The road paved by Louie Simmons and his elite lifters gives me confidence that his program works. Why do I feel it works? How about 20 800-lb. deadlifters! The Russians used to do a lot of testing on their weightlifters, and Lou adapted a lot of those principles. Now he has his own testing ground at Westside Barbell. Through science, math and lots of trial and error, Lou has come up with the "Westside Barbell Method." Time and time again this method has not just worked for Lou and his lifters, but for thousands of athletes all over the world. My gym, Super Training (ST), was started in 2006, and this is the method we have used from day one.
I trained at Westside for a little more than a year in 2004. Simply put, if you're not at Westside it's hard to know exactly what Louie is working on next. There is some variation between what we do at ST and what they do at Westside Barbell. But we utilize all the general ideas of Westside Barbell. As Lou says, "Our results justify our methods." I also use lifter feedback and trial and error to figure out what will work best for ST. The program we use consists of three different methods: repetition, dynamic and max effort.
Repetition: Be Jacked!
This method uses higher reps and moderate weights to promote bigger muscles. Remember a bigger muscle will create better leverages. That's something to think about for all you fat guys who don't even look like you work out. More often than not, a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle.
The repetition method also gives you a chance to strengthen where you are weak and allows you to train the smaller muscle groups. It's used in every workout after the main dynamic or max effort methods are completed. Also known as the "bodybuilding method," it includes a lot of standard bodybuilding protocols, such as three to four sets of eight to 12 reps. You can also implement super sets at this stage of the workout.
Work on getting a pump. There, I said it. Pump. Seriously, bodybuilders know how to build muscle like no other athlete on earth, so why not employ some of their methods to slap on some muscle?
Dynamic effort: Be fast!
This day is devoted to three concepts: bar speed, form and conditioning. Bar speed is key. Start with about 50 percent of your one-rep max and move the weights fast. Move the bar with violence. Try to exert as much force as possible on every rep. Bands and chains are often added to the bar to give you more optimal weights that will allow you to generate more force. Ingrain great form. Perfect practice makes perfect. Work on your conditioning through high volume and short rest intervals. Eight to 12 sets of two to three reps with 60 to 120 seconds rest.
Remember, it's important to go up in weight about half the time after your speed work is done. If you used 250 lbs. plus a green band for eight sets of two, then go ahead and take about three or four more heavy sets. Try 275, 300, then 315. These heavier sets will really test your courage and strength as you try to keep your form in a fatigued state. On top of that, it's just fun!
You will have one day a week devoted to training fast. This is known as dynamic effort, speed training or force training. This day is designed to refine your form and make your body produce as much force as possible. Because you're teaching your body to produce force and explode, it's common to use either bands or chains to give you optimal weight to accelerate. The use of bands and chains is referred to as accommodating resistance.
In addition, this day can be devoted to higher volume and conditioning. I suggest being in a group of three to five lifters and going one person after the next. Rest periods can be as short as one minute and, if you're out of shape or doing heavier sets, you can use up to three minutes. The weights on this day will normally start out at around 50 percent. Raw lifters may be up in the 70 percent range. But again, focus on bar speed and not bar weight.
How do you know if you're too slow? If the weight slows down during any part of the concentric phase then it may be too heavy. If you have to lower the weight super slowly, then the weight may be too heavy. Your eccentric phase (lowering of the bar) should be one to three seconds. Your concentric (raising of the bar) should be one to two seconds. You'll notice top lifters standing up with massive weights up to 1,000 lbs. faster than you can get up off a couch. That's explosive power at its best.
Some notes: On a lower body day, some type of box squat is used every week. You may use two or three-week waves for the weights and the bar. On speed bench, some type of bench is always used, i.e. floor press, board press, regular bench.
On lower-body day, the outfit needed is typically a pair of Chuck Taylor shoes, a belt and a pair of powerlifting briefs. It's my belief that even raw lifters should use briefs from time to time. This will allow you to overload the squat and keep the hips supported. For upper-body speed bench, a pair of wrist wraps and a Sling Shot is a good idea.
I know, I know, that was a cheap-ass plug - but it's not like I'm saying you have to buy my one-of-a-kind multi-purpose wraps that can go on your elbow, forearm, wrist or knee. I'm not saying you have to buy my amazing shoulder stabilizing Sling Shot. It's simply a recommendation from my website, www.HowMuchYaBench.Net. Seriously, though, the Sling Shot will allow you to add more volume, use more weight and keep your shoulders and chest from feeling destroyed.
Max effort: Be strong!
Lift the heaviest weights possible for a one- to three-rep max. Some newer lifters may want to hold back on this a bit as they adapt to the new training methods and exercises. Switch up exercises every week or every other week and max out. Select exercise variations of the squat, bench and deadlift. Warm up with low reps so you don't burn yourself out. Record your max and try to beat it. Get back to the same exercise every four to six weeks.
Make small jumps in weight as you get near your max. Doing extra sets is better than missing weights. The best lifters in the gym very rarely miss. This may mean that they're only going to 95 percent or so. However, this can still make you stronger as it builds confidence for you. It also teaches your body what it's like to make big lifts instead of missing them. Stronger lifters will often times make better choices with how they pick their attempts. Choose wisely.
How we do at ST:
Tuesday: Max effort squat/deadlift. This day has more of an emphasis on deadlifts. At ST we simply rotate the max effort work as seen in the quick example below. You will see that even our speed deads might be done on our max effort day. Remember there is more then one way to skin a cat. If a deadlift is not performed as the main movement, it may be used as an assistance movement for reps or speed.
Sample max effort lower body movements:
ST sample three-week break down of max effort exercises:
Week 1: Low box squat to a max set of one to three reps. Follow this up with six to eight sets of one or two reps of speed deadlifts. You will use 50 to 70 percent of your max pulling against bands or chains. Don't get caught up with the number crunching too much - you're not a nerdy accountant (no offense, Pops). Lift weights and ask questions later.
Week 2: Reverse band deadlift followed by raw squats, four sets of four to six reps, or reduce the weight and perform three sets of five reps on the reverse band deads.
Week 3: Suspended good-mornings - followed by crying, then finish up with a little bit of death. Warning: It is better to blow out a hammy then it is to blow out an o-ring.
Thursday: Max effort bench. The focus here is to go to a one-rep max for some type of bench press like movement. I'm a fan of doing floor presses. Donnie Thompson suggests you get a small mat to lay on while doing floor presses so the shoulder blade doesn't grind on such a hard surface. Keep in mind you will switch exercises every week. I like doing floor press against bands or chains, as well. Another exercise I like is reverse band bench and reverse band bench in the Sling Shot. Nine-hundred-pound bencher Dave Hoff of Westside Barbell is the person who recommended this lift to me.
Sample max effort exercises for upper body:
Saturday: Dynamic effort squat/deadlift. This day is focused more on the squat. I enjoy the fantastic feeling of doing three-week waves. I'll also use two-week waves from time to time as well. I don't get all crazy about the percentages, but a good rule is to use about 50 percent for week one, give or take 5 to 10 percent and use that as a starting place. So a wave may look like this if you squat 500 lbs, increasing the bar weight by about 3 to 5 percent each week.
Week 1: 50 percent 250 lbs., plus a green band for 10 sets of two.
Week 2: 55 percent at 275 lbs., plus a green band, for eight sets of two, working up in weight to a heavy double.
Week 3: 60 percent at 300 lbs., plus a green band, for six sets of two, then work up using singles. Go to 90 percent and do not miss!
It is a common practice to do eight to 10 sets of one to two reps on speed deadlifts after dynamic squats. The percents would normally be about 60 to 80 percent depending on how fast you can move the weights.
I'm not a fan of de-loading or any such word, so I simply start the next cycle over where again you'd start with a lighter load in the 50 percent range. I hate to get on a rant, but screw it, it's my magazine - I will anyway. What do you need to de-load from? Why is everyone always crying about being hurt? Pain is part of this sport, train for pain. Train your pain tolerance and please stop being a big fat baby. Remember this: no brain, no pain! Stop thinking about it so much and just lift. I seriously don't want to hear how you missed the lift because your knees came in. The truth is you missed the weight because you have the hip strength of 90-year-old grandma. You know the kind. They use walkers with the tennis balls under the front. I'm just as guilty as the next guy in terms of making excuses, but remember that the road to nowhere is paved with excuses.
Sunday: Dynamic effort bench. I use a variety of bars, bands and chains. The set and rep scheme is normally eight to 10 sets of three reps with about 50 percent of max. On occasion I will do six sets of five reps or six to eight sets of four. The main focus is explosive power and having your form be the same throughout most of the sets and reps. The best lifters make their last few reps look the same as their first few.
Typically I use the mastodon bar, or the fat bar on speed day. Every few workouts I'll do a floor press for the speed sets. I prefer to do at least two-week waves but sometimes I end up wave-less. I feel it's important to lift and work with my team as much as possible. So if I come in and Big Roy wants to use straight weight for the day, I'll hop in on that. You'll get a better workout by training with other guys rather than following some stupid spread sheet. I have made this mistake more than once.
I like using the bamboo bar with Kettlebells after I do my speed work. I use the bar nearly every week with three to five sets of 10 to 15 reps. This bar is just insane and I feel it keeps me injury free and strong.
Wrap It Up!
Remember to always follow up these main event exercises with assistance work. Choose exercises that will build and strengthen the muscles involved in the bench, squat and deadlift. This is also a great time to work on weak areas.
Do your homework and buy products that will help you to become as strong as possible. Hop on the Internet and start looking up information on Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell. Buy Louie Simmons' book The Westside Book of Methods. Many of the bands, chains and barbells mentioned in this article can be purchased from Louie at www.Westside-Babrbell.com.
Give this program a shot. Don't just try it out for a week and say it doesn't work. Give it at least a month take time to learn your trade and understand the program. Above all else, realize that the best lifters train hard and you need to as well, no matter what program you follow. Surround yourself with the best and most positive people that you can. One rotten egg can make the whole room stink. At Super Training we roll with this motto: "Either you're in or you're in the way." PM
Check out Mark Bell's Q&A on the Rx Muscle Forums. He'll answer all your questions and concerns!