Power Up To Power Through The Holidays

“Training year-round teaches critical life lessons.  You can benefit whether you’re an adult or student athlete, and whether you’re training in-season or off-season.”

I thought of this as I was repping out with my second set on the barbell squat. I love the feeling that I get from getting under a heavy bar. Going down, down, down (as sometimes in life) and then EXPLODING that mother up showing life that you’re up for any challenge.  As long as you have breath, you’re going to fight.  No matter how tough things get.

Garage Gym

“The person who commits to training during tougher times such as when life is busy is the person who learns to make NO excuses in life, thus achieving greater success than those who give up as soon as the going gets tough.  The bottom line:  Raise your standards.  If you’re a coach or parent, raise the standards you have for your kids.  If you train yourself without the help of others, then push the envelope and go above and beyond the norms.”

Both of the quotes above come from Zach Even-Esh’s book, “The Encyclopedia Of Underground Strength and Conditioning”.


I’ve known Zach for about 9 years, he lives up in the New Jersey area, is married with young kids.  We’ve shared emails, phone calls, I’ve bought his products, he’s bought mine. I met with Zach in person a year or 2 ago here in Austin as he was traveling through town.  The man is passionate about fitness, training athletes and strength training.  He applies the lessons that he learns in the weight room to his life.

We share the same philosophy about training.  Strength training solves a lot of life’s problems.  It builds the mental muscle as well as the physical.  No excuses.

When Mom and Dad make excuses, they teach their kids to be excuse makers.

In the book, Zach shares several personal stories about how underweight or overweight jr. high and high school kids would show up at Zach’s garage gym wanting to train. As they stuck with the training ( which was much more than today’s junior high/high school training which is usually rushed through, not individualized and not tracked for progress) something amazing happened.

They began to blossom.  They leaned out, hardened up, their grades went up, their mental toughness improved and their confidence rose.  If they were football players, they became hostile on the field – in a good way. If they were wrestlers, they got into their opponents heads just from their physical appearance.

In short, they dominated and went on to participate at higher levels – wrestling state champs, college football and baseball.  And they still train with Zach, even as adults.  And they bring their kids.  When you find a life changing program, don’t change things.  Coaches like this are one in a million.  They breathe fire and they will improve your health and your life.


What keeps you attacking life’s challenges with a hostile, take no prisoners attitude?  When’s the last time, you went through a hellish workout that gave you a kick in the shorts?  You survived it, right? And THAT is what builds mental toughness –  the ability to “swim in the deeper waters” instead of playing it safe, staying in bed, pulling the blankets up over your face.

Of course, training is much more than kicking your ass all of the time.  It’s about training smarter.  Work on the things that you hate because they will make you better in the long run. Some guys just train biceps – but what about 10 sets of 10 reps of squats under a heavy barbell that might crush you if you don’t lift it?

Some girls just work legs – but what about the pull ups?  How many of those can you do?  When’s the last time that you tried?

Scott and Zach

Out here on the mighty Northshore, my oldest son has been thriving in the weight room.  I can’t take all of the credit because now he comes to me and asks to workout.  In the past, I had to make it fun, not do too much and keep things light in terms of coaching him.  He’d rather play video games.  But now, he’s anxious to get in the garage because he loves the way he feels after a workout.  He loves the feeling of strength and brags about how he carried a girls tuba across the school campus for her.


Strength will serve you when nothing else and no one else is there to help.  But this is how you build mental toughness.  If someone is helping you all of the time, how can you grow stronger?  Yes, sometimes it stinks when it’s just you and the workout.  Quit and see how much better you feel. You won’t.

One of the trends now in youth sports are “speed programs”.  You stand around listening to coaches telling you how to run faster.  You work on the 3 point drill.  You run the agility ladder.  Indeed there may be a place for this kind of training at some point but…while one kid is training on an agility ladder – somewhere out there another kid is under a heavy squat bar battling it out.  Struggling and straining.  Which is going to be more beneficial?

Zach talks about these “skill position” types coming into this gym and getting absolutely crushed…from the warm up.  They have not trained for strength. They give up too easily.  They have never pushed through.  But once they started doing rope climbs (with no legs), kettlebell farmers walks for 100 yards and back, and pushing the weighted sled across the parking lot they got it.  From their backs, looking up at the morning sky, in a puddle of sweat, on the parking lot – they got it.

Strength allows you to produce force.  A prerequisite to developing speed and explosive power is the development of strength.


Running long distances is great – Austin is a running city.  Austin is a fit city.  I like that but I also want raw, brute “carry a tuba across the parking lot” strength.  Hell, 10 tubas.

Ultimately, I want my female athletes/clients to be strong and fit.  They should work towards being able to:

Bench Press .75 – 1 x bodyweight

Squat 1 1/2 – 2 x bodyweight

Deadlift 1 1/2 – 2 x bodyweight

I want my male athletes/clients to be able to:

Bench Press 1.5 x bodyweight (you weigh 200lbs, you should be able to bench press 300lbs for one rep)

Squat 2 x bodyweight

Deadlift 2 1/2 x bodyweight

These are all common standards in the strength world.  If you’re an athlete, aspiring athlete or just want a better quality of life, you should care about this.  Tracking your progress will keep you honest.  You’ll need to work hard to get there and then to stay there.

This was one of my biggest challenges when I ran bootcamps for the general public.  There was no good way to measure progress at first.  Everyone had different capabilities.  Some couldn’t run, some had bad shoulders or were too out of shape to do much more than basic calisthenics.

Ultimately, clear thinking came into play and I began to throw out challenges.  This weeded out some of the individuals who wouldn’t or couldn’t answer the call.  One of the toughest challenges for this group (including me) consisted of:

  • 1 mile run (timed)
  • 30 burpee box jumps
  • 1 rope climb (beat your past best – 1/4 up the rope, 1/2 way up the rope, etc

They struggled.  They bitched.  If I gave them notice that we were doing this challenge the next workout day, some didn’t show up.  Coincidence?  Don’t know.

I’m pretty sure if I met with them today, most of them would smile as we reminisced over those workouts.  Dare I say they might even admit that they grew to like them?

It makes me feel great to know that guys like Zach are out there busting people up in the gym (in a good way). He’s built an underground army.  Sleep well at night knowing that if you ever find yourself in assistance, if one of his charges is near – they’ll be there to help.  They’re both men and women.  They’ll have your back if you need it.  They’re training for it right now in a gym in New Jersey where gym chalk is flying, loud music is playing and enthusiasm and self confidence is high.


So as we approach October, what’s your health and fitness challenge?  If you don’t have one, you’re probably going to gain weight (I just gain weight by looking at that picture of the carrot cake accompanying this article).  The month will fly by and you’ll be 3-5 pounds heavier.  And less fit.  And more stressed.  Guaranteed.

Taking on a challenge will slow the crazy last 3 months of the year down.  Take your mind off of and help to dissolve stress.  Give you time to reflect.

Oh, you can still enjoy those school treats that are sure to come home with the kids.  You can still eat your favorite chips and guac dip while watching Charlie Strong pace up and down the sideline as The Longhorns hopefully win another game. It’s fun to enjoy this time of year.

I know from experience that October – December are the “dangerous months”.  We eat too much, we move less, we gain weight, our clothes are tight.


Let’s don’t go there easily.



I’m probably in the gym or changing a diaper,



P.S.  Check out my November Fitness Weekend – registration is closing soon!


P.P.S. What’s my challenge?  Glad you asked.  I’m training for the True Athlete Games Championships on Dec 19th 2015.  53 days and counting…









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