No Rules Training

I’ve got another story for you, and it always brings back some of my favorite times in the gym. Actually, I have countless “favorite times” in the gym but this one is special to me, but honestly, all these memories are special to me. Damn I sound ridiculous. Let’s roll before Jason Ferruggia calls me up and rips into me for being too sappy.

It was the summer of 1994, I was in Israel and I was staying there for about one month. My older bro was in the military there and he had told me about a small gym that was in town. Before this time, my workouts in Israel consisted of going to a local park and doing 15 – 20 sets of pull ups every other day. When I found out there was a gym I was amped up! Not being able to lift was a tough ordeal to handle because I was seriously addicted to training. I used to cut school so I could get to the gym in the morning and then have my parents drive me there in the evening. I was addicted and still am.

This gym was not hard core. It was not meant for people like us, it was meant for the local people and there were no hard core lifters at all. It was a small place, less than 1,000 sq. ft. and it had some old equipment that seemed flimsy and weak. I have no idea how that equipment even held up.

The owner was cool as hell, a former member of a Special Forces unit called “Golani” and then became a trainer for all Special Forces units in the Israeli army. He certainly had a few screws loose. Ask him how to get big, ‘Eat more and train heavier.” Ask him how to get ripped, “Stop eating so much.” Talk about the science of training & nutrition! Jim Wendler would have liked this guy. He couldn’t speak English unless he was cursing at us which reminded me of Ferruggia. That worked fine for motivation because you never wanted this guy to out do you in a training session. He was tough and he loved training heavy. It was war every time we went in there to train.

Anyway, let me back track a bit here. The first day I walked to the gym I saw a guy working out there, he was American and his name was Joe. He was in Israel trying to get into their elite military unit, the Seals, which is called “Shayetet”. He was one tough SOB and having two training partners like this simply couldn’t make a vacation any better! That day that I walked in the gym Joe was benching 295 for reps. For most of our readers that sounds like nothing, but, this guy also swam 5 miles every other day, then ran 5 miles on the days he didn’t swim. I emphasize the words “ran” as he was not jogging, he simply hauled ass. He was in phenomenal overall condition physically & mentally. When we all met and decided to train together it was a battle every time. There was always someone outdoing the other and the workouts seemed to last forever because no one wanted to tell Avner, the gym owner, that we were tired and wanted to stop working out.

During my stay, Avner had me coming to the gym twice a day, morning and evening. I didn’t even think it was good for me or if he even felt it was good for me to train so much. I simply believe he wanted me there so he can train more because he too loved training. At that time Dorian Yates was getting tons of publicity regarding his short, heavy duty workouts that Mike Mentzer popularized. I was in quite a bit of a shock because I was used to doing two heavy sets per exercise when Avner had us doing 5 sets per exercise on average. I tried to explain to Avner what over training was and he always replied by saying, “F#ck Dorian Yates.” More science and words of wisdom.

As the days passed, every time I got to the gym to train Joe was already there. He already did his morning run or swim, and then he was found doing sit ups with his feet locked under a set of heavy dumbbells. I didn’t pay much attention to it in the beginning. After our workouts when Avner has us working abs, Joe never mentioned the fact that he did 100 sit ups already. I slowly took notice to how Joe was always there before me to train. If we were scheduled for 9 am training, Joe was already there doing one of two things; flat benching and / or sit ups.

What else was odd was that after every long and brutal workout, Joe got the curl bar and placed a 45 on each side and always did 5 sets of 10 curls. After a while, Flex magazine got the best of me and I told Joe, “Dude, why are you always doing curls, sit ups and benching, you’re gonna over train!” Joe replied these exact words, “Shit brother, you think the fucking dudes in the pen think about over training? They do their sit ups, push ups, benching and curls every day!” He turned around and continued to do his curls.

I was shocked because I was 18 years young and too poisoned by the magazines to understand these concepts of ‘No Rules” training. I simply could not think outside the box. I figured that I can find a way to make him eat his words. We had a leg workout the next day and I knew that it was my strongest body part. I had a goal of burying him during the workout and forcing him to push his training harder than ever before that day. My goal was to make him vomit and skip those daily curls. We squatted off of a flat bench’s catch racks. This was scary as all hell! The flat bench had those catch racks that would rise up high enough to look like those gun rack type squat racks. I was scared that the weights would topple over the bench so we piled 45’s on the flat bench to balance off the weights we used when we racked the weight.

Our workout consisted of endless sets of squats, front squats, barbell lunges, leg extension, leg curls and RDL’s. The work out was nauseating, filled with yelling, forced reps, drop sets on the leg curls and extensions, anything to set Joe straight. I was shot after that work out big time. Joe still got that dam curl bar and did his 5 sets of curls and finished with 100 sit ups!

When that 4 week “vacation” ended I was bumming. To find two tough-as-nails training partners who knew no rules or limits was a gem! There was no sophisticated equipment, no power rack and certainly no loud pumping music. There were three guys, all from different walks of life with one goal, to train hard as all hell and to give nothing less than 100 %. We created our own atmosphere and we thrived in it!

Last time I trained in Israel Avner was still training like a mad man and he reminds of Louie in a way. He stays in the gym to train others but all through the day he is doing mini workouts in addition to his main workout and this was exactly why a man in his mid 40’s was having no problem burying us during our training sessions. Joe went on to become a SEAL in the states and the rest of his story in confidential my friends. I have learned a lot from the most “uneducated” lifters out there. I doubt they ever picked up a magazine and followed those workouts or read those programs. They trained six days a week and often times trained twice a day. If your philosophy is “F#ck Dorian Yates” I have a funny feeling you’ll do alright out there! I always said Warriors and Gladiators are a dying breed, let’s do our part and keep them alive! Stay tough brothers.

Zach Even – Esh is a Strength & Performance Coach located in central, NJ. You can learn more about his methods by visiting www.Zach Even-Esh.com

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