in: Fitness, Health & Fitness, Podcast

• Last updated: September 28, 2021

Podcast #109: Underground Strength With Zach Even-Esh

For the past year or so, I’ve gotten tweets and emails from AoM readers telling me to check out a book called The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning. I finally got around to it, and after giving it a read, I knew I had to get its author on the podcast. Zach Even-Esh is a strength and conditioning coach and creator of the Underground Strength program. It emphasizes functional strength and conditioning, marrying techniques used by strongmen since the early 1900s with modern practices. Tire flipping, sledgehammers, deadlifting rocks (and barbells) are just some of the exercises you’ll find in the Underground Strength program. Zach and I discuss the origins of Underground Strength and what men can start doing today to become stronger.

Show Highlights

  • How a kid from New Jersey ended up being a teen bodybuilding champ in Israel
  • Why you should study the programming and philosophy of bodybuilders from the 1940s and 1950s to get stronger
  • Zach’s foray into MMA
  • The birth of Underground Strength
  • The difference between athleticism and strength and why you need both
  • What you can start doing TODAY to get stronger

Book cover, strength and conditioning by Zach Even.

The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning is a great addition to your fitness library. Solid suggestions for programming that require minimal equipment and can help you become a better all-around athlete.

Special thanks to Keelan O’Hara for editing the podcast!

Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another addition of the Art of Manliness podcast.

For about the past year or so now, I’ve had Art of Manliness readers reach out, tweet me, and tell me about this book called Underground Strength by a fellow named Zach Even-Esh. Finally picked up a copy, checked it out, and it’s awesome. It’s all about tires and using stones and deadlifts, just really basic strength training that resonates with me.

I could see why it resonated with a lot of Art of Manliness readers and listeners, so I had to have Zach on the podcast discuss his philosophy towards strength training and talk about his book, “Underground Strength”. I figure you’re going to like this, a lot of great actionable takaways from this that you can start using today and incorporate into your own strength and conditioning routines.

So Zach Even-Esh let’s do this.

Zach Even-Esh Welcome to the show!

Zach Even-Esh: Great, I’m excited to be here.

Brett McKay: All right, so you wrote this book called “Underground Strength” that’s sort of like this underground cult classic. I’ve had a whole bunch of Art of Manliness readers tell me about it. So before we get there, let’s talk about the story about how you got into weight training. You talk a lot about the underground strength training, how you got into weight training. It’s actually really interesting. You started off as sort of a bodybuilder, right?

Zach Even-Esh: Yeah, so I’ve kind of been through the different stages of I guess if we put in general terms of fitness. I began training in 1989. I was just finishing up eight grade so a long time ago and even before that, my brother would always lift weights in his room. He had an old Joe Weider bench from Sears. He had sand filled weights and I would go and I would try to work out and it would last for a few workouts and then I would stop and start again and that was throughout middle school, sixth/seventh grade. I remember in seventh grade like questioning myself, saying what’s wrong with me, why can’t I stay committed to working out, is there something wrong with me.

I was 12 years old at the time questioning if I had some sort of unique problem that other 12 year old kids have or don’t have and in the last few weeks of school of eighth grade, I started working out regularly in my brother’s room and I opened up for, not the first time but this was a gift from our grandfather, the Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I just started following those workouts and I remember exercising at the beginning something like a Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Then it became a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and I remember after two or three weeks. I was like holy crap, I love this, I’m not stopping like I used to stop, and then not long into the summer, I remember having shirt sleeves cut off and the girl in the neighborhood was like, “oh my god look at these biceps” and I remember thinking to myself, (laughs) like I had arrived.

Brett McKay:That’s awesome.

Zach Even-Esh: So that was my beginning in training and all the information by in the late 80’s, the early 90’s, not all of it but really the stuff that was coming across my eyes as far as magazines and books, was very much what I call he pretty boy bodybuilding scene. There wasn’t all this talk of compound lifts and squatting and deadlifting and doing power cleans.

You just didn’t come across articles like that; although now, I have a lot of old magazines from the 50’s, the 60’s, and even some magazines from the 80’s, where they had feature articles form Doctor Ken Leistner who was one of the earlier proponents and students of Arthur Jones who created Nautilus and the high intensity training. He had articles that I wish I had come across because he had articles of college football players, NFL football players, his sons talking about how he would get them to eat, things like sending them to school with twelve tuna sandwiches and saying, the rule is you don’t come home with these sandwiches and you don’t give them away, so you find a way to eat them. He had pictures of the boys using anvils and odd objects and welded gas containers for farm walk implements, and I say wow that’s the stuff I wish I came across.

I was a bodybuilder in my earlier days and I was influenced in the wrong ways, so as a high-school wrestler, I looked very strong and imposing but I didn’t have the performance that was required to be successful as an athlete. Even on a deeper level, it didn’t really train me mentally to be tough, to be confident, to have that instinct where I felt like I was prepared for battle, because my training was perfect. I would go to the gym. It was always isolated exercises, lots of machines and cables. I learned the hard way that yes that stuff makes you look good, but it doesn’t help your performance physical or mental. I’ve been training since 1989 and I haven’t stopped. I’m 39 now so 26 years in training.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Your story kind of reminded me of mine because I started weightlifting too when I was in eight grade and I got the Joe Weider bench. I think I got it at like Service Merchandise. Do you have a Service Merchandise?

Zach Even-Esh: I think I’ve heard of those. I mean like we had Wellworths …

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Zach Even-Esh: We had Independent Sporting Goods stores here. In New Jersey, there’s a lot of malls …

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Zach Even-Esh: … and my brother would always save up money. He was a busboy, then I was a busboy. I remember we were bussing tables. I was in sixth grade and he would always save his money and spend it on gym equipment. I remember I think I wrote about that in the book. He had us go to the Sporting Goods store at the mall where we had to ride our bikes across a pretty busy area Highway …

Brett McKay: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Zach Even-Esh: … and I remember riding my bike back with the twenty pounds, ten pound plates in my book bag, and I just couldn’t keep up with him so he really inspired me be strong, but I think I’ve heard of that store.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it was like one of of these weird things. You went in there and then you picked out what you wanted, then you’d call this phone and they would bring it up on a conveyor belt. I remember I was just really excited because it took me a couple months to save up for it …

Zach Even-Esh: Yes.

Brett McKay: … and then I set it up in the garage. I found this book from the 70’s that my dad had. It had some lifts, some sumo lifts and bench press

Zach Even-Esh: Right.

Brett McKay: … and it was awesome. I really wasn’t pushing much weight or pulling much weight but it scratched that itch that began something that I still continue to this day.

Zach Even-Esh: Yeah, I wish … I have a lot of books and I save them all so I can pass them on to my son because I don’t know what circle of fads or gimmicks will come around next in the fitness world and I want him to you know, as a big inspiration behind the book was I wanted something that my kids would be proud of, but I have some very very old books from early 1900’s of strength training as well as old magazines from like I mentioned the 40’s, the 50’s the 60’s and back then, they were titled appropriately so. The magazine was “Strength and Health” or “Health and Strength” and they had a blend of training that actually was good for your health and made you strong; so there was a lot of kind of basic bodybuilding movements, power lifting. There was a lot of Olympic weightlifting in these books, gymnastic drills, and real simple straightforward stuff, no BS.

I want my son to read that stuff, as well as my daughter. I want them to see that versus the stuff that’s kind of teaching them that it’s six weeks to this, thirty days to that, because as you said, you’ve been training since eight grade, so over half our lives … well over half our lives. Two-thirds of my life I’ve been exercising for and its not a thirty day or six week shortcut, it’s an every day all the time, all-in process.

Brett McKay: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I collect some of those old fitness magazines as well. Yeah, I’m surprised how strong those bodybuilders were.

Zach Even-Esh: Yes.

Brett McKay: They were like genuinely strong and the emphasis on gymnastics was always really surprising to see. You need to do a handstand. Right? This was fifty years before Crossfit, where if you were doing a handstand … They were doing it in the golden age of bodybuilding.

Zach Even-Esh: Right. That’s what Muscle Beach was. They had the weight pit and then they had all the gymnastic rings. They still have the traveling rings. They have the parallel bars. Even inside Arnold’s Encyclopedia, he talks about his conditioning. He would ride his bike. He would sprint, he would swim out in the ocean, so even the big guys were doing that.

Dave Draper has spoken about that lots and lots of times and that stuff always inspires me because they weren’t close-minded. They weren’t one-sides. Yes, they were big, but they also wanted to have the performance aspect and I thought that was something that is just … I love that.

Brett McKay: Yeah all right, so you started lifting when you were in eight grade, but then this Jersey kid, you, became a bodybuilding champion in Israel.

Zach Even-Esh: Yeah.

Brett McKay: How did that happen? That’s kind of a weird story there.

Zach Even-Esh: Yeah so I was born in Israel and my family moved here. Well, we moved to New York. We moved to the states when I was just shy of a year. My parents always tell me that I learned to walk on the plain here. So we moved. We lived in the Bronx for about four years and then we moved to New Jersey and as I said, started getting into the bodybuilding and that’s what I fell in love with. I would look at these magazines and I would read them and I purchased every book from the book stores long before the internet was out, back when people did buy from book stores.

Bodybuilding was just … I feel like bodybuilding and weights saved my life. I talk about in the book how I started going through bouts of depression and at the time I started competing in bodybuilding. I was a freshman. It was the summer before sophomore year in college, so I just finished my freshman year in college.

Every couple of years, we would go back Israel to visit my grandparents. My brother was in the Israeli military at the time and he was telling me that there was this guy who owns a small gym now in town. Back then, you could not find a gym in Israel. I would just go do twenty sets of pull-ups every other day the years before that going to Israel, but there was a gym there and I went to that gym and it was very very small. I mean ugh. It must have been like five-hundred square feet, five-hundred fifty square feet, super small.

The owner saw me and I was 18 back at the time. My brother introduced me to him and he saw me, and he goes, “You have to compete in this teenage Mr. Israel”. It was called the Young Mr. Israel, 18 and under. He’s like, “It’s in a couple of weeks”. He saw me. I had a tank-top on. He’s like you need to compete and I was going through this bout of depression, just really just broken down and I was like no, I don’t think I want to do it, I don’t think I’m ready.

Every day I’d show up at the gym and I would train and he would ask me over and over and I kept saying, “No, no” and then one night at home I remember, I’m at my grandparent’s and I’m just thinking to myself like what the hell, I’ve always read all these bodybuilding magazines. I read Arnold’s “Education of a Bodybuilder” hundreds of times. I mean I memorized the book and I wanted to live that experience of competing and how he broke out of the Austrian military, broke over the fence to compete in the Young Mr. Europe, or the Junior Mr. Europe.

I remember saying to myself, is this what you’re going to do? You’re going to be an excuse maker, you’re going to be weak. you’re not going to challenge yourself? I remember, I just said to myself, that’s it. It’s time to change, time to be a strong person. So the next morning I went to the gym and I remember the day or two before that, the gym owner Abner said, “I’m going to give you one more chance, I’m going to ask you one more time”. He had been asking me for two weeks.

I remember I got to the gym and there was nobody in the gym. He was just sitting there and it seemed like he was just waiting all day (laughs). I got there that night. Late at night I would usually get there. He’s like, “Okay, last chance, you going to do this or not?” and I’m like “Yes, I’m going to compete”. He’s like, “That’s it, let’s train right now.” an then we trained together.

It was myself, the gym owner, and this guy Joe who was a former army paratrooper. He was trying to get into the Israeli seal team. The three of us wound up training. It was like two weeks leading up to it but we would train twice a day, all the time. I mean. It was just super intense. It was amazing and I went on to win the Young Mr. Israel and there was about twenty kids competing and it was amazing. We competed not … you know how most bodybuilding shows are inside a high-school theater, maybe a college theater right? This was in an amphitheater. I mean it was friggen amazing, the stars, the sky was open. It just blew me away. I competed and I was age 18 and I won the Young Mr. Israel. This was 1994.

Brett McKay: Okay, that was a long time ago. All right, so you jumped from bodybuilding, then you did a stit with mixed martial arts. How did that happen?

Zach Even-Esh: Yeah, so after the Young Mr. Israel, the next year I also competed a couple times and I took first place second place in a few bodybuilding shows, natural bodybuilding shows, one of them. Then a little bit after that is when I graduated college. I became a teacher and I kind of was getting that itch to kind of defeat my inner demons. I was a high-school wrestler and super disappointed in my performance as a high-school wrestler, especially with the work I put into it. As I got older, I started developing just a different sense of confidence. I was feeling like a man. I wasn’t afraid to go out and battle anybody on a wrestling mat and I was like man, I’m ready.

I was coaching wresting at the time. I was coaching at a middle-school, high-school, and I was an adjunct at a community college, an adjunct professor, and I remember I met up with the wrestling coach and wrestled with some of the guys and I took it too them. I was like man, I could wrestle anybody. At the time, it wasn’t called mixed martial arts, it was called “NHB”, no holds barred fighting. A lot of the dominant fighters were college wrestlers, old college wrestlers. I mean it was guys like, of course I’m forgetting the name … Mark Curr, a lot of these Ohio State wrestlers, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman. They were the ground and pound guys. This is the early 90’s, oh no late 90’s.

I’m looking and looking and I find a place online and it was a place about twenty-five minutes away, inner-city. They were teaching shootfighting. Shootfighting was open palmed strikes. It was was they were doing a lot in Japan. I went to that place and started getting involved with Muay Thai and Jujutsu and there wasn’t a whole lot of instruction. It was more like show up and just you’re going to wrestle, you’re going to box, anybody who’s there is there to fight. Started doing that and started getting really into it. I didn’t compete in any kind of striking fights, but I competed in the earlier days of the Grapplers Quest Nationals. I mean today there would be probably one-hundred people competing in your weight class. When I competed, I think there was 8 of us or 12 of us and I had a super close overtime loss to a Judo black belt.

I was so fired up and I was like I will never lose again. It also boosted my confidence, being my competitive days were only high-school, four years of high-school instruction; but I had been wrestling and coaching wrestling since the day I graduated high school. So my confidence was up and I started training hard hard hard and I tore my ACL in training and that was really the moment that changed my life and inspired me to become a strength coach or just to become a coach in general. I was wanting to, in this weird way, save the world of combat athletes and help them train smarter so they wouldn’t go through all the disappointments that I went through.

Since then, I’ve just been possessed, I don’t know. I just refuse to lose at anything I do. I’ve been there before the losses so I know that the mindset is the key. Once I had that ACL injury and then I had my ACL repaired, it was like I started this mission where I was going to change the world of training combat athletes. From the get-go, I started researching business with training and I started putting out information probably around 2003 maybe, maybe even 2004, something like that. It’s definitely been well over ten years that I started creating e-books and stuff like that. I was getting PDF, Adobe PDF Maker bootleg additions off of Ebay to make a PDF, so it’s been a long time.

Brett McKay: It seems like everything in your life so far with the weight training when you’re a teenager, the wresting, the bodybuilding, the grappling, led up to underground strength straining.

So I mean I guess, what is the underlying philosophy of underground strength training?

Zach Even-Esh: Yeah, when I was first asked that question, a guy was interviewing me and he’s like, describe what you guys do, and at the time, the big fad was this quote unquote functional training where everybody had to train on a stability ball or you had to train on an unstable service or you were using all these expensive cable pulleys. Everything was just circus tricks. It was just crazy and I wasn’t doing that at all.

I had guys swinging sledgehammers. I had them chopping wood. I had tree logs in the backyard where we would carry them, squat them. We were climbing ropes that were slung around trees. We were lifting stones, pushing trucks.

I just felt like we didn’t follow any of those rules and many of the popular coaches back then, they laughed at me. They were like, eh that’s some stupid stuff, that guy’s an idiot. I think if I was younger, I would have cowered to that and I would have had my lack of confidence, but I was like you know what, look at our results, you can’t argue with our results.

The kids that I was training, the athletes, they were coming to me weak. They were not winning wrestling matches. They were not starting on the football team at all. One kid broke a collar bone he was so weak. I started churning out kids that became all-area football players , all-state wrestlers, state champ wrestlers, all-american wrestlers. I looked at it like we weren’t following the rules of what the norm was, but now the way I look at it is I just don’t discriminate against anything that can make you stronger, faster, tougher. I’m not the guy that says, you only use kettlebells, you only use powerlifting. I feel like that’s just a close-minded way. It’s an arrogant way to think.

I look at what is the best thing for this individual physically as well as emotionally, so the training I do is a blend of physical and mental; but we use all training tools from free weights to kettlebells to dumbbells to odd objects like tires and all kinds of different sandbags, stones. When you see our training, you’ll notice a wide variety of implements being used and I found that it’s great because it not just gets them physically stronger but man, it gets people tough. It gets people tough and people think, oh he’s just training high-school athletes. I’ve got a good amount of adults that train with me and it makes them tougher in life. It’s just like they apply the struggles through our training and they become more successful in life because they’re able to kind of look at life and lifting as the same. It makes them stronger. It teaches them how to handle obstacles from work and things like that. Underground is really just not discriminating against the tools or the methods that deliver results. I’m really open-minded and it’s always evolving, constantly evolving.

I think people are misconstrued with it because they feel like there’s not a lot of science behind our training, which there is. There’s a lot of science, but the most important thing is it’s all application because certain things look really good in these scientific training manuals written by doctors of exercise science, but they don’t always hold true when you’re actually training a group of athletes or a specific athlete, or sometimes those scientific , I don’t know if I want to call them rules, but those scientific theories, they may apply better for one sport than they do for another sport.

There’s a lot of things that I look at when I’m training and I really individualize training for the person for their needs, whether it’s sport life, whether it’s the mental aspect that they need. I blend a lot of it together. I don’t just learn and incorporate stuff from the strengthening initiating world, but I also … a lot of people who follow me know I’m very much connected to the military, especially the Elite Forces of how they train. I blend a lot of those things into what we do to maximize our results. That’s what it’s about, results.

Brett McKay: All right. Flipping through the book. You see a lot of cool exercises like …

Zach Even-Esh: Yes.

Brett McKay: … splitting wood with a sledgehammer, tire pulls, but you also have squats, shoulder press, the barbell exercise as well.

Is there any type of programming with it? If someone were to do this, how would they decide what they should do for how long? What’s the programming behind it?

Zach Even-Esh: So in the book, I gave sample workouts, broke them down into sample beginner workouts, sample intermediate, sample advance workouts; but leading up to that, I write about blending science with hell, blending this good training program that kind of follows the rules along with things that are going to test your mental toughness, that are going to push you physically outside of your comfort zone to help you grow not just physically but grow in your mentality … even on a deeper level, the warrior spirit that Mark Divine talks about from SEALFIT.

When we train, some of our workouts could be full-body workouts, sometimes they’re focused more upper-body or focused more on lower-body, but a lot of our workouts if you come and see our gym, see our guys training of all ages, you start with a warm-up. It’s a blend of just movement. Sometimes it’s got gymnastic drills like tumbling and cartwheels. Other times it’s got some light bodybuilding work in there like dumbbell benching and maybe kettlebell clean and press or some light kettlebell snatches, sled drags. We’re utilizing programming that is a blend of building strength, building muscle, and overall athleticism.

So is there a program to follow? Yes, but I never give a blanket program and say this is what everybody needs. It all starts with, when I’m training people, how do they move. You might be very strong, you could dead lift 405, bench 315, but you can’t do a push-up unless your hands are elevated or you can’t do a lunge. You don’t have the unilateral leg strength or the stability in your ankles, knees, and hips to push yourself off one leg. I look at those things before I determine this is the workout that everybody has to follow.

To me, I want to see people having general fitness. You have to be in shape. If you’re all the way on one end of the spectrum, very very conditioned but then very weak, I’m not a fan of that; or, if you’re very very strong but you’re winded when you have to walk up a flight of stairs or you can’t play with your kids because you’re too big, I don’t like to see those things unless really that’s your area of focus. If you’re a powerlifter, maybe that’s where you’re going to be. You have to chase the extremes. If you’re an all-out ultra marathoner, you may not have a lot of strength, although I think many of them are kind of learning that you don’t have to be weak to be an ultra runner or ultra swimmer or any of that stuff. There’s no set plan until I see that person move because movement to me is number one. If you move like shit, I want to fix that first and foremost.

Brett McKay: You bring up a very interesting point there about the difference between athleticism and strength. What is that difference? If you’re just an average Joe Schmoe like I’m a married dad, I don’t really play sports anymore except for the occasional pickup basketball game … Why should I be athletic?

Zach Even-Esh: Well, an occasional pickup basketball game is where a lot of un-athletic guys start getting hurt like tearing ACLs or jamming up their ankles … oh I jumped and I rolled my ankle. You hear this shit all the time, but what’s unique is I look back to my high-school days. I don’t ever recall a kid saying I tore my ACL, I’ve got to get ACL surgery. Nobody told me they were getting Tommy John surgery.

There’s no such thing as Little Leaguer’s Elbow. These are all words that have been created because of overuse and overspecialization so there’s a lack of balance. When I tore my ACL, looking back at those days, my training program was bodybuilding, leg extensions and not really doing too much machines, not enough stability work, poor mobility. If my body was put in a compromised position, my joints were not prepared for it, and the reason why the body gets hurt is because it’s not prepared for what you’re doing.

Athleticism, I look at is as a blend, having strength, the ability to move, to be healthy, to be able to handle whatever it is that you’re doing. If you’re a powerlifter and you don’t have kids to play and you’re not playing pickup games, then your athleticism and your health won’t really be challenged because you just know how to go to the gym and squat heavy and deadlift heavy and things are different for guys like you and I who become fathers. You start looking at your training differently.

I remember when I strained my lower back and my back was killing me while I was giving my daughter a bath. She was a baby. She was a couple months old. That was the first time I started saying screw this, I’m not going to let my training interfere with being a day.

When I look at athleticism, I don’t look at it in relation to a sport. I look at it in relation to your life so if your training is messing up your life, then we’ve got a problem unless of course you’re zoned it. If you’re training for the Olympics, then your life is a preparation. Joe De Sena always talks about that I’m not sure what rowing team, what country they’re from, but they had that blog called “Will it Make the Boat Go Faster” and they were like hey, do you guys want to go see a movie tonight and they say will it make the boat go faster? They say all right no, we’re not going to the movies.

That’s when you’re in the zone and you’re being extreme, but when you become a parent, your view of training whether you like it or not, it has to change. You need to be healthier. You need to be able to play with your kids. You need to be able to balance your training and not be on the extremes of basically beating the crap out of your body where you’re unable to function with playing with your kids and as you said, it doesn’t have to be a pickup game of basketball. What if the kids our front want to play soccer or you go bike-riding? You want to be able to do those things and to me that’s the most important thing to me. It’s just I don’t care how much I squat, bench, or deadlift anymore; although, I’m inspired to always lift heavier. I change my training anytime that I feel that it’s interfering with being a great father.

Brett McKay: Guys who are listening to this podcast right now, what can they start doing today to apply the philosophy of “Underground Strength” in their own life?

Zach Even-Esh: I say don’t be afraid to get uncomfortable, so if you’re always going to the Globo Gym that’s got the air-conditioning or the heat and it’s got the Tvs, then one day I want you to go to the local playground and get going with your hands on the monkey bars, on the parallel bars. Go and find a stone and just carry it as long as you can or do clean and presses with the stone. Put the car in neutral and push it across the empty parking-lot a couple of times. Go out and train in a way that take your body out of its normal realm of training and you’ll start developing a much more unique style of training and you’re also going to feel like your mind is evolving differently.

Guys like you and I with Art of Manliness and we talk about the confidence factor and being tougher, that kind of training in this unique way. It breeds self-confidence. You just feel like you have a bit of that alpha male going on inside of you because you’re like all right, I know I’m not checking my cell-phone in between sets, I’m not looking in the mirror, I’m not relying on the music that’s going through the gym to motivate me. I’m outside training amongst mother nature whether it’s hot or cold out, and you start to get a little bit of that edge and that is important. Man should never lose that edge and that’s something that you can train to acquire and you can also lose it by training and really living the wrong way, living in a way that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. That’s a scary place for me.

When I find myself getting a little comfortable, that’s when I make sure I go and train outside. I own two gyms and especially when the weather’s nicer, but even in the Winter, I make sure I get outside and do some training. Yesterday was a nice snow storm here. I got to the park with my kids. I was sprinting with them. As they sat in the sleighs, I was chasing them. We were up and down on the playground and in between chasing them, I hopped up on the bars and did dips. Doing that stuff puts my mind in a different place. I start saying in the back of my head, yes, this is strong, training while the snow is blowing and nobody else is out here training like this in the cold. It gives you a great confidence factor and then I take that confidence and I apply it to my work, in all factors of work whether it’s my writing or my online or being willing to do things that other gym owners aren’t willing to do. That kind of training, I just call it get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Brett McKay: I’m going to put this out there. Monkey bars hurt. Don’t be deceived. I did some playground workout and I just, I’m going to do the monkey bars and I hadn’t done monkey bars since I was in Elementary School. Man, that is really uncomfortable. It hurts your shoulders. Man, it’s a workout.

Zach Even-Esh: Yeah, because we’re not fifty pounds anymore.

Brett McKay: Yeah, exactly.

Zach Even-Esh: You’re bigger so using your body weight becomes much more challenging and that stuff’s important. You want to be able to move your own body. I’m a big believer in body weight and calisthenics-style training. Before you’re trying to lift the weights, I want to see guys that can do push-ups, jumping, sprinting, pull-ups, dips. I want to see all men being able to do that.

Brett McKay: Awesome.

Zach, where can people find out more about your work?

Zach Even-Esh: Easiest way is go to and if you google underground strength coach, they’ll see wow the Facebook, the Twitter, the Instagram, all the Youtube videos we’ve got, I think over 1,700 Youtube videos with training …

Brett McKay: Wow.

Zach Even-Esh: … mindset, lots of stuff that can be easily applied; but would be great and the Strong Life Podcast. They could find that as well on the Blog.

Brett McKay: Awesome.

Well Zach Even-Esh, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Zach Even-Esh: Cool. Thank you Brett. Thanks everybody for listening.

Brett McKay: Our guest today was Zach Even-Esh. He is the author of the book, “Underground Strength” and you find that on

Well that wraps up another addition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at and if you enjoyed this podcast, really appreciate it if you give us review on iTunes or Stitcher, whatever it is you use to listen to your podcasts, and also recommend us to your friends if you think it’s worth that. That’s the greatest compliment you can give us.

Anyways, until next time. This is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

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