Zach Even-Esh

1 Exercise Per Workout & Being AWESOME


It was New Year’s Eve… well, just about.

It was 3 PM on New Year’s Eve and the dedicated crew of athletes & lifters rolled up to The Underground Strength Gym in Edison, NJ.

Some had traveled as far as 1 hr to drive here & I let the thought enter my mind…. “Where are the kids who live 5 – 10 minutes away from here who keep telling me they’re too busy during the season?”

Instead of getting disappointed I get fired up by reminding myself to have ZERO expectations of people.

I get The Rocky IV soundtrack pumping and we’re off to the races with a kick ass warm up.

Some of our college athletes are back for break and I get inspired as they’re only freshman and already stronger than me.

One of our girls stops in to say hello and like a true champ jumps in for a training session. She crushes her training session with a blend of deadlifts, Kettlebell swings, rowing variations and varied farmer walks.

Again, I am fired up to see a girl training for performance and loving the process and beauty behind strength, speed and muscle.

When the training session nears the end one of my earliest members of Underground Strength HQ rolls up with a surprise visit. Ron, who was training with us when we opened before leaving for OCS in Quantico, stops by and had plans to train at the gym next door.


Many of you know how I feel about the Military…..

I asked Ron to join me in a short workout as I wanted to get back home quickly to be with my family.

With time running short I remind myself of Dan John saying, “If all you did was clean & press you could be AWESOME.”

Dan John, Co Author of The Easy Strength System with Pavel

Above, Dan John, Co Author of The Easy Strength System with Pavel

I told Ron my thoughts and he smiled and said Let’s GO!

On the agenda was a quick warm up and clean variations.

After our warm up we started with 95 lbs and kept adding 10 lb plates to each side. We worked up each set doing 3 – 5 reps per set.

We capped off at 215 and got 2 solid sets in.

Normally I don’t stop at the heaviest weight. I will often drop the weight and reconnect with technique and speed. On other exercises I might go for repetition work such as in the bench press and sometimes the squat.

Many people choose a barbell exercise as their Main lift and then move on to the next exercise. I’ve been experimenting with great success to stay “under the bar” longer by using the barbell as my accessory lifting.

For example, I might use a back squat variation (sometimes adding chains, pause squats, etc) and after working up to a few heavy sets I will then lighten the weight and perform speed squats with a box or no box.

On the Bench I will work up to some heavy sets using one variation and then drop the weight and perform some speed work for 3-5 sets and then rep work for another 3 – 5 sets, all with different variations:

– Pause Bench for Heavy Work

– Chains for Speed Work

– Chains + Varied Grips for Rep Work

The next time you think you need 5 exercises or even 2 exercises per workout. Think again.

This style of training requires discipline because you can’t cry the “I’m bored” line. The barbell is the King of the Weight Room and you should not fear the blood, sweat and tears that goes into the commitment for strength.

Being AWESOME comes with a Price that most don’t want to pay. This style of training will NOT be some magic system either. It won’t work if you try it only here and again. Like any program, you need to commit to it for a solid 3 months to truly see the gains unless you’re a rank beginner as gains come much easier for you.

I have used this for upping my squat, bench and deadlift and as you can see below I finally benched 315 lbs after 25 years of training because I was committed to sticking to one style of training and not wavering.

YouTube Preview Image

Drop a comment below with any questions and I look forward to answering and chatting with you.

Of course, if you enjoyed this article, hook a brotha up and please share with your friends.

Live The Code 365.


Next 2 Certs Are in Florida & San Diego, Ca


Category: Articles, Live The Code, mental toughness, muscle building, old school strength, Olympic Lifting, Powerlifting, Strength Building, Underground Strength Show, Videos, Zach's Workouts Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

27 Responses to 1 Exercise Per Workout & Being AWESOME

  1. Dustin W says:

    I have to agree with Dan John. Love the clean and jerk. There is a certain beauty about catching it in the bottom and then having to stand up. Like catch adversity in your every day life. You have a choice to stand up or drop the weight. I stand up!
    A great contrast if you are strapped for time is dead lift (rdl), plyo jump and clean/jerk. 3 reps each for the time you have set aside to train.
    Great stuff and look forward to getting my level 2 in 2014!

  2. Gabri says:

    Hey Zach!

    Great article, great attitude, and great for starting strong the year!

    I am interested in routines where you perform one exercose per day. Right now I am doing a routine inspired in Wendler’s 5/3/1, one main exercise where I go for a rep PR, and then assistance exercises.

    But for when I have almost no time for working out, I’d like to have a minimalist routine where i just do one single exercise per day, maybe 6 days a week, just as you did with the bench press.

    Do you recommend me any book or article for this kind of routine? Any tip?

    Thank you very much Zach, I love your articles and daily emails!

    • Zach says:

      Hi Gabri

      Thnx for the support

      Dan John has a minimalist program called mass made simple I think

      But you can do these, 1 per day

      farmer carry variation

      squat variation

      press variation

      deadlift variation

      ground to overhead variation

  3. Frank says:

    Z, like you always say, “Crush the basics!”.
    Simplicity is the path to great achievements, yet it is the “road less-traveled”.

  4. Nick says:

    Zach, it is really tough to believe that this the first time you have benched 315 in your life. I think your full of it! By the way your throw around weights I would’ve thought your a 365+ kind of guy.

    • Zach says:

      Nick! I’ve had a lot of little injuries that interfered BIG time with lifting.

      Also, I never really stuck strictly to barbell lifting like I have the past year or two so my body is reaping the rewards!

  5. James says:

    Great stuff Zach! Underground Strength!

  6. brandon says:

    Cool, I like the way you make one exercise actually just many exercises with same muscle motor activation patterns!

    But I kinda wish I could opt out of your newsletter/blog for a week….Cause YOU AMP ME UP TOO MUCH!!! :)
    Doc says I have to REST a week or more after my eye surgery last saturday! But every Email I read or/and forward to my cadre…Then I just want to jump back into BEAST or 5×5, or BW Bodybuilding..

    I hope to make FL cert happen, if I am back from some mountain medic training in NH in Feb in time I am there!!

    • brandon says:

      Oh and quick ?

      You use BB exercises as the ONE ex in a workout, but do you ever use say a Bodyweight or KB EX as the sole movement, say multiple sets of pullup variations?


      • Zach says:

        Brandon, after doing chin ups and pull up variations so much for the past 25 years my lats are sooooo tight I am laying low on them

        I used to do that when on vacation, 15-20 sets of pull up variations every other day!

    • Zach says:

      Brandon hope to see you, homie

      • brandon says:

        You sir are AWesome!

        I got the newest Email regarding mistakes :

        1. Training too hard?
        I guess you have said that is my issue?
        A typical finisher is
        Burpees 200
        5 rounds
        1.Burpees w/ 2×25 DB cleans and presses at top 20- 25 reps
        1b. Leg raises 10-20
        2. Burpees w/ 2x50lbs DB deads in up motion 5×10 reps
        2b. Pistols 10 each leg x 5 sets in between burps
        100 burpees

        That is later in day after a BEAST workout?

        I am psyched if all goes as planned I should have the $ and time to get to the FL cert,
        When I tried to open up page about the cert couldn’t open to find deadline?

  7. SoCal Brian says:

    Great stuff as always! Less can be more with the right amount of intensity and proper exercise selection. Happy new year Zach and thanks for your contribution to strength and character training, it’s valued!

  8. John B says:

    Hey Zack, so what do you do for your one shoulder day? Just press? If so, you do a similar routine as with the bench? I have a hell of a time with shoulders growing, so I do the opposite of what you’re suggesting and that’s a ton of different shoulder movements. And no, it hasn’t helped

    • Zach says:

      John I don’t do every workout as a 1 exercise only, BUT, I have put in a ton of focus into exercises vs excess variety

      I actually started doing more Behind Neck Presses and haven’t done these for probably 18 years!

      In addition, now that I practice weightlifting the heavier overhead work, holding overhead, etc have helped shoulder strength big time

  9. Jose says:

    Awesome stuff as always Zach one thing I learned about myself was that I was pretty weak in certain bb exercises that came easy to me with dumbbells so I just signed up for 6 weeks of Olympic lifting down at Waxman’s gym in Los Angeles trying to learn the basics my brother.

  10. Dustin Maynard says:

    My bread and butter! Honestly, I love this approach. At one point I did nothing but squats and bench pressing for an entire year. I included some shoulder pressing and rows every now and then when I was feeling iffy in the shoulders. Despite what people believe, I got damn strong with this approach.

    Think about it—there is no crime in doing one big lift a day. Most people don’t even workout or follow a routine long enough because they are always bouncing around from new exercises and routines to the next. Suppose you are a guy doesn’t even workout at all? Let’s say you started by focusing on one big lift a day instead of overwhelming yourself with 10 different lifts which is not necessary. One big lift will get the done and the strength will come quite quickly. Hundreds have done it, zach has done it. I have done it. Dan John has done it. It’s just that some people just don’t believe one lift will get the job done. Or they get bored too quickly, which is a shame. I think this is an awesome approach for the beginner to the advanced. These days I STILL focus on one big lift for the day, and more lately I have been doing 2 lifts. One in the morning and one in the evening. It’s important to realize to stick to the BIG lifts.

    Just like big George from the old days, zach? Or that crazy dude who did nothing but deadlifts outside in his yard? Welded the damn plates to the bar, didn’t he???? Talk about Heart!

  11. mark healy says:

    Great stuff coach. I loved this! this will be great to use with my wrestlers in season.

    Thanks for all you do


  12. Dustin Maynard says:

    This is my meat and potatoes, Z!

    This is my personal favorite approach to lifting and getting inhumanly strong! A lot of people toss this type of training to the side and simply do not believe one Lift will do the job. But that is FAR from the truth!

    At one point I alternated bench pressing and squats 6 days a week for an entire year and got crazy strong on those two movements I added some overhead lifting and rows when my body was feeling iffy. While I no longer do that anymore, I can say with certainty that it works! Now I do a similar approach but utilizing my top 7-10 lifts.

    To this day I still use the one lift a day staple. Lately I been doing two Lifts a day—one in the morning and one at night! The key is to use big compound lifts that are worth a damn. Remember big George you talk about? Or that crazy dude that welded all his plates together and did nothing but deadlifts outside year round????

    Far too many people don’t even lift at all and when they start, they overwhelm themselves with 10 lifts they want to do for the day. When it is not necessary. One to two big lifts will get the job done! This is great for beginners to the advanced trainee. I was hoping to hear more people chime in on this topic!

    Don’t mind me, I’m about to go hit some deadlifts. Later, Gators!

  13. Dustin Maynard says:

    Hell yeah! It’s amazing! So many different people, approaches, opinions, demos of strength.

    Strength is ART. Inspirational to those who truly understand the meaning behind the word strength!

  14. Another solid post Zach. I also like the idea of adding and mixing in variations of resistance after big strength lifts. I’m a solid believer in experimenting with the addition of varied resistance and manipulation of the speed variable as well.

    This is how comprehensive strength is developed for building a more complete body ready for most any athletic task. Manipulation of speed and varied resistance in my opinion will always give an athlete a little more to offer come game time.

    Once again thanks for the share!

  15. John says:

    Is that 315 lbs in the video? It looks like 500+ … Are those dummy plates on the end or are they all 25 lbs disguised as 45 lbs? If it was 315 kilos you wouldn’t be worried about your bench press. haha
    Just curious. 315 lbs is great natural bench press.

  16. Carl says:

    Great stuff Zach!

    The Clean & Press is by far my favourite lift with external weight. A true full body lift for the ages.

    Minimalist and simple is the way to go!

  17. john b. says:

    great idea. what good would more than one exercise bring if you do not even know which specific activity to give focus on? it’s really much better to concentrate on one kind of exercise at a time when working out.

  18. Great topic Zach. I love to do power cleans and jerks combined with barbell rows, awesome.

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Zach Even-Esh is an Author, Founder of The Underground Strength Gym & Creator of The Underground Strength Coach Certification.

Zach's inspiration in training comes from the Golden Era of Bodybuilding & Days of Old School Strength. His mission is to help You kick ass & take names in Life AND Lifting without the hype, fancy fads or gimmicks. Zach's Commitment To Your Success Is Unmatched. He Knows What It's Like To Go From A Weakling To An Unstoppable BEAST In Charge Of His Life, Business & Destiny. Zach Made It Happen Through The Iron and Now it's Your Turn!

Zach Even-Esh