Many athletes and coaches who buy training books are looking for more than a listing of moves and a program. And with motivational books becoming ever more popular, it seems people hunger for some deeper truths to their training.


Recently I read (and re-read) The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning, by Zach Even-Esh. This book tells the inspiring story of Zach's growth and education as an athlete and a coach. It also covers the workouts he loves.


About the Author

I’ve known Zach for a while now. He approached me to help write a training book for MMA years ago, and before that I came to know him through our mutual online presence. One thing that has always stood out to me about Zach is that he always asks questions. Despite a long history of training, competing, and coaching, Zach still humbly approaches his training. In other words, he’s a lifelong student. It’s a rare quality to have, and it makes for the best coaches.


AN INTERVIEW WITH ZACH: Journey to the Underground


A large part of the book is about Zach and his experiences. He went through a long and hard-fought journey to be the coach and author he is today. Some of his stories will undoubtedly remind you of yourself when you were younger, and the rest will inspire you to fight through the hardships that plague every athlete and coach.


"Taking time off allowed Zach to find methods outside of the weight room that made him the coach he is today, like ropes, rocks, tires, kettlebells, sandbags, and everything in between."

Zach discusses how a torn knee ligament changed his perspective on training. Taking time off allowed him to find methods outside of the weight room, like ropes, rocks, tires, kettlebells, sandbags, and everything in between. This time of transformation is what gave Zach his present perspective. It also gives the reader a clue as to why they should use these alternatives.


Practical Methods

Zach then transitions into the practical side of athletics. Zach discusses the different types of trainees he encounters, touches on how to train and eat year-round, and proceeds into case studies of how these methods have shaped the athletes who worked with him.


Zach spends the final half of the book detailing training methods. As the name of the book implies, the exercises are brought to you in an encyclopedic fashion. This means the latter half of the book is divided up into many training modes. Each section has a list of exercises that fall under their respective method of training. He covers the following methods:


  • Bodyweight Training
  • Sandbag Training
  • Stone Training
  • Training Outdoors
  • Tire Training
  • Keg Training
  • Free Weight Training
  • Sled Training


At the end of most of these sections, Zach combines the exercises he has described into sample workouts. The information in each section is comprehensive, and the exercise descriptions alone take up nearly 200 pages of the book.



The only potential downside of the book is the lack of a complete program. As mentioned, Zach describes exercises and provides workouts for each of the above sections, and also discusses higher-level coaching concepts to help someone put together a program, but no over-arching program is provided. I believe this is because Zach prefers workouts to be varied and based on what the athlete is motivated to do. I am inclined to agree with that notion, but some athletes might be looking for more structure.


"Zach has produced a book that is truly encyclopedic and will provide both coaches and athletes of all levels with motivational material, exercise ideas, workouts and more for years to come."

My Conclusion

Zach has produced an encyclopedic book that will provide coaches and athletes of all levels with motivational material, exercise ideas, workouts, and more for years to come. And as always, Dragon Door's production value is high. The pages look nice and are well-edited, and the book is durable.


Anyone looking for a comprehensive book that provides a great deal of the education from a coach who has done it all should look no further than the The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning.


"The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning" is available for $39.95 in hardcopy or $19.95 as an eBook at Dragon Door.