Cancer Survivor: Zach Zeiler Talks With

Quick stats:

Age: 19
Height: 6’0” – 183 cm
Weight: 170 lbs – 77 kg


How did you get started?

At the age of 15 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Treatment for this type of Cancer meant that I would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During these treatments, I missed the majority of my sophomore year in high school, lost time with friends, missed out on sports, and even spent my 16th birthday in a hospital bed. No matter how sick I got, or how depressed I became, I told myself that I would push through, that I would one day look back at my past experiences, as a stronger and more mindful individual. I did just that. After treatments were over, I weighed close to 106 lbs. I went from having an athletic build before chemo, to becoming deathly skinny, and very fatigued mentally from all that I had went through. I needed a way to gain my strength back, and needed something to take out my frustration. This is where I discovered the weights. I started out simple, just small bodyweight workouts in my basement, with some thrown in weight training, but eventually that lead to me getting my first gym membership. Once I had the proper equipment available, it motivated me to learn as much as I could about proper form, exercise, nutrition, and fitness in general. I learned very quickly that results came as a result of sacrifice, and that the more I put into the lifestyle, the more I got out of it. Putting the endless hours in the gym most definitely lead to noticeable gains, and to the physique that you see me with today.

I don’t really know where it may take me, but every day what I have is an opportunity that may lead to success. The overall factor on where I end up is myself, so I do not plan on stopping any time soon.


Where does your motivation come from?

My motivation comes from the results that I get. Building the body is one of the very few things in this world, where you can physically see the outcome of your dedication and devotion, as you progress.

That, in my opinion is the most rewarding aspect of lifting weights, fitness, or working out in general, the fact that you get everything that you are willing to give.


What workout routine has worked best for you?

One thing about my training that sets me apart from other individuals is my perspective on training styles. Now I understand that every individual has their own training style, and no two individuals are alike. My personal belief is that each individual should adopt multiple training styles for themselves. What I mean by training style is to really be proactive in changing up what you do, and confusing the body. There are dozens of ways to do this such as changing rep ranges, numbers of sets, exercises, weights, and even the way in which you train. One week, I will really back off on the weight, concentrating on constant tension, form, balance, contraction etc. The next week I will stop preaching strict form a little less, and focus on hitting the heavy weights using everything possible to get them up (doing it safely of course.) By incorporating different “styles” in your training, your body will never have the chance to adapt to one style of training.

Full Routine:

Monday: Chest/Triceps

  • Dumbbell Pullover: 3×12,10,6
  • Incline Dumbbell Press: 4×12.10,8,6
  • Flat Dumbbell Press: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Decline Isolateral Machine Press: 3×10
  • Dumbbell Fly’s: 3×10-15
  • Cable Crossovers: 3×10-15
  • Overhead Dumbbell Extension: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Overhead Single Arm Triceps Extension: 3×10
  • Dumbbell Triceps Skull Crushers: 4×10
  • Single Arm Cable Triceps Pushdown: 3×10

Tuesday: Legs

  • Squats: 5 working sets 14.12.10,8,6 (last set a dropset)
  • Hack squat: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Leg Press: 4×10-14
  • Leg Extensions: 4×10-20
  • Laying Leg Curl: 4×8-12
  • Stiff Leg Dumbbell Deadlift: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Standing Leg Curl: 4×10

Wednesday: Back/Biceps

  • Lat Pulldown: 4×8-12
  • Isolateral Lat Pulldown: 4×8-12
  • Pull-ups: 2x failure
  • T-Bar Row: 4×10
  • One Arm Dumbbell Row: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Isolateral Row: 3×10
  • Cable Row: 4×10-15
  • Barbell Curl: 4×20-30
  • Dumbbell Alternating Curl: 3-4×20-30
  • One Arm Preacher Curl: 4×15-20

Thursday: Shoulders

  • Reverse Pec Dec (Rear Delts): 3×15
  • Rear Delts Cable Fly: 4×10
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 5×14.12,10,8,6
  • Side Lateral Raise: 4×8-12
  • Upright Row: 3×10
  • Single Arm Side Lateral Raise: 3×10
  • Dumbbell Front Raise: 3×8-12
  • Isolateral Shoulder Press: 4×10
  • Barbell Shrugs: 6×20,16,12,10,8,6 (last set a dropset)
  • Dumbbell Shrugs: 5×10

Friday: Chest/Triceps

  • Dumbbell Pullover: 3×10
  • Barbell Bench Press: 4×12,10,8,6 (last set a dropset)
  • Incline Isolateral Bench: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Cable Crossover: 4×10
  • Pec Dec Fly: 4×10
  • Weighted Dips: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Barbell Skull Crushers: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Cable Overhead Triceps Extension: 3×10
  • Rope Triceps Pushdown: 3×20


  • Leg Extensions: 4×10
  • Squats: 5×5
  • Hack Squat/Lunges Superset: 4×10
  • Sissy Squats: 4×15
  • Single Leg Hamstring Curls: 4×10
  • Reverse Hack Squats: 4×10
  • Barbell SL Deadlifts: 3×12,10,8
  • Laying Leg Curls: 3x failure

Sunday: Back/Biceps

  • Deadlifts: 6×20,14,12,10,8,6
  • Barbell Row: 4×12,10,8,6
  • Wide Grip Cable Row: 3×10
  • One Arm Dumbbell Row: 3×10
  • Unilateral Row: 3×10
  • Weighted Pullups: 3×10
  • Dumbbell Pullovers: 3×8
  • Close Grip Lat Pulldown: 3×10
  • Dumbbell Hammer Curl (One Arm): 4×20-30
  • Concentration Curl: 4×20
  • Preacher Curl: 3×20
  • Cable Curl: 2×30


I alternate between hitting calves and abs every day. For example, on Monday I will train abs, Tuesday calves, Wednesday abs, Thursday calves, etc. For each workout I go through a small circuit of exercises typically lasting 15 minutes.

Calf Workout:

  • Seated Calf Raises: 5×10
  • Standing Calf Raises: 5×15

Abs Workout:

  • Hanging Leg Raises: 4×15
  • Crunches: 4 sets to failure


If you had to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

  1. Dumbbell Bench Press: This has become one of my favorite exercises of all time. From the start, I had always struggled to develop my chest, and I stuck to the barbell bench press primarily for a long time. Using a barbell was never as effective for me, especially starting out, because I would always lift without a spotter. (I was one of those skinny dudes who was too afraid to ask someone for a spot on 135lbs.) With dumbbells, I not only can do the exercise to its full potential without a spotter, but I also find it being much more effective for isolating my chest.
  2. Squats: One of my biggest regrets in the entire world, was not learning to squat sooner. I have never been the type of person to miss a leg day, but in my beginning stages of training I had never learned how to squat. It wasn’t until my third year of training, that I absolutely forced myself into learning proper squat technique, and implementing it into my training. Squatting has easily become one of my favorite exercises, and has proven to be the secret in leg development for me.
  3. Deadlifts: Another exercise that I wished I had been doing from the start, deadlifts. Just as squats, I had not introduced myself to doing deadlifts until around my third year of training. It was not that I was afraid of doing them, I just had no idea on how to do them, or proper technique. The biggest suggestion I can give to someone new to an exercise, is to PRACTICE. Do some research, perfect your form, and the weight will come in time!


What is your diet like?

My diet for the most part if pretty laid back. I stay lean year round, and aim on making lean gains without ever having to go into a “bulking” phase. I follow the idea of going SLIGHTLY over my maintenance calories, allowing myself to grow while still being relatively lean. Of course I do my best to eat as clean as possible, but I have always believed that if your nutrition is not enjoyable, you aren’t going to follow it. If I were to ever prepare for a competition, at that point I would of course really crack down on myself and my nutrition. I have developed enough control to be able to manipulate my body to my liking, whether it be for a photo shoot, vacation, or something else that calls for me to be shredded. At these times, I will resort to counting my macronutrients for complete manipulation in “bulking up,” or “cutting down.”

Daily Diet:

  • Meal 1: Protein Shake & Cereal
  • Meal 2: Eggs, Oatmeal & an Apple
  • Meal 3: Chicken Breast, Pasta & Vegetables
  • Meal 4: Protein Shake & a Banana
  • Meal 5: Hamburger, Baked Potato & Milk
  • Meal 6: Protein Shake, Cottage Cheese, Protein Bar & Nuts


When trying to cut down do you prefer to use HIIT or just normal cardio?

I will utilize both depending on what type of mood I am in. Sometimes it is beneficial for me to just run on the treadmill for 30 minutes instead of doing Interval Training.

If I am I’m need of something harder, or higher intensity, then I will of course resort to HIIT before regular cardio. I don’t really have a preference overall.


What is your supplementation like?

My supplementation is fairly simple, and I like to keep it that way. I never like sharing what exact brand names I consume, mostly because I preach that you should find what works for you. The main supplements that I stick with are a protein, a pre-workout, and a creatine. Those, in my humble opinion, are all that you need to be successful.

Everything else out there may be beneficial, but for me these three do the trick. As I said before, the hard part is trying to find what works the best for you, and what is the most supportive of your progress.


Favorite Quote?

“Pain is nothing. It is absolutely nothing compared to the victory achieved after the pain is over” – Zachary Zeiler


Photography: Stryke Studio – FacebookTwitterInstagram