Zak Ziegenbein

 Why did you get into fitness (and CrossFit)?

Growing up, I was always active and always played sports. I started out playing little league baseball, soccer and basketball in a small town. Once I got to middle school I played football, basketball, track and field, wrestled briefly, and was on swim team. I was introduced to weightlifting during middle school football, and learned to squat, bench press and power clean. I played Football, Basketball, Track and Golf once I got to High School. Back then my training days looked very similar to a CrossFit workout. During the summers of two a day practices for football, those can be boiled down to sled pushing, sprinting, and endurance training. In between practices we would usually lift. Every day was max out day! Back then it didn’t matter, since at 16-18 years old I felt unstoppable. My senior year football playing weight was 195, I played center and middle linebacker. After high school I was offered a spot on the Doane College Football squad, but decided to turn it down to focus on school and felt burnt out on sports. I regret not playing football in college whenever I think about it. I continued to train regularly at the strength and conditioning facility on campus, and played intramural sports when I transferred to UNL. I played and coached flag football and was a basketball referee. He tried out for the Nebraska Cornhuskers Football team at the 2002 football combine.

After nearly 10 years away from college strength and conditioning and starting a family I was overweight weighing 248lbs, constantly tired and just about to turn 30. I decided I needed to make major changes in my life if I wanted to see my kids grow up! I started by walking more, and trying to eat better. Then I decided to join a bootcamp facility training with bodyweight, kettlebells, kickboxing, TRX and body bars. I started to notice how my gym performance was going up as I kept going. I decided to keep up the schedule and try to go everyday and to be the best I could be! I ended up being a trainer there after a year and half, and being known by nearly everyone at the morning classes. Shortly after becoming a trainer there I started educating myself and realized I had plateaued at the boot camp facility, and without additional challenges there I started looking for a new gym. I worked out a large commercial gym for over a year, following bodybuilding forums, and magazine workouts. I tried running programs, and got up to running nearly 20 miles every weekend. I still wasn’t making the progress that I wanted. Then I starting learning about CrossFit after seeing cool t-shirts on Rogue Fitness. I even remember seeing the original website back in the early 2000’s also while I was a computer programmer. CrossFit was being compared to open source computer programming at the time. I could hardly believe it was the same organization. I then found the closest local affiliate near me CrossFit 402. I trained there regularly for nearly two years. While training there I advanced my fitness education. I dreamed of opening a gym from the first day I started training again.

After regaining my fitness I nearly feel like I’m 18 again! Hopefully I’m able to maintain my  fitness until old age. I never want to feel like I did when I was out of shape ever again.

Currently Zak is training to compete in SuperTotal, which is a weightlifting competition where athletes squat, bench, deadlift, snatch and clean and jerk in the same competition.

Why did you become a trainer?

I have always wanted to be involved in sports, coaching and teaching. Being a CrossFit affiliate owner and coach allows me to achieve my dreams. I believe fitness training is about improving yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Getting fit is one of the most important things you can do in life and I think one of the most rewarding things you can do! I have followed countless fitness ideologies, methods and programs. CrossFit is in my opinion the most fun way to get and stay fit! The best part about CrossFit is that it can constantly change, and utilizes nearly any piece of equipment. Everyone deserves to achieve their best athletic potential, and CrossFit can do that.

What’s your favorite CrossFit movement?

I have two favorite movements, ring muscle ups and snatch. The fun part about CrossFit is it isn’t all about strength, it’s also about moving well and with good technique. It is the technique that keeps these movements interesting for me in particular. Moving well with good technique is more impressive to me than moving the most weight. It isn’t always the strongest man in the gym that wins the daily workout.

What is your favorite cheat meal?

My favorite cheat meal is donuts and coffee. CrossFit Millard also happens to be very close my favorite donut shop! I would say that donuts and coffee is a nearly anabolic food! I always have so much energy after a trip to the donut shop, and usually set PRs shortly after having this meal!

What’s your favorite Superhero and why?

Growing up my favorite superheros were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Each turtle has a special talent and they skateboarded, fought ninjas and ate pizza afterwards! What could be better! Growing up my favorite turtle was Michelangelo.


I look forward to seeing you in the gym!