Training the Basics With Zach Even-Esh

Revisit the basics of training to get your progress back on track.

It all comes down to building yourself up versus breaking yourself down.

You can train hard and you can train smart. There is such a thing. The key I see most people missing is they are not first building a base. Everyone wants to jump straight to the top of the mountain without taking the necessary steps to get there.

Sled Pushes and Drags are Great for Building Work Capacity

Training is like going to school. We start in pre-school, then move to elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and so on. School can go on forever. There are people out there with multiple PhDs and people out there always attending more training to obtain CEUs. That is how training should be – a constant evolution and growth.

Sometimes (or often times), you need to go back and revisit the basics or certain steps that you didn’t pay enough attention to. I’ve been training since 1989, and sometimes I find myself pausing and going backward, but in truth, I am moving forward. Let me explain and show you how you can use this approach to improve yourself, as well.

Have Goals, But Maintain Balance

After achieving a recent challenge to squat five days a week and get back to deadlifting over 500lbs and squatting over 400lbs, I felt like a train wreck. I leaned too far toward one end of the spectrum (strength), while ignoring other areas, such as mobility, adequate conditioning, and stability and joint health. After hitting a wall, I went back to the basics.

I balanced my routine out and added plenty of mobility and foam roller time. I added rotator cuff work. Remember, mobility isn’t just when you are using a foam roller, mashing on a lacrosse ball, or perhaps including some yoga into your training. Exercises like the windmill, the get up, and overhead carries will also help you stay mobile, as well as strong.

I am performing more kettlebell get ups, as well as kettlebell swings, and feeling my overall health improving on a daily basis. I am getting to bed early (usually by 10:00pm), drinking more water throughout the day, and on my days off, I dedicate about fifteen to twenty minutes to various forms of mobility.

farmer's carry with two kettlebells

Farmer’s Carries Work the Entire Body Efficiently

Stronger, Healthier, and More Energetic

During the next four weeks you might feel like you’re going backward, but in truth, you’ll be moving forward. You’ll feel healthier, more energetic, and stronger. Your body won’t feel like it’s beat up, and, in turn, you’ll be more pleasant to be around.

After these four weeks, you can modify all your training to this smarter approach. An approach that has you working hard, yet also helps you feel healthy. I urge you not to view this as a step backward. View it as getting better. Period.

Train three times per week on nonconsecutive days. On your other days, perform any type of physical activity that gets your heart pumping. My activities change according to the weather and the time of year. I might go mountain biking, running with my dog, surfing, swimming, body surfing, play tennis, or run around with my kids.

Also, on those days, get a foam roller and roll on areas that feel tight or sore. I keep it that simple. If it feels like it needs to get a massage, roll on it.

Warm Up and Mobility Work

Warm up with light calisthenics for all areas of the body and light cardio. I prefer sled drags, easy battle ropes, light jogging, and band pull-aparts from various angles.

After a good warm up, spend a few minutes performing soft tissue work on areas that feel tight or sore. Then, perform the workouts listed below. After each workout, revisit the soft tissue work on areas that need to be massaged.

Here’s a sample mobility mash up:

Training Plan: Weeks One and Two:

Day 1

1A) kettlebell goblet squat with 2 second pause at the bottom 5X5

1B) ring push ups 5X5-10

Make sure you externally rotate at the top of each rep. Add a weight vest or chain if 10 reps are too easy.

2A) 1-arm dumbbell row 3X10 per side

2B) side plank on forearms 3X30 seconds per side

3) sled drags 5X150-200 feet (half facing forward, half facing backward)

Day 2

1) Turkish get ups 5X1 per side

2A) farmer’s walk 4X100 feet – Use kettlebells, strongman handles, etc.

2B) neutral grip flat bench with kettlebells 4X10 reps

3A) Bulgarian split squats holding dumbbells at your sides 3X8 per leg

3B) battle ropes 3X25 arm circles + 25 slams

4) jump rope intervals: 5 intervals of 40 seconds work/20 seconds rest (5 minutes total time)

Day 3

1) front squats 5X3 – Increase or decrease the weight through the 5 sets, focusing on maintaining technique.

2) kettlebell windmills 4X2 per side

3A) mixed push ups 5X10-20

Change your push up variation every set by changing hand or foot position or by using rings or medicine balls.

3B) band pull-aparts – overhand/underhand/dislocators 5X10/10/5

4) kettlebell swings 5X10

5) side plank + front plank 2X30 seconds in each position

For week two, repeat the week one workouts, but progress by improving your technique and, if possible, adding weight. Only add weight if you can maintain your technique.

Training Plan: Weeks Three and Four

Day 1

1A) barbell Zercher squat 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

If you still feel you can hit a heavier single, add weight and do 1 more set of 1

1B) broad jumps 5X3

2A) double overhead kettlebell carry 3X100 ft.

2B) 1-arm kettlebell bent-over row 3X10 per arm

3A) double kettlebell rack walking lunges 3X8 per leg

3B) double kettlebell cleans 3X5

4A) ab wheel roll-outs 3X submax reps

Stop the set before you lose trunk stability.

4B) band face pulls + external rotation 3X10 each

Day 2

1A) bench press with 2 second pause on chest 5X3

1B) burpees 5X3

1C) chest-to-bar pull ups 5X3

2A) underhand bent-over barbell rows 4 X6-8

2B) underhand barbell shrugs 4X6-8

3A) thumbs up bent-over dumbbell shoulder raises 3X12

3B) scarecrows 3X12 Use rings, suspension trainer, or cable pulleys

4A) kettlebell lying triceps extensions 3X10-15

4B) kettlebell hammer curls 3X6-8

5) 2 sets: side plank 30 seconds per side + front plank 30 seconds

Day 3

1) double kettlebell clean + squat + press X5, 4, 3, 2, 1

2A) sumo deadlift 6X2

2B) lunge jumps 6X2 per leg

3A) vertical wall walks 3Xmax work – Start each set on your stomach.

3B) any vertical bodyweight pull – 3Xmax

For example, you could use rope climbs, pull ups, or ring pull ups.

4) 1-arm kettlebell swings 3X10 per arm

5A) jump rope 4X100 jumps

5B) heavy sled drags 4X100 feet – 50 feet forward, 50 feet backward

For week four, repeat the week three workouts, but progress by improving your technique and, if possible, adding weight. Only add weight if you can maintain your technique.

Pull Ups Build Back and Arm Strength With Very Little Equipment

Strength and Performance Without Sacrificing Health

The goal of these workouts is to blend strength and performance with overall health. The movements are varied, and you’ll be training your body from multiple angles.

One of the keys to staying healthy while also improving your physical strength is what you do outside of the gym. Remember the simple things – drinking enough water, getting eight hours of sleep every night, avoiding a stressful lifestyle, eating wholesome foods, and minimizing sugars and processed foods (or eliminating them altogether).

Give this program a test for the next month and see how you feel.

Since training all the way back to 1989, I am always reminded that more is not better – better is better. I am on a mission as I constantly evolve to rediscover just what “better” means. I am always learning and so should you. The man or woman who stops learning is not truly living.

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