Or even a 51 year old like me.

JD: Well, truth is, he wasn't entirely like you may have heard. There's that story where he supposedly used eletcrical tape to secure my hands to a chin bar, and I had to keep doing chins...hundreds of them, until he decided I had done enough. That never happened. The beach story-that's true.

With Steve Michalik
MD: Yes. I heard that one, too.

JD: I wrote the Intensity/ Insanity articles for Animal Pak years ago-based on priniciples I picked up from Steve. Just wanted to mention that. In 1979, I was in training for my first attempt at winning the Mr. USA-I was only 20 years old. I wasn't dillydallying around. I wasn't just testing the waters to "see how I could do." I wanted to WIN. Steve knew this of course. Our training sessions were brutal. You'd think people would just drop dead going through what we did.

You know, my mother hated Steve Michalik. Training with him landed me in the hosiptal twice for just essentially doing too much. Overtraining would be an understatement.. Mom was like, "What is this guy doing to my son? He's trying to kill my son!"

We'd do two hours of workout in the morning, and another hour and a half at night. One particular day, we had finished training legs. We'd done 60 ferocious sets, and finished this off with 100 reps of hack squats at the end. We'd train really early-enough so that that day we headed to Jones beach at around 8 am in the morning. Steve liked to go where there'd be few if any people at all to bug, gawk, stare or otherwise damage our calm.

You know, in general, we never spoke much, Steve and I. I wouldn't say what we had was a friendship. Our alliance was that of training partners. We'd drive to the beach with very few words being spoken. I do think he liked me primarily because over the years, many had fallen by the wayside trying to train with him. Me? I was the only one who would always come back for more, no matter how hard it was. He was never quick to offer a compliment. There was 6 weeks left until the show. I would have him critique me. I'd ask him what I would have to do to win. He would always say, no matter what, that I had to do more. I mean this respectfully, although it may not sound like it, but I think of him as the "Charles Manson" of bodybuilding. He was the master of getting you to do something that nobody else would. He was a very hard man.

Winning the 1988 NPC USA
MD: And then it was time to cool off in the water a bit?

JD: I went down to the water alone. I was either waist or chest deep in it. I remember the sun was coming up, and I was just standing there, looking up, a solitary figure. All of a sudden, Steve is behind me with his hand to the back of my neck and and he slammed me forward. I was underwater. I didn't even honestly know what hit me. Steve is holding me down. Now, Im thrashing about and fighting to rise-he'd let me surface for a brief second to get a breath-and then I was back under. I'm flailing about, punching his calves, his thighs. Just when I truly knew that my life was going to end, things getting fuzzy, strength sapped from me, he shoves me away from him. I followed him back to the blanket, choking and gagging. I screamed, "WTF is wrong with you?" He just was very nonchalant about it all. He was kind of quiet. He looked at me and asked me when I was under the water, what did I want to do? He wanted to know what it was I was thinking. Hell, I told him I wanted to breathe. "Well," he said."When you want to win the show as much as you want to breathe, that's when you will be the champion.

MD: Wow. Crazy. Let me ask you, after that point, did your relationship with Steve change in any way? I'm certain you didn't tell your mother about the Steve Michalik system of swimming instruction.

JD: No. We just pressed on as if that were an ordinary circumstance in an ordinary day. However, from that point on I did stay away from the water (both laugh).

MD: I mean no disrespect and I'm not one to ever assume anything, especially since I didn't know the man and was not part of the whole experience. But Steve seemed like he may have been somewhat troubled on some level.

JD: Steve wanted respect most of all. He had a very bad time growing up with his father-it wasn't a good relationship. You know, mentioning that reminds me of Louie Ferrigno's dad, Matty, calling me and telling me not to lose my life over bodybuilding. Louie hated his father. It kind of reminded me of the situation with Steve and how he grew up. Similar, I guess. Steve craved respect...and I gave it to him in the best way possible. I was the only guy who could keep up with him. I didn't care. People would come in the gym and linger just to watch our workouts. Imagine that happening today?

MD: It would'nt.

JD: Exactly.

MD: You know, when I think of guys over the years whose names are synonymous with brutally hard, gut-splitting workouts, names like Platz, Yates, Coleman, Franco-you-come up.

JD: Look. Looking back, I don't even know how I did the things I did. Flex Magazine once had a "Top Ten" list of the hardest training bodybuilders of all time. Platz was number one. Branch Warren 3rd. I was number four on the list, Ronnie Coleman number 5. There was no Arnold, no Cutler on that list.

MD: So then the torture with Steve was over, and it was time for the Mr. USA.

JD: I took third in this show at the age of 20. Well, I believe I should have won. There were seven judges, two of whom were the publishers of Iron Man Magazine, Perry and Mable Rader. Man, they were like close to 90 years old, both of them. They should not have been judging. I got all first and second place votes, and you know they scored by dropping your highest and lowest totals. Perry gave me 7th, Mable 9th. Talk about being out in space. So, a first and a 9th were dropped. If they had placed me 2nd, I'd have won. It was a great show-Les Galvin, Bob Reis and Larry Jackson were in my class.

MD: I could see your consternation at this. You work so hard, and then to be at the mercy of someone who may have poor vision!

JD: Look, no way was I bitter. I was glad it was over. I was so young and to have placed in a show of that caliber-that spoke of big success to come.

1988 NPC USA
MD: Climbing up the competitive ladder over the years, can you name some guys who were your most worthy of competitors?

JD: Well, oh yes. The biggest show in NY back then was the Metropolitan, which I am sure you are familiar with. Guys like Tony Pandolfo, Steve Michalik, Joe Nazario, many other champs were victorious on that stage.As a teenager, Tom Terwilliger beat me the first time I went in the Teen Metropolitan. Tom and I trained together in my basement around that time. This was 1977, and I have a great picture of him and I at Subway eating sandwiches after the show. We've got the seventies long hair and everything! The following year, 1978, I defeated Dave Spector (who happened to date my sister). Dave took me to Olympic Health Club around then. In 1978 I won the Teenage Metropolitian AND the men's open division the same night. I was the only teenager ever to do this. Spector took second to me, followed by the great Mike Torchia. I also remember Ron Psm-magnum, as well as Dwayne Broadway, another good bodybuilder who just also happened to be the guy who took first in the first show I went in.

MD: Wow. Very impressive list of past champions. But you did grind on, eventually winning outright the USA championships is 1988, thus earning your IFBB pro card.

JD: Oh yes. Just like I wrote in my notebook when I was 13, I followed through. It took me ten years to go from 3rd place to 1st place. They printed an article about me in Flex Magazine about how I had risen like the phoenix from a scrapheap and I had not competed for five years. They trumpeted how I had risen from the proverbial ashes.
Bob Paris, Matt Mendenhall and Lee Haney at the 1982 NPC Nationals.
Bob was is a longtime friend and the man who helped me the most in all
my years in bodybuilding
You know, some years before this in 1982, Bob Gruskin was helping Matt Mendenhall prepare for competition. Bob, a long time friend, sent me Matt's progress pictures. At the time, myself and Rory Leidelmeyer were the favorites on the national scene to reign victorious. When I received these photos, it was six weeks prior to the big event-and-let me tell you-there was just no way I could have beaten Matt. He looked unbeatable in the photos. Bob sent them to me just for some perspective. Nobody on planet Earth at that time could beat what I had in front of me. I looked great in 1982, but I simply bowed out because there was no way I'd win against Matt. Even Jim Manion said I looked great in 1982. As it turned out, Lee Haney edged out Matt for the title-Matt just wasn't sharp enough on that day. Rory? He had one of the greatest physiques ever, but he was very eccentric. Tough guy to figure out and understand. Strong though. He'd be 320 pounds in the off season and I personally saw him do 120 pound dumbbell lateral raises for 10 reps.

MD: Who do you consider your good bodybuilding friends?

JD: Tom Platz, yes, although I haven't talked to him in a few years. I'd have to say Samir Bannout and Lee Haney have been my best friends from my years spent in bodybuilding. Both wonderful people, and two of the best to win the Big O.

Jerry Scalesse
I trained with Jerry Scalesse. He'd take the train to Hempstead to come to my brother's deli and we'd end up practicing posing in the back of my brother's deli (laughs). Ask him-he will remember!

MD: I will. He's slated for an interview soon, ironically.

JD: I wrote workouts for big Jeff King. As far as my greatest inspiration in bodybuilding- I'd have to say the Blond Bomber, Dave Draper. Arnold, too. In all of human history, 2,000 years ago, 1960's, 70's, 20015...the 1974 version of Arnold that won the Mr. Olympia title is unmatched. And, especially the way things look now, it'll stay that way.

MD: So, you got your IFBB pro card. How did things progress for you going forward?

JD: Well, I was all over the place. I had guest posings booked all year in 1989. I went to Europe, California of course, many, many states in the USA. I actually guest posed at the first show Flex Wheeler ever won. Remember something now. I owed my fans and the promoters, I felt. I wanted to look my best and not like guys you see making appearances at guest posings 50 pounds overweight with no tan. I'd try to peak for every appearance. This meant carb depleting monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then carbing up the days leading up to the Saturday appearance.

With this in mind, I was still contracted to compete in the Niagara Falls Pro show as well as the legendary Night of the Champions at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Wayne DeMilia, the promoter, had pictures of me on the promotional materials and posters for these events.

On the November 1988 cover of
Muscular Development
These two shows were to be held in May, and, by the time heading up to these events, I was worn down. My electrolytes were screwed, my hands were shaking. I needed a break. I won the USA at 221 pounds and 3% body fat, and I was guest posing at about 238, not a big variance.

I ended up in the hospital needing to balance out my electrolytic balance, and called Wayne letting him know this. He said if I didn't show for the competitions, I'd not only be fined five thousand dollars, but I'd be banned from the IFBB for one year.

I though I served the IFBB very well as an in-shape National champion ready to assume my proper place in the Professional level.l Joe Weider even told Chris Dickerson that if I were in the shape I was to win the USA, I could win the Olympia that year. None of that mattered to DeMilia. Well, I went in both shows smooth and at 212 pounds. I was cannibalizing muscle. I remember being onstage and Mike Christian was sitting in the first row, and he looked at me with a flash of shock and disappointment on his face. I mouthed to him, "Watch this," and I hit what I presented as my attempt at a most muscular. There were no lines! I had to be there. It really killed me to "have to" go in these shows.

If they tried to do this to a competitor now, especially with all the doctors records I had-you'd get sued. This ruined the sport for me-it was all about money for these guys.

You know, I never really loved competing, but I love the training and the sculpting of the body. I created the body I wanted. I have no jealousy in anyone's success. 

John owned one of the best vacuums in the
history of pro bodybuilding
MD: Well, you were a massive builder who actually could do one of the best vacuum poses ever. You. Zane. Mentzer. Not many come to mind who can do this no matter their size.

JD: I had symmetry with size. just have massive swaths of flesh parading about. Well, that kind of presentation went out with Louis Cyr! I developed MY ideal, not the ideal of the judges. This is a problem today.

MD: Its perfectly understandable that you left competition at that point.

JD: You know, I see online everybody-all these kids I've never seen or heard of before-and I know we all gotta start somewhere...but you here them all trumpeting this "goal" of earning their "pro card." Just what in Hell does that exactly mean? Back in my time, the winner of the USA (me), and each class winner at the NPC Nationals would be awarded an IFBB pro card. That's what...6 people. Six new pros per year. Now that is quality control and ensuring that only the worthy get elevated to such a lofty status.

Now? They give hundreds of them out. Hundreds. You go to the mater's nationals in Pittsburgh and there are 650 bikini girls. They get pro cards too, you know. It's meaningless.
"It took me 20 years to turn professional"
It took me 20 years to turn professional. I was excited! Let me tell you, Michael, I paid my $300 professional licensing fee, which had to be paid annually, and it did finally arrive in the mail. It was a ten-cent, fragile piece of perforated paper, a shitty token that would rip if you breathed too hard on it. (laughs) You could go to a night club and for ten bucks get one of those plastic, laminated VIP cards and you'd feel more secure in your prospects.

There were good points to being a professional, however. I gave back to bodybuilding, just like I do in my business and in life today. What the hell else could it be about? These guys today make me sick-the ones who wont take a picture with a fan unless you buy something or hand them the cash. The fans make us what we are! You know, I've been told I should erect a "fan page." I won't do it. I think its pompous to do that. To think that way. Its like you are lending others to subjugation. I don't want fans. I want friends. In today's pro bodybuilding-put it this way: I would'nt trust the pro standing next to me. They all have this absurd notion that they are going to make millions (laughs).

MD: Before we move on to the ultra successful business known as Ultrafit, any Arnold stories?

"Dose calves are not good...
dey high like Louie's Calves!"
JD: (laughs). Oh yes. It was a very memorable night, although I've met Arnold a few times in my life. Bill Dobbins, who was running Weider's magazine at the time, took me to Arnold's house for a private Christmas party. I mean, there were only about 16 people there. To this day, I regret not bringing a camera with me. I felt stupid to carry one with me...I didn't want to be like a pesky "fan," and of course there were no cell phones in the early 80's. By the way, as a quick note-Joe Weider was always good to me. Hadn't ever gotten a contract from him, but I had no gripes. He was present for some of my photo shoots, and he did know alot about posing that I learned from him. At Arnold's party I hung out with Tom Platz. Arnold approached me and Bill and I told Arnold how I preferred his training methods to those of Mentzer. I remember telling him that. Bill Dobbins then conveniently added that I had best calves in the country. Arnold just said, "Yah." (laughs). I had to use the bathroom, and went down a big corridor, and on its walls were various swords from the Conan movies. I was just standing in one place, marvelling at them. I was still really young and this was fantastic stuff! All of a sudden I hear, "Defendis-up wit der pants let me see dose calves!" Now, I could make my calves split and look like it would be beating like a heart. I was proud of my calves. I flexed, Arnold looks, puts his hand to his chin and inflects his one eyebrow in that curious way that he does, and says, "Dose calves are not good...dey high like Louie's Calves!" And then he walked away. I'm standing there, like in shock. I was like..."What did he just say?"

MD: Arnold man, Lol. You have a huge, universally renowned personal training company now, Ultrafit. Before your discuss that, talk a little about some of the famous people have trained.

JD: Oh yes. Well, I trained Calvin Klein He told me personally he thought I was an amazing business man. But...I am not that at all. I am a man who is passionate in helping others improve themselves. And I'll say this now...everyone on my team must embody this same passion, this fire. THIS is what drives the business. Do what you love...the money will come. The funny thing with Calvin...he carried a notebook around that we give clients. It has my name on it. And all the time, as you know, people wear his stuff with HIS name on it! I've trained Mike Piazza. I helped Newt Gingrich melt 61 pounds off his body. During his prsidential campaign he actually referenced me in a speech, that my standards were higher than his. Let me tell you-we needed a leader. Not like what we have now. I wish he had won.
"Everyone on my team must embody this same passion, this fire"

MD: Were you nervous working in the rarefied air that these folks occupy?

Calvin Klein, one of John's
numerous celebrity clients
JD: Well, they flew me to Washington to meet with him. His office was smack in the center of the capital...I mean, his position at the time was that of the third most powerful human on the planet. They put me in a room with a massive conference table. His wife was there, his chief of staff, the secretary. I was nervous up to the point where Newt took his place at the table. I started by addressing him as "Newt." Well, there was a silence that fell over the room. Everyone looked at me like I had three heads. His wife at the time...Maryanne Gingrich...well, I couldn't stand her. She'd be sitting there just giving me these looks. I asked Newt if he believed in God, and he said he did. I told him God said that my program would change his life, but he'd have to be 100% committed. If not, you will die and go to Hell. He looked at me like I was nuts, but I also knew he felt that I had balls. You commit, and I'll stay here and help you. If not, I'll go back home and there will be no hard feelings. He agreed. He did very well with me. He knocked the 61 off in 11 weeks. I got rid of all salt-laden products as he had high blood pressure. The official chefs who were the best in the world were pissed because I was telling them what to do.

I also trained Jim Robinson, who was the CEO of American Express. He's a well known guy-Donald Trump is his best friend. Trump wanted me. Jim gave me his number so I just called Trump directly. Lou Duva, the famous boxing guy, had me train Andrew Golatta. These all have been great, great experiences. People are all the same.

MD: So, what about Ultrafit?

JD: Well, let me start by saying this. I know you were around back in the day. Frankly, bodybuilders were in better shape back then than guys today. There was no conventional cardio machines to speak of-no treadmills, climbers, bikes in the gyms. We just hit the weights with intensity. In our Ultrafit program we employ no cardiovascular work on any machines whatsoever. Ask yourself this: How does the heart work? If you do 20 repetitions of bent over rows you think your heart isn't working to allow you to do this? People drive their the then walk on the treadmills! Why not just go to the mall and walk? You know-the more I malign cardio, the more I am dissed by my detractors. It doesn't bother me...Ultrafit has helped and continues to provide solutions for thousands of people.
Cardio? Lift weights faster!
Everything done for an Ultrafit client is calculated for a specific outcome. All trainers today teach the eccentric/concentric model...let me say that words scare people. In Ultrafit, we espouse the Five Points of Movement.

This includes:

  • Stretch component
  • Flex component
  • Drag-drag the weight through the movement
  • Contraction
  • The Negative
Every Ultrafit trainer is versed in the Five Points. Our clients are indoctrinated to this, its methodical, consistent, they dream of this sequence. Its easy to understand and they feel the muscle. It's truly the "mind muscle connection" being propagated. This is a Turnkey system that all our trainers use, and each trainer reports to the director of the club at which they work, whom I train personally. I call many clients personally. In any successful business, you must give people what THEY want, not what I want. Its all about them. If a complicated answer is given, it is wrong.

John rewarding Cecil Foster,
one of the Ultrafit coaches
You see Mike, the art of being a good and effective trainer is this: You have got to think like a shark! Be The Shark! We challenge clients not to reduce, but to help them get to the next level. We give them basic, salient information that is usable and beneficial for them. Results producing. They don't have to worry about the science or details. We even provide hundreds of recipes that make their food options palatable.

MD: And all this success, still you say there are the obligatory detractors out there of you and your methods?

JD: Oh yes. Of course. I don't use diet is cookie-cutter. They say it all. But all we produce is results. What these guys really should be doing is worrying about their own businesses. I don't worry about or envy anything or anybody. I wanna see everybody do well. That means the environment will allow me to do so, also. I have had 1000's of successful clients. I've helped over 1,000 individuals drop more than 100 pounds of deadly excess bodyweight with the use of NO cardio. I've employed over 500 trainers. Nothing parallels what I have done. My brain is like a computer and, given this, I only want to store in my head what WORKS. There is a finite space for accurate information.
It's like I said. The Shark. Be the shark. Be relentless. It's the old school work ethic of the 70's and 80's that I have resurrected for my trainers and clients. Those who bust their ass are the winners. The one's sitting behind a computer key board trashing others because they are working hard, doing differently than trying to find a non-existant secret? Forget that.

MD: You've been at this a long time John. A pioneer, you are. You are one of the first guys I remember seeing and being impressed with in the magazines.

JD: Thanks Mike. Yes. I started Ultrafit in 1982. We are here in South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia. We grow by the day. I've been together with my business partner, Brandon Daniels, for 20 years now. In the early 2000's we had over 350 trainers employed in Florida. I did move to South Carolina to originally semi-retire, but of course I couldn't stay away and initiated Ultrafit here. It's really blown up since. Its the most successful family of personal trainers in the country. We've helped so many...of this I am very proud. My colleagues are the best and I appreciate them. I try to do everything right. Last month I gave out five 51" Samsung flat screen televisons and also 10K in additional prizes to my deserving trainers-they are valued and I want them to know this. Ultrafit trainers do very well.
John rewarding his trainer with an
amazing Samsung 51"

There is something very important that all my trainers must understand, and they do. You know, don't go after the money, go after the results. Give the client value. The money will come. It must be understood that it likely took a lot of courage for a client to come in and see us. It's often THE defining moment in a person's life. We find if they really are up to the challenge. We will run them through a session, no charge. Did they like it? Did they feel it was for them? There has got to be a fit. We only work with people who see it as we do.

Like I do everyday, we help people think differently...there are no negatives. I have adversity, who in hell doesn't? But I steadfastly look for anything to pull me out of a particular funk.

MD: It's like Frank Zane says: "You must practice "Right Speech". It sounds like you are really thriving in an industry that could use a leader, one who espouses a system that is a solution for almost anyone. Please give me some of your thoughts where things stand regarding health, fitness, and present day attitudes about the same.

JD: (Laughs). You know, I'm kinda new to much of this social media stuff now. But last year, a teacher of mine I hadnt seen nor spoken to for 36, 37 years posted on my Facebook page. He said he recalled regularly kicking me out of class -I would be writing workouts out and such-but he said it looked like things worked out for me. LOL. I wasn't really a good student, true. I did turn down a scholarship for wrestling in college. I wanted to be a bodybuilder. Remember my goal written at age 13 in the notebook.

Back then, people hated bodybuilding. Kids now? No respect for us, the pioneers, by them. These kids, they don't even respect Arnold or know who Lee Haney is. They like these guys with arms bigger than their heads filled with synthol. You know, you go to the Arnold Classic...there is a three hour wait in line for some ballooned-up monster, and all the while an icon like Ed Corney sits alone at his table. Haney? He is a walking example of Christ-I wish I could be a man like him. The new generation is being mentored by goofs on Youtube who are schooling them by throwing things around, even one guy who lit some weights on fire and then pressed them. Just what the hell is that?

MD: The way of the new world, I am afraid. Ok, I'll throw a few words out there...please say what comes to mind when you hear them.

JD: You think I won't? (laughs)

MD: "Beast Mode," vs "Be The Shark"

JD: That's easy. Too easy. Let me tell you about "Beast Mode." My Shark ate your beast mode! There is NO beast mode. I hate that beast mode shit. Who wants to be a beast? I don't get it. A shark? Its an awesome animal. Look at the focus in their eyes. There is no meaning in being a beast. I see only a bunch of muscle headed steroid abusers when I think beast. Responsible, introspective bodybuilders train hard to develop aesthetic lines. Its all about aesthetics. I was big and could do an excellent vacuum pose. Aesthetics. The Shark. Sleekness. I will be 57 on my next birthday. I'll have new goals but they will still have their own aesthetic to them. The Shark has much more meaning than a beast.
"There is NO Beast Mode. I hate that Beast Mode shit"
In my day, we stayed covered up when we trained. You know, we'd wear the baggy T-Michael and Strydom clothes. We'd take our shirt off for two minutes , check progress, and then put the shirt back on. Now? Egos abound. Lats always flared out. Wanton disrespect for everyone by these guys, including for themselves.

Beast Mode. Today's generation. They want everything NOW. Like I mentioned about everyone getting a trophy earlier, no effort required. Yes, anabolics were a factor years ago, but it was legal with a prescription and amounts were miniscule compared to what is used today. These guys use 100 times more. Over the years, there have been some younger guys who chose to skip the whole process and attempt to build a body like mine in two years. You can't do it. One is dead from heart disease, the other is currently in need of new kidneys. For them, why travel the journey? They want to skip the goodness, the fabric of it all.

You see it everyday, Michael. More selfie-taking than training. Its sad.

MD: John, I thank you so much for your time. I'm forever reminded talking to guys like you about how much I still need to learn. It does me well to speak with you. How do folks contact you?

JD: Mike anytime. This is what it is all about! I'm happy to hear from anyone interested in what Ultrafit has to offer them. Just visit

©,2015. Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited. Interview article published with permission from Dr. Michael Dusa (North Haven, Connecticut). 
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