35 Life & Lifting Lessons


Holy S**t!

In a few short weeks I'll be 36.

Time goes fast. TOO Fast.

Here's some stories and lessons I've learned along the way & hopefully you're not too cool to learn from some of these.

Anyway, for no reason whatsoever I thought it would be legit to have a pic of Dr. Ken training with an empty bomb to remind you to push the limits 🙂

1) I remember when I was 7 years old and racing big wheels with my friends down the hill and smashing into garbage cans. That was FUN. As we get older in age and acquire more responsibilities we forget to have FUN. Like I said time goes fast and sometimes I forget this also. Be smarter than me and DON'T forget.

2) I remember arm wrestling all the kids in the neighborhood one night in 6th grade. Everyone beat me. It sucked. It was summer vacation. I went home that night and started doing push ups. I think I did 3 or 4 push ups. The next day I did 5, then 6, 7 and up to 20 something reps. I started doing GTG (Grease the Groove) ala Pavel without knowing it. Do your push ups, kids.

3) When I was in elementary school and my older bro was in middle school he started getting into working out. There was a sporting good's store in the mall near our home called "Herman's". My bro made me go to the mall with him on our bikes, with empty backpacks. He bought 40 lbs, all in 10 lb plates. We each had 20 lbs in our backpack and the ride home had a steady incline. I wanted to quit but he yelled at me and made me push through the hill.

When we got home and I took off my back pack I remember feeling light as a feather walking up our stairs.

4) When I was in 2nd grade our Doberman had puppies, born in our home. My old brother woke me up at 3 or 4 AM when they were born and I couldn't wake up. I woke up that morning to see 8 puppies. One puppy didn't make it and we kept one and my Dad sold the others.

The one we kept grew up with me from age 7 till I was 21. When he died I was depressed for 4 days and experienced my first lesson in losing my best friend.

5) I used to play Soccer. My Dad being of Romanian descent didn't know much about American sports like Football & Baseball. I remember standing in the field and not paying attention until a ball went flying at full speed and nailed me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me.

I was about to fall to the ground in pain and my Coach shouted out to me, "Good block, Zach!". He totally knew I just got my ass kicked by a flying soccer ball.

6) In 4th grade my BMX bike was stolen by 2 kids. They were big, bad teenagers and my friends and I were playing Football. The apartment complex was known for getting bikes stolen, and these kids stoke my bike in broad day light, in front of all of us. We ALL just froze, it was a surreal experience and time seemed to freeze while the only thing I saw a kid racing away on a bike I saved all my paper route money for and dumped every penny of my allowance into.

To this day I still remember that feeling of seeing my bike ride off to Perth Amboy, NJ.

I would gladly like to meet both of those kids today and would have NO problems spending a little jail time to let them know that I'm not 9 years old anymore and stealing bikes isn't nice.

To this day, my bikes hold special meanings to me and I'm always waiting for someone to think they can ride away with my bike. It wouldn't be pretty, that's for sure.

7) My older bro bought one of those crushers you've seen in Pumping Iron. I tried to crush it and I was so weak it slipped out of my hands and nailed me in the chin, damn near knocked me out and I think I cried. I probably did cry. I was a BIG pussy back in the day! ha ha

8) My older bro bought the soloflex the fall of my freshman year in high school, I was still 13 years old. I think he saved his money as a bus boy to pay for most of it. I thought if I used it I too would look like Mr. Soloflex. I'm still wondering what happened?

9) The first time I ever cut school was freshman year in high school so I could tape American Muscle Magazine. The show would always air at strange times like 3 AM on a weeknight or 12 noon on a weekday. I fell in love with bodybuilding and decided I would use my "sick days" strategically, once a month, to record the monthly American Muscle show. I would then ride my bike to The Metuchen YMCA so I could get in a double workout that day. I was always scared they would call the cops and ask me why I wasn't in school.

10) The first hardcore gym I ever trained at was called Dynamic Fitness. The owner welded ALL the equipment himself, all the plates were wide flange Ivanko plates. Squat racks lined the wall along with plenty of benches and dumbbells up to 180. It was common place to see bodybuilders benching 315 and squatting over 405. The place was a 7,000 sq ft warehouse and no air conditioning. There were large industrial fans everywhere and I LOVED it.

There was ALWAYS someone bigger and stronger than you in that gym. It was heaven while it lasted.

11) While in middle school and in Israel, my older bro and I went to the local book store and I found Arnold's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. I sat on the floor and couldn't stop reading the book till I was kicked out at 1 PM when ALL the stores shut down for mid day naps.

The book was twice as expensive in Israel compared to the states. My Grandfather bought it for us anyway. He never said "No" to us.

I STILL have that book today, in my office.

12) I rented the movie Pumping Iron while in high school and watched it over and over ALL day on that first day. It blew me away and all I could think about was bodybuilding and living in California. I was connected to the Golden Era bodybuilders 100 x more than what I saw happening in the 90s.

I began reading books from Arnold and Mike Mentzer. I preferred the black and white pics over the color pics. I preferred the REAL pics of the guys lifting heavy compared to the fake images in the magazines.

13) When I trained at The Metuchen YMCA the membership was $5 a month! They had a York Isometric rack, York Dumbbells, plates and all York gym equipment.

Mid way through high school they got rid of all their York equipment and the dingy basement gym and brought in all fancy nautilus & bodymasters equipment, put it upstairs and added carpeting. I NEVER trained there again. The day that old school gym was removed broke my heart.

14) I remember trying to ride my bike home from the YMCA after a leg workout. I could barely pedal my bike so I started walking it, leaning on it, trying to push it. My legs were cramping up BIG time after following a leg workout from Arnold's Encyclopedia at the young age of 13.

I was hurting and saw a landscaper along the way watering a garden. I asked him if I could drink water from the hose and I think he saw the desperate look in my eyes and let me drink. I began to cherish the feeling of soreness and the inability to walk after a leg workout was THE main factor that determined if my leg workout was intense enough or not.

15) The first time someone coached me to deadlift was at Apollon Gym. His name was Herman and he still trains there today and I always remember that day. I was deadlifting with 115 lbs.

16) The first year I began wrestling was freshman year. The team was packed and I had to wrestle off for the freshman spot. I got pinned EVERY wrestle off and it fueled my fire to train harder than everyone else. Those consecutive losses also proved to be a burden on my mind and I was never able to recover from so many losses. No matter how hard I trained my mind held me back.

Those depressing times taught me largely how I need to think to become a champion in everything I do. My pain in wrestling and a select few other areas in my life have fueled my first to do what I do today, to help others avoid my painful past.

Wrestling taught me to become immune to physical pain and discomfort.

Wrestling taught me the pain of losing.

Wrestling taught me the power of the mind.

Wrestling taught me emotional pain and it is the ONE thing I never want to face again.

I'll crank a part 2 soon enough.

Any thoughts, questions or comments feel free to drop em' below.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share with friends.

BIG thanks,

Live The Code 365


The Underground Strength Academy

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21 Responses

  1. Michael H says:

    Great lessons, Zach! It’s extremely hard to imagine you being that weak kid that lost and wasn’t as good as everyone else, but that’s usually what the best and baddest guy’s past was like. Way to go on overcoming those things from your childhood!

    Oh man! I remember racing big wheels down my hill! Ruined all my shoes from all the times i had to use my “brakes.” We have a really long and steep driveway on our farm. My sister actually broke her wrist coming down the hill on her bike one day. Good times… Good times…

    Thanks for the stories and inspiration, Zach. I’m starting to feel sore in my joints nowadays and it sucks! I think I should have been doing a lot of bodyweight and mobility exercises a long time ago. I’m only 18 and my spine feels like crap. I barely go a few minutes without needing to use a foam roller for my t-spine.

    1. @Michael H: Mike yea bro, I was weak as all hell, I had to earn and fight for all I got, homie!

      If you;re busted up at 18, you’re in trouble.

      Get ALL over that foam roller, homie!

      Of course, step away from the free weights, homie


  2. Yo Zach,

    You made me remember the 2 bikes that were stolen from me.

    Lets not look back too much.

    Lets focus on staying present in the present but still looking forward for mountains to climb.

    Speaking of wrestling, I’m looking forward to watching Cain V against Dos Santos on Fox this Saturday.

    1. @Alberto: Alberto – u da man, homie, just expressing how fast time goes by and some events that have shaped me into who I am today!

  3. Dustin W. says:

    Tomorrow is 36 for me! Doing my ritual. Hike 5 miles, stone stack and jump in the lake for a swim. Since it is snowing today it should be a nice “Viking Bath”.
    What I remember from my youth is this crazy teacher that no one liked. He was to the point and pulled no punches. He also ran his own garage gym where he trained olympic and powerlifting. Benches, racks and plateforms-that was it! I learned a lot in that year, but when I went to high school it was too difficult to get there to train. My parents believed you find your own way home since I lived nine miles away I had to catch the bus, but kept up with the training. Which lasted for awhile until the plates (plastic/cement) broke, and I bent the aluminum hollow bar.
    The next memory is sitting with some buddies drinking and seeing Bill Kazmier win the world’s strongestman. I was amazed at the strength and events. Not having cable growing up I never knew that stuff existed. I told my buddies that I was going to compete in strongman. They all laughed. 15 years later still lifting, competing and they are still sitting at the bar drinking talking about a football game they had in high school.

    1. @Dustin W.: Dustin man!!! I had a BIG teacher like that in 7th grade. I remember the dude was jacked and we were ALL scared of him!!! ha ha

      You’re a true BEAST, happy b day, homie!!!

      I too remember the early WSM events and shows on TV, they were THE best!

  4. Ihad a bike stolen from me in Japan when I was in college. Made me realise I could lose anything of value at any moment.

    Thanks as always Zach! can’t wait for part 2!

    1. that sounds so weird. Stolen IN JAPAN??

  5. Zach,

    Probably one of the best blog posts I have read from you or anyone. It really makes you think back on how our youth and things we learn along the way shape our lives and influence those around us.

    It’s like the saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, I know I am paraphrasing a biblical passage, but many of your points share folks that read this blog post a great image of how you have gone thru the trials and tribulations of your youth to present day and you are kicking ass and taking names.

    I don’t always agree you or post much on your site and not to keen on all the business stuff and marketing crap, only because there is some much shit that is out there, but you Zach, I have respect for what you are doing for kids and others by helping shape and mold them into being better than you and sharing what you have experienced.

    Helping them learn from your mistakes or areas of your life where you might have been down, but you stayed PERSISTANT, which is what I believe life is all about. Never give up, positive attitude, and wanting to help others along the way. I think a guy named Jesus did that along the way by showing LOVE.

    Don’t worry bro, not comparing or calling you Jesus, LOL….but your family and friends are probably really proud to have a guy like you in their lives. Keep it up bro and thanks for an aswesome post.

    Take it easy and much respect,


    1. @Tom S: Tom I respect your honesty and am honored by your kind words, brutha, that is BIG time humbling!

      I’m trying to become better at all of it: family, friends and life.

      Not gonna let myself be brought down or slowed down. U da man for stopping by and commenting, MUCH respect!

  6. @Uncle Mike: Uncle Mike! Miss ya dude and can’t wait!! Been so busy not even funny, was gonna stop by to train today and just didn’t make it, hopefully tomorrow!!

  7. Dude, I used to have a Soloflex! Thanks for taking me back down memory lane with all the old school stuff, Zach. It’s always great to a trip back to when we were first discovering all this great information. Thanks again, Bro!

    1. @Steve McHenry: Steve – that thing was horrible! I wish we woulda stuck with the free weights ONLY! I remember when e bay first came out I sold the soloflex – there were TONS of people bidding on that thing! ha ha

  8. Pencilneck says:

    Great post, Zach! Big of you to admit to being weak and unsure of yourself as a kid; most of us are/were like that at some point in our lives. Keep up the great work!

    1. @Pencilneck: Owen thanks for stopping by my brutha, was AWESOME meeting you in Atlanta!!! I gotta send you those old magazines!

  9. Dustin M. says:


    What a post, man! Behind every great man is a story to be told, a story full of childhood memories—several badass ones and several painful ones. Yours is a story to be told—definitely looking forward to part 2.

    Do not forget to include the one where you decided to grab life by the balls—quitting your job as a teacher and pursuing your passion, opening up a gym and spreading legit truth about the meaning of true strength, not just physically—but mentally.

    You’re a true mentor/idol in this game, my friend.

    @Dustin W. Dude, there more and more I see you post—the more similarities I see between us! I, too, have a dream..the ultimate goal of competing in the WSM! Except I was like 8 years old when my father turned on WSM on TV and I immediately saw my calling. 🙂 How crazy is that? Rock on, bro.

  10. Great stuff, Z!
    Brought back some memories of things I had to fight growing through up.
    It just made us stronger where it counted most.

  11. 7. (reference to the crusher grip) My mothers boyfriend told me about how he was pumping up backstage for a show in 82 and the crusher popped up and knocked his tooth through his lip. He had to run to the hospital but came back and won the show. I’m glad those aren’t commonly used equipment anymore!

  12. Michael Cornacchione says:

    Love the video Travis.A lot of memories, Starting to lift weights. For me at 13 it was the basement by myself.

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