John Cardillo is one of those people who seem like they’ve seen and done it all but is humble enough to reassure you they haven’t. As a former bodybuilding champion and having seen firsthand the industry change dramatically over the last two decades, John has a lot to share. John took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Hi John, can you give us a brief history lesson on your early successes with bodybuilding and how you go into the business side of things with running your own gyms?
Bodybuilding taught me work ethic, because every workout is a challenge that you do at least three to four times a week. Every time you work out, you have to put out a lot of effort that involves intense mental focus and discipline. Therefore, to succeed in bodybuilding, you have to be very disciplined and you have to have a comprehensive plan, from training, to what you eat, to how much sleep and the rest you get.
When I retired from bodybuilding and focused solely on business, I parlayed the same discipline running my companies. i had daily goals to work hard every day to accomplish as much as possible. I looked at all the different aspects of business opportunities that were going to make me successful.
In the areas that I lacked experience in, I researched and sought the right people to help me make the best decisions possible. Bodybuilding taught me discipline and perseverance, especially when things got difficult, which is similar to the ups and downs of being in business. Bodybuilding is a life lesson on how not to give up, and even if you fail, you keep on trying until you succeed.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in trying to managing many different businesses in a very competitive industry?
I think the greatest challenge in any business and especially in the fitness business is staffing. The type of people who want to work in fitness are often those who like to work out as a hobby and who may even have a BA or physical education degree, however, have no fitness business experience to make it a career. Therefore, finding professional people in the fitness industry is very difficult. It is challenging to put together a professional team that is going to run the business the way you want it to be run, as there are really no industry standards of operation like other businesses. The industry itself runs on a lot of part-time staff versus full-time business professionals. For me, it is frustrating when people let me down because they aren’t as committed as I think they should be. So, expectations always seem to be a bit of a letdown for me. The other frustration I found in the industry was that unlike with most businesses, which increase their prices when costs rise, the gym business is totally the opposite – prices have actually deflated over the years. Costs have gone up, wages have gone up, yet the industry has catabolised itself with low membership rates. Gym owners seem to think their goal is to have as many members as possible without worrying about the quality of the service. Not being able to charge enough money means that you have to provide less service and less customer care.
It also means you can’t invest in training programs to upgrade your people’s skills. I think that the fitness industry has done itself a disservice by racing to the bottom as far as membership prices are concerned, and that to me is disheartening in this business that I think is for the most part a valuable and essential service for people.
What are some common myths and misconceptions about weight training/muscle building that you see people mistakenly believe?
I think that the biggest misconception in working out and bodybuilding is that “more is better”. Too many people think that in order to make strength and muscular gains, you have to work out for two to three hours a day, five to six days a week. That is totally opposite to the truth. It is not about the amount of training you do, but the intensity of your workouts.
Once you exercise a muscle as hard as possible, you need to give it rest and allow recuperation before the next workout. Most people today in gyms are doing too much exercise with insufficient intensity. They’re also doing too much low-level cardio versus high-intensity cardio, thinking it will help increase rdiovascular ability and fat loss. I not only do cardio for fat burning, but also to increase the strength of my heart and lungs.
The other misconception is that they need to eat massive amounts of protein in order to gain lean muscle size. Protein supplement manufacturers advocate 1 g of protein per pound of body weight, which is totally in excess of what the body requires. Fortunately, scientific studies have had an influence on nutrition and bodybuilding to counter these misconceptions.
You are well-known as the creator of the HIT3 (Hi-intensity) weight training program, what was your goal in developing it and is it easier to do today with modern equipment?
My goal for developing my HIT3 workout system was to educate people on how to exercise properly and not waste their time. People need to understand that putting out the effort is what’s going to get the results. Half-hearted exercise produces no results whatsoever. It is when you challenge yourself that you achieve results. Once a person understands that it’s the intensity of a workout that’s going to give them the improvements they are looking for, they finally get on the road to success. Very few people in the workout world talk about the effort that is required to get results. They glorify exercise as a leisurely thing, which it clearly is not. Intensity of a workout is everything, two to three workouts a week, not five to six a week.
Working out today with the latest technology does make things better, because you can use a variety of different equipment. The more variety you use on a muscle, the more you affect all parts of the muscle, and you can stimulate more growth by changing up the exercises. Exercise machines allow you to work a muscle to its full range of movement versus barbells and dumbbells. The best is a combination of both.
What role does nutritional science play in the HIT3 program and weight training in general? Do you have any major diet tips/advice?
Eating a nutritious diet with natural foods versus processed foods is key to being healthier and also building muscle. Taking in excessive calories by overeating protein or fat, such as the keto diet recommends, is not conducive to good health or lean muscle building. The calories you eat in a plan such as the keto diet are predominantly stored as body fat, if not burned. Eating lean foods allows your body to use everything you’re ingesting and not have excesses that would otherwise be stored in fat cells. My HIT3 workout system requires a higher carbohydrate intake than fat intake, and moderate protein of no more than 60 to 80 g a day for lean muscle mass. Protein supplements are advisable only when you don’t have time to have a full meal, because you don’t choose to cook, or fresh food is not available at the time. However, in general, I think the protein supplements and vitamins are overrated. The supplement industry is a multibillion dollar industry; therefore, how they advertise and promote the products is their motivation.
Can you tell us more about your books and coaching courses that are featured/coming soon to your website?
The books I’m working on deal with the realities of exercise, nutrition and how to lose body fat. There is much misinformation on how to gain lean muscle or how to lose unwanted body fat all over the Internet. Most people who put out material on these subjects make broad statements without really getting into the detail of why and how muscles grow, and what muscles use in order to grow. As for fat loss, most people recommend a certain type of eating, because they really don’t understand the chemistry or the biology of what body cells do with the food. My books get into the science of why you should eat certain things at certain times, and why you should not eat certain things. I explain the hormonal effect of the food you eat, so that you understand why you can stick to a diet, or why you are hungry or not hungry at different times of the day. My books also get into detail on the science of what is going on in your body in combination with your workout energy expenditure. I’m taking the explanation of everything a step further with evidence-based science, so that people learn why they are doing what they’re doing, by what I’m suggesting they should do.