Zach Even-Esh: Tales from The Underground

TAGS: underground strength, lifting, zach even-esh, Sports Training, strength, strength training, strength coach, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell, training

What’s going on with you these days?

I am busy as all heck, as always, and I am in the process of getting away from working so much and doing all of this full time. My current schedule looks like this:

7 AM: Wake up, shower, eat and wait for my daughter to wake up so I can spend as much of my morning with her as possible.

9 AM – 3:45 PM: Teaching at elementary school.

3:45 PM: Haul ass to the gym, have a protein shake or chicken soup, and try to get in a super-fast workout.

5 PM – 8 PM: Training athletes at Underground Strength Gym.

8 PM: Finish the remainder of my workout, then fly home to see my wife and daughter.

I eat dinner when my daughter goes to bed, spend time with my wife until she goes to bed, and then work on gym marketing, web sites and products until midnight.

Many people ask how I can do so much, and how I’ve been able to work so much for so long. One thing which has always driven me is emotion. I am emotionally charged to be a HUGE success - not just because I love to experience success, but because I know that operating a successful business will bring me to my primary goal of spending a lot of quality time with my family!

Mental toughness is huge here, as I am perfectly fine with knowing that I’ll have to walk around tired and exhausted to get the job done. On weekends I work minimally and spend pretty much every waking minute with my family. These are the times that remind me why I’m working so hard to build my business to the point of allowing me to live the lifestyle that I am missing out on now.

What’s New?

The latest venture for me has been the “official” opening of The Underground Strength Gym last June. Before this happened, I was operating out of my two-car garage and a few local parks and playgrounds.

The gym started off very slowly, with special emphasis on the word SLOWLY. I was extremely worried and felt that I’d have to conform to the laws of “popular demand” - and I mistakenly tried doing so. Once September rolled around, I put my foot down and decided to stop listening to everyone around me and go back to my original ways. This meant I would screen my clients and their parents, work hard on referrals and word of mouth and break all the “rules” of the typical gym. Whatever other gyms were doing, I was doing the opposite.

I now have almost forty athletes training at the gym and our success rate with our methods is extremely positive as always. We have many of the best wrestlers in the state here – athletes who began with us when they were not yet even qualifying for the regionals. We also have a few of the top wrestlers in the country - if not the best in the country - as they are preparing for D-1 wrestling.

Parents are calling me telling me they’re hearing that we are THE place to go for the training of wrestlers, and some are driving over an hour in each direction to get here.

Our main clientele are high school wrestlers and football players. As we get athletes from different surrounding schools, the gym is growing in popularity. We have other athletes as well, such as female and male swimmers – who, surprisingly, are mentally and physically tougher than I’d ever imagined - field hockey players, baseball players and adult combative athletes of all levels (beginner BJJ players and BJJ black belts, as well as high level BJJ and Judo players who compete internationally).

The biggest sense of accomplishment comes when I look back to where I started not too long ago: from my father’s garage, with the poorest conditions and methods you can imagine, to what I have grown the business into since then. This growth has been due to a handful of friends and family who have offered their help so selflessly and without them I would still be in struggle mode!

My internet business is taking off more now than ever, especially with my membership web site, My immediate plan is to offer a certification using my methods. After presenting at a few conferences, I’ve seen how easily applicable my methods are and how easy they are to understand. Most of all, they are extremely effective and people WANT to use and learn my information. The information offered nowadays is so complicated that it is causing many athletes to suffer. Oddly enough, many people gravitate toward complicated methods which often have very little use in the real world of training athletes.

My latest presentation was in North Carolina with one of my biggest mentors in this industry, Coach Ethan Reeve. All of our conversations and all the new things I have learned since that weekend have increasingly motivated me to keep improving and sharing my methods with others. I learned a boatload about coaching after speaking with Coach Reeve that weekend, and I’m motivated to put it all into practice.

My Current Training

I began getting very focused on powerlifting for a few months and began to make solid gains in strength - all except for my shitty bench press! I missed my roots though, which include utilizing a lot of strongman training and fast-paced workouts. I’m back to mixing the powerlifting methods with strongman training and moving at a faster pace.

I hate feeling out of shape, so the Prowler is now my winter training partner. I used to run 4 – 5 miles every other day in high school for wrestling, so why not hit the Prowler for 5 – 10 hard minutes every workout? Tire flipping and farmers walks are also becoming a normal part of my outdoor training regime, and I already feel better!

I have not trained in wrestling or BJJ for over a year now. Unfortunately, I simply don’t have the time. I truly miss wrestling and I believe this is why I always prefer fast-paced workouts, because they bring me back to the feeling of brutal wrestling workouts!

The hardest thing is keeping a clean diet with this schedule. It is not odd for me to eat eggs or oatmeal or both for breakfast, then not touch a true meal until 9:00 at night. My “meals” throughout the day end up being meal replacements and some fruit, and it truly helps one feel like shit. Any “free time” during the day ends up being spent working on my internet businesses.

That said, one thing I will ALWAYS do is walk the walk. I will continue to train hard and heavy and represent what I do in the real world. I will not hide behind a keyboard and talk or type about things I have not experienced myself. I am a role model for my clients. To be weak and fat will never allow me to command respect from my athletes. I would never respect myself for this either.

Most importantly, man is obligated to be strong and powerful. As a father, I feel more obligated than ever to be physically and mentally stronger than ever before.



Can you give readers a general idea of how to structure a kettlebell/bodyweight program for two consecutive days? I also have a sled with some chains and bands, so how could I utilize those, as well? Also, what DVD of yours would you suggest for kettlebell conditioning and bodyweight training?

Two days of training in a row is tough, but what we can do is split up your days into either:

Day 1: lower body
Day 2: upper body


Day 1: full body strength / power - low rep work
Day 2: complexes, lighter weight, higher reps

Or, what I would likely do for myself because I know what works best, is this:

Day 1: heavy KB work and heavy BW training
Day 2: sleds, bands and BW only, NO KB's

This is something you'll need to play with, because everyone responds differently to two days in a row with various stimuli.

Try this:

Day 1: KB's and Heavy BW

1) Turkish get-up 3 x 3 reps each side

2) double KB front squat - press combo 4 x 5 reps

3A) double KB bent over row 3 x 6 - 8 reps
3B) double KB high pulls 3 x 6 - 8 reps

4A) weighted pull ups 3 x 3 - 5 reps
4B) 1 arm KB floor press 3 x 5 reps each

Day 2: bands, sled, bw: max rounds in 15 minutes

1A) forward sled drag x 200 ft.

1B) 15 push-ups (change push-up variation every set)

1C) backwards sled drag x 200 ft

1D) 15 push-ups (change push-up variation every set)

1E) mixed grip pull-ups / recline rowing x max reps

1F) sled rows x 6 reps

1G) sled chest presses x 6 reps

** If you want, you can add some band work such as snap downs, face pulls, resisted running, etc. Basically, your second day will keep you away from extra loading and you will load yourself via the sled and your own BW.

But, like I said, these are just a few options. You really must test what works for you and see what you're feeling for your second day of training. This "feeling" can change daily / weekly, etc, so be prepared to adjust accordingly to optimize your training to the response your body will give in return.

Kettlebell product: Definitely Kettlebells for Combat.

For BW, I have nothing that is ONLY BW, but inside my Kit there is one manual that is very much focused on BW movements, especially partner BW movements.

If I wanted to try your style of training, starting from scratch with no materials, what do I need?


First use bodyweight, then barbells and dumbbells. People get confused and think all I use are odd objects. I started out this way because I had no money to buy equipment. Since this was my situation, I MADE equipment.

You need a heavy barbell set and a few dumbbells. After that, you can easily get yourself some free tractor tires, which are awesome for flipping and partner pushing drills.

Most people don’t know that when I finally quit going to traditional gyms, I had a setup in my Dad’s garage:

300 lb barbell set
gun rack
50 and 100 lb dumbbells
utility bench ( I placed a tool box under it for incline presses)


Nothing fancy, but damned good results!

How old – or “trained” – would you want a young athlete (beginning at 12 or so) to be before they start loading their jumps using medicine balls or with light Vertimax resistance? Also, what sort of rep ranges would you use?

At that age, I wouldn’t load the jumps, because it would alter their technique in a fashion not likely to improve performance. Stick with any variation of jumping to improve athleticism:

- jump rope

- box jumps

- jumps over benches - over 1 bench, or multiple benches

- jumps over various sized obstacles

- skipping for height

- jumping for height

Rep ranges would not go higher than 10, and would be as low as 3-5 for some types of jumps. This would depend on the intensity of the jumps, and how close they are to maximal exertion. I’m no expert in plyos, but I know that using moderate intensity jumps is great for developing power and work capacity.

What kind of sled workouts and rest intervals do you use with your beginner athletes?


The sled work I do for my young guys changes depending on whether we’re on grass or cement. It’s very basic – lots of forward dragging, some backward dragging, Prowler pushing (high and low), and if we’re on grass we’ll do bear crawls with the sled. The low prowler push comes close to the bear crawl.

With the young guys I probably do 75% or so forward dragging or pushing, with 25% backward drags. Depending on their physical preparation level, I may add some rowing and lateral drags, but for the most part we just drag away.

Don’t forget that you can also perform upper body work for young athletes – hand over hand pulls are a perfect example. We do this with a 20’ rope, or we attach a bunch of 10’ tow straps together to get 20’-30’ in length.

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