AC Who else in the field has influenced or helped you What are the best tips you learned from them and can pass on to your readers

NG: The late Mel Siff - I'm still reading Supertraining and it still makes my head hurt, seriously this guy was way ahead of his time and his book should be in every S&C coaches library.

Ian King - I've studied a lot of Ians material and it shaped my early years as an S&C coach and even now I refer back to his work (reverse periodisation, prioritization of training, importance of needs analysis)

Mike Boyle - I've started looking at his work during the past six months -he has a great approach to training and he has an honesty that I admire (rehabilitation, core training) (check out Mike's Functional Strength Coach DVD set.) Marques Church - I've name checked him already - this guy switched me on to the benefits of pool based training - its under used and can improve endurance, speed, power, proprioception.

AC: What tips could you add of your own?

NG: Recovery strategies are poorly used and understood. At the moment its all about the sexy stuff, compression skins, contrast bathing. Omega wave etc. People have overlooked the basics - training, nutrition and sleep (quality and quantity). If as a coach you don't know what your client is doing in these areas then don't even think about using the sexy stuff. I can feel a whole other article coming on.

AC: Do you use any supplements?

NG: Supplements is a four letter word in the UK (well its not but you know what I mean), it's a minefield when working with top level athletes and at the moment it's very difficult to make sure that the supplement you are taking is clean. Depending on what the clients nutritional requirements were and assuming that it's clean I would go with the following supplements (based on the fact that they have been shown to work): Creatine

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Caffeine

Carbohydrate/Protein mix

AC: What are your goals as a coach?

NG: Continue to learn.

Continue to make a positive impact on athletes performances AC: In a nutshell - What is your training philosophy?

NG: Quality vs Quantity - establish sound training techniques across a range of drills and exercises and perform them consistently over time.

AC: Where can people read more about your theories and programs?

NG: I have a website: www.winningedgefitness.co.uk there's a comprehensive library of articles by myself and a free newsletter with feature articles and Q&A's from leading professionals in the field of physical preparation. You can contact me via the website, I'll be more than happy to answer any questions.

Thanks for asking me to do this interview Al, I hope your readers have found it interesting.

Interview with Zach Even - Esh

The Underground Strength Coach

AC: Zach, Thank you for the interview. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your current coaching commitments?

AC - it is my pleasure to have such an awesome opportunity to be one of the coaches you interview! Currently, I am training mainly high school athletes, the majority of them are wrestlers and football players with a few baseball players. All of them are highly serious athletes which makes coaching them an absolute blast!

AC: Can you tell the readers your educational background?

I have a BA in Health & Physical Education & my MA is in Health Education. In March of 2005 I was 1 of the first 20 in the world to be invited to Brian Grasso's IYCA certification program to become a Youth Conditioning Specialist! I am currently the only YCS in NJ.

The rest of my education comes from a lot of in the trenches experiences as well as consulting often with some of the top performance coaches in the world. Generous people like yourself, Brian Grasso, Steve Cotter, Louie Simmons, Ethan Reeve, the entire crew at Elitefts.com and a handful more have taken time to speak with me often about training. I have learned so much from all of these great coaches & it motivates me to elevate my knowledge to even greater levels. These guys can talk to me for 15 minutes and they unleash so much great information in such a short time it opens my mind and eyes to an entire new world of what I can still learn. I make sure I keep learning on a consistent basis so I can give my athletes the best possible training. In addition it is simply my personality to do things to the best of my ability! I would NEVER be satisfied with myself if I stopped learning! I don't do anything half assed!

AC: And what is your training/grappling background?

I started wrestling in high school. I fell in love with training for wrestling and bodybuilding at that time. I wrestled through high school and took my first year in college to focus on bodybuilding because I needed a break from all those nights of running 5 miles and running my mind and body to the ground. I stayed involved with wrestling ever since but not on a competitive level because I was bodybuilding afterwards.

Once the UFC & Pride fighting events became more popular I became so intrigued by the MMA scene that I found a place that had Muay Thai and grappling. I LOVED it! I trained for 2 months and entered my first event which was the NAGA world championships and I ended up taking fourth place. I was so angry with taking fourth that I trained harder than ever with the goal of winning the Grapplers Quest Nationals. Two weeks prior I tore my ACL while training and I just stepped back on the mat 2 weeks ago after a year and a half away. That injury woke me up big time and proved to me that my bodybuilder training methods were ineffective for what I was doing. I had some other injuries from wrestling before that as well, but the ACL tear devastated me. This is when I began dedicating myself to learning how to train the right way for combat and it was only right to get this information out to the community of combat athletes!

AC: What are your typical clients and personal achievements as a coach?

My typical client is a teenager in high school (wrestler or football player mostly) and they are very uneducated on how to train. They are also very deconditioned with the posterior chain being very weak as well. Exercises such as push ups, pull ups and body weight squats are difficult for them. They come to with tons of questions and they want answers & results! I give them both as long as they are dedicated and committed to doing all the work necessary!

As a coach it is hard to list my achievements because I am proud of so many of them. An example is I have 2 baseball players who started training with me in mid August. They weighed 105 and 110 respectively. They come every Friday and then follow my guidelines when they train on their own. They weighed in at 140 and 145

last week! They were benching 75 lbs when we started and last week they cranked out sets of 5 with 135 on the bench no problem and dead lifted 225 for an easy 6 reps!

Two other clients I have, both wrestlers have gone undefeated so far this season. One is ranked 4th in the state and is only a freshman! The other has broken school records left and right this season and his power, strength & conditioning are second to none! Another wrestler is ranked 1st in the country in his weight class for the Prep schools. Other kids were getting hammered last year and now are dishing out the ass whoopins' on their opponents.

I can list endless accomplishments but this is all about the kids I train, not me! When I see them being successful and getting scouted by college coaches I am so proud of them. I also see how they grow as individuals, learning dedication and sportsmanship while training here as well as respect. In the end, it is all about these kids and it all started with me wanting to help kids avoid all the training mistakes I made. It's a gift to do what I do.

AC: Can you describe what a typical training day consists of for your clients?

The simple answer would be to say there is no typical day with my clients! Which is a true statement but I'll do my best to elaborate. What I mean is we incorporate tons of variety! There is never a workout the same as the last one! But, I do follow a format that holds solid most of the time. We always begin with a dynamic warm up. The warm up also depends on the weather. During the warmer times of the year, my wrestlers might play 2 on 2 half court basketball for 5 minutes as a warm up! Other times we incorporate a variety of movements such as galloping, skipping, back pedals, bodyweight calisthenics and ab work. Other times we do a small circuit of jumping rope, low reps sets of pull ups, stability ball push ups, sledge hammer work and various forms of step ups and lunges.

After a warm up, we use a variety of tools: free weights, body weight, Russian kettlebells and some form of strong man work (sleds, truck pushing, sand bags & sledge hammers). Workouts are typically full body, sometimes there is an emphasis on lower body or upper body. If the emphasis is lower body we include some bodyweight training for upper body, or vice versa.

Each workout lasts 45 minutes on average. In season workouts are never longer than 30 minutes though. The warmer times of the year my athletes get more strongman training done as well. My football and baseball players sometimes get a full workout devoted to speed, agility & quickness. The key is to balance everything out and make the workouts FUN! I have never had a kid become bored with our training!

The overall method I use for training with regards to training revolves around the Russian methods. The application of these methods have done wonders for the progress my athletes achieve short term and long term. The way I used to train myself led to countless over use injuries and a slow progress in my performance in &

out of the weight room. My clients have reaped great rewards by following my current methods.

A sample split for my grapplers would be training on Mon - Wed - Fri

Monday and Wednesday are full body workouts, Friday being more of a high rep, lactate tolerance style day:

Here is a sample program (not including warm ups): Monday:

2) Keg clean and press 4 - 5 x 4 - 6 reps or 1 hand KB snatches (higher reps on snatches, approx 5 - 12)

3) Log or sandbag squats - zercher position (using an actual tree log, rip the log off the ground and hold it in zercher position) 4 x 6 - 12 reps

4A) pull ups (hold med ball between legs for added weight) 4 x 6 - 12 4B) 2 hand Kettlebell swings 4 x 8 - 10 reps

4C) parallel bar dips or feet elevated push ups 4 x 12 - 20 reps (sometimes Dips were performed with a mini band around the neck or squeezing a med ball between the legs)

5) Finish with some grip work mixed in with abs and light reverse hypers for 2 -3 sets of ea. Exercise

Sample Wednesday work out:

IA) rope climb x 1 ascent x 5 sets (15 ft rope)

IB) sledge hammer overhead swings 5 x 20

IC) log carry and squat (walk to one end of the yard and squat 3 reps, squat 3 more when returning to start point) 5 x is one trip like this (6 reps per set)

2B) Pull ups 5 x 5 - 12 reps (add weight with med ball sometimes) 3A) Flat / Incline Bench or DB Press 4 x 3 - 10 reps

3B ) 1 arm DB row or barbell row (sometimes using Kettlebells for 1 arm rows) 4 x 5 - 10 reps

4) 1 or 2 sets of truck pushing (often times alternating 15 second pushed with a partner, each set getting 2 pushes of 15 seconds)

Friday will be a day of complexes, looking like this: 2 rounds of bar complex: 6 reps each exercise (95 and 105 lbs)

2. bent leg DL

3. bent over row

4. hang clean

5. high pull

6. shrugs

2 rounds of KB complex, 6 reps per leg / arm

1. snatches

2. clean and press

3. 2 hand squat

4. 2 hand rverse lunge

6. 1 hand swings bodyweight complex, 10 reps each (1 - 2 rounds, depending on energy levels)

1. push ups

2. pull ups

3. dip / leg raise combo

4. v ups with 12 lb med ball

AC: What are your thoughts on nutrition? For mass gain? For fat loss? .

Nutrition is key. I will never say nutrition is 50 % and training is 50 % , etc. I believe they should all be 100 %. I educate my athletes on clean eating habits as well as how frequently to eat. And last but not least WHEN to eat. Breakfast & post workout nutrition can infinitely improve an athlete's progress. I give my athletes a list of foods to choose from and encourage them to eat a protein and carb during each meal plus one salad a day.

For my athletes who are pushing to gain weight we add a meal before bed time and they also invest in a quality meal replacement drink. They end up consuming 5 or 6 small meals a day. The regular eating also improves their performance dramatically! I also have some of these athletes eat mini meals through the day. These mini meals might be an extra peanut butter & jelly sandwich on rye bread, or simply having a few spoons of peanut butter spread during the day.

I am not very dogmatic though. Because I train teenagers mostly they do go out and eat fast food here & there but for the most part they have a good understanding of what they can do on some occasions.

Weight loss is a big problem in the wrestling community. Uneducated coaches & parents put a lot of pressure on their kids to cut a lot of weight which burns away all the hard earned muscle they worked for (and Mom & Dad helped pay for) in the off season. I encourage wrestlers to train at a weight which allows them to eat a regular breakfast, lunch & dinner and still allows them to perform optimally. In the real world, it honestly NEVER happens this way. This is the battle I face when training wrestlers. I am not their parent or their wrestling coach so with so many words of wisdom thrown their way it becomes a daunting task.

In the end, every athlete responds differently to training & eating so we try to keep things simple enough to allow them to follow the principles of regular meals through the course of the day.

Ac: In terms of training, you're known as a psycho!!! But I know you're actually very diligent about what you do. How do you monitor it - how far do you push your athletes?

I am not so sure I'm a psycho, Ha-ha !, but training hard is something I love. I learned all this intensity from wrestling but as I have become more educated I have learned how to train SMART as opposed to just intensely, especially with my own athletes. Young teens do not need intense workouts and since each athlete trains with me on a minimum of 3 months at a time, I am able to learn how they recover from each workout and how much intensity they can handle. One of my wrestlers thrives on training no more than 3 x week, so every 10 workouts we go back to 2 x week. This gives him extra recovery physically & mentally. For wrestlers, mental / psychological recovery is so important because too many wrestlers peak mid way through high school and never continue wrestling after high school or as seniors. Long term progress means everything regarding young athletes. This is why I never train them more than 3 x week. If we train a 4th time it is usually a day devoted to various form and agility drills and stretching.

As I mentioned before, the Russian conjugate and concurrent methods are great. The constant variety strains the CNS to a lesser extent and helps them avoid burn out. One thing I learned from Coach Ethan Reeve was to purposely make some work outs easy, allowing the athlete to go home still wanting to do more. This gives them that extra recovery and keeps them returning stronger. This is also where wrestlers and young athletes in general want to do more because they don't understand how beneficial this is for them to actually do less during certain workouts. If I would have known this back when I was a kid I would have reduced my injuries greatly, many of which were overuse injuries!

With out doubt though, there are many tough workouts that challenge my athletes physically & mentally. If a workout was very taxing one day, the next workout I will make sure to taper the intensity level. We also taper our training before the season and in season. The volume, intensity & time are lowered during these times to keep the athlete healthy and in a state of peak performance as often as possible.

AC: Do you train males and females any differently ?

As of now I have not had any female athletes train with me. It is no secret that females can benefit greatly & should strength train, especially with the large number of ankle and knee injuries they encounter. I am currently in the process of discussing a group training program with a girl's basketball coach for the local high school. The training would be limited to the court itself, but as you & I know bodyweight strength

& conditioning can be awesome. I also think the group training for the girls will be a great setting for them as young athletes in general enjoy training with friends.

This team currently does no form of strength work so the beginning of these workouts will be exercises such as body weight squats, split squats, various forms of lunges in various directions, push up variations, and various bridging motions to engage the core. When I mention the core I do not think of simply the abs and the low back. I am taking about the upper glutes, hip flexors, obliques and the overall center of the body.

Elastic tubing will work well here as well, exercises for the upper back and mid back using various rowing motions (face pulls, chest rows, and rear delt movements) will be worked here. These are just many of the ideas running through my head as of now so I am excited to see if this project will come to fruition.

AC: I know you study the field a lot. Who do you go to for training advice?

As you know, I bother you a lot for training information! Ha Ha !! I also call Brian Grasso who is very technical and thorough, especially for times when I am evaluating an athlete's weakness he is great at deciphering what a certain movement means with regards to muscular weakness or imbalance. Joe DeFranco is awesome, Louie Simmons is amazingly knowledgeable and I could talk to the man forever. The methods of Pavel Tsatsouline have obviously influenced my use of Russian Kettlebells as well as my good friends Jason C Brown & Steve Cotter. Ethan Reeve is a great coach and a genuine person and is always willing to chat about his training methods. Josh Henkin always reveals great info when I need a hand as well and is probably one of the most underrated strength coaches out there, the man is an encyclopedia of training knowledge!

AC: Who else in the field has influenced or helped you ? What are the best tips you learned from them and can pass on to your readers ?

Speaking with Louie Simmons truly opened up my mind to the Russian methods and increasing GPP with sled work and strong man type methods. Larry Jusdanis of Canada and his BLITZ methods are awesome and highly effective. Joe DeFranco has a great understanding of how to take an underdeveloped athlete and turn them into beasts. Joe has motivated me and influenced me with my training methods big time! The best tips come from listening to my athletes and changing from their feedback. With regards to the guys at Elite (especially the power lifters) people are greatly mistaken when they think they are only adept at training power lifters. Louie Simmons trains pro football teams, Pro MMA fighters, elite college athletes and young kids. James Smith is very thorough and always makes me rethink my training methods to make me a better Coach.

Louie really trains his athletes with some odd movements like leg raises with chains draped on their ankles, Russian twists with chains on the end of the bar, squatting, lunges and pressing for up to 6 minutes at a time to mimic a wrestling match in duration. The guy always opens up my mind to effective & fun training methods!

AC: What tips could you add of your own ?

I highly recommend using a variety of tools when training. I often see athletes or coaches who espouse to using only bodyweight, or only kettlebells or only free weights. I suggest finding a good balance between a variety of effective tools, key word being effective. If something doesn't work there is no need to use it in your training.

I love kettlebells and strong man training but I would be limiting my athlete's capability to progress if I only used those tow training tools. I also recommend keeping an open mind. I always love to hear what someone else does and I never feel threatened when I am told by a more knowledgeable coach that I am doing could be done better. Just because I haven't heard of a certain training method doesn't mean it's BS.

AC: When young athletes come to you for training, what's the first thing you do with them? Does any particular sport stand out as being better than another?

We evaluate them through movement activities and bodyweight exercises as well as simple posture evaluation. ALL young athletes have weaknesses and the posterior chain is a big weakness. I did train a wrestler who was an absolute physical specimen! Unfortunately he moved. He began training with me at age 14 and was a national wrestling champion. His physique was that of a Greek statue carved from stone. He was also a football player but he wrestled year round. His strength was amazing and after 1 month of training he was able to do nearly 30 pull ups at a bodyweight of 150 lbs.

Still, this athlete started with a lot of unilateral work to improve overall balance and we focus on the posterior chain. When summer is here we take advantage of the weather and do a lot of sled dragging variations to work the glutes, hams and lower back.

I have found that my football players come to me being the most deconditioned. They take longer to work up to training at high intensity levels and carry more body fat than my other athletes do. For these athletes we do a lot of kettlebell swings, kettlebell cleans and kettlebell squats. These exercises condition them effectively and allow us to work safely with high reps with out losing control.

AC: What are your goals as a coach?

I want to continue training young athletes, as well as college athletes and pro athletes. I have watched the last PRIDE fighting championships and as I watched Mark Hunt I thought to myself over & over how much better he could be if he was in better shape - I would love to train a guy like that. Also, watching Mirko Cro Cop train on his DVD with a circuit of bicep curls, back extensions and seated crunches, I knew once again how his workout could be revamped for infinitely greater results.

I love the fact that I have been able to reach athletes all over the world - I never imagined such a thing would happen when I started all this - and I will continue to make top notch DVD's and books so I can reach out to even more hungry athletes & coaches!

AC: In a nutshell - What is your training philosophy?

Train for long term progress by using a variety of effective training modalities under the conjugate or concurrent method - this ensures the qualities of strength, power, and muscular endurance (and all the other qualities) get worked regularly & equally to help build a complete athlete.

Listen to your athletes and watch them carefully so you can individualize their programs as much as possible to ensure the best results as possible. This is the 'Art of Coaching' & I work on this every single day!

Keep on learning and keep an open mind to other training methods!

AC: You use Strongman training and kettlebells a lot. What can you tell the reader is the extra benefit from these methods as compared to regular strength training?

Kettlebells are not the same as dumbbells first of all - kettlebells always have the grip factor involved, and kettlebells can be held in positions that dumbbells can not. The rack position places the load in the front of the body where as dumbbells can not rest there, thus making kettlebells highly effective for wrestlers, grapplers and mma fighters. The use of kettlebells helps the athlete use their energy efficiently. You learn to finesse the kettlebells around your hand or you have some places where you learn to rest your body for brief moments. In wrestling this is key because of all the bursts of energy that go on / off during a match. The versatility of using one or two kettlebells on different exercises lend themselves to working areas of the body that do not ordinarily get worked via dumbbells. They also teach the athlete to use their entire body. So many kettlebell lifts work the entire body at the same time so they are extremely efficient.

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