Working Class Man: Marc Megna Workout

There are a million reasons why Muscletech performance coach Marc Megna shouldn't be living his dreams. But they're not stopping him.

Megna’s grandfather took him under his wing and taught Megna the basic lifts.
"Megna’s grandfather took him under his wing and taught Megna the basic lifts."

Forget that he's got the kind of body you'd sell a kidney for or that he played pro football with Tom Brady and Willie McGinest. Never mind that he now preps future NFL greats for the combine and models for one of the world's top supplement companies. You wouldn't fault him for any of it. Megna is your kind of guy for two reasons: he worked his ass off for all of it, and he doesn't think it makes him any better than you.

"People look at me and say, 'He's an in-shape, good-looking guy,'" says Megna, who's 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 215 pounds. "But I don't think that way about myself. I still have low confidence." Growing up in the blue-collar town of Fall River, Mass., Megna was overweight, dyslexic, and a target for bullies. He was raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs, and he knew he wouldn't go to college without financial assistance.

Athletics were not only an outlet for his frustrations, but also, he imagined, a way to build a better life.

"I thought that through sports I could get a little respect," Megna says, though he was anything but a natural athlete. In fact, even his Little League coach told him: "Sports aren't for you."

At age 12, Megna discovered the gym. His grandfather was an avid lifter who trained Everett Sinderhoff, a bodybuilding sensation in the 1940s. He took Megna under his wing and taught him the basic lifts.

"I told my mom all I wanted for my birthday was a membership to the gym, and I went every single day," he says.

"I told myself that I would use every ounce of energy in my body to change my circumstances." Megna's discipline never wavered.

"I wanted to take care of myself and the house and be an organized person," he said. "Every single thing I did, I wanted to do it right—no shortcuts. At some point, my athletic ability started to catch up with my work ethic." Megna played inside and outside linebacker on his high school football team, and although he was repeatedly told by coaches and friends alike that he didn't have the genetics to play college ball, he had a penchant for outworking his teammates.

Megna made every sacrifice. "I have a difficult time learning and staying focused," he says. "But I went to school and practices early, stayed late, and eventually got a full scholarship to the University of Richmond—and no one in my family has ever gone to college."

However, nothing got easier. At 218 pounds, Megna was undersized for Division I football, and his coaches wanted him to be a defensive lineman. He took his fair share of beatings playing against guys who weighed more than 300 pounds, but he trained and ate voraciously to keep up.

Megna stood on the cusp of his dream.

"I'd eat two Belgian waffles and six bagels for breakfast," Megna says of his force-feeding sessions. By his senior year, he weighed 255 and was still "flying around" the field making tackles. His bench press got up to 450 pounds and his squat to 650.

Megna stood on the cusp of his dream. The Jets took him in the sixth round of the '99 draft but released him after training camp. He was picked up by the New England Patriots, then bounced to the Cincinnati Bengals, then back to the Pats under Bill Belichick.

Though his time on the field was mostly special-teams play in a handful of regular season games, Megna can boast that he played for his hometown team alongside athletes whose posters he had on his wall as a kid. "I remember sitting in the locker room, staring at my jersey, and being in awe of it all."

In 2001, Megna went on to play three years in the Canadian Football League, where he became an all-star and won the Grey Cup (the CFL's equivalent to the Super Bowl) with the Montreal Alouettes. Already banged up from years of collisions, Megna saw his career end during a pass rush when a lineman jumped on his shoulder, causing Megna to tear three discs in his back. "I couldn't walk and was in pain for months," he says. It was four years before Megna could squat again, but he battled back to health.

Still, nothing makes Megna, now 35, happier than knowing he has achieved everything he's wanted through hard work. <

"When people play for years," Megna says, "they don't really go on to be insurance salesmen afterward. What else can you do but coach or be an analyst? When you get a taste of it, and then no longer get it, it's hard." But Megna remained optimistic. He was 29 and still had the chance to start a second career. "I thought, 'I'd rather be moving than sitting. I enjoy running, lifting, and being around positive people who do what they do with passion.' So I thought I'd like to help people as a coach."

He studied exercise science and took a job with Bommarito Performance Systems, a strength and conditioning company in Aventura, Florida that specializes in preparing players for the NFL combine. Megna has since had the chance to work with superstars such as Wes Welker and Maurice Jones-Drew, as well as the general population.

"When he was [at Richmond]," says DeMayo, "Marc was only an athlete. But he challenged the coaches to learn more. He brought information about what it's like to be an athlete. Now that he's a coach, he's already lived it, so he'll find better ways to do things for athletes." On top of his experience and love of learning, Megna possesses another essential coaching attribute that can't be taught: compassion. "He's the nicest guy I've met in my life," DeMayo says. "Talking to him is like talking to a big brother. He genuinely cares."

In 2009, leading supplement manufacturer MuscleTech contacted Megna. Needing an athletic model to showcase their products, they found Megna through photos on Facebook. He's now a MuscleTech-sponsored performance coach featured in numerous ads.

Still, nothing makes Megna, now 35, happier than knowing he has achieved everything he's wanted through hard work. He's quick to shrug off compliments and hype, a symptom of the humble upbringing he can't outgrow. "You look at what he's accomplished and gone through, and you'd think there's room for an ego," DeMayo says, "but he has none. Our industry needs more people like Marc."

Train For The Game

Prep yourself for pick-up football this spring with Marc Megna's preseason plan. Marc Megna trains football players to peak when NFL contracts are on the line, so he's pretty sure he can whip you into shape to handle a touch game with your buddies.

In the spirit of the NFL combine next month, Megna offers this 12-week workout program for regular guys who want to play like the pros. Week 1 appears below. Go to muscleandfitness.com to see the entire plan.

DIRECTIONS

Split: Perform each workout (Day 1, 2, 3, and 4) once per week, resting at least a day between each session.

HOW TO DO IT

Perform the paired exercises (marked "A" and "B") as alternating sets. You'll do one set of A, rest, then one set of B, rest, and repeat until all sets are complete. Perform the remaining exercises as straight sets.

For the speed exercises, use 55% of your max and move the weight as explosively as you can.

Day 1
  • Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip 1. Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
    5 sets of 3 reps
  • Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows 2A. Seated Cable Rows
    4 sets of 10 reps
  • Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press 2B. Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
    4 sets of 10 reps
  • Reverse Grip Bent-Over Rows Reverse Grip Bent-Over Rows 3A. Reverse Grip Bent-Over Rows
    3 sets of 10 reps
  • Standing Dumbbell Triceps Extension Standing Dumbbell Triceps Extension 3B. Standing Dumbbell Triceps Extension
    3 sets of 12 reps
Day 2
  • Speed Squats Speed Squats 1. Speed Squats
    10 sets of 2 reps
  • Good Morning Good Morning 2A. Good Morning
    4 sets of 8 reps
  • Glute Ham Raise Glute Ham Raise 2B. Glute Ham Raise
    3 sets of 5 reps
  • Hyperextensions (Back Extensions) Hyperextensions (Back Extensions) 3A. Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
    4 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated Leg Curl Seated Leg Curl 3B. Seated Leg Curl
    4 sets of 10 reps
Perform each rep slowly.
    Day 3
    • Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip 1. Speed Barbell Bench Press
      10 sets of 3 reps
    • Back Flyes - With Bands Back Flyes - With Bands 2A. Back Flyes - With Bands
      4 sets of 15 reps
    • Smith Machine Incline Bench Press Smith Machine Incline Bench Press 2B. Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
      4 sets of 10 reps
    • Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension 3A. Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension
      4 sets of 10 reps
    • One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row 3B. One-Arm Dumbbell Row
      4 sets of 10 reps
    Day 4
    • Dumbbell Step Ups Dumbbell Step Ups 1A. Dumbbell Step Ups
      4 sets of 6 reps
    • Pull Through Pull Through 1B. Pull Through
      4 sets of 8 reps
    • Romanian Deadlift Romanian Deadlift 2A. Romanian Deadlift (with dumbbells)
      3 sets of 8 reps
    • Barbell Glute Bridge Barbell Glute Bridge 2B. Single-Leg Barbell Glute Bridge
      3 sets of 8 reps