Underground Training Interview with Zach Even-Esh

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

Today we have part one of a new interview with my friend and colleague, the Underground Strength Coach, Zach Even-Esh.

Zach, tell us how you learned about “Underground” training?

ZE – Well, without a doubt, my very first days of training at a gym always leave me with the recollection of George, a jacked dude who was built like he was carved from stone. This guy was solid muscle! He never did what the rest of us did. He trained his own way, his own style and he never cared what others said to him.

I still remember to this day watching him spend over 30 or 45 minutes on one movement! I would be finishing a workout and he was still training one movement! I remember watching him do endless sets of weighted dips, or flat benching or weighted pull ups. Back then I never saw anyone perform weighted bodyweight exercises except George. But, his arms were busting through his sleeves and his traps were stretching his shirts out big time!

My memories reminded me after many years of training by the rules, that to get seriously strong and jacked, there truly are NO rules!

And now that you follow this “NO Rules” philosophy is this how Underground training evolved?

ZE – Exactly. My friend, Ryan Lee, was interviewing me one day about my training methods, and he asked me what best describes what I do. I flat out told him I don’t follow the majority of what people say or advise on doing because it usually doesn’t even work in the real world! All my training was taking place in garages, back yards, playgrounds, fields, parking lots, etc. – the only way I could describe what I do was by calling it “Underground”.

Take us through an Underground workout that one of your athletes would follow.

ZE – Most of my athletes are Football players and wrestlers. I also consult with BJJ and MMA fighters. The workouts, I hate to say, are always different according to what the individual needs to work on at that point in time. This isn’t a cop out, it’s true, but, I’ll give you a sample of an off season workout our wrestlers might go through.

1) warm up with mobility, movement drills and calisthenics. This might include skipping, galloping, mobility drills such as bird dogs, fire hydrants, hip bridges and various arm circles. After a thorough warm up we then begin the workout
2A) Trap bar DL 5 x 3 – 6 reps
2B) Recline thick rope body rows 5 x max reps
2C) abdominal movement 5 x 12 – 15 reps
3A) rope climb up & down 3 x 15 ft.
3B) sledge hammer swings across right & left shoulder 3 x 10 ea.
3C) sandbag zercher carry around back yard 3 x 1 lap

We will finish the workouts with soft tissue work on the foam roller and the medicine ball.

Some workouts are all indoors, others all outdoors and some are a mix as you saw above.

What is the biggest misconception people have of Underground training?

ZE – People assume we do only odd object lifts and don’t use barbell and dumbbells or other tools. This is totally off. We use everything because everything works. The odd objects hit the body in places that barbells and dumbbells simply have not or can not do.

Things like starting off a sandbag squat and ripping it off the floor. Every first rep is a power move that benefits the performance more than if we normally back squat and nothing else. The variety of implements helps us keep fresh as well. Eventually, people get bored of doing the same old stuff or training in the gym all the time! Training outdoors in the fresh air kicks ass! This is why Arnold and Franco and the rest of the crew loved training at Muscle Beach. The atmosphere and outdoor energy was electric!

In your Underground Strength Kit, you have a separate manual solely dedicated to stone training! I thought it was awesome and I was shocked to see so many movements with just a stone! What motivated you to begin stone training?

ZE – Of course, watching The World’s Strongest Man competitions was always an inspiration, but in addition to the WSM, there were times when I was really strapped for cash and had nothing but a barbell and a few dumbbells.

At the time I trained at my Dad’s, and his backyard had a row of odd shaped stones of different sizes. I started using them with wrestlers, football players and basketball players. I didn’t have a choice, I needed weights!

To my surprise, the stone training was phenomenal. We started simple by just doing carries from one end of the backyard to the other. We did military presses, bent over rows and deadlifts.

Strength was improving like crazy and they all were improving performance. Our football guys were playing in summer camps and were hitting harder, running faster and getting tougher.

The basketball players were out-conditioning their opponents and always had the strength and power endurance to rebound the ball more often and had improved defense.

The wrestlers were dominating like never before! They were lifting kids and throwing them around like rag dolls. I was seriously in shock watching my athletes perform and hearing their success stories.

I knew we landed onto something big by combining these Underground methods with the barbells, dumbbells and bodyweight!

To this day I keep on refining the methods and transforming athletes and non athletes with these methods that I have in The Underground Strength Kit.

As for my self, these methods have breathed fresh air into my workouts, literally! Training outdoors clears my mind and gets me away from the BS inside 99 % of the commercial gyms. I feel fresh air is man and woman’s best friend and we should ALL spend time training outdoors. There is a lot of therapy that comes with training Underground and humans need it!

With all the stress we endure on a regular basis, people will realize that training outdoors makes them feel great. Sun and fresh air are powerful therapeutic tools for all people, adults or not.

In fact, I just had a Mom contact me for the second time to get her kid back here again. They live so far away that it takes them 45 minutes to an hour to drive here, one way! So I sent them to a friend who trains athletes but lives 10 minutes away!

They want to come back here! The Mother told me her son loves the Underground training, the atmosphere, the outdoors and everything we do! For young athletes, this style of training seems to be a huge boost to their ego as well. I feel this is a huge area we are missing the boat on when it comes to training young athletes – the need to train their mind first and foremost. Boosting their self esteem is a priority and I have been fortunate beyond belief to see how happy these kids are when we train together!

Stay tuned for part II with our interrogation with Zach Even – Esh and his Underground Training Methods!

If you want to learn more about Underground training in the mean time, check out Zach’s latest kick ass ebook by clicking HERE now.