We've had a lot of discussions lately about different programs and their efficiency.
Several of them have been about Westside and a few times I see Matt saying he doesn't feel Westside is the best program and he doesn't agree with some of it.
Since Matt is a knowedgeable person who has seen different programs in effect with different powerlifters over time, I'm interested in hearing his opinion.
While I'd never say that Westside is the only way to train, however I'd be curious to find a more PROVEN way of training out there.
So Matt, fire away my friend. Lets get this going
I'm very interested to see where this discussion goes. I think Westside is a great and proven program, but I also think Rhodes makes a lot of great points critiquing the program and would like to hear more from both sides about it.
Last edited by DontTakeEmOff31; 03-04-2013 at 08:09 PM.
Best Gym Lifts:
475 - 315 - 585
Best Meet Lifts (220 Raw)
435 - 295 - 555 (1285)
I guess my first point I need to make is, what constitutes "Westside"? To me, it's a combination of two things.
1. Training at Westside
2. The Concurrent system of Dynamic Effort, Maximal Effort and Repeated Effort
You'd be hard pressed to find powerlifters who haven't used Westside or parts of the Westside program at one point or another in their training.
As a whole, the program obviously works. In my opinion, there are a few aspects of the program that are not optimal.
1. The constant changing of ME exercises
2. Always hitting singles for the ME exercise
3. DE work as a weekly skill
Constant changing of ME exercises
This is something that I just can't buy into. Any skill we do in the real world is perfected by repetition. Throwing a fade route, hitting a baseball, shooting a free throw, a golf swing (there are a few different skills involved in hitting different shots, but all are practiced), etc...
I do agree that at different times in training some of the special exercises for squatting, benching and deadlifting can help you improve weak areas of each lift. But, as I've stated in the past, one week of SSB Squats to solve my problem of faling forward in the squat isn't going to solve my problem. But, 6-8 weeks probably will.
2-5 reps on "ME" day
I'm a fan of using 2-5 reps on what would be considered ME day. Technically, 2-5 reps isn't truly a Max Effort based on percentages, but the effort to grind out a heavy double, triple etc... can be very valuable in teaching people how to strain and how to work technique when you're spent.
My solution to make it more efficient
We all have certain meet training cycles that we follow. i'm usually a 12-16 week meet cycle guy. As of my last few meets, it's been 16 weeks. Whatever you use as a meet cycle, any time outside of that cycle should be used to address weaknesses. This is a period of time where you could toy around with special exercises and switch them up every week. I still disagree with the constant changing. i would set up 3 week cycles to hammer away at certain special exercises to address my weak points.
In the bench I feel that Close-grip, Floor Press, Bench against chains and Incline directly effect my competition bench. I would set up two three week cycles with these four exercises.
-Bench against chains
I am a big fan of Block. I like hitting reps building up to an eventual peaking phase. But, this phase outside of a meet training cycle could be run in the 1-5 rep range. I personally, would use higher reps (3-5) to build my body and work capacity in preparation for a meet cycle. This is where I think the variety of special exercises could be of tremendous benefit. This is also why I like the Block style of training. You don't necessarily have to follow all of the Block principals, but I love multiple sets at a given weight/percentage.
The closer I get to the meet, the more I incorporate the competition lifts as they'd be performed in competition. to me, anywhere in the 8-12 week range this should be employed. Practice how you play. For a seond exercise you could use some of the special exercises to continue to build on weakness.
My most successful bench cycle was my 485 raw. For 16 weeks I competition benched every single week. My other 3 bench spots varied, but only slightly. They basically looked like this.
-Close-grip against chains
As the meet got closer I would address issues that arose during the previous cycle (3 weeks). If I felt my lockout needed work I would add chains to my Floor Press. Or, I might change my second exercise on Monday to Competition Grip against chains.
What never changed was my first exercise on Friday - Competition Bench. This is how I played in the meet. This is how I practiced. Sets and reps would change (variety for those who think we really need that much change), but the execution of my competition form was practiced every week. To get very good at something, you practice it over and over. To get good at sprinting, you sprint. To get good at jumping, you jump. To get good at benching, you bench. I see it no other way. muscle memory.
For some, this may do wonders. For me, it's a skill that I don't feel I need to work on because it's a strength for me. So, I work on it every set as I work up. I just don't feel it a necessary skill to dedicate a day to IF you are explosive. If you are slow and a grinder, I think it can be beneficial. It won't make you faster, but I believe it will make you better at exerting maximal effort. The intention of being fast is as good as actually being fast.
Instead of DE work I would opt for repetition work in the form of Paused work or by using special exercises.
I might set up a Squat cycle that looks like this:
Monday - Squat
-Special Exercise to address weakness
Friday - Deadlift
-Special exercise to address weakness
Monday - Squat/Deadlift
Friday - DE Squat/Deadlift
-Assisatnce for both
I'm still up in the air on how I'll train my Squat and Deadlift. Two seperate days (one for each)? Work both on both days.
I know that I've had tremendous success squatting and deadlifting to get better at squatting and pulling. I would use special exercises to address weak point after my competiton lift was performed.
I think you can take the basic premise of Westside and make it more efficient for meet preperation.
Not sure if I answered your question, but I got some good thoughts out there. This will certainly make me think about training. Great Question.
I like what Rhodes is saying here, and I agree with him on alot of shit.
The reps of 2-5 for ME...didn't great lifters like Coan and Kirwoski rarely train singles? It looks to me like they built plenty of strength on reps. Some say that max singles develop strength rather than build it. More time under tension and more work if you're doing sets of more reps right?
Short rest for DE doesn't make sense to me. You're trying to produce as much force as possible so that you can move the bar faster and faster, but how can you do this if fatigue sets in? It would be like doing ME with short rest times...
Just putting it out there.
The only lift I'm proud of at this point is a close stance, ass to grass zercher squat of 170kg x2 at 85kg bw. If only they held zercher squat competitions...
1.) In Westside you get lots of practice on DE day of your main lifts, 8-12 singles, doubles or triples depending on the lift. This is 8-12 times to practice set up, start and the first rep which can be different as sets move on. In a 5's you might get in the same volume, but you don't get the chance to practice set up 8-12 times. (For some this argument is invalidated due to raw squats vs. box squats).
2.) The primary reason to change max lifts every week isn't to focus on weak points (that is addressed more through assistance work), is to prevent getting stale while still being able to work with weights above 90%. Who could max out every week and make progresss with any lift? But. Louie is pretty emphatic that you have to work above 90% to build absolute strength.
So one way to deal with this is switch exercises which will allow one a psychological break, a neurological break and a sense of some random intensity cycling (maxing out your front squat probably won't be as taxing as maxing out your banded low box squat). Other successful programs keep the lift the same but vary the percentages as you suggest. I think both methods here have more in common than not--work a compound movement with high intensity weights and change something to prevent burnout.
3.) To some extent, you choose your ME exercises to build your lifts and to some extent work your weak points. So if your upper back rounds in the squat, you might want to rotate in a safety bar squat, arched back good mornings, banded box squat and a deficit deadlift. But don't randomly change and overrotate. Find 4-6 exercises that correlate best for you. But, you don't stop with just the ME exercises, you'd also stick with some special exercises to attack the weakness in your assistance work.
I'm sure you've heard this before, but just want to see others thoughts.
From Mr. Rhodes:
"Just because Louis says it, doesn't mean it's the word of God. I don't believe that the best way to build strength is with singles."
I agree it is wise to question any source or idea, test it for you and find out what works best.
For home gym posers like me, I feel I rely on the experience of others to guide but not dictate my training decisions. Yet, Rhodes, Louie and many others on this forum will know and have more training than I'll ever have, hence I'll lean on the exepertise.
In regards to building strength, there are clearly many who have mastered strength without a focus on singles. What do you feel is best for buidling 1RM strength?
That being said, I listened to every word Louie wrote when I first started. As I used the methods I just began to think critically about training. If things didn't make sense I would try to figure out why.
All types of rep ranges will help increase 1rm strength. The key to being able to express your true 1rm strength means you need to go through a peaking-type phase before you truly test. There are a lot of people who can bang out 10, 12, 15 reps on a main lift, yet they are unable to do the estimated 1rm.
So, you need to hit some singles, doubles, triples, 5's and 10's to build your body. This is part of why I'm a fan of a linear progression.
Matt, that was an awesome post. I'm going to need to process it for a little while haha.
One the one hand I see what you're saying about DE work, but an interesting thought might be what is written in Supertraining (the book, not the gym lol) that as a person increases in strength, their speed will get slower and slower without some form of DE training?
My point being, you may be explosive at the level you are at now (400 raw bench correct?) but what about when you get to a 500lb bench?
The other thing, in the past you'd suffered from pretty overused hips when box squatting all the time. If you're free squatting every week to depth, how are your hips going to respond to that?
You're actually outlining a program though that is still pretty close to Westside I was expecting something a lot different lol.
I'm actually using DE Squat work right now and experimanting to see if it's someting that actually helps me. At least with squatting. No benching because of the arm, yet.
I do see the point of using some type of speed work as you get stronger. Again, something I've toyed with as I come off of the biceps injury. My thought is to use the block percentages and shoot for a 7 on the RPE with a 70-80% load. I literally, just talked with someone about this and came up with a 70-75% load for this. Still up in the air. And, if I remember correctly, all of Siff's ideas are just that... ideas. They were never practiced on athletes before he wrote the book. n They were all theories.
My hip issues are from wide squatting, not necessarily box squatting. My issue with box squatting, especially for raw training, is that it's not a competition lift. People get good at box squatting and then suck in the meet. For raw squatting, you have to stop and reverse yourself in the hole. When I came out of gear, I absolutely had no strength in my hamstrings and glutes to stop and reverse the weight. The box and the gear did it all for me. So, box squatting makes no sense for me at all. A Paused Squat makes more sense as a raw lifter, in my opinion.
I feel the same as a former geared lifter, as well. Box squat technique is "supposed" to be the same as Squatting. it never is. guys cheat the box squat to move weight. Not to mention the fac tthat no one can seem to hit good depth in gear. I blame this on retards wearing gear that's too tight and setting your box too high. Not everyone does this, but it's an epidemic in geared lifting.
Oddly, my hips feel so much better since I brought my stance in to a normal width. My hip is osteoarthritis, so eventually, I'll be in Dave's boat.
Last edited by RhodeHouse; 03-05-2013 at 07:46 AM.
The RPE was usually an 8 or 9 on Monday (leaving one rep in the tank). Fridays was a 9 or 10 (probably not going to get another rep).
Last edited by RhodeHouse; 03-05-2013 at 12:00 PM.
Thanks for the reply.
Great stuff Matt. Thanks for the taking the time to type it all out for us!
Matt how often would you train ME deads and squats. Do you ever squat and pull heavy in the same week?
I was squatting heavy and trying to do some pull variation every week for a while, but my lower back just couldn't handle it. I can bench heavy as hell twice a week no problem. I can squat twice a week with moderate weight twice a week no problem. But as soon as I throw rack pulls or deads into the mix, my body seems to gas out on me really fast.
For my next meet I plan on training Squat and Deadlift on different days in the same week. I'm still up in the air on my exact plan.
Good conversation guys.
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So Matt, if I'm reading this all correctly, you are indeed doing a Westside template?
Even though you're not using a box for squatting you're still doing max effort, not some type of linear perodization?
i would argue all day that if someone does box squats to proper depth and with the proper technique, it's actually harder than free squatting. Even with my athletes in the gym, I'll often actually remove a 1" mat in the middle of a set to ensure they are staying tight and not relaxing/falling on the box. It's hard to get right but when done right has awesome carryover.
That said, you don't have to box squat for your program to be Westside.
Finally ELITE @ SHW..
Single ply: 931 squat, 760 bench, 530 deadlift and 2180 total
Multi ply: 960 squat, 770 bench, 550 deadlift and 2250 total.
The next stop: PRO total.
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Plus like JK it looks like Rob uses pieces of westwsie but not the entire program. Im just curious what types of numbers a strong raw lifter has put up with using a strict westside template for a raw meet. I would like to try it one time but Im not in experimentation mode with Nationals this close.
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My DE numbers go up by 10lbs every week instead of waving. It oddly works out to my DE weight being 60% of what my projected max would be based off of my "ME" day numbers.
I agree with you on your box squat comment. Done properly, which very few do, it is tougher. However, I just don't feel they are valuable enough to be used in place of a squat.