Seven critical keys to get most out of training

Updated: May 26, 2023

Photo: Heavy tire lifting can be an effective overall-body exercise for wrestlers. This is one of the non-traditional training methods that Zach Even-Esh recommends and has used at his Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey. (Even-Esh photo)

By Zach Even-Esh

I was recently training a group of athletes and one of them was struggling on all levels, both physically and mentally. Coach Zach from 15+ years ago would have flipped out on the athlete and kicked him out; no questions asked.

Today, I have learned that a lot of athletes require time to “turn the corner” and create change from within. It takes them time to be tough. It takes them time to embrace struggle and commitment. Eventually, you need to be tough on an athlete if they are not progressing. They need to hear the truth and be give the opportunity to step up or get out of the way.

This list is not an end all be all list of “What it takes”. This list can help an athlete step up and get better!

Attitude – When an athlete has a negative attitude and brings complaints and excuses on the regular, no progress will ever be made until the athlete takes responsibility and stops fabricating excuses. Step up and bring forth a great attitude.

I can’t do this …

I can’t do that …

I don’t have time in the morning …

 I’m too busy …

These are all excuses to validate lack of effort and lack of results. If you want to win, you must take accountability and responsibility for your actions or lack of effort.

Nutrition is a make-or-break factor. Meaning, two athletes can train side by side for an entire year. If athlete A eats processed foods, skips meals and does not take nutrition seriously and Athlete B eats whole foods and steers clear of processed junk, Athlete B will make tremendous gains and Athlete A will look like he/she doesn’t even train. Take your nutrition seriously to build muscle, strength and boost your wrestling performance.

In the gym, you need to train speed and power. You need to blend this with improved wrestling skills and improved confidence as a competitor. The best wrestlers put together all the pieces of the puzzle when it comes to boosting performance. Training in the weight room must incorporate plyometrics, dynamic effort/speed training with weights, med ball throws, sprints, jumping rope and most importantly, getting better at wrestling.

Sprinting is one of the more effective methods for improving your wrestling performance. Hill sprints are tremendous for developing speed, power, conditioning and leg power. Add sprints to your overall training program twice a week.

Have a plan for your wrestling performance. The off-season is a great opportunity to improve your weak areas and build confidence by competing. Do you need to score more on top? Do you need to improve your skills on your feet? Do you need to learn freestyle, Greco or judo to improve your skills? Take your off-season as an opportunity to transform yourself!

Team Effort to Succeed. The athlete and his/her parents must be supportive of all the work involved to improve. Mom and dad must cook and stock the fridge. Mom and dad need to help with transportation and finances involved in off-season wrestling/training. The wrestler must be coachable. If your coach gives you direction, do it!

I am shocked at how many wrestlers and athletes in general completely ignore the advice from their coach. If the athlete cannot listen and follow through, then no one can help you! Success is a team effort and the wrestler must be an action taker, not an excuse maker.

“Imperfect Training” – The early days of The Underground Strength Gym was brutal and that’s likely why it was so effective. Training with sandbags, stones, thick bars, Kettlebells, truck pushing and training outdoors in the elements made our wrestlers extremely strong, powerful and tough!

 Get out of the gym and train “Underground”. If your training is always perfect in the gym, you are not preparing for the physical and emotional struggles that come with wrestling. The rest is up to you! Do the work and train to win!

(Zach Even-Esh is a strength and performance coach located in New Jersey. Zach is the founder of The Underground Strength Gym (Est. 2002), author of The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and serves as a consultant for coaches, teams and organizations seeking elite performance. Find out more at and