My name is Gennaro Ferra. I’m a former NABBA Mr. Australia, world natural professional bodybuilder and more recently placed 3rd in the NPC Atlantic States Championships here in NYC. I’m a fitness and nutrition coach here in NYC and also have a degree in Physical Education. I was born in Naples, Italy but grew up in Melbourne, Australia.
How did you get into all of this?
My father, older brothers and then best mates in Australia encouraged me to start working out. I started calisthenics as young as 14 and didn’t hit the weights properly until I was 17. I was very small and skinny so I felt the need to fill out, get bigger and stronger, look better and just improve my self image. I was always a great sportsman and started playing competitive soccer, Australian rules football and cricket at the age of 8 until I was 17 at which time I began bodybuilding. I had a great base– lean, muscular with a great midsection– but I was a hard gainer because I was so active. I didn’t realize I needed to eat more and eat consistently in order to build muscle.
You were Mr. Australia in 1989, and you still actively compete in bodybuilding competitions. Amazing! What does it take to maintain this level of fitness over this many years?
I recently placed 3rd in the NPC Atlantic States Championships Masters and then qualified for the Universe in July. My first show was in 1986. I won the teenage Mr. Victoria so it’s been almost 30 years in competition. The key for me is, even though I’ve had many long layoffs from doing shows, keeping the body lean and tight and always staying fairly muscular and symmetrical regardless. I always wanted to get back on stage over the years but had other priorities and responsibilities like marriage and raising a family. My approach has also changed quite a bit. I train smarter now, spend less time in the gym and I focus more on conditioning and achieving great balance and symmetry in my body. I’m not obsessed with being the biggest guy on stage but creating the illusion that I am with the overall definition I achieve and the way I present my body.
I read in your bio that you’re a NESTA certified Personal Fitness Chef. Let’s say I’m a multimillionaire celebrity, and I’ve just hired you to cook for me full time. What would my meals look (and taste) like?
Your meals would consist of a variety of quality clean proteins like egg white omelets, grilled chicken, lean grilled beef, lean turkey burgers, wild fish and whey protein isolate shakes combined with fresh steamed vegetables, salads, complex carbs like oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes and some fresh fruit and beans. It’s all super clean, fresh, complete meals that are designed to get my clients into the best shape of their lives within 12 weeks provided they do everything to a T!
Can anybody achieve a physique like yours if they’re willing to work for it? Be honest. No, not everyone can achieve a physique like mine because we all have different genetics, shape and metabolisms. What I will say however is that we can achieve OUR own best shape and conditioning through hard and smart training, consistent clean eating the appropriate amounts of cardio activity. Some will and can achieve a physique better than mine and I will encourage them to do so. The beauty about body sculpting and bodybuilding is that we compete against ourselves with passion, focus and aggression and we compete against each other in a friendly competitive environment. We encourage each other but at the same time secretly try to outdo each other with respect and a sense of fun. This is the key to successful body transformation and longevity in the sport and in the art of health and fitness.
Let’s get down to business. What nutritional supplements do you use yourself, and what do you recommend to your personal training clients?
Walk us through everything you’ve eaten in the last 24 hours.
This is my competitive season diet, recorded 8 days out from the NPC Universe competition:
Breakfast 10 egg whites, 2 yolks scrambled in non-stick pan with nonfat olive oil or coconut oil spray 1 small sweet potato
Midmorning Whey Isolate shake (2 scoops) with spring water, 1 TBSP almond butter, 1/2 cup gluten free raw oatmeal and cinnamon all blended in a blender bottle
Lunch 10 ounces grilled chicken breast 1 medium sized boiled sweet potato
Midafternoon 10 ounces of wild cod fillet with 1/2 avocado and 12 ounces of steamed organic broccoli
Dinner 12 ounces of lean organic grilled sirloin with 12 ounces of steamed asparagus Final meal 8 egg whites 1 yolk scrambled
What 3 simple bits of advice would you give to somebody that’s looking to lose fat?
1. Get your cardio out of the way every morning after a coffee or green tea
2. Be consistent with your healthy, complete meal nutrition program for at least 12 weeks without deviation
3. Weight train intensely at least 4 days per week, 1 hour per day working every body part in a balanced fashion
Are there any training or dieting techniques that are widely accepted in the health & fitness industry that you’re strongly opposed to? 1. I think that basing your whole diet on juicing is stupid. 2. Skipping meals and fasting will slow your metabolism down and result in a soft body without tone and definition. 3. Eating too many salads with protein meals can result in your feeling so hungry later in the day that you’re likely to gorge on complex carbs at night, resulting in weight and fat gain over time. The reverse should be taking place. Complex carbs with protein during the day and salads and or veggies with protein from 5pm onwards.
How would you describe your personal training philosophy? Very unique and effective. I’m a body transformation expert. I use a lot of giant sets and supersets and vary the exercises constantly. I utilize exercises that work and don’t waste my client’s time or my time on exercises that don’t benefit them. My workouts are fast paced and designed to build muscle and burn fat at the same time. It’s the passion and attention to detail that I invest in my client’s workouts and the constant motivational talks that bring out the fire and determination in them that result in their progress and success.