At the last minute, I ended up having a coffee break with a friend today and toted along Zach Even-Esh’s brand new Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning. She’s also an aficionado of incredibly challenging workouts and in addition to being a member of our kettlebell small group, is almost always up for a “Hey, I have this crazy workout to test, want to try it?” situation. Like the time this past Memorial Day when we did a version of the Murph Hero WOD for fun in the park.
Getting a review copy of the book was a real treat as Zach not only shares tons of cool exercises, approaches to programming, and example workouts, he also shares his own personal story. This is absolutely fascinating stuff, and in some weird way, makes understanding his “no rules” “underground” approach that much easier.
I’m a big fan of questioning the mainstream (a glance at the music I’ve collected for the past 25+ years will also attest to that). Also, many times I’ve been let down by “what you’re supposed to do” in terms of “women’s fitness”.
Several years ago my frustration had gotten to such a fever pitch that I am now and have been ACTIVELY SKEPTICAL of anything fitness related that’s labeled as being “For Women”. The models all usually looked the same, or were of that particular build that seems to sell “women’s stuff.” But that didn’t bug me as compared what I’d usually find inside the books… the same old boring light-weight, low on technique drivel. The stuff that I had actually tried and had dedicated a lot of time to, only to get mediocre results–if I got results at all. But still the nice ladies on the covers in their color coordinated outfits, and possibly photoshopped slim legs and arms grinned back as though they couldn’t possibly understand why this couldn’t possibly be working for me.
Finally I wised up in my frustration. And in my refusal to do “nice girl workouts” that involved stair steppers, stretching, running, stretching, cute outfits, more stretching, and little weights that wouldn’t cause alarm, I decided to see “what the boys were doing”. I’ve been keenly interested in “what the boys are doing” for quite a while now. In first grade I really needed to know “why boys like He-Man” and conducted a survey of my male classmates. By the way it’s NOT A DOLL, it’s an ACTION FIGURE. Heehee… ok guys, calm down. (I probably mentioned the findings of this survey in a previous blog post, but it’s still worth noting that I still hear the same ideas from my male fitness friends now. Thankfully the guys were–and are–more interested in getting muscles and an unstoppable winning streak like He-Man, and not getting that He-Man man-bikini outfit or hairdo).
Guys like heroes (as do women). But I was reminded of this type of heroic inspiration when reading about how Zach was so inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book, Education of a Bodybuilder he found when he was in high school. (More on that specifically in an upcoming highly detailed interview with Zach, by the way.) Essentially, “I want to be awesome like that, and I want to go for it!” That’s a sentiment that seems to be human in nature… and not restricted to any gender.
So with the feeling that I was somehow sneaking into the “Boys’ Treehouse No Girls Allowed!” back in about 2009, I started poking around Dragon Door and looking at their awesome and mighty manly-man books. I soon discovered that YES this stuff actually works for everyone, and oh hey, this Kettlebell Goddess DVD is not easy AT ALL! Pleased to say that the women’s items on there truly are as the old slogan goes “strong enough for a man, but made for a woman”. FINALLY, some RESPECT.
Zach’s book has a similarly rugged feel. ANYONE can benefit from the ideas in Zach’s book, but I have noticed (even/especially) at his workshop that there are a lot more men in attendance… and while the demographic at this particular workshop was skewed towards male coaches for mens high school and collegiate sports, there was also a fitness contingent there, and a few very fit, very dedicated, and very cool women. It was super cool to watch how one young lady started the workshop in a kind of “tagging along with my guy” role, but ended up getting positively electrified by the information. Towards the end of the workshop you could have thought it was HER idea to go, and that her boyfriend was tagging along for fun! That’s what I’m talking about!
So while the book is a combo guy-coming-of-age autobiography followed by extensive information on Underground Strength and Conditioning as demonstrated by young male athletes, it is by no means restricted to guys. If anything, I see stuff like this as a “OH YEAH?!?! I can do that too!!!” challenge. I hope more women will take a bold stance and try these fun workout ideas that really can be done anywhere. Zach started training athletes in the garage, in parks, and in his parents’ backyard! The sky is the limit.
Ooof that was long winded. Here’s what we did today which was heavily inspired by the workouts in Zack’s book on pages 310-311:
We warmed up with our fun Primal Move drills, the Trifecta, and some straight bridges (from Convict Conditioning). The warm-up continued with a set of 20 moderately heavy kettlebell swings. THEN 5 rounds through this very fun Zach-inspired circuit:
- 1 Weighted sled/prowler push (out and back on the short indoor run) choice of 128lbs or 198lbs (1 45lb plate or 2 45lb plates and a 25lb plate–this particularly spiffy sled from Legend Fitness weighs 83lbs on its own)
- 20 Moderate to heavy kettlebell swings
- 1 Monkey bar “hand walk” (monkey bars were not available today so we tried a challenging hand walk forward and backward on a long, very stable pull up bar. If this got too challenging towards the end, timed straight arm hangs were given as an option)
- 10 Push-ups of a challenging variation (raised feet, anyone?)
- 10 alternating medium-high step ups onto a box while holding a kettlebell in front (as in a goblet squat)
- 10 strict ring-based bodyweight rows
We took a little break before moving onto another self-timed circuit – 4 rounds of:
- 20 Battling rope throws (Will admit, I did go and throw these ferociously when the others were resting or on other stations. Gosh they are good for stress!)
- 20 kettlebell swings (their choice of weight, and since they’re getting very good at auto-regulation as Zach would describe it, I am proud to say that their choices were very wise.)
- 10 “Sprawls” (what Bud Jeffries calls a burpee with no jump or no push up)
Finally after a brief break they did a little combo of rows and mace swings – mainly because it’s a lot of fun, and seems to effect everyone’s posture and shoulder mobility in a positive way:
- 10 reasonably heavy cable rows (because it was there, but we could have also done kettlebell rows too…)
- 10 alternating circular mace swings (RARR! By the power of Grayskull!)
Following a Primal Move cooldown, some of us proceeded to immediately drive to–and nearly devour whole–a local Mediterranian deli.
I will be talking more via video about Zach’s book especially its emphasis on success strategies for life very soon. In fact, click here to check out this cool article from him about success that went live yesterday. Good stuff all around.