Zach Even-Esh

Arthur Saxon & Old School Strength

Words of Wisdom from Arthur Saxon…..

“If a man seriously proposes to go in for lifting heavy weights, he should make a point of practising certain lifts every day. This daily practice is essential to the achievement of any real success.”

-Arthur Saxon

I’d like to share with you some words of wisdom in the ways of old school strength, or what Arthur Saxon coins “Genuine Strength”

Here is my take on old school strength, greatly influenced by Arthur Saxon and George “The Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt. You’ll also see highlights from our training and how we train to acquire “Genuine Strength” as Arthur Saxon explains.

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Please take a few minutes to Read these excerpts carefully and compare them to how you train currently and how you stack up to Arthur Saxon’s requirements in the world of strength.

How can you improve?

By all means, none of us are perfect and when training, we must continually climb our personal Mt. Everest to better our mind, body & spirit.

I must say, these words by Arthur Saxon are awe inspiring, telling the truth, as he speaks without apology about what it really takes to be considered a “strong man”. It’s quite obvious he holds overall work capacity at high regard.

Balance of the entire body with regards to muscle symmetry is of great importance as is balance of physical traits: strength endurance, athleticism, stamina, aerobic capacity…..

Reminder: This book was published in 1931 and I still don’t read books this good from today, yet “back in the day”, close to 100 years ago, these books were amazing. I hope the “What’s old is new again” keeps on keeping on.

I agree with Arthur Saxon and George Hackenschmidt. These men “got it”.

Please drop a comment with your thoughts / questions, I would love to hear your reactions.

Thank You!

Advance & Conquer.

Live The Code.


Old School Strength, Power & Muscle

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Category: muscle building, old school strength, Strength Building, Underground Strength Show, Videos, Zach's Workouts Tags: , , , , , , .

53 Responses to Arthur Saxon & Old School Strength

  1. Dustin W. says:

    Is it a getting older thing? I didn’t find the old school lifters until 3 years ago. I knew their names, but found the information would be out dated. After reading books about the hay day of York-Davis, Grimek, Stanko etc I found myself relating to them better than present day lifters and “gurus”.
    Harry Paschal and Jowlett changed my view of training. I had to keep looking at the copyright date because it seemed all new to me.
    Yet it felt like something I knew already. And made more sense than what I was reading from the pump mags and even academic publications.
    I find that the information today is cluttered with so much fanciful crap that it is difficult to wade through.
    I like the Dan John quote! “It’s simple not easy” WORK-WORK-WORK!! You can’t perform work you won’t be great! Remember greatness is not measured by the awards on the wall, or what you “had” done, but what you continue to do when no one is looking.
    Great stuff Zach!

    • admin says:

      DW the VW! I have a monster collection of the old books and magazines. I too find myself reading the old stuff.

      I feel I need to re-subscribe to MILO from IronMind or snag some old issues from E Bay!!

      Bro, the shirts do NOT come in XXXL :(

      They are sending me XXls

      IN Bound SOON!

      • Dustin W. says:

        That will work for the t-shirt. Instead of growing into it I will have to cut to fit :-)
        I will be honored to sport the USC shirt no matter what size it is!
        In regards to the old writings they just make sense. Back in the day a man was measured by the strength of their back and not the size of their bank account.
        I remember when I was little the talk was always, “My dad is stronger than yours.” Today it is, “My dad makes more than yours.”
        The phrase, “The suit makes the man.” means the flesh suit. I don’t care how nice you dress if you look sick and out of shape it is hard to respect.
        Gray and strong are things to admire!

  2. Justin says:

    Man it sounds crazy but the old time strong men were 10 years ahead of where we are today. I hated that in college and university my professors never mentioned the guys who paved the way. I always talk to my clients about the old time guys. Hack is mu favourite haha! Dude was just ball of muscle. Zach do you still sell The Way to Live? Im looking eventually purchase copies to give to my clients. Ps…off topic but Operation Thunder rocks!

  3. Matt says:

    Well, personally I’m more for just 1RM srtength. At least until I get to the decent numbers with my big lifts. Like 2,5X BW deadlift for example. Until then there is no strength endurance, because there is no strength.

  4. Meeko says:

    Thanks for sharing gems like this, Zach. Back here in our country we have a saying, “He who does not know how to look back where he came from can never reach his destination.”

    These teachings of great men of the past are definitely worth revisiting and re-learning from. They actually give us a deeper insight of how and what it really means to be strong; which for me really means having the capacity to perform your best, knowing what your limits are and learning how to surpass them.

    You yourself have been quite an inspiration as well brutha. It is from people like you that guys like me can draw that ‘strength’ from.


  5. Josh Knoy says:

    True, genuine strength to me, is the ability to persevere through any challenge, or at least have the fight in you to try, whether it is beating a personal lifting record or cancer.

  6. Tommy says:

    This guy could build some solid wrestlers. Gotta love the meat head that think they are strong because they can bench 400lbs, but can’t run half a mile.

  7. Chris says:

    I define true, genuine strength as being mentally and physically able to continuously challenge myself mentally and physically in ever aspect of my life so I never get complacent. To push myself to levels I didn’t know I could reach, enjoying that accomplishment and then finding new creative ways to get to the next level. Never making excuses for myself, accepting responsibility for my actions and being man enough to not dwell on the setbacks. Being the epitome of a man to everyone in my life is a big part of being truly strong as well.

  8. Seekay says:

    Being doing it since 1990. Some periods of my life my motivation was being stronger, some others looking good, some others as a therapy. Motivation is crucial. This site is a great motivator. Thanks so much!

  9. Gabri says:

    I love this post as i do love the one about Hack and the phanton of the anvil!

    I love reading everything about becoming stronger, especially on the basics! Your blog motivates me and it helps me a lot, because i’m trying to live the code, to do the things i don’t want to do but that i know i have to do, like waking up early and going to class, studying, training when i’m tired..

    So thank you for everything you do for us Zach!!

    Now, i could use sone of your help:

    i can’t stop thinking about how mixing convict conditioning, deadlifting and some odd object lifts. Right now i’m doing BWBB, and before every workout, i do some deadlifting and sandbag clean and press (inspired from power to the people). I’m getting good results. Can i alternate a month of convict conditioning (focusing on approaching the master steps) with some pull work (deadlifting, farmers walks and other carries, sandbag cleans…) with each phase of BWBB?

    What program would you use for approaching the master steps? First, i thought about having a pulling day with weights and odd objects. Then, for bodyweight for strength, would you go with low frequency as paul coach wade recommends, or with almost daily practice as pavel says? Or should i do a month low frequency and another one high frequency? I’m confused Zach…

    After finishing BWBB, i will start the RL course, it looks awesome!

    Thank you for your help!

    I have to say that i am very motivated for working out because i push myself, i become stronger, and i love it!


    • admin says:

      Gabri, YES, U can mix them, but, to keep strength in the BIG lifts, you will need to keep those big lifts happening during Bodyweight Bodybuilding, either before or after the workout.

  10. Amy Patrick says:

    Thanks Zach. I especially appreciate the thought about muscle symmetry and balance. Good post.

  11. Brian says:

    Courage, commitment and conviction. In my mind you can not gain physical strength without mental and emotional strength. Even the physically weakest person will radiate strength if they have courage, commitment and conviction. Throw in physical strength on top of that and you have one strong SOB to deal with.

  12. Steve P says:

    Zach this blog just reinforces your principles of concentrating on old school lifts and lifting heavy weight and to always challenger yourself. At 33 I am benching, squatting, and dead lifting more then I have in my entire life and I feel I owe a majority of that to your blog. I remember in my late teens, trying to follow the monthly workouts in muscle fitness and getting nowhere. I was under the belief that my body was just not designed to lift heavy weight. Your blog said that belief was bullshit, 20x!
    Your view on mental toughness is right on and I share many of your posts with my fellow law enforcement co workers and have read many of your book recommendations. I thought it was great that you were not happy just being extremely strong, and decided to take up running and did the 5k and seal challenge, Leading by example! I think you proved your ideas when hurricane sandy hit and you dealt with all the real life problems associated with that while still posting and emailing as well as starting a fundraiser for victims. I look forward to your emails and posts daily, keep doing what you do. I’ll let others work on “pretty” muscles and when the shit hits the fan I’m confident that by using ur approach I will be ready to handle anything to the best of my ability. Mental toughness + old school lifts + balanced strength = a man ready for anything.

  13. Kedric says:

    Strength to me is constantly improving myself every single day. No matter how small the progress, just keep on moving.

    Then help people grow stronger as well. Inspire them to be stronger each day. That to me is strength.

  14. Mario says:

    Hey Zack,
    The way your words resonate with others is incredible. I usually eat Renegade or Warrior Diet style most days, and I also moved jobs recently. And that excerpt from Arthur Saxon really struck with that. My colleagues think I’m crazy because of the workload I have and the amount of diferent stuff I can take care of and deliver. And it all comes down to that sentence. When I have the time to eat, I do. If I’m busy with work, I don’t care if I eat or not. Even though I work at a desk, during the day I’m a warrior, and what I need to do is hunt, kill and get shit done. Of course, general knowledge and perception is that I’m only a workaholic, and that I ruin my health but hey, we know better, do we not? :) Bottom line from this, is that what I need to do is up my training volume. That is the work that needs to get done now for me. Cheers

  15. James says:

    Great read and nice video as well. Dig the heavy farmer’s walks. I’ve heard them described as a “vertical plank” in terms of their ability to work core stability and have thought about them like that since.

  16. Jim says:

    As strength coach and a mentor to young athletes it is our job to leave a legacy of train hard, train heavy. If not we are not truly helping the athletes achieve success.

  17. Nick says:

    Great post! love the excerts from the book and the examples of what it really means to be strong (i.e. cycle 400 miles without being tired).

  18. Joseph says:

    Awesome post zach,

    Training has to carry over to every other part of your life. If you’re just training and not also getting better at life over time, then you missed one of the central points of training. TRAINING IS FOR LIFE.

    Thanks Zach, keep the awesome info coming

  19. Andy says:

    For me true strength is the ability to move objects, defend yourself, or to handle any situation that gets in your way without any worries. It the ability to develop that strength without any enhancing supplements.

  20. Mike says:

    I guess in the traditional sense of the word in a training context, I’d go with Stuart McRobert’s guidelines of a 300lb bench, 400lb squat and 500lb deadlift for your average training male.

    But there’s more to it than that — I’d say you should be able to do 20+ chin-ups and dips, 50+ pushups, plank for at least 5 minutes, and sprint hills like a demon to cement your claims as “strong.”

    As for mental strength, I don’t think there’s actually a definition, it’s down to the individual.

    Personally, I think anyone who goes balls to the wall in training and in life and gives 100% effort 100% of the time can claim to be strong too.

  21. Sibghatallah Imdad says:

    before giving out my thoughts, one very interesting theing i noticed was that arthur saxon said that only 1 in every 20 people involved in physical culture is really a strong man. i found this to be interesting becasue if we look today, i’d say that only about 1out of every 100 or 200 people (or maybe even more) is considered strong because of all of the B.S. advice and stupid “trainers” and globo gyms. anyway, i couldn’t have summed up what i think is real strength better than arthur saxon did here. but to narrrow it down, possessing real strength means to be able to not only lift heavy weight, but to be able to lift it for multiple repetitions. this goes for all things, to be able to exert a lot of force and energy for a long amount of time. another thing he stressed was having strength and muscular proportion throughout the body. he also says that the man should be healthy and not be eating crap foods. a strong man must also have limitless energy and unbreakable work ethic. if he goes for a two mile jog (which he should be able to do), then does a conditioning circuit, he should be able to get into some heavy lifting thereafter. he mentions perseverance and mental toughness as well, which i think is the most important quality for a man to have. the funny thing is that the only way to develop it is through the type of training and work he talks about. another thing i’d throw in there is that the strong man should be able to move his bodyweight with ease, as that is important as well. a strong man should be able to do anything. jumping, sprinting, heavy lifting, explosive movements, all kinds of high intensity conditioning, e.t.c.

  22. Dustin W. says:

    Flip a 600# tire with ease (or heavier) for reps, farmer carry bodyweight each hand for 150ft, lift 200# stone for reps, deadlift at least 200# over bodyweight for reps, front squat 100# over bodyweight for reps, back squat 200# over bodyweight, dumbbell flat press bodyweight for reps(so if you weigh 250# that is 125# each hand), pull ups 100-200(not at once, as part of circuit-ie. 10reps/set), push ups 100-200, bodyweight squats continuous 200+ reps, one hand olympic barbell snatch half body weight, pull sled 150ft (at least) with bodyweight +100# on sled, sprint or run one mile without stop.
    Mental toughness is a must! Spiritual security is a must(doesn’t mean have to believe in a high power, but belief in who you are and how you effect the world)!
    Biggest thing is never satified! Wanting to know more, lift more or train harder!

  23. Justin says:

    Great post, your mental toughness workouts have improved me not only physically but in my personal life as well. Whether its body weight or old school strength, its all great! Your body weight bodybuilding worked me through an injury. Started hitting the weights again, doing high volume now. It’s awesome! You truly are an inspiration for everyone. Sick of seeing these guys at the gym training chest and arms, go full body and endurance training!

    • There is not much I don’t agree with on the comments above. I want to add “consistency” to this agenda of strength training and being strong.
      I don’t mean just being consistent with your daily/weekly workouts, I mean consistent for a lifetime. I am 66 yrs old and have been training consistently (but not always intelligently) for over 35 years. After going off of the “true strength” training for a long while I was following the “experts” from ACE and NASM with their “functional” training which is total BS, and is in no way conducive to real strength. Thank God I found Zach, and long story short went to the USC cert and it turned me 180 degrees, this guy as most of you know is a true man, true in his commitment, true in his knowledge and even more true about helping others.

      Can’ thank you enough Zach.

      Gary Larrison

      • admin says:

        Gary, I am so honored with your comments, brutha! Was awesome when you came to The USC Cert in Austin!!!

        I hope you’re awesome, brutha man!

  24. Jorge Silva says:

    For me, true strength is reaching to the point where you cannot go further. Yet you do.

  25. Brandon says:

    The strength men from those times were very impressive. No wasted energy, all movements had a purpose for building strength in all areas…..”momentary strength” + “enduring strength” = “real strength”. It’s a great read to do a littel self analysis. For me it’s a reminder that I have some work to do to truly become a strong man and one of the 1 in ?.

  26. Marc Moukarzel says:

    Being a strong person isn’t just being able to lift heavy, but rather being able to lift heavy after an intense training, being agile and having mobility, being explosive and endurant, and to be extremely good at bodyweight movements, NOT making excuses and getting the work done.
    This is what strengh means. Period.
    Keep up the awesome work Zach!

  27. Brady Brewer says:

    Zach the shear level of truth and integrity in life and in training I think is what genuine e strength means to me. In the clips Saxon spoke of physical/physiological strength and strength of the mind and each were related to what we do inside and outside of the gym. Should we apply these principles to LIFE, day in and day out, or certain areas in our lives we would be truly strong individuals.

  28. DK Fynn says:

    For me, strength is the beginning of fitness.

  29. Will says:

    True strength to me, is the ability to live up to a creed. For instance, 3rd stanza of the Ranger Creed goes “Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, 100% and then some.” Not failing comrades: keep your word and promises, help them when in need unless it is truly out of your reach (even then at least try). Keep mentally alert: situational awareness, stay sharp and in the know. Keep physically strong: this takes work, not just to lift a maximal load, but lift it repeatedly (you may find yourself in an instance where you need to do so for hours at a time, maybe not, but you never know; keep yourself flexible so you can have mobilty, keep cardio endurance… I know I am not the only one to have a car break down 10 miles or more away from the nearest town) Keep morally straight: maintain your integrity, live by a code, show people your true caliber in life (people are always watching, that is why you need to be a real man, or lady, at all times) Shoulder more than your share of work not because it’s the right thing to do, but simply because you can.

    There is a lot more to the Ranger Creed than that, but since “strong” was in that stanza, I figured I could use it to share my point.

    In case I do not make it to comment again till that time, I just want to take a moment and wish everyone happy holidays.

  30. Matt A says:

    Im a little late to post- been moving all day. That is a pretty good workout- lifting odd objects, ie couch, dresser, etc. I am starting to better understand the multifaceted nature of true strength. My wife is pregnant with our first child, a little girl. I have to be strong enough, physically to protect them. I have to be strong enough, mentally, to pursue a higher level in my career to take care of them. I have to be strong enough, spiritually, to lead them in the right direction. This strength is only obtained through constantly challenging myself physically, mentally, academically, and spiritually. Thanks, Zac and all the other undergrounders, for the guidance, motivation and kick ass programs.

  31. Mike bernardine says:

    Don’t stop….don’t ever stop!

  32. Frank says:

    Fitness across a broad spectrum is essential.
    Heavy lifts, intense metcons, brutal 2 hour workouts are all part of how we train at my gym, and you, Zach, were a big influence on all of it!
    Recently my athletes competed in two very different types of events
    Tough Mudder and Central Florida Strongman Championship, and they did very well in both.
    I also am just finishing a 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge; which I might not have attempted earlier.
    Thanks Zach!

  33. brandon says:

    You cannot ever really define “strength” because as Arthur alluded to: strength is both personal and evolving, to situations that are unexpected and not trainable for. A movement is not strength, nor is one instance of endurance or perseverance. It is a quality that is ultimately noted at the time when death or disability is in the sights. Can we as a primal life form use our biology and mentality to grasp the obstacle and live another day, then with that new gift be able to pass what we have attained to those weaker in order to give them this “strength.”
    Been “dead” twice but as Lazarus arose so did my spirit. But I will never be “strong” as once I am strong, what is there to aim for?

  34. Artur Monteiro says:

    Strength is the ability to change the world with your bare hands. Modify the world it’s not an easy task, it requires brute strength. If your want to build a house, get a woodchopper cut the trees, build it. Foundation is the key!!! In the old ages, men didn’t have access to weights, they were strong anyway. The have the desire to CHANGE HIS WORLD and as byproduct, they’ve changed the entire world and build empires

  35. adam says:

    Zach great post. Lasting strength and pure strength are both key aspects to survival. I like to think of female lions personally or any big cat. They ripple with muscle and move like lightning. When they make a kill they have to protect the kill and in some cases move it. Thats a lot of dead weight to move. I know that you have connections to Lean Hybrid Muscle folks. I remember there free PDF on warriors. I thought that the descriptions they gave of ancient warriors was spot on. I then recall a former article you wrote on prison training. Training needs to be not just exercise, but a mindset which aims at improving all foundations equally. I believe this is important not only for the athlete, but for any person period. Wonderful post always enjoy your posts.

  36. Tommy says:

    When you have nothing left in the tank and your body tells you to quit the mind must prevail. That is what strength is all about. That is the true test. Don’t let your body tell you you need to stop. Push through, score that last point, crank out that last rep, make it happen.

  37. John says:

    Awesome! Strength is essential in every aspect of life weather it be muscular, emotional or mental.

  38. I define True, Genuine strength as a person who is willing to sacrifice whatever means necessary to accomplish his/her goals by doing things the right way. The right way being first and foremost, a genuine person. Believe in yourself. If you tell yourself you can, YOU WILL. There is always a stronger person out there than you. Just because you are the strongest at your gym doesn’t mean you are the strongest person alive. Don’t ever be satisfied with your results. Always push to better yourself the next time out. This can be accomplished by following good eating habits, sleep habits, and putting the time in necessary and sharing your knowledge. Try and help others set out to become strong too by being a leader.

  39. Paul G says:

    True strength is the ability to handle anything life can throw at you on a daily basis, be it physical, mental or even spiritual. To have a strong body you need a strong mind, a mind that will push you to overcome obstacles and put in the hard work required. A strong mind that will ignore the naysayers who tell you you are wasting your life training while they watch TV, drinking beer and eating crap. Truly strong people want to go out and have the energy to grab life by the balls everyday, not just in their 20’s but their 30’s, 40’s and well beyond. The old school guys had it down. The basic compound lifts, performed regularly, performed well and performed heavy. But these guys also knew how to listen to their bodies, when to lay off and rest. The strong man knows when it’s time to rest an recuperate as well. I’m 36 and as I get older I realise more and more the role and value of stretching, soft tissue work and good old fashined rest to keep achieving results and pushing forward.

  40. Ricky V says:

    Totally agree with this oldskool strong man. To be truly strong you need to make sure you focus on all parts & not just physically…emotionally, socially, financially, mentally & spirituall. Need to make sure all these areas are in check & you’ll be a strong individual no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.
    Thanks for sharing Z. Great motivational post as usual.
    Ricky V

  41. Mike D says:

    Great post Zach. Love this mentality. Essentially he is saying train like an athlete for life! Train the entire body as a total unit. Challenge the mind, heart, lungs AND muscles.

  42. Steve Allnutt says:

    Love it! Gotta keep the perspective that even if you plan to specialize in a certain area of training for sport or personal choice that you should always train in a variety of ways to ensure full health and avoid overuse injuries.

  43. Gus says:

    Awesome post, Zach! Strength to me is the will to overcome, be it mental, physical or spiritual.

    “He who gains a victory over other men is strong, but he who gains a victory over himself is all powerful”
    Lao Tzu

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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