If you follow Zack George on Instagram, you’ll know he workouts a lot. Like a lot, a lot. He’s always posting his workouts for everyone to try — if you’re brave enough anyway. He posts crazy feats of strength that a man of his size and stature shouldn’t be able to do.
You may see these posts and think that these workouts are simply impossible — this guy must be crazy fit, right? Well, even Zack started somewhere. In fact, it’s taken him over 6 years to get to this stage, so there’s no telling where you can be with a little bit of hard work and patience.
Zack trains smart too. All the things you see him do have a purpose and are always helping him get fitter and more efficient every day. We were lucky enough to pick his brains to see exactly why he does what he does.
120kg barbell snatch
If you’re asking yourself what a barbell snatch is, don’t panic. It’s an Olympic style lift in which the barbell goes straight from the ground to an overhead position in a continuous movement. In simple terms, it’s a hard lift.
With this in mind, Zack can snatch 120kg no questions asked — that’s pretty impressive. Surprisingly, complex lifts like these play a major part in functional fitness competitions.
“The snatch is a test of strength in functional fitness. It's similar to when you walk into a commercial gym and someone asks you ‘what do you bench?’. In functional fitness, people ask what do you snatch?”
If you think this is heavy, then you’ll be shocked to find out that this isn’t even Zack’s PB. It’s actually 127.5kg — as a power snatch which means he didn’t squat to catch the weight overhead.
“I'm a very powerful athlete so it helps. You can lift more in a squat snatch but there’s more chance of me missing the lift this way.”
We don't think anyone is going to argue against Zack being a powerful athlete — the evidence is right in front of us.
Zack George is over 6ft tall and close to 100kg in bodyweight so the fact he can move like this definitely makes him superhuman. However, there is method to the madness, Zack explains...
“Gymnastics is another main test for us in functional fitness. We’re tested on Olympic lifts, gymnastics, bodyweight movements, and cardiovascular exercises.”
As you might expect, he hasn’t always been able to do them — it’s taken a lot of hard work and training to get this good, especially for his size.
“It took about 6 or 7 months of trying — it didn’t come easy to me at all. When I was getting started, I did 30 ring muscle-ups for time and it took me 29 minutes.”
This goes to show that being the UK’s fittest man doesn’t just come down to talent. It takes a lot of dedication to stick with something you aren’t good at and then become the very best.
5 cleans at 140kg
Another one of the two Olympic lifts used in functional fitness. This time it’s not only the heavyweight that is impressive, but it’s also how fast he moves it 5 times. I repeat, 5 times.
“I have always been strong, to be a good lifter I needed to work on mobility, technique and speed.”
For an athlete of Zack’s size, strength does come naturally to him. The first clean he ever did was 110kg. However, his advice for anyone starting out with lifts like this is pretty straightforward.
“If you don’t have good mobility, you aren’t lifting. It's just a simple rule because when you try and lift and you have bad technique it’s where people get hurt and injured. If you break the movements down and get good at front squats for cleans to get super mobile and spend time learning the technique with an empty barbell, then you can progress through weights.”
Running and burpees workout
This might seem a little less exhilarating than throwing huge weights overhead. However, if you break it down and try this workout, you’ll see that it might be the most impressive on the list.
Essentially, this is a 400m run and 15 burpees for 8 rounds — resting for as long as it took you in-between rounds. It's the simple workouts like this that trick you in functional fitness because this is a serious test of your cardiovascular fitness and then your efficiency under fatigue.
“If you’re just fit, you’ll get by in functional fitness fine. You could be really strong but give you 10 reps on a barbell and you just burn out because your fitness isn’t there. So, to keep up with my fitness I do a lot of these workouts.”
This quote from Zack sums up the importance of a workout like this for competing at the elite level. In fact, Zack focuses more on his fitness and gymnastic rather than strength training.
“My training split is probably about 40% fitness 40% gymnastics and then 20% strength.”
100kg Sotts press
If you find yourself wondering “what the hell is a ‘sotts press’ and why is it even important?” — you’re not the only one. This exercise is actually great for the front rack mobility at the bottom of the clean and helps you get comfortable pressing weight in that position.
Zack claims it’s this exercise that has allowed him to be so mobile, but he wasn’t always pressing this much he started at a humble PVC pipe over 5 years ago.
“If you’re comfortable in that position and you go to catch a squat clean, you’re going to have a solid base.”
Take home message
These clips are just a little part of what goes into being the fittest man in the country. It shows how superhuman people like Zack really are, but that you have to work hard to get to that point.
For a man of Zack’s size, you’d expect him to love the strength element involved with his training but conversely, he says...
“I just love being fit. I’m known for being able to move well for my size and to become the fittest man in the UK you’ve got to move well.”