On November 30th I will finally open my own gym—Daman’s Strength Training. This has been a dream of mine ever since I walked into my first gym when I was 12-years-old. I walked down to the gym every day after school with a few friends. Those friends eventually lost the desire to train. But for me, one thing remained—I wanted to get “buff” and lift heavy weights. The music was loud, the people were lifting heavy weights, and everyone had a purpose. This was my type of environment. After several years and multiple owners, my first gym closed and the smaller, intense gyms were replaced by the huge fitness clubs. When this happened, my dream was sidetracked, but it never died.

Consequently, I still lifted and trained through high school and college. My workouts evolved from what I learned in the football weight room and powerlifting to what I read in bodybuilding magazines. I had no idea how to eat properly, warm up properly, or train like I should be training. My workouts were monotonous and extremely boring. Monday was chest and shoulders, Tuesday was legs (maybe), Wednesday was back and biceps, Thursday was back to Monday’s routine, and Friday was maybe legs and arms. I’m sure you get my point.

Ironically, as much as I loved to train, I also hated it as well. I was getting zero results and still wasted a ton of time and money learning the hard way. I graduated college in 2004 and went back to my hometown of Rochester, Pennsylvania, to help coach high school football for the Rochester Rams. I helped with the off-season training in the weight room.

In early 2005, I discovered that I had an umbilical hernia. I had to get surgery and couldn’t train for almost three months. During this time, I read about nutrition and training daily and decided to put some of the information I had read to use. My body began to change with just a few changes in my diet.

Then in early 2006, I developed tendonitis in my right elbow. Physical therapy, rest, and a cortisone shot did nothing for my elbow. So I had to get surgery again. I was out another three months. Through it all, I realized that the improper training I did throughout the years cost me in the end. But it also helped me gain the knowledge I have today. I knew I loved to train and didn’t want to stop. I knew that I had to make a change. I bought endless amounts of books on training athletes and strength training as well as on how to properly warm up. I searched the internet and came across Joe DeFranco and then Zach Even-Esh.

I started to follow both Zach and Joe. Training isn’t something I just decided to do a year ago. I’ve been training and reading since the age of 12. I was just doing and reading all of the wrong information. I wanted to go back to school and get a degree in exercise science. I looked into the education and decided that it wasn’t in my best interest. I felt as if I couldn’t learn what I needed to learn by going that route.

Therefore, I discovered what I needed to learn in what I like to call “the real life trenches.” The real life trenches for me was going to Joe and Zach’s seminars, training with like minded people, and reading the correct books. After training my athletes for a few years using Zach and Joe’s training systems, their results went through the roof. A huge advantage that had helped many of my athletes get better is that they believe in what they are doing. They see me do the same workouts, and they respect that aspect of our training. Who wants a coach yelling in his ear to do something correctly when the coach can’t or won’t do it correctly himself? As a coach, I believe that you have to walk the walk as well!

I wanted to learn from both Zach and Joe so I decided to finally fly to Edison, New Jersey, in early May 2009 for the Lost Secrets of Strength Training Seminar II. This trip was the start of something big for me. Being at this seminar increased my training knowledge ten-fold. What I learned that day I couldn’t have learned earning a four-year degree. I flew back home, went back to training, and implemented some of the training that I had learned. I cleaned up some of the lifts that the athletes were doing. Things were going well.

Then in early June, Zach sent me an email about a small business seminar that he thought I should attend. I looked into it and flew out for Operation Thunder. There were five other coaches there just like me. This seminar helped me understand how to build my foundation for my business. It taught me how to connect with the right people. Zach also talked about making your gym a club. Your gym should be an intense place to train. He mentioned that no one should dictate how your gym will be run except for you. The athletes who want to train have to be serious and willing to sacrifice to conquer their goals.

All of the things Zach was saying are how I was running the weight room back home. I only wanted guys who wanted to work, be on time, and train with the purpose of becoming a better athlete. If they couldn’t follow these guidelines, the weight room wasn’t an option for them. The environment that the players created was intense. These guys were competing every day, and it’s showing this football season.

When I left the Underground Gym that day, I told Zach that I would see him after the football season. Two weeks later, I was driving back to Edison, New Jersey, to become one of Zach’s Underground licensed strength coaches. I basically spent my whole summer at the Underground. I spent two days at the gym training and talking business with Zach and three other coaches. The knowledge that went through the gym was amazing. Traveling to Zach’s gym in early May brought back my dream of opening my own gym. When I walked into the gym, I knew that this was for me and that I wanted to have the same type of gym. I was doing a lot of similar training back in Rochester, but once I came to Edison, I was confident in myself that I could open and run my own warehouse gym.

This is when I started looking for my own garage gym. Zach has guided me through this process by answering all of my questions and putting me in the right direction. I looked around for a month and came across a garage in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Monaca is across the river from Rochester and the two towns hold one of the greatest high school football rivalries. Each year, the two football teams play for the naming rights of the bridge that separates the two towns. If Rochester wins, the bridge is called the Rochester-Monaca Bridge. If Monaca wins, the bridge is called the Monaca-Rochester Bridge. This will be the last year for the rivalry that started in 1913. Monaca will be merging at the end of this school year.

The garage that I found was perfect. It’s 800-square feet and has a parking lot in the front for Prowler sprints and sled drags. I knew that I needed to find some more equipment. Over the past five years, I’ve collected a ton of equipment for our football team. I have some chains, tires, medicine balls, bands, sleds, and Prowlers. I came across a hidden treasure at a gym in Pittsburgh while I was training. One day, we were cleaning up, and I entered a storage closet with about 2,500 lbs in plates and Ivanko dumbbells that ran from 30–100 lbs. I picked those up a week later and began to look online for some lighter hex dumbbells, which I purchased a month later. The tough part is finding floor matting for your gym at a cheap price. With local gyms closing, I made some phone calls and got in touch with a local gymnastics club. The owner had some 0.25-inch mats that were 4 X 6 foot. These were perfect for my place and in great shape.

Things were starting to come together. Zach guided me toward choosing the right company for club insurance. Opening a gym is a process, and it takes some time and effort. If your heart isn’t in it, you should think twice about it. It isn’t an easy process and takes work on a daily basis. A good friend of mine who is a tattoo artist designed my logo for the gym. I also just purchased my sign for the front of my building from a friend who owns and operates a sign company. So I have a few minor details to finish and then I move in on November 30th.

When opening a gym you have to have support from everyone around you. I have a ton of support from my family as well as from my fiancé. You have to have people who believe you can do it, and try to block out the ones who are second guessing you. I’ve had so much help from Zach Even-Esh and plan on continuing to travel to the Underground Gym to keep increasing my knowledge. The moral of my story is that a trip to Edison, New Jersey, in May 2009 refueled my dream of owning my own hardcore garage gym.

Top five keys to success

  1. Find ways to continue learning through “the real life trenches.”
  2. Take chances (trial and error).
  3. Become a mentor to your athletes (let them know that you truly care).
  4. It’s not what you want as a coach but what they need as athletes.
  5. You must have passion in what you’re doing.


Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.