The MOST Important Thing To Do In The Gym

The three of us were driving up The Garden State Parkway heading Northbound.

It was a cold, dreary winter day in NJ. It was early 1995 and winter was in full swing.

I was driving, as always, since my training partners had no money OR no car, typical of aspiring pro bodybuilders, yes?

My 2 training partners sat quietly in my Mazda 626. I had a special sound system installed specifically to get me amped up for the gym. In fact, everything in my life revolved around the gym. How shocking.

I would crank music loud as hell on every trip to the gym, with my specially made “Ready To KILL the Gym” cassette tape. Yep, my Kenwood tape player was legit, CDs were still in their infancy at the time, in case you were wondering what cave men era this occurred in. Circa 1995, kids.

This was a strange car ride, certainly not the usual. No one said a word during our 25 minute ride up to Diamond Gym. I was nervous because I remember clear as day, reading how Arnold said that GREAT training partners will always push you to greater heights.

He also said it is rare that all training partners will have low energy on the same day. Well, lo and behold, here we were, all 3 of us, on the same, low energy page. I was emotionally disturbed by this, I kid you not.

I was known for my passion and energy in training, even back in the early 90s as a young teen. People sought me out to train with them and 99% of the time I fired my training partners soon rather than later when they couldn’t live up to my expectations (this happened quite often, think Donald Trump, “You’re FIRED”).

Back to that car ride…. I cranked the tunes even louder in the car with hopes that it would fire us up. No such luck.

Rick sat in the back seat like a sack of potatoes and Andy sat up front like a stone cold Robot. In my head, I thought we were screwed and that this workout would be a wash.

NOT cool, as Andy and I were training for the Mr. NJ Bodybuilding championships. I was entering the teen division and he was entering the Men’s Open with the goal of winning the entire show.

I KNEW that I could NOT afford to let even one workout go to waste.

I woke up every morning thinking about bodybuilding and went to sleep thinking about bodybuilding. My schedule for this bodybuilding show was disciplined to say the least. Lights out at 11 PM no matter what, every day of the week, up at 7 AM for meal # 1, every day of the week.

Missing one workout or having a shitty workout wasn’t acceptable to me. I was putting tremendous pressure on myself as I would be entering this bodybuilding show natural, something others told me I could not do…. at least not successfully, so “they” said.

I believed differently. I believed that if I outworked my competition, I would be a force on stage. I KNEW no other teenager would be training as hard as I was, so every single workout counted if I was going to have the supposed disadvantage of being drug free.

I got off the parkway at our exit, driving through Irvington, a town known for it’s high crime rate, was always a frightening few minutes. The best way to drive through that town was with your doors locked and eye on the road, making contact with anyone on the street wasn’t recommended.

Many thought I was crazy for commuting this distance almost daily to be in a hardcore gym. I simply saw it as something I HAD to do to train amongst the most motivated bodybuilders in the most hardcore gym in the country.

We drove through Irvington and pulled into Maplewood, driving to the small back parking lot of Diamond Gym. We got out of the car and waked down the hill, alongside Diamond Gym. In my head, I was still confused as to why and how we could ALL be so tired entering a workout.

I walked ahead of the guys, hoping to set the tone for training and being ready to kick ass and take names during our workout. I heard the music thumping loudly through the walls of Diamond Gym as we walked down the hill. I heard the sweet sound of weights dropping and clanking.

Maybe this would be a “light day” I thought to myself for a brief moment…..

I opened the door to enter Diamond, and swoosh, the heat inside the gym hit me like a stack of bricks. The music was pumping, the atmosphere was 20 on a scale of 1 to 10. I could literally FEEL and SMELL the intensity in the air. The guys behind the front desk all had BIG smiles on their face, as they always did, greeting us with high energy, it made me feel like the video clips I saw in Pumping Iron with the front desk always busy with BIG bodybuilders.

Every piece of equipment was being attacked. I saw and heard guys grunting out their final tough reps, training partners shouting motivation and pushing one another to get those last few reps, you know, the reps that REALLY count.

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My mind and body transformed THAT instant. I felt like I was ready to KILL the weights. I saw the smile in my training partners’ faces. We were ALL ready. It was time.

I remember that 1995 winter car ride as if it was yesterday.

The exact workout, I don’t recall so much. I do remember this though: That the workout itself was one of the best workouts we ever had, with high energy and breaking records in our lifts. I remember being so grateful for Diamond Gym, providing a place and atmosphere for special people with way above average levels of motivation and inspiration.

The BIG thing that I do remember was the ride there, and the ride home, where I realized how the mind can play tricks on you IF you let it AND if the wrong people /places surround you. That day, we had one of the best workouts of our lives, no doubt about it. It was in large part thanks to the environment that we were in.

We CHOSE that environment, just as you choose your own environment and the actions you make on a daily basis.

Do your workouts not deliver results?

Are you training in a depressing gym?

Are you NOT breaking records in your lifts?

Think about your own mindset, where you train and who you train with.

I train alone most of the time but when I have training partners I can assure you, they are on the same page as I am, aggressive, intense and attacking their own goals. I train in my garage, at my buddy’s gym and at my own gym. Sometimes, I don’t train IN a gym, the outdoors & Mother Nature provide my “gym”.

There was always that something special about Diamond Gym, even when someone wasn’t doing their workout the “right way” or with the right technique, they ALL trained HARD….. Brutally HARD. That was the unsaid rule, train your ass off and train harder than the guy next to you. If no one is next to you, push as if someone was.

This is why everyone around us was always jacked. These guys trained HARD & breaking records was the key. I remember seeing guys in that gym doing exercises or technique that wasn’t “right”. But no matter, they were training HARD. That is THE MAIN ingredient missing from most workouts that I see nowadays.

The workouts are focused on perfection, science or fabricated BS. Well, I’m gonna tell you straight up….

Yes, you need a program organized with the right exercises and the right set & rep protocols, that is KEY. But, without intensity and hard work, your perfect workout program just ain’t gonna get the job done. In fact, it will deliver nothing, because YOU are THE catalyst that delivers the results.

When I get e mails from someone not getting results, it’s not because the training program didn’t work for them, it’s because they didn’t put in the WORK, which in turn, gets the training to deliver results. This is the TRUTH.

Time to get after it. Be intense, nothing less will get the job done.

Live The Code


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As always, I love reading your comments so feel free to drop a comment below.


  1. manu says

    Dear Zach,

    You are like a big bro(which I never had) to me. Your thoughts, views and code you live by is the most inspiring words ever. You affected me hugely in a very positive way. You rock big bro.

    Lots of respect from India big bro.

    • admin says

      Manu, damn, brutha, MUCH respect, homie! That means a LOT to me, my goal is NOT to let U guys down!!!! #UndergroundStrengthNation

  2. Dustin M. says

    Ohhhhh Zach,

    Nice post! This is just what I wanted to hear. Man-up Monday has been signed and delivered, dude!

    You are damn right about everything you said. The environment you train in, the partners who you lift with, it all makes a massive difference.

    My soon to be brother in law—he’s a beast as well. We both train alone in our garages. We have completely different methodologies of training. But let me tell you something—when we do train together, it is nothing but pure chaos. On our own, we strive to destroy our personal records every time. But together, we demolish our own records and attempt a shot at each others! We push n pull to the point of total destruction, pushing ourselves wayyyy further than we would normally do on our own. At the same time, while we are competing and pushing each other, we deeply encourage each other to go further than what we can do. It’s about bros putting the hurt on each other to build us up tougher.

    That’s the kind of drive we all need, the push..

    Good post Z.

  3. Pat Hoelz says

    Hey Zach,

    Awesome post, I remember hearing stories of diamond gym. I was a little young at that time to go there, there are not to many gyms like that around anymore. Driving through Irving, I know exactly what you are talking about.Good Training partners are hard to come by. When they are around though your workouts are kick ass.
    Train Hard!!!

    • admin says

      Pat!!!! Yea man, I spent about 8 years there. From what I heard, the TRUE hard core times came before I was even there, the late 80s they said, when guys like Gaspari were on the rise.

      I heard so many stories of some of the strongest sum-bitches around, bodybuilders who were strong like powerlifters yet ripped to shreds.

      That gym was amazing, I am sure it still is, only thing is that bodybuilding is a different world now, more like chemical warfare, which doesn’t inspire me anymore – I liked it when the guys trained heavy and earned it, now I see MONSTERS training w/light weights :(

  4. Steve Konsdorf says

    Great post! Been using the Gladiator Project (into week 12) and wow what a difference. These posts, the blog, your training advice, your coaching has made a huge impact on me. The only regret is that I did not start training like this years ago when I was younger. But hey – any age can get at it right? At 39 and thanks to your work I am stronger and my focused on my training then I have been in years. Keep up the great work!

  5. says

    Yo Zach….great post. Brings me back to my days at Worlds Gym in Dunellen, NJ. Big dudes moving big weights…every time you walked up the stairs you couldn’t help but get super motivated…

  6. says

    Dude, I want whatever it is that made you decide to blog ‘cuz it’s tremendously inspirational! I’m 52 with 3 teenage boys so I’ve got to hit it hard! Got the goal to clear out space in my garage to take away all excuses and use the heavy stuff I already have (and pocket the dough I’m shellin’ out for the conventional gym) Stay Raw!

  7. Dennis says

    I like you Zach, train alone most of the time, I have fired all of training partners except one, because they didn’t have “it”. The training partner that lasted was the guy who introduced me to Powerlifting in 1997, he actually showed me how to lift the right way (heavy as hell and with intensity and good technique), prior to that I wasted my time getting workouts from the muscle mags. He actually had me on a powerbuilding split taken from Arnold’s bodybuilding encyclopedia mixed with a split from Powerlifting USA. I was drinking raw egg shakes in the mornings, eating cans of tuna during the day and getting stronger than I’d ever been. That dude was stronger than me and showed me the mindset I needed to win in the gym and at everything else. Best coach I ever had. The only supps we used were the EAS creatine, and Ultimate Orange..on max out days. Nowadays I train in my basement which I dub the “Dungeon” and in my backyard. I have had a hard time finding like minded training partners. I prefer to train alone now, because I have done it for so long. Oh and for the record…when I started trainig seriously in 1997 I was 5’6″ @ 143. By 99 I was 173, today I fluctuate between 175-190, at between 14-18% bodyfat. All of this without steroids, I use creatine, protein powder and eat alot. Thanks Z, for bringing back all of these good memories. I am going to come up sometime and get certed, probably this next year, peace!

  8. says

    Man…I tell you Zach….You can write some inspirational sh-t….At 62 I still love working out 4-6 days/week….I’m keeping this post right on my computer to read again and again…..Thanks for all that you do dude….

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