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Interview with Author and Guinness World Record Holder Jon Bruney

Recently, Jon Bruney—author of Neuro-Mass: The Ultimate System for Spectacular Strength—and his wife Amy set a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive rope skips on a bed of nails over another person.

Dragon Door: How did you decide to try for a Guinness World Record?

Jon Bruney: We have always done what I call "world record stunts". It started quite a few years ago with the one mile truck and trailer pull. Since then, I've performed the truck pull three times. We've always been passionate about extreme challenges that nobody else would try—but we try to choose feats that are relatable. Everyone knows what a nail is and understands what they feel like, plus absorbing impact can be seen and almost felt by an audience. Absorbing impact also translates well at my speaking events when I talk about standing up to pressures of all kinds. Life gives impacts to all of us, but we can learn how to handle them.

Dragon Door: Where did the feat of skipping rope on a bed of nails over you come from?

Jon Bruney: Years ago, my friend John Brookfield first suggested that Amy try to jump rope on top of me. And I used to lay on a bed of nails and have her walk on me. But then I thought, why not just do something extreme that nobody has ever done before. You can set an apple on a bed of nails and nothing will happen, but if you drop the apple from just a 6 inch height, the nails will skewer it—that's where the line is drawn. During the stunt, when Amy jumps it's just at that threshold. Sometimes it draws blood, sometimes it doesn't—it's borderline crazy!

Dragon Door: How did Amy react when you first described the feat to her?

Jon Bruney: She was a little nervous the very first time. A few shows ago, while we were performing the feat, the loud music we play during that part of the show faded out. For the first time, Amy could hear all the sounds I was making with the isometric contractions to absorb the hits—and it freaked her out! So for the Guinness World Record attempt, I said, "No matter what you hear—or hear snap—do not stop jumping, no matter what!" Because if she were to trip or anything, then it's over.

Dragon Door: Jumping rope on an unstable platform is already difficult. There seems to be a serious mental component for both participants. What was your strategy or training for the psychological elements of this feat?

Jon Bruney: First, jumping rope on a bed of nails on someone is a feat in itself. It's hard to understand, but the jumper will feel like they are trying to skip rope on sand—but worse. When you jump rope on concrete, your body is able to bounce off of it and use some momentum. But when Amy is jumping rope on me, I am actually sucking the impact out—so while she's jumping, she's getting no upward momentum.

As for the psychological aspect, I just have to sit back and just realize that it will hurt, but I will be able to take it. I also can't think about anything going wrong. Because if she fell or something else happened, it would really be disastrous to me underneath. So I just have to block that out, embrace it and enjoy the moment. The endorphins do kick in after a while which helps too! You just have to embrace the pain, and I think that goes along with all training. When you are doing high rep kettlebell snatches or swings, at some point you just have to get comfortable with pain.

Dragon Door: The final count was 117 jumps, how many were needed to set the world record?

Jon Bruney: We had to break at least 70 for the record.

Dragon Door: How long have you been coming up with feats as a performing strongman and public speaker?

Jon Bruney: I have been traveling and performing for about 10 years. But, I've always lifted, and strength training has always been a part of my life. Taking it to extremes was something I started later. I really wanted to push the envelope of what the body can do, so I connected with John Brookfield who mentored me and really encouraged me to go to the extreme. He always encouraged me to go past the breaking point to see what happens.

Dragon Door:
When did you first experience the feeling of going past the breaking point?

Jon Bruney: I think it was during the training for my very first truck pull—which was quite a few years ago. That's when I noticed that I had started to go way beyond what anyone should really be doing. I can remember barely being able to get out of bed after some of the training sessions for the truck pull. I was doing crazy workouts with heavy high rep squats, followed by tons and tons of snatches with a 70lb kettlebell. I was doing the old school style snatches that I call swing-snatches. After the back to back snatches, I would go on walks with a weight vest and all kinds of extra weights. Next I would sprint, then when I was totally exhausted, I'd pull a sled. But I really love intense training and kind of got addicted to it after a while.

Dragon Door: What's your advice for someone interested in working towards performing world record feats?

Jon Bruney: First, you need to have a goal in mind. The goal will help you build the right training program. My big rule of thumb is that general goals will lead to general training, but a specific goal will help you line up specific, dialed in training to become extraordinary. If you want to be generally physically fit or prepared, that's general training. But with a specific goal, you'll dial in every part of your program—you'll know exactly what it will take to achieve that goal. Even if you learn along the way, the progress will be driven by what needs to happen to reach the specific goal.

Dragon Door: How did you prepare for this Guinness World Record attempt?

Jon Bruney: Kettlebells had a HUGE part in my training because they really teach the body how to absorb impact like nothing else. There's something about the plyometric acceleration and deceleration especially. I did a lot of really heavy swings as well as double kettlebell swings, and double kettlebell swings outside the legs. We dropped some light kettlebells on my stomach and I also did a lot of training with the kung fu beating bags.

I created a separate program for Amy, and she did a lot of jumping rope on a Bosu ball because of its instability. Jumping rope on top of a Bosu ball is not something I'd recommend, it's easy to twist an ankle or fall, but it was the best choice for us to simulate the unstable conditions of the feat. But even the Bosu ball couldn't simulate the way I was having to absorb the impact under the bed of nails. Amy also did a ton of kettlebell swings every week, she loves to hate the kettlebell swing. Even though she's small, she regularly works with 50lb and 70lb kettlebells.

When we perform the feat and Amy is in the air, I make a deep isometric contraction, tightening up every muscle in my body—and it has to happen very quickly. As soon as I feel the impact of her landing, I let the contraction go then immediately tighten back up again. While many people practice isometrics while standing up or lying down, I find that resisting against the Neuro-Rack in different positions helped me to develop those very intense deep contractions. In Neuro-Mass, I only show a few different positions with the Neuro-Rack, but there's actually many more crazy variations.

Dragon Door: What's your next goal?

Jon Bruney: Here's what's on the horizon—since the Neuro-Mass book was launched, I've lost about 15lbs and have been working on some tremendous new routines with the Neuro-Burner. For some of the feats that I perform, I have to carry some extra body weight, but now I am working on a program with the Neuro-Burner that's focused on losing body fat while keeping muscle mass. I want to show that it can be done. While I've always been working with the Neuro-Burner, right now I am really dialing it in. I am also working on a crazy new top secret project, and am already working towards setting some new world records.

Dragon Door: My clients and I have been enjoying the Neuro-Mass workouts, can you explain their synergistic effect?

Jon Bruney: Over the years I've known many people who've trained using just isometrics, strength training, or who just did endurance training. When I was training contestants on a cable body transformation program, I learned that the people struggling to lose weight had actually been exercising, but had only been exhausting one system—usually all cardio or low/no impact.

Several years back, I remember sitting down with Mike Gillette and saying, "I wonder why no one has combined grinds, dynamic power drills, and isometrics into just almost every workout?" At first, it looked a little different than what's in Neuro-Mass, but I started to incorporate all three and the results just started to bounce of the page—especially for athletes. For example, a football player has to be able to take a hit, then push (a slow isometric grind), then immediately break, tackle, release then sprint towards another impact or plyometric move. Basically the pattern is grind-go-grind-go.

Many people want to know the exact science behind it, but I have been testing it on real athletes who are getting real results. While I would love to have the money to do a scientific study, I've found that the best athletes in the world are naturally able to flawlessly transition from grinds, to dynamic movement, to an isometric. Now we're using this world class athletic pattern in our training.

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