Episode #12: Words of Wisdom from Zach Even Esh – Secrets from ‘The Underground’

Episode #12: Words of Wisdom from Zach Even Esh – Secrets from ‘The Underground’

November 30, 2014

Episode #12: Words of Wisdom from Zach Even Esh – Secrets from ‘The Underground’

November 30, 2014

zach's underground strength gymZach Even esh is one of the most passionate coaches I have ever met.  This guy started out training his wrestlers in his back yard.  Their old school, hard core tactics have developed some of the toughest kids on the East Coast and continue to help thousands of people around the globe.  His systems consistently help average kids become tougher, stronger, more powerful.  If you guys are looking for an edge in 2014, you better give this a listen.

In this podcast, Zach shares some of his Underground Secrets that he uses to give his wrestlers the edge, both physically and mentally.  Incredible words of wisdom for wrestlers, jiu jitsu players, MMA fighters and other combat athletes.



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Want to learn more?

underground strengthDeluxe Underground Strength System – A TON of Killer info from Zach here…Discover how to combine sleds and kettlebells for insane gains in strength, work capacity, core strength and mental toughness! Discover how you can use sandbags and sleds for rugged full body strength endurance that never quits. If you really want a true test of strength, toughness and conditioning try combining any of the 15 sandbag and kettlebell combo drills! These are unreal! You have to see the 33 variations of partner bodyweight combative drills that can be done any where, any time and with no equipment at all! These are the very drills I use when training wrestling clubs with absolutely NO equipment! In detail, you will learn the essential program design methods for “No Rules” training.

Zach has helped thousands of people from all around the world to get stronger, bigger, faster and mentally tougher than they have ever experienced before using his no frills, no BS, uncomplicated, Underground Strength Methods. To read more from Zach, check out his blog here.


Full Transcription of Our Podcast with ZACH EVEN ESH


COREY:         Hey guys this is Corey Beasley with Fight Camp Conditioning and I’m on the phone with Zach Even Esh. Zach, how’re you doing bud?

ZACH:           Hey bro. I’m great and excited for round two here.

COREY:         Yeah, absolutely man we had a — you guys, just we had a great interview with Zach last year and just so you guys know Zach runs two gyms out there on the East Coast and he has kind of developed himself into a guy that’s building some absolute monsters on the East Coast. Zach, tell us a little about your gym.

ZACH:           Yeah, so we’ve got two locations now and I’m still kind of running them. I stay small as far as the size of the gyms and we attract a lot of high school, a lot of middle school, a lot of collegiate athletes. This new gym, just as I’ve gotten older and seeing not just the benefit, but actually the critical importance of just men being strong, I guess I’ve taken notice and I don’t want to kind of come off like a dick but I see men that they just don’t embrace hard work and being tough and being strong so I kind of took it upon myself to want to change that. So that’s one thing I added to the new location of the Underground Strength Gym but we’re still getting [incomprehensible].

We do a mix, like you, I don’t discriminate against training tools or methods that’s going to get people strong. So we do power lifting, we even utilize bodybuilding methods. We do a lot of odd objects, strongman, kettlebells. And the new gym is near a park. So a lot of times I’ll do the warm up at that playground, at that park where we’re doing, I mean, we’re wrestling on the grass, we’re doing all kinds of pull ups and hand walking across the monkey bar, sprints, buddy carries.


So I’m still with my training model of kind of blending that scientific training methods with some of the imperfect hellish training experiences because it builds them up mentally. So same system is going on at both gyms and it just means the world to me, man. I know a lot of people when they start getting success online, and they maybe have a gym, they let go the gym and they say, well, the gym I can only reach 100, 200 people; online, I can reach thousands, hundreds of thousands. But there’s a different connection that I have when I train these younger athletes and they’re transforming themselves, it’s super special to me. So that’s what I’m doing every day; I’m at one of the gyms in the afternoon and evening and then during the day, working on the online stuff and just having a blast doing it. It’s a lot of work but I’m having a great time.


COREY:         Yeah absolutely. I saw some of the pictures of the boys wrestling out in the front.

ZACH:           The video, yes.

COREY:         It’s cool man, it’s right in the grass, they’re getting dirty, right?

ZACH:           Two years ago it just kind of happened by accident, one of the kids that we were training — and if you’re in a group at the gym, usually it’s like 80% of them are wrestlers. And then you’ll have like some baseball players, football players, swimmers, track and field guys on the side, and this one kid wanted to — we warmed up on the front lawn next to our gym. And he’s like somebody wrestle me!He’s freaking out shouting and nobody would wrestle him. It took on five minutes for somebody to wrestle him, they were just scared. And that moment taught me that these kids are so comfortable when they have to wrestle on the mat with a referee in that perfect environment. And I needed them to kind of embrace their fear and learn to harness their fear and use it to their benefit.

So we started wrestling now a lot on the front lawn and it’s been extremely powerful for these kids because mentally, they’re just prepared for the unknown. You know, wrestling on the grass, it’s very different for kids or that are normally in this controlled environment and that’s something that teaches them life lessons. That’s a big part of what we do is, when we train,I always say we’re not just training for the “now”, for the immediate season coming upon you guys, I’m training you guys for life. I want these kids to have the life lessons that they could apply forever.


COREY:         Yeah absolutely. Well, I think there’s a lot to be said for that because I don’t know about you but when I was young, and just hanging out with my buddies in the summer and just running around and doing stuff, we were constantly doing just, hey bud I’ll race you to the corner or let’s see who can jump the furthest or who can climb that tree and it was just kind of like, it’s just having fun and just like that competitive stuff outdoors playing around with some buddies. But I think there’s a lot to be said for that like, see who can carry this thing the furthest?

ZACH:           Yeah, they have fun in a – they stop being scared of a challenge. You know what I’m saying? And listen, on the flip side, we hold a fundraiser every year, every year.  And it’s done with strongman implements. So it’s like tire flips, sled drags, farmer walk, log clean and press hand over hand sled pull with a 50 foot rope. And do you know it’s just we barely have a turnout from our own athletes. They come up with all these reasons why they can’t make it. And what happens in this life is that, as coaches, it’s upon us, it’s really our job to teach them to stop being scared of the unknown, because that has a negative carry over to life. So we teach these kids listen, you should be showing up to compete in these events that challenge you, because that’s only going to make you better for what you do. And there’s a lot of everybody kind of embracing the comfort. And I want them to embrace the unknown, to embrace their nervous energy and to harness that stuff.

So the stuff that you’re talking about, we’ve lost all that; we’ve lost a lot of that stuff with the way the world has evolved with all this technology and shit, and our training can’t be perfect. There’s all these scientific training programs out there. That’s critical. But if you’re training athletes, you’ve got to be careful of getting too caught up in the science, too caught up in the perfect workout. It works against you.


COREY:         Yeah, absolutely. I worked a lot with John Brookfield.

ZACH:           Yes.

COREY:         Brookfield is like — dude, he’s hilarious. I went to his house in North Carolina and he said, dude look, he goes, I understand the purpose of intervals and different things like that. But like talking about just putting a harness on, putting 400 or 500 pounds of chains on your back, dragging them and he goes, just go, I want you to do — I want you to walk for about 30 minutes straight. And he goes what typically happens when guys do intervals or too much super structured stuff, he goes, it teaches themselves to quit, right when things start to get hard.

ZACH:           Yeah, it’s huge.

COREY:         Life’s not like that. He goes, life is a long race and if you’re talking about like squeezing the last one 100th of a second out of a sprinter, oh okay, cool, I understand that you need to really fine tune that program to squeeze that last little 1%.

ZACH:           Agreed.

COREY:         But a lot of these high school kids and stuff like that, there are a lot of things that you can do to just pull them out of their comfort zone and teach them to be uncomfortable because I hear all these people talking about hey, you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable, but when it really comes down to it, their training program or their training regimens don’t teach them that stuff. I think you’re dead on then.


ZACH:           Yeah, I agree with you. So if you’re training a sprinter for the hundred meter, or let’s say you’re training swimmer should do the hundred meter, you need to dial them in, but you also need to get them tough. And that’s what Michael Phelps’ coach did a lot of things to kind of shake him up; when he would go and travel, he would like fuck up his flight tickets and make him get on a flight late or he would miss his flight or he would put like a hole in his goggles so while he’s practicing, he got water in his goggles. So he was preparing him for all these unknown variables that would emotionally shake him up. And what it did was, it made him tougher; granted, he did stupid stuff afterwards.

But listen, the guy just won 16, 17 gold medals. It was just pretty damn amazing what he is able to do. And it’s just so important that these kids are prepared. And also the adults, because the adults forget that too. So for the adults listening, it’s something that they need to do also and they can do it by — it doesn’t have to be crazy, go sign up for a local obstacle race, or once a week instead of going to the gym, go put a back pack on and go walk through the trails, go to the local state park and go out there and kind of lose yourself. That stuff develops you as a person which is equally and sometimes more important than your muscles.


COREY:         Absolutely, absolutely. Hey, Zach, I know you got a lot of crazy stuff that you guys do at your gym and I’m with you, like hike stuff, different challenges, hey, let’s see if we can go do this and just getting outside your comfort zone and trying new things, I think that’s huge. What are some of the other challenges like for example, I know you got a lot of middle school kids, you got high school kids, collegiate kids, and now you got a ton of adults that are coming into your places. When you are kind of throwing some of those challenges out to the guys, how do you determine challenges for a young kid because obviously like a middle school kid should be doing different things than an adult, versus a wrestler who’s a beast.

ZACH:           Right. So these younger kids, the middle school kids — our training is, what we would think is not that hard but can actually be pretty challenging for them, could be pretty hard for them. The middle school kids, the intensity is actually quite low, the weights are very light, almost to a point where essentially they’re just playing. You don’t want them struggling or straining through the technique there. They’re not ready to grind out reps like an advanced lifter or power lifter. So that’s something to be really careful about, and to basically do age appropriate lifting with these younger ones.


From sixth grade to seventh grade, there is a slight bump in their intensity. From seventh to eighth grade, there’s another slight bump. And when they get into high school, we start taking those things more seriously but it’s still age appropriate. So our intensity could be raised for middle school athletes, simply by doing things like they could do sleds plus farmer walks or they could do sled drags plus medicine ball, like a 20 pound medicine ball clean and throw. They could carry very light kegs, empty kegs, which are only going to be 30, 40 pounds. But that gets their confidence up really really high.

When they get ready, physically ready and emotionally ready, so everything we do is safe. That’s number one, it’s got to be safe. The technique I’m a stickler with. When I tell you go do some crazy workouts, you still need to keep your technique in check. Don’t let technique slide because you want to — if you’re going to be intense, you still need your technique to be on point. But our kids once they get to high school, we might send them as a partner and they’ll have to do a partner kettlebell farmer walk or a partner keg or sandbag carry, that’s about quarter mile.

So you go as long as you can or almost as long as you can, then you trade it off with your partner, or we might send 10 people out with three or four different implements and we say that the implements can never touch the ground and it’s a quarter mile. So maybe there’s one set of kettlebell, one keg and two sandbags or a sandbag and 100 pounds D ball. So they’ll go and carry those things. But you’ll be amazed that it doesn’t have to be so crazy to actually shock people. If somebody hasn’t sprinted before you take them outside of the gym, walk to the park where we’ll go. We’ll do things like you’re going to sprint all the way up to the swing sets, get to the swing sets, want you to bang out five pull ups, you need to do five clap and push ups. Then you’re going to do a buddy carry all the way back to the start line. And then they start getting tired and then we make them do wrestling drills. And even if they’re not wrestlers, we might do like those old school World’s Strongest Man, like those Sumo drills where you have to push and shove the guy and kind of hand fighting and [incomprehensible].

You take them outside of their comfort zone and you make them use their body, training like an animal or use their body against one another, pushing and shoving. And Coach Reedtold me that a long time ago, he’s like, I would take the football players out to the football field and I would teach them hand fighting, like wrestlers. So they learned to be combative. I would teach them gymnastics, they would do forward rolls out on the grass. And I do that stuff too. He really influenced me and opened my mind up to not get so caught up in doing these perfect workouts, so to speak.


COREY:         Yeah absolutely. So over the years Zach, you’ve been doing this for a little while, how long have you been coaching for?

ZACH:           I started actually my first training job I think I was still 19 or I was like just shy of being 20 years old. And I started working in a fitness center that was part of the hospital. So I would go there after college, afternoon and evening, and I wound up training a lot of the hospital employees. And then I would start training some of those adults and then they started bringing their kids in. And it was just a general membership kind of place. There was like treadmill, stairmasters, there was a free weight area, there was an old school Nautilus machine, and I started training some of their kids.

And I remember, this is 4/95 and I remember training some of the kids and teaching a kid how to deadlift, how to do barbell rows. We would do pull ups and push ups and I essentially, still did a lot of couplets. So they would do something like they would do pull ups and bench press for five rounds non stop. They would do something like dead lifting plus dumbbell bench for five rounds non stop. And I remember always looking in Arnold’s Encyclopediaand there was all that2% training he called it, and the athletes I trained there, this is ‘95 and I was a teenager, I was only a couple years older than they were. They got strong and they started becoming very successful.

So that was kind of my introduction into this training [incomprehensible]. But once I really got into the training of athletes was around 2002 when I had my ACL repaired and I started training a couple kids out of my parent’s garage, their backyard, the local playground, and just using the stones in the backyard. We’d go to the local playground, we’d go up the street. There was the water towers and the woods and I would have them sprint up the road that led up to the water towers, which was probably 250 meter. They’d run through the woods run, through the trails, come back down and I made them do calisthenics. So I really started getting into it in ’02, truly being what I would consider a strength coach. And from there, it just kept evolving and it keeps evolving today; very, very important to continuously evolve.


COREY:         I know you spend a lot of time developing programs, actually implementing those programs in your gym, as well as you write a lot of articles and I know you’re just finishing up a new book as well. And I know teaching when you got to do this stuff yourself, versus teaching it to someone else really forces you to kind of refine your techniques and go through your thought processes and refine down your whole program, right?

ZACH:           Yeah, when you write an e book, it’s like one thing. You always know you’ve kind of got that you could just change the PDF and update your training program, update your training philosophy. But some of my friends that are also strength coaches that have written books, they were like dude, we would go out to eat and we’d have these conversations and they would always be so blown away by the way, I would tell them how I train athletes, how I take these kids that weigh 88 pounds, and then they become 130 pounds. And they were like, this has to be in a book. They were like, put it on paper.

And I was like, man, that’s a lot of shit, there’s a lot of stuff running through my head to put on paper. I don’t know if I feel like doing that. And it just got to a point where I was like, you know what? There have been books that have changed my life and near and dear to me is this younger generation. So I said, I need to put together a book that’s going to change this younger generation because the younger generation, they’re not strong. They don’t know how to get strong. They’re stuck with gazillion websites now, it’s just ultra confusing. And all the questions I would get through email kind of bothered me. Because they wanted to know oh what’s going to get me being a quarterback hard. How can I get faster as a running back? What program should I follow?

And I just wanted to have something that made them aggressive thinkers, aggressive people in general. I felt like the information they were getting was from the guys on YouTube that may not know how to work out but they rip, they kind of just genetically rip dudes that look good and train inside like a retro fitness. And that stuff might have a slight improvement for an athlete or an adult, but true training programs got to build the body, the mind, it has to blend all that stuff together.


So that motivated me to do something great. And I thought about what book inspired me truly the most. And the two books that when I was younger that inspired me the most was “Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding”and “The Education of a Bodybuilder”. And when I was a sophomore, I went to the school library, so this is like 1990 and ‘9; and I remember I took out Arnold’s Education of a Bodybuilder, the book. And I remember I was so blown away by his stories of inspiration, of overcoming living in Austria where they were like, dude, just go to the army, just be a police officer. He was in his mind, he wanted to be great and he tells us stories about, it’s good to think big, it’s good to want to be great. And he talks about breaking the rules, escaping from the army base to go and compete in his first bodybuilding contest. He talks about breaking the rules and training and how him and his buddy would go out to the woods with 250 pounds of weights and just squat for 50 sets till they couldn’t walk anymore.


To me, that stuff inspired me on not just the training level, but on a life level. And I wanted to have that same impact on kids. So that’s what kind of set me out to take the training system that we use at the gym, as well as to share really my life lessons in overcoming obstacles, overcoming a lot of stuff.

When I was in high school, I was kind of in and out of depression. I made a lot of mistakes as far as lifting goes and what it would take to succeed as an athlete. I made so many mistakes and I had all these regrets, and I didn’t want to hold the regrets. I wanted to share how other people could avoid them. So I came up with this book titled, “The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning”. And it’s an inspirational book. It’s a motivational book. It’s an instructional book. It’s a system, it’s got case studies, it’s got stories that are going to make you laugh, stories that are going to make you cry; stories that are going to just fire you up to want to go and like smash the weight. And it’s a book for teenagers and it’s a book for adults.

So I just kept writing and writing and I literally tored the ideas and the stories that have been in my brain and all the methods out on the paper. And man, it took a frickin long ass time. I went way beyond the publisher’s deadline, I’ll tell you that. But it came out and I just can’t wait to share it with the world because I want to inspire people.

I think training programs have to inspire you and that’s what will keep you in the game with longevity. If you’re not inspired as to why you’re training, you’ll just kind of be in and out of workout. So you’ll always be looking for the next workout, the next workout and to me that’s not a good thing. You want to always embrace strength of life through lifting. And training has changed the lives of countless people so that’s what this book is about. It’s to change people’s lives and inspire them.


COREY:         It’s awesome man. I mean, honestly dude, you’re probably one of the most passionate coaches in this – I see you day in day out posting online and stuff like that with your kids and having fun and working hard and just sharing your thoughts with people and they know you got 20 years experience that I’m sure is poured into that book. The stories and exercises andtraining programs and all kinds of stuff is going to be pretty valuable for all the people listening for sure.

ZACH:           Yeah, I have no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be that book. I look at my library here in my office and those books and I’m like, man, I will never let somebody borrow this book. Like, you don’t want to get rid of it, it will be on your bookshelf, you’ll always come back to it, to read, to be inspired and you’ll pass it on to your own kids. It’s that kind of book. And I think we should all read those kinds of books; training books, life books, and that’s why I’m a big reader. To me, it is like, as Will Smithsays; all powerful men read and run. And I just said like, all powerful men they read and they also take their fitness very seriously.

COREY:         Yeah. Dude, it sounds killer. Guys, when we get this interview up on a website up there, look below, I’ll be sure to put links and stuff like that so you guys can get access to this book. Zack, dude, congratulations. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. And I’m sure everybody’s going to absolutely love your book and be sure to follow you online and stuff like that. I’ll put all the links and stuff like that below.

ZACH:           Awesome.

COREY:         Yeah, thanks again, brother. I appreciate your time. Hope, an awesome weekend and we’ll talk to you soon bud.

ZACH:           Great, thanks everybody for listening. Talk to you guys soon.