Episode #3: Underground Strength and Conditioning: Interview with Zach Even Esh

Zach Even Esh is the owner of The Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey.

Needless to say, this guy is one of the passionate and enthusiastic coaches I have ever met.

He runs two killer gyms, has developed multiple DVDs, Online Resources and just released his new book, The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning

In the interview below, we discuss his approach to strength training, working with young athletes, and the release of his new book.  Killer info for any athlete, coach or martial arts enthusiast.


Download the Full Interview: Zach Even Esh: Underground Strength and Conditioning

In this interview, we discuss:

  • Training men to be men
  • Conquering obstacles
  • Working outside the comfort zone
  • Challenges for different age groups
  • Building up the younger generation
  • Becoming mentally and physically strong
  • His NEW Book
  • and so much more

Check out Zach’s new book here:

The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning, Zach Even-Esh
How to get stronger and tougher- In the gym and in life – Using the training secrets of the Athletic Elite


Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Zach Even-Esh

Interviewer:   Corey Beasley

Interviewee/Guest:   Zach Even Esh



COREY:         Hey guys, this is Corey Beasley from fightcampconditioning.com and we are on the phone with Zach Even Eshfrom The Underground Strength Gym. Zach, how’re you doing bud?

ZACH:           Cool, man. Thanks for having me Corey. I’m pumped.

COREY:         Absolutely dude. Thanks for taking the time. So Zach, give us an idea of kind of who you are and where you’re at kind of what you’re doing these days outon the east coast?

ZACH:           Yeah, so I’m out here in New Jersey and I started wrestling back in high school. That was 1989 when I got into high school. It was my brother got me involved with wrestling. I had never wrestled before and I had just started getting into working out and really bodybuilding was the only information out there. So I was doing some working out, some bodybuilding, lifting, using the solo-flex. So for anybody that’s in their late 30s, they remember that shit. And I got into wrestling and to make a long story short, I worked extremely hard with the training and the preparation for wrestling but physically I just never matched up even though I looked more physical and I looked the part, I didn’t really perform the part and mentally I had some serious lagging points. And the wrong training is really what trained me physically, mentally the wrong way. And after high school I continued my training in a bodybuilding manner because none of this strength and conditioning information was even out there and the internet was new, this is like the early mid 90s.


So I was coaching wrestling and then I got involved with at the time was called shoot-fighting. And this was like something I basically like searched, like UFC was new and guys like Mark Kerrand Mark Colemanwere out there beating the crap out of people and I just had this kind of like inner demon where I felt like I have a lot to prove to myself after not being very successful in high school as a wrestler and got involved with Jiu-jitsuand Muay Thaiand actually the guy who owned the gym is the main ref in the UFC, the Big Dan, he tends to ref a lot the heavyweight so the main fight Dan Miragliotta, he owned this gym and it was kind of like anybody would coach you and what’s really too dialed in, but I got hurt, I got injured training there while I was prepping for my second grappling match.


My first grappling tournament was a nag and I entered it two weeks after training and back then it wasn’t so crowded, I think there were 8 or 12 guys in my weight class where I hear now like there could be over 100 guys in the weight class. So I had tore my ACL while training in grappling. And before that, it was like one injury after another from my neck to my back to my shoulders and I was always getting hurt wrestling. And that ACL injury that was my second knee surgery really inspired me and I think I was about 26 years old at the time, so I’m 38 now and I was probably more pissed off than I was inspired. I was so mad at this course I had taken through life of training hard, training harder than anybody I knew. I would run, I would run distance, I would run trails, I would lift weights 30 days in a row, I would go to wrestling practice and just everything backfired on me. And that ACL surgery just pissed me off and I was like I’m going to find the way and find the best way to train wrestlers and to train for combat, to prepare for combat. And that was this beginning of I’m like, a madman possessed, I’m like a mad scientist for training wrestlers especially. And so I get a lot of guys at my gym, I own a gym called The Underground Strength Gym.


So when I started this path, I started training some of the local wrestlers in my town, and I started training them out of my mom and dad’s house and it was this little crap ass garage and in the backyard, we had a bunch of stones, we had a tree that was cut down so I had an axe. I had these kids doing like stuff because I really didn’t have money for the equipment. And the equipment at that time Corey, it was called functional trainingand all of that was training on the bosu ball, the stability ball, the wobble board. It was like this crazy — it was like a fad but it was like a joke and everybody bought into it and I bought into it too but it just never felt, right. I was like dude, this makes no sense training on one foot. Why do I have to stand on a wobble board? I was like, how is this tough? And the stuff that I really related to was training like Rocky did in Rocky IV like carrying trees, carrying logs, dragging slabs, training with stones, chopping wood. So I basically was like, fuck this, I’m not training like this. I’m not training these kids like this.So I started training them in the backyard like we had all these stones, they were doing stone carry,stone squatclean and pressbent over row. I had this big tree stump from this monster tree that was cut down I had them swinging the axe around, I’d have them follow me on my bike because I couldn’t really jog after the surgery so I go on my bike they follow me on the bike we’d go to a playground and have them climb up the poles on the swing sets. I’d have them military pressthe picnic table, box jumps on the picnic table and it was all because I didn’t have the equipment. I had a barbell, couple of dumbbells in the garage and then I had basically the outdoors. So I started using anything that I could and I’m telling you dude, I just copied off all what was in Rocky IV and those kids just started kicking ass. They were just really beating up the other kids that used to beat them up and that was really the beginning of this journey and the way it became called “underground” is because of being interviewed proof. It must have been 11 years ago and the guy was like it was Ryan Lee and Ryan Lee is like, well, how do you describe your periodization? How do you describe your training? I was like,dude, I don’t follow any of the shit that you and other dudes are following.

I said, I don’t follow any rules. So I guess what I do is underground. I don’t use these traditional training tools that everybody’s using. And that’s how I started getting called underground strength coachand the business went from my parents’ home and then I transitioned into a two car garage out of the first house that I bought. And from that two car garage, I spent a couple of years in that garage, my backyard, the local playground until opening up my first warehouse in Central Jersey and that warehouse is still there, it’s a real small — it’s about like 1000 usable square feet like the whole front and if you see pictures it’s like tractor tires, sleds, prowlers, kettle-bells all up front. It’s just a lot of old unique equipment. And then we do all our movement stuff outside when the weather is not as cold as it is now, but that’s how I train people and I train them like that not because it looked cool or because it was a fad but at first because I didn’t have the money to buy “regular gym equipment”. And then it was like, damn, this is the stuff that gets these guys this kind of like brute strength that they just aren’t getting out of the gym and also made them very tough. Like, these kids I noticed had a very — just like they were hardened, like they developed such a unique mental toughness. And it really hit me when I had this young crew of wrestlers that they all started around the same time, it was like five, six kids. We still have video footage of them from years ago. But these were kids that were good wrestlers but they didn’t even qualify for their region.

So there’s the district where everybody starts, then you go to the region and if you make top three in your region, you go to the States. And in New Jersey, if you go to the States, it’s like the dream. And all these kids didn’t even qualify out of their district. So there are hard ass workers, they worked their asses off. And the next year, they all went to regions, one of them went to States and then senior year, they all of them placed in the States. And that was like I remember a big turning point for me mentally because I now truly believed in everything. I was doing and also it was like no denying to everybody that was laughing at us that like we were right, like you can’t deny us anymore that what we do in this garage is the program and it’s just been kind of progressing ever since. So I spend half of my time training the athletes and then the other half of the time kind of doing like what you’re doing putting out information online for people that just want to develop strength, mental toughness and that’s basically it man.


COREY:         Killer. It’s good stuff, man. The training styles and stuff that you’re talking about, I know a lot of us — I’m about same age as you are. I’ll be 38 in May. When I was in high school wrestling, it was hey, we’re going to do bench press. We’re going to do inclined bench press.We’re going to do dumbbell chest press. We’re going to do inclined dumbbell chest press and then maybe do some curls and get your ass back in the wrestling room.

ZACH:           Right, right, bodybuilding.

COREY:         Yeah, it’s all bodybuilding stuff. And these days the more and more that I research and just try stuff out and just looking around and talking with people that I respect like John Brookfieldand stuff, there’s a lot of blue collar dudes out there that never stepped foot in the gym in their life. They would rip your arm off and feed it to you because they’re so frigging strong just from doing the daily stuff that they do every day.

ZACH:           Farm boy.

COREY:         Farm boy strong, I don’t care if it’s a lumberjack, a plumber that ties wrenches all day, a lot of those dudes are just strong just because of the work that they do. At the same time, you do have a lot of strength and conditioning stuff, kettle-bells, barbell, squat deadlifts, dumbbell work, medicine balls, sled, all these different things that I know that you’re implementing into your program as well. Can you talk a little bit about over the years obviously, we just keep refining our programs and making them better. How have you kind of differentiated what you use versus what you don’t with your guys?


ZACH:           Yeah. So I don’t really discriminate against the training tools too much. I use pretty much anything. We don’t have any machines in the gym but there would probably be here and there some machines I wouldn’t be against using. But what I look to do when I look at like we trained so many wrestlers is, Louie Simmonsreally influenced with me a lot when I would talk to him is like, he just didn’t train typical steps and reps when he was talking to me about training his fighters. He would train stuff for extended time periods. And his first I think it was VHS tape, it was called the special strength. And it basically really resonated me because it was about strength endurance, power endurance. So it was the ability to have extended periods of strength, extended periods of power and explosiveness and also mental toughness. And I found that when I would train the kids with kettle-bell, sandbags, odd objects, that it forced them to overcome obstacles.


For example, they try wrestling the sandbag off the ground to clean and press it and then I remember the first few kids they’re like, oh this is hard. This is awkward, I can’t get this weight up.And to me that resonated with me was like the battle that they would go through in a wrestling match. Like what are they going to — this is what happens when it’s difficult. Do you quit or do you fight? And do you find a way to score and do things?


So I started really using a lot of sandbags, a lot of stones. I found that when they would do things like kettle-bell snatches, it just crushed them. So I started looking at ways to just get them comfortable being uncomfortable. And that didn’t mean I’ve discriminated against the barbell, they bench, they did floor press, they squatted and dead lifted. But I blended them all together because I wanted to find those different forms of strength. And I do a lot of couplets where we combine two movements together but I push the pace so it might be something like they might do a floor press plus a farmer walk and I might make them do five rounds non stop heavy weight or I might make them go for six minutes to mimic a wrestling match or with college guys it will be seven to nine minutes. And sometimes you think like you’re training these high level competitors.

So I’ve worked with division one wrestling teams. And when I started working with them at first, I remember the first time I assumed that they were just going to kill it and they trained side by side with 15 year old kids that we had trained maybe for six months to a year. And here were these high school sophomores beating sophomores in college at the division one wrestling level. And that’s when I started realizing like shit, dude, if you’re trained the right way, you’re going to have the edge.


So when I look at a program, I look at really the individuals themselves and what they’re weak at. So if I find that this kid is just physically weak, I’m going to cater that program to make him strong as hell. If I find that this kid crumbles when the going gets tough or when he’s in conditioning or he has a problem with his stamina and the third period, then I’m going to tweak that program and push him out of his comfort zone and push a little bit of the conditioning and some metcon work.


So when I program, I look at making them just tough as nails and having the kind of strength that imposes its will on people. Meaning, you’re a wrestler I’m a wrestler and any fighter out there that’s lost a fight or a jiu-jitsu match, there’s been times where your opponent got a hold of you and in the back of your head or maybe not even in the back of your mind, you’re like, holy shit, what the hell just happened here?And you just get beat up and manhandled and I want our wrestlers or the fighters that I work with, I want them to have that confidence and that physicality that just imposes itself on the competition. And I’ve just found that even the competitors at the highest level, they oftentimes are not a very high level in strength and conditioning.


So it doesn’t really get too fancy, the training, but what I think helps me is that I’m very dialed in and in-tune to what each guy needs and the way I do it is, when they train with us, every workout is an assessment. Meaning, okay, have first work as an assessment, I look to see how they could go through basic exercises, farmer walks, couplets, farmer walks coupled with weighted push ups, pull up, like sled work, I look to see do they have strength endurance and power endurance and do they have absolute strength relative by strength and it’s pretty interesting to see how a lot of these fighters can’t do quality full range pull ups. They kind of get crushed after doing two or three sets of a couplet.

So I see where they’re lacking and then I move that program into turning their weak areas into strong areas because I know that when you’re in a combat sport, just once your weak areas get exposed, you’re going to lose, you’re gonna get punched in the face, you’re gonna get tapped out, you’re gonna get taken down to end and so on.


COREY:         Yeah absolutely. It’s very, very true. It’s a very different set of qualities or things that you need in your toolbox to be able to perform at that because a lot of the MMA guys, same thing actually, it’s a common place for those guys to gas out, because they might have a three round fight that’s 15 minutes long. At the same time, you got about an hour before you go out. If you’ve been to any UFC event or Bellator or any of those things, you get to the Big Show, a lot of these guys are starting to wrap their hands and get nervous and go through warm ups and do that stuff. They might be moving for close to an hour. This is super intense in the back but there’s a lot of stuff going on that people don’t think about.

ZACH:           Yeah and nerves.

COREY:         Yeah, much less scary. You do a lot of the mental side then you got the physical side where yeah, you might be running around doing boxing and stuff like that there’s not a whole lot of pressure from someone else on you versus like wrestling and jiu-jitsu having that weight on you or having somebody try to manipulate you physically is very, very taxing on the body in a different way. That’s where the wrestlers seem to thrive and they get [inaudible] somebody they’ll rip them apart. But I see they might be not as quick.


ZACH:           Yeah, or like I look at — I’ll sometimes see what other fighters are doing in their training, you see all these YouTube videos, or you see like local coaches sharing the videos and I know that if a fighter or a wrestler is training hard, then his conditioning is probably pretty good. But I noticed that every time I see a workout, it’s always some sort of a circuit or metcon and if you’re leaving out strength endurance, power endurance, the special strength, then the lack of strength and the lack of power endurance and what you’re talking about the mental side, once the mind starts to kind of doubt where you’re at, meaning you start feeling weak during a match, it will negatively affect their stamina during that match.


So people are basically what I’ve noticed is a lot of coaches tend to overdo one facet of training and that one facet is just conditioning, just the cardiovascular conditioning. Same thing with these local wrestling coaches. When you’re in wrestling practice, you’re drilling and live wrestling, that is circuit training. So I know that because they’re constantly doing circuit work, they need to develop strength. And that’s why I’m a big proponent of in-season, we’re going to focus on doing squatting, dead lifting, snatches, we’re going to do the basics. Because I know that that stuff is going to be a huge factor, especially I’m here in Jersey right now and the season is, let’s see, right now, it’s the end of January. These kids are starting their district, which is that qualifying tournament in about three weeks. A lot of kids they’ve stopped lifting already. They’re done or the coaches stop lifting them. They make these kids run and run and run. If I was a coach, I wouldn’t make these kids run. I want to use wrestling practice as a time to develop wrestling skill. So if they’re running, I take all that shit into account when they come into work out. And then all right, you did a lot of running. Okay, then we need to do a lot of strength work. You’ve done plenty of standard work, we got to build up your strength. Or maybe they go to a school where practice actually isn’t that hard and the coach maybe isn’t that good. Well, if that’s the case, then I need to do strength work and I need to do some conditioning work because I look at what they’re not getting when they’re in practice.


We had a Muay Thai fighter come, I’m not sure what the name of the Federation that he was in, but dude, he was training with like our 15 year olds, and he was getting his ass kicked and once his body adapted to the training and he started getting the results, he just started crushing it and he didn’t go to Thailand, and whenever he competed in, he won that belt. He won that division. And he’s like, dude, I just feel so strong with my punches, my kicks. He’s like, I don’t get tired.

And I saw now what it did for him physically but what you’re talking about is the confidence factor like he showed up prepared with confidence knowing that dude, I’m stronger than you are, I’ve prepared better than you and if you have nerves like what you’re talking about that one hour prep before a fight or for these wrestlers, you start prepping 20 to 30 minutes, as they start doubting or they start lacking in confidence, it just crushes them, it sucks out their energy.


And sometimes our kids, they’ll tell me, man, I just psyched myself out. I knew I was wrestling John Smith and John took third in the country last year. So it’s like [incomprehensible] and then they come back and they’re like, I don’t know what was wrong with me I felt weak and I felt gassed after the first minute. That right there I know is, they have like a nervous system dump and it’s like a vacuum sucks out your energy. So when I hear that stuff, I know that I need to program work out that makes them nervous, that pulls them out of their comfort zone, actually [distortion]  they’re not very good at and from there, it has a carry over to their actual skill work.


COREY:         Right, absolutely. We do a lot of the same stuff here as well. Just I have a question for you, couple of things. Using those unconventional training styles, you use them, I use a ton of it as well. How are you monitoring progress with your athletes using a lot of that unconventional stuff because with the weights stack or weight plates, it’s really easy to say, yo hey, you did three plates last week we did three plates plus five pounds this week. You’re getting stronger bro, good job.


ZACH:           Right, right, right. That’s a great question and I get that question a lot. They wonder do we track workouts. Do we keep a training log and I used to have all the athletes track their workouts and it was just a frigging mess. It was such a crazy ass mess because I trained high school athletes, so it was not so — in a nutshell, what I said was like, you know what, what I learned was, they were coming in with just such a variety of energy levels from day to day and week to week that I really started just keeping up with or following more of an auto regulation system. And like I mentioned you earlier, I do an assessment every workout, not just the first workout. So when we do our warm up, I’m assessing them physically, I’m assessing their verbal and nonverbal feedback. I can see who’s excited, who’s pumped to train. I keep an eye on everything. Oh, is this kid is grabbing his shoulders, this kid is kind of moving slow, he got like a slight limp when he’s doing the movement portion. I take all that into account. Then I start, we ask questions and from there I could tweak the workout. So I have no problem tweaking a workout on the fly.


So what I look for is their best effort on that day, whereas I used to lock down the numbers. And what I found is that I think that’s easier to do for guys like you and I who are not training for fighting. We’re adults, we can kind of commit, we can commit to a 12 week program and stick to the barbell and squat bench deadlift week after week, but these are fighters or wrestlers that dude, one week to the next, this hurts, that hurts, I got to work around this. Okay, I thought today was going to be our day to deadlift, but his back is killing him. His coach made him do endless sprints, his legs are shot. Well, there goes that deadlift workout and now I need to tweak it.


So what I look to do is I don’t record workout. Everything is based on auto regulationand their effort that day. It’s almost like a rate of perceived exertion. So if you feel great, we’re going to get after it today and we’re going to crush it. You feel like shit, then we’re going to deload because I don’t ever want my training to detract from their performance because that’s number one. How do you wrestle? How do you compete in jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, MMA, boxing, whatever sport is, I don’t want the training to interfere with them. But on the flip side, this is something pretty cool that I’m really glad I heard this is that I was working with a D One team last spring, summer and fall and he said, listen, it’s okay if these guys are sore. It’s okay if they’re sore and has to compete the next day. He’s like that develops mental toughness. He goes because I know when we’re at Nationals, they’re not going to feel 100% healthy like Johnny’s going to be feeling a little bit banged up and if he’s always in that perfect environment of oh, you’re sore let’s deload today, he’ll never win. So that’s another part of auto regulations that you have to train them mentally.


So, especially the younger kids, like, sometimes, and I did a YouTube video on this, I was like, damn, sometimes you catch yourself as a coach, you got too smart. You start deloading them before this event before that event, then before you know what the kids are like, oh, I have a match on Sunday, can I deload?And you’re like, dude, it’s one match. You don’t have to de load, you need to train hard and that’s it. Like, we will de load maybe for the big event. We’re not going to deload before every match. Because if that’s the case, we’re never going to train hard and you’re never going to get tough and you’re never going to get strong and you’re never going to really get the results that — you’re just not going to get a proper training program implemented. So I’m very happy —  how do you say like, I’m able to change things according to what they need. But I’m also gotten very good and I just think it’s the art of coaching, I got real good at not overdoing or under doing it. So I guess we could call that optimal trainingbut there are certainly times where I throw out all the perfect stuff and just give them a hellish workout because it gets them tough and that’s what they need. A lot of times, they just need to be tough. They don’t need the perfect workout. Because as you know, in any sort of combat sport, there’s no such thing as perfect, it’s a very unpredictable environment.


COREY:         Yeah, absolutely, I mean stuff can go sideways and you’re going to get stuff you never expected.

ZACH:           Yeah and when you say, oh everybody stop, I don’t feel good, my back hurts. Like dude, I was just talking to a guy who was a fighter, and he said he was in mount position and the guy over hooked him and pulled him down and he said, man, he goes he had like a — where it was like a [great] three separation of the rotator cuff and he’s like, dude, I just pounded the shit of him, I knocked them out. And not many people get injured. When you’re in the Mount, you tend to not be the guy getting injured but he got hurt and his training prepped him mentally to handle the unexpected.


COREY:         So here’s a good question for you. When you want to go hard and you want to push kids past the comfort zone, and you want to pull them into deep water a little bit, how do you determine which exercises to use when you’re doing those types of workouts? Because at a fatigue level, obviously their mechanics are off and they’re not — maybe the structural integrity is not there, but if it’s important to pull them into deep water. So what kind of stuff do you use there?


ZACH:           Yeah, it all depends on the training skill level of that athlete. So somebody who’s new to the training, I’m not looking at, I don’t care if they’re a pro MMA fighter, if they’re new to the training, I look at them as like a white belt or like a level one in our training. So we’re going to do exercises that are easy for them to learn and hard for them to flunk up. So we’re going to do things like farmer walks, battling ropes, sled drags, sprint, we’re going to use basic exercises that don’t have a high degree of skill.

COREY:         Right.

ZACH:           If somebody who’s got more skill and also understands how to keep that structural integrity essentially how to maintain proper technique while they’re fatigued, because that’s the same I tell them as maintaining your technique in wrestling, fighting, whatever, when you’re tired,  you’re not supposed to go out there and go for a shitty takedown because you’re tired. You’re tired but you still keep that technique. So those athletes might do sandbag clean & press, dumbbell snatch, recline rowing, they might incorporate various jumps, medicine ball throws, weighted medicine ball throws, snatches, sledgehammer work.

So the more advanced you are with lifting, not the more advanced you are in the fight game but the more advanced you are in lifting, the more technical I could get with you while you’re under fatigue, because I know that you have not just the physical know-how to do what you got to do but you also have the mental commitment to stay committed to the technique when you’re fatigued.


COREY:         Yeah absolutely. It’s very, very good information dude. Because I think a lot of times people these days, they don’t understand that the skill that’s required for certain movements and then not only with all the different things that are out there these days from [incomprehensible] Olympic lifts to gymnastic stuff to kettle-bells and ropes and all these other crazy things that are out there, knowing when to use those tools and how to use them efficiently is important.


ZACH:           Yeah, I think sometimes a less educated coach is going to throw in a lot of complicated lifting and they’re also not going to enforce technique. So they might see the technique going shitty and they’ll just keep letting the workout go that way. So if I see that really, maybe I put something up on the whiteboard and it’s not working out the way I want it to I just walk right up, erase it and change it. And that’s the art of coaching, you have to have a good knowledge of progressions, regressions, where do we go? And I think people mistake simple basic exercises for being easy. But dude, you could crush somebody if you make them do keg carry down and back, dumbbell farmer walk down and back, stand back carry down and back, followed by push ups, pull ups, sled drags like that stuff is super simple, it’s not difficult. You’re just carrying and walking but it develops great strength endurance and power endurance. You want to make it more technical, boom! then maybe after each carry that fighter has to do something specific to their fight game.

So for the MMA fighter, maybe you’re throwing punch and kick combos. If it’s a grappler or a wrestler, they may have to do takedowns with finishes, takedown, finishes, escape. And you could mix in technique work while they’re stressed out and fatigued from the lifting. So there’s a lot of different ways to do it. You got to be a great coach. The coach has to be great. If you want great results, you need to be a great coach and pay attention to everything and little things like oh, he’s on the prowler, he’s rounding his back and in the shitty position. Then he got to coach that athlete to lock in the abs, have a tiger trunk, don’t have shitty posture, when you’re farmer walking and you got to pick up the kettle-bell, the kegs, whatever, I want to see a deadlift every rep not a round back on the way up or on the way down. I pay attention to all that stuff and I think those little things add up to some very big results.


COREY:         Absolutely, absolutely. So Zach, I have a question now. We talked a lot about working hard, changing up workouts, implementing them for different reasons, overcomingobstacles, mindset, toughness, all that type of stuff. At the end of the day and the end of the week, you and I both know that people have to recover to get better. What are some of the recovery techniques and stuff that you use with your guys throughout the week and year and season and all that stuff?


ZACH:           Yeah, my motto is if you’re going to train hard, you need to rest hardand unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of control over what these high school kids do for a couple of reasons.

Independent strength coaches tend to not — we don’t have a big fan base, meaning a lot of times the high school wrestling coach doesn’t give two shits about what we do and doesn’t care to get help from what we do. So we might be doing a certain training and then he has to go to practice and he has to do a four mile slow long distance run or a five mile slow long distance running, that’s going to negatively interfere. So what I do is I try to educate them and empower them to do specific things, simple things; get to bed, the younger ones, I want them to sleep nine hours. We don’t want them skipping meals or buying the school lunch. So we tell them, you’re going to eat breakfast, you’re going to pack your own lunch, you’re going to have a snack after school, eat dinner that your mom cooked and then you’re going to have dinner leftovers one [inaudible] a day, fruits and vegetables scattered throughout the day. We teach them how to make better food choices.

We tell them, on the weekends when they have some downtime or even on a weekday after school, come home from school, have a small meal, take a 45 minute nap, those naps are going to help them improve their recovery, post workout shake simple stuff like that, that a lot of kids don’t do, we get them to start doing. If they have time, on the weekend, we’ll tell hey man, take a hot bath, let your body rest and recover. And then one of the simplest things is take some days off from training.


In New Jersey, there are wrestling clubs starting to pop up at the same rate of CrossFit gyms meaning, every town is now getting a wrestling club and [inaudible] training. There’s no downtime, so the only time that really it slows down is there’s like a three week period of August where kids don’t wrestle but it’s like once school starts, when September starts, these kids are trained like crazy leading up to wrestling season. Wrestling season starts after Thanksgiving out here in New Jersey, kids still go to wrestling club and now they’re wrestling like 20 hours a week and then right after wrestling season ends, then there’s the National Duals. There’s the High School Nationals, they train for that. Then after that, it’s Freestyle and Greco Romanseason. They start training Freestyle and Greco and then there’s the Freestyle and Greco NationalsinFargoat the end of July.

So it’s this non-stop training which I’m not a fan of. Wrestling and the fight sport is very emotionally stressful. And that emotional stress I found to be much tougher than physical stress. So let’s say like any guy out there the first time he broke up with his girlfriend, something bad happened the girlfriend, you know that it just wrecked you, you felt like you didn’t have an appetite, you didn’t have energy. Whereas that’s what happens with wrestling like, you have a bad day, you get your ass kicked. These kids don’t understand how to rebound mentally, emotionally from a bad day. That’s why I like to tell them, hey, let’s take some time off from wrestling. Let’s get involved in judo. So we change up the form and we’re fresh meaning you’re not burnt out from wrestling.


And then another thing I teach them — I wouldn’t say I teach it to them but I encourage specific books for them to read such as Lone Survivor”“No Easy Day”because I want them to understand that what — they read about what guys are doing to go through buds, they read about how a Navy SEAL overcomes being shot, being attacked by enemy and things like that. And it teaches them how to rebound from setbacks. I found that like certain — these specific books could inspire them and teach them really a lot about life, a lot about being mentally tough and we’ve had some kids do a real good job at following through by reading these books. And for some of them it’s actually changed their life.


So that being said, recovery is the nutrition, the sleep, taking naps, taking days off. And just me myself implementing like every couple of weeks, maybe every six weeks or so, I take a week where we don’t really train that hard. They do more bodyweight training, very like kettle-bell, I basically cut the volume in half. And by volume, I don’t mean sets and reps or else but I mean training time, so they are training for like an hour with me. They train for maybe 30 minute and then they spend the next 30 minutes just hanging out with each other and they’re not always like train hard train hard, go, go go. And they come back or they start finishing up that week and they’re just not only are they physically ready to attack, but emotionally they’re like that next week, they’re just ready to kill it.

So I try to do as much implementation of recovery for them. We recommend them to buy rumble roller, roll out all the time, use a lacrosse ball, get Voodoo bands, we try to educate them. And you know what, there’s those that follow through they rise above and succeed more. And to me, that’s a big learning point because when the athletes you train, if they don’t follow through on these little things that produce big results, that’s what we tell them, training is about life fellas. So if you’re not going to do the little things like rolling out, tackling your school launch, eating a healthy breakfast and you guys know what to do, we’ve given you the knowledge then you’re going to pay the price you’re going to lose, you’re going to feel like shit. And they learn responsibility. They learn a lot.

COREY:         Yeah, that’s killer, killer killer killer stuff, dude. I think we’ve given everybody just about enough information to digest for the day. There’s a lot of pretty killer tips from training to mental toughness to recovery, art of coaching, there’s all kinds of stuff in here that I think is really going to help people get their game elevated and moving forward for sure. Zach, what if everybody wants to stay in touch with you, where’s the best place for them to do that?

ZACH:           Yeah, just go to the blog. It’s undergroundstrength.tv. And then also a Facebook fan page, it’s zach’sfanpage.com. That’ll take you to the Facebook fan page, easy to ask questions and stay connected.

COREY:         Awesome, man. Alright guys, I will make sure to those links up on the blog here so it should be below this audio. Zach, thanks again bro I appreciate your time, I appreciate your knowledge and we will talk to you soon.

ZACH:           Thanks Corey later bro.