Underground Start-Up

By Zach Even-Esh

In Equipment, Videos

September 03, 2009

Video Article

CrossFitters know a lot of fitness equipment isn’t functional. Zach Even-Esh has two more beefs with most workout gear: it’s expensive and it’s shiny.

Even-Esh runs Underground Strength Coach/CrossFit Underground, a rugged fitness facility in “Dirty Jersey.” Packed with strength-training equipment from a power cage to giant tires to a set of ancient globe dumbbells, Even-Esh’s gym is not for the delicate. The air conditioning never goes on, and you won’t find any chairs.

During a lengthy and rambling tour of the small facility, Even-Esh drops some important nuggets of fitness wisdom, revealing how he tries to make the gym a “third home” for his members, how he negotiated a great lease that allowed him time to build momentum for his business, and how he was able to assemble all his equipment for minimal cost.

“Live off of nuts and berries. Don’t buy expensive shit,” the colorful coach says—and it’s probably sound advice whether you’re talking about your next meal or your next equipment purchase.

21min 22sec

Additional reading: The Garage Gym by Greg Glassman, originally published September, 2002.



72 Comments on “Underground Start-Up”


wrote …


I really enjoyed your video; I've come from a very similar place. I found CF in high school, and had a doorway pull-up bar, a 300# olympic set from dick's sporting goods, a good stereo and lots of floorspace and I went at it. Now (I just graduated and am headed to my freshman year at Northeastern in Boston) i've got a couple pull-up structures made from scrap 2x4's and old 1" pipe that I found, an old tractor tire ( apr 250#); I stood an old swing set on end to make a structure for some rings, I made a dip station out of PVC and 2x4's, and I found a tire that had a broken axle still in it that I attached some chain and some old backpack straps to for a harness and had a sled i could stack plates on. I've found small plates at the dump and bought some cheap iron pipe to make dumbbells and found an old table that I could use for box jumps. For the past few months my buddies and I have trained in that space and crossfit's popularity has grown.

keep living off the nuts and berries,

-Neal Swain


wrote …

Awesome video! I'd love to hear more about your first garage gym, or really anything about opening a box. Extremely interesting stuff.

And the rugged style of your gym looks great :D


wrote …

Keep up the good work. I like your approach.


wrote …

great video, zach. keep 'em coming.


wrote …


Great stuff, man! I had a smile on my face during the whole video. No thrills works best. You are definitely on to something. Michael


wrote …

Hey everybody! This is Daniel Krull AKA "Franiel"

I just wanted to say that Zach Even-Esh is the guy that introduced me to CrossFit! I might have never known about CrossFit if it wasn't for this guy! Thanks Zach!




wrote …

Amazing stuff! I'd love to hear about what kind of workouts you guys do.


wrote …

My type of gym right there! I'm building my gear up much like you have Zach, keep up the good work!


wrote …

dude pretty gyms suck ass. i started my box when i was dead broke. sold a bunch of shit just to buy a rower... im still dead ass broke, but i got some bumpers. thaks for the motivation... ive heard myself say alot of the same things that you did, so im glad that im not too far off the beaten path with this stuff. pick up heavy shit real good and people show up... thanks again man


wrote …

Hey man this video is so AWSOME.

Im only 17 now. I have been on CrossFit for a while too. Im hoping to own a gym and train athletes one day too =))

Right now im headed to college starting 4 days haha. I am working with my college, humber lakeshore in Toronto, On, Canada to start my own group. We can start any groups we want, anything. As long as our groups make since and people at college are signing up for them. Im having a bit of trouble but im gonna keep on thier case till I get it done.

Since im not affliate or even certified yet im hopping to call it "Lakeshore hawks track and athletics" our college has this "hawks" thing going on haha.

So we have a track behind college that is public, Im basically hoping to get some people who wanna get a bit fitter to sign up. Obviously so far I have nothing but a 400 meter track. The grass in the infield and hopefully gonna buy something to play some music.

Were gonna do lots of running, sprinting, grass sprints and that stuff + all bodywieght movments on earth. Im gonna get these people in shape they never belived, so excited. Its gonna work because I am on thier the colleges crosscountry team so thele belive in me. I also know lots about CrossFit and nutrtion. And im hopping they will love it and keep having more people sign up. Im even planing to charge them so I could make some money and donate some to my favourite organization "MADD"

Later in the future im hoping to be CrossFit level 1, CrossFit endurance, And CrossFit nutrtion certified. Then I will see where life takes me. Im propably gonna have to spen some years working for someone as a trainer, or maybe open a very small garage gym and keep getting bigger and bigger. Hopefully all the clients I will have worked with are gonna be hooked and follow me hehe.

Does any body have any bit of advice. Anything I can do. Do you think ill be better off getting diffrent CERT's than the ones im planing to get. haha. Thanks a lot.


Matt Charney wrote …

My kind of place. That is why I named my garage gym affiliate Primitive CrossFit. I have nothing but used or homemade stuff. I'm looking around and there are only 2 things I bought new, apair of york 15# bars and a pair of ironwoody kettle handles.

I need to get more pics of equipment up on my website.

Your place is awesome and if I had found CrossFit through your gym I may have never made mine.

Keep it up.


wrote …

Dude I love gyms like that. It reminds me of the gyms in Iraq and Afghanistan, you get a really good workout in that kind of enviroment. Keep it up man.


Herm Blancaflor wrote …

Bad @$$. This is a great lecture piece for a guy like me who is aiming to open up an affiliate! Start small and live off nuts and berries! Thank you, Zach!


wrote …

Hello Zach,
we loved your video!
HQ: keep them coming.
It would be great to see how you teach all the oly lift variations with dumbbells.
Keep up the good work


wrote …

Would love to see some more.

Very informative and found it interesting.


wrote …

Vid of one of your workouts would be cool, especially any strongman stuff you guys do.


wrote …

Hey thanks for the video very educational looking forward to the next one...we ll be out in jersy at the end of september maybe we ll see you guys then.


wrote …

Great video Zach!!

Been following your training for a couple of years now. I stumbled across you from Ryan Lee's websites... great to see that your still doing your own thing.

I sincerely hope one day I can open a gym like yours. Literally, I saw your place and knew that is exactly what I want to do when I get older. Making money is great, but helping athletes succeed and wearing gym shorts to work everyday is priceless.

Keep up the good work!!!


wrote …

Thanks Zach,

You're the man.

If any of you guys want to see more about Zach's training just check out his site www.undrgroundstrengthcoach.com.

Good to see you on Crossfit.


wrote …

best video ever.


wrote …

Nuts and Berries!
Keep'em coming!


wrote …

Wonderful video!


wrote …

Great video. Thanks for the info!


wrote …

Zach, you're the freakin real deal. Miss ya and the CrossFit Philly Gang...Jason and Pam.


wrote …

Zach great stuff, I want to hear more


wrote …

I've been lucky enough to visit Zach's gym. Like he says, he makes it a place where you want to hang out. Hard intense training. I would recommend that anyone who trains make the pilgrimage to Zach's mecca of strength. The gym is more than the equipment. It is Zach's attitude, knowledge, and intensity. As his clients train he is constantly coaching and totally focused on them. Hopefully, Zach will post some videos of the night before AJ Robert's seminar. It was a celebration of strength and really captures what Z said about wanting your gym to replace Starbucks as a person's 3rd home.


wrote …

Old School. The best. Great to see these places still exist and thrive.
Good solid advice for someone starting up their own place. One thing came through strong and clear, it is all about attitude. This place has the right attitutde. Good people with good attitude will always do well.


wrote …


Awesome Video brother. The length was perfect, and it shows that you can really can get fit without spending an arm and a leg. I'm always looking for stuff to keep around my house for the days I can't make it in to my local CrossFit gym. Thanks for the tips, it's motivating just seeing your gym.

Another video from you would be unreal. You mentioned how you go out of your way for people and that's what it's all about - helping people with a variety athletic capabilities progress in all aspects.

Thanks for the motivation and all of the great tips!


Rob Barrese wrote …

Zach outstanding video. I'd love to see the reverse chrono!


Zach Even - Esh wrote …

hey guys, thnx 4 the kick ass comments and props.

If Tony is ever in the area he can film anything he wants at the gym, workouts, etc to give you guys an idea of how we train

I'll def head back to the parents pad and do a "where I started" video.

My Dad always starts to sweat when he realizes I was training people from the backyard with no insurance, no LLC and basically a totally illegal biz, ha ha

more to come!

peace bruddahs!



wrote …

Dude, you rock! The video was very motivational and you make a lot of sense; keep it simple and in-expensive. I love your mentality about it all.

I would love to open my own CrossFit gym when I reitre from the Army and you gave me a lot of good ideas.

Thanks! Keep up the great work Zach.


wrote …

love your style...no bumper plates though? how do you make it work with o-lifts? otherwise, a very rockin gym...i would be honored to train at a place like yours.


wrote …

Loved this video. As we prepare to move into a new spot coming up Zach's advice of living on nuts and berries is invaluable and what he has achieved is inspiring love.

"Start with the giving hand"

I love that.

Definitely want to see more of these on a regular basis


wrote …


Thanks for the great video. I am currently deployed here to the IZ. A few friends and I are looking to start up a gym here within the next year and the information you provided is perfect. I agree with the usage of old worn equipment. I was doing the same at my own garage gym till my wife surprised me this past spring with a brand new package from Rogue Fitness. I didn't have time to put much wear on it before I deployed, but when I get home I will earn my scars on it. I am impressed with the size of gym space you have and how much you can pack in there. I have my eye on a few locations around my area back home that I didn't think were going to cut it for space. But after seeing what you have going and how you maximize the area, I am rethinking my original conclusions. Again thanks for the video. Perhaps a video of a day in the gym with people working out in different areas at the same time would be a good one.

audaces fortuna juvat!


wrote …

I'm going to pass this vid along to some doubting thomas' I know who take a look at my garage and doubt real work can get done. I love Crossfit- the community and coaches like Zach are what make it special and somthing that can last a long, long time!
Look forward to seeing some workouts posted from Zachs' garage!


wrote …

Hi Zach. love the video and sll your practical wisdom. I live in Jersey and wondered about the place in Asbury Park where you get used equipment. I work out in my garage and could use a few more pieces of equipment. thanks for an inspiring look at your gym.


wrote …

haha "lets go inside before the cops lock us up"
and then an ambulance drives by


wrote …

Im from jersey, Where exactly is this gym?


wrote …

Zach this is just outstanding! Our box gym in Steilacoom, WA is even smaller than yours. You have the optimal facility for training the way it should be done. Keep up the good Work!


wrote …

Zach - very good, old school, underground style training. Take us all back to the 'rents pad and show everyone where you started. For all of you who havent seen the vids go to the exercise/demo page on the mainsite go down to "interviews & discussions" and look for "Quantico Affiliate Discussion" there are 10 of them. One of the guys discussing his affiliate and where he came from is Zach.

Keep it comin brotha.


wrote …

Oh and Zach definitely do a vid of "the hustle" you mention near the end. Let people know what they have to do to get themselves out there. What they have to do to get themselves in the public eye, how to/why to negotiate contracts with landlords et cetera. Like I said above...keep it comin.


wrote …

Zach, keep the video's coming. Very informative.


wrote …

Looks like an awesome place to train. Would love to hear more, especially info on your programming.
Thanks again!


wrote …

Zach, great stuff love your gym been trying to make my garage look like that unfortunately I ma not very handy nor anyone in the family with welding or even putting up Pull up bars. Maybe I can recruit someone who needs some training space in exchange for some handiwork! I also just saw your interview with Alwyn Cosgrove. How does he take that you have become a crossfit affiliate? He has been pretty vocal in his despise for crossfit and Coach Glassman.


wrote …

Great video and advice! Keep them coming!


Rob Barrese wrote …

Zach, I have to comment again as I watched this three times this afternoon. This has been one of the most informative and interesting posts. Very critical information and very well formated. It is easy to see why your business is a success. Best of luck in future endeavors and hopefully CF has you on for some more in the future!


wrote …

Zach, awesome info very helpful my partner and i just got affiliated in ohio and will use some of your ideas for equip.

If anyone or yourself can reccommend sites or places to get CrossFit equip please post your ideas all of us are always looking for great buys on stuff

Thank you
Jeremy & Brade


wrote …

great gym, I used to have one like that but was forced to move to a bigger place because of all the clients and growth (good problem to have), however I miss the old space and the "shit everywhere" look. Enjoy your garage people, it's not for parking crappy cars, its for Crossfit!


wrote …

This is the best, I love it. I'd love to hear more about where you came from and how you got started buying your first house etc.

Really well done, thank you for all your input!


wrote …

Zach I really enjoyed this video interview. I own a 4000 square foot martial arts gym in oklahoma city and am a 7th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a black belt in Jujitsu, a certified instructor in Jeet Kune Do etc. I have experienced some of the things you talked about in reference to buying things used, keeping overhead low, being able to inspire people to reach towards their full potential, etc. I have been in business for over 25 years. I watched, literally dozens of other martial arts instructors go out of business for one reason or another. I, for years did a number of odd jobs during the day for the privledge of teaching during the eveinings. Because I care for my students they tell their friends and because I push them they respect me and my program. I find, especially here recently, that as I have pressed my athletes towards more varied training methods they have exploded physically and and that the process has made them better martial artists. In the past I trained to compete for more than 27 years and basically just dragged my students with me as I went but now I have become more systematic about their needs individually. This has increased their results and my business. Thank you for your input. Grand Master Reeder


wrote …

Zach, thanks for the video. Your enthusiasm really shows through. Thanks for taking the time.


wrote …


I definitely liked the video. I may not be starting a gym, but most of what you said is just good, common sense. I'm sure I will think of your video the next time I have to make any purchase.

Keep up the good work.


Karl Eagleman wrote …

That's what I'm talking about! Great stuff, Zach!


wrote …

Awesome video, you answered dozens of questions I was wondering about. Also very helpful insight on getting started cheap... much appreciated!


wrote …

Great video. Lets see some more.


wrote …

Great video. Really helped me with ideas in opening up my own box!


hey bro, in asbury it is called fitness lifestyles

go into their basement where some serious gems cna be found under a lot of dust!



Zach Even - Esh wrote …

hey guys, gonna try to answer some of the comments / questions right here:

1) Whete to get tires? Tire yards or farms. In NJ I googles "tire yard" and called them and found my way.

2) Bumpers, olympic lifts? Where are they? I don't use the o lifts w/barbells. Our style is a mix of powerlifting, bodyweight / gymnastics based moves, kettlebells, and o lifts w/dumbbells, strongman work as well / odd objects.

3) I can def. do more videos, they will for sure be coming soon enough.

peace bruddahs and thanks to all for the props!



replied to comment from Zach Even - Esh

thanks, Zach. will check them out.


wrote …

There is a great tire yard in Elizabeth NJ it's called McCarthy Tires. They have all sizes up to 6,000lbs, (not that your going to flip a 6g up and over) but to show you the range of tires they carry. Check it out.


wrote …

Great video Zach, love it.

I'd also be interested if in the next segments you can give hints/instructions on how to make some of the equipment (is there a series here??)


wrote …

Thanks for the tour. Love the dumbbell oly lifts need to bring them back. I would like to hear more baout your programming.



wrote …


Love the simplicity and old-school approach. Look forward to more stuff from you.
Who needs A/C? My one-man box in Florida is 95-100 degrees. I take overhead stuff outside in the bright sunshine. Sweat is good!




wrote …


Love it!

good luck,



wrote …

Awesome video Zach!


wrote …

It was good fortune for me that I had the chance to meet you last month when I was in Edison, NJ for work. You are extremely motivating and your video on start up was terrific. My back yard has a half buried tractor tire and a 10lb sledge as its' enemy thanks to you. 2 sections of 10' rope arrived last week for the rope pull ups and rows. The sled is next!
All the best,
Glenn Kaine


wrote …

Great stuff! Looking forward to another installment, keep Zach coming.


wrote …


I really enjoyed your video. Your tone is tongue in cheek about the mishmash of ragged equipment in your arsenal, but the plain and simple fact is that you have a ton of stuff, really good stuff to work with! Consider yourself both savvy and blessed to be the owner of such a fine facility.

Keep up the good work, and congratulations on your success.

-J Low


wrote …

Best vid i've seen on this site! Wish you the best Zach.


wrote …

Your videos are awesome! Thanks
I'm interested in your programing for your clients, how you build the brotherhood and what you do to keep the "kick ass" environment.
Strong work, can't wait to see more


wrote …

Hey brother, I really enjoyed the video. I like your philosophy in regards to equipment and you gave me some great ideas. I would definitely like to hear more about building your cliental out of your home/garage. What was your programing like in the beginning? How did you attract clients? What did you charge for your knowledge an services? Thanks for the inspiration!


Jason - hey bro, if you search my name on the journal there are videos of me discussing the garage days, how the culture was built, the program design, etc.

I'm in the works as we speak to crank a new "home grown" video for the journal next week, stay tuned, it's gonna be FUN!!!

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