Underground Strength Manual Review By Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com
I've written about Zach Even-Esh before. He's a former bodybuilder turned hardcore-and I do mean hardcore-strength coach. Zach favors ground-based movements over machines. And by that he literally means that your feet are on the ground. Getting more done in less time, strengthening the joints, improving speed, more use of multiple muscle groups and building a strong core are some of the benefits of ground-based movements. He also is a huge proponent of home-based gyms and incorporates a lot of bodyweight exercises into Underground Strength. To follow Zach's techniques you don't need an expensive gym membership or a lot of fancy equipment.
Ultimate Strength pushes what Zach calls "functional strength," which refers to the type of strength you use in whatever it is that you endeavor to do. One thing I really like about Underground Strength is Zach's focus on building up and strengthening weak areas. That's a break from a lot of programs you see out there that mostly focus on the "beach" muscles-the ones you see when you look in the mirror. Underground recognizes the importance of all around training, not just the obvious stuff.
Zach is big advocate of general physical preparedness (GPP) exercises for improving work capacity and solidifying your foundation. GPP exercises utilize multiple muscle groups and include both weighted and non-weighted options. Push-up, bodyweight squats, lunges and jumping jacks are just a few of your non-weighted choices. Weighted options include exercises performed with dumbbells, sandbags or even buckets filled with sand. Some other GPP exercises include sled dragging, tire flipping and car pushing.
Underground Strength includes an excellent discussion of periodization, which essentially refers to varying your training routine at regular intervals in order to bring about optimal results. If you don't change up your routine the body quickly becomes accustomed to your workouts and gains will cease. Here in chapter five Josh covers the basics of six different periodization models and talks about why the Concurrent Method/Complex Training-training various skill strengths in one workout-is his favorite.
Chapter six, No BS Training Tips is well done, providing a lot of useful information that you don't often see in other training books or guides. His nutrition suggestions are solid and practical, providing useful tips and general guidelines. This is followed by an excellent section on mental preparation and goal-a topic overlooked by too many otherwise worthwhile training programs. Zach rounds out this chapter with discussions of free weight movements, an overview of kettlebell exercises, Escalating Density Training (EDT), No Rules Strength Training and then "Training Like a Farm Boy," which covers all sorts of exercises that you can do using a wheelbarrow, sledgehammer, buckets, tree logs and lots more.
In Chapter 7, Zach provides tips and guidance about setting up your own home gym-what he refers to as your own "Underground Dungeon." He covers setting one up with both purchased equipment and ordinary items you can easily find for little or no cost. The next chapter talks about underground conditioning methods as well as outlining "Energy System Training," which is intense circuit training workouts (deadlifts, pull-ups, kettlebell exercises, etc.) that incorporate sprints as well, turning an ordinary workout into a killer training session.
Chapter 9-Secret Training Files-provides an inside look at how Zach trains both the athletes he works with as well as himself. Here Zach gives us a variety of workouts for different locations like the backyard, a playground and field training. He also offers some specific routines for high school wrestlers, football players, law enforcement officers and adult grapplers. Each workout is modified to meet the individual needs of each particular athlete or profession. He includes full-body workouts as well as upper- and lower-body routines as well.
The last chapter-Chapter 10-is devoted to Zach's "Underground Workouts." Here Zach gives us the nuts and bolts of his favorite workouts and routines-both bodyweight and with weights and/or equipment. The remainder of the book provides pictures and detailed information about how to perform the specific exercises that Zach discusses in the previous chapters.
While overall I really like the Underground Strength Manual and its basic principles if your primary goal is simply to get big this may not be the best strategy for you. It's not that you can't get big following Underground Strength-you can-but this particular book is mostly focused on training strategies and routines that are really most ideal for guys interested in combat fighting or mixed martial arts.
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