The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

Itís no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

By: Nick Tumminello Added: January 6th, 2014
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  1. #1
    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    The Matt Rhodes vs. Westside Thread

    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


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  3. #2
    Senior Member DontTakeEmOff31's Avatar
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    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.
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  4. #3
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    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.

    Cycle 1
    -Close-grip
    -Incline

    Cycle 2
    -Floor Press
    -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.

    Monday
    -Close-grip
    -Close-grip against chains

    Friday
    -Competiton Grip
    -Floor Press

    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.

    DE Work

    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
    -Competition Squat
    -Special Exercise to address weakness
    -Assistance
    -Abs

    Friday - Deadlift
    -Deadlift
    -Special exercise to address weakness
    -Assistance
    -Abs

    or

    Monday - Squat/Deadlift
    -Squat
    -Deadlift
    -Abs

    Friday - DE Squat/Deadlift
    -DE Squat
    -DE Deadlift
    -Assisatnce for both
    -Abs

    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.

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    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...

  6. #5
    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    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.


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  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bell View Post
    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.
    DE Work

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RhodeHouse View Post
    DE Work

    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.


    Benching monday and friday like in your example, Did you recover well? what kind of RPE did you use on those bench days? I bench once ever 5 or so days seems to work the best for me.

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    Great stuff Matt. Thanks for the taking the time to type it all out for us!

  10. #9
    Senior Member Invain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RhodeHouse View Post
    DE Work

    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.
    I've always thought similar when it comes to box squatting. I don't use gear so I cannot compare the two, but I've done training cycles before incorporating lots of box squatting at various heights and I got absolutely nothing out of it. My box squat #'s would go up yeah, but in a couple instances my raw comp squat actually went backwards since I hadn't trained the movement in a couple months.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darracq View Post
    Benching monday and friday like in your example, Did you recover well? what kind of RPE did you use on those bench days? I bench once ever 5 or so days seems to work the best for me.
    I spent a lot of time preparing my body to handle all the work. Recovery isn't as big of an issue as people think. Being sore and tired from a Monday workout on Friday isn't a bad thing.

    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.

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    Thanks for the reply.

  13. #12
    Senior Member Invain's Avatar
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    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Invain View Post
    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.
    When I was benching like this I was only Squatting once a week. My back was so bad that I wasn't training my deadlift very much. I squatted heavy (1-3 reps) and then did RDl's and a bunch of ab work to try and keep my back working.

    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.

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    Good conversation guys.
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  16. #15
    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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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.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bell View Post
    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.
    Just out of curiosity.......Are any top raw squatters using west side and box squats though? I dont know of any.
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  18. #17
    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    I know Stan Efferding did when he first crossed into powerlifting but I'm not sure what he does currently


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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottYard View Post
    Just out of curiosity.......Are any top raw squatters using west side and box squats though? I dont know of any.
    Rob has used and uses variations, but it depends on where he is in his training cycle and what he's specifically doing. He and I have gone back and forth about a raw squatter using box squats.. Alot of the paused on the box type box squats he does he doesn't video tape either, they are more warmup type sets. We've got another lifter in the gym who we substituted out box squats with paused squats in the bottom. They worked really good for him. I think alot of the time that's the alternative that Rob will recommend if someone asks him, but I may be wrong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RhodeHouse View Post
    I
    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.
    I understand your critique, but would say some of the common counter arguments would be:

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottYard View Post
    Just out of curiosity.......Are any top raw squatters using west side and box squats though? I dont know of any.
    Didn't Rob Wilkerson use a lot of box squats? I seem to remember them in his vids.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bell View Post
    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.
    I am experimenting right now with a Westside (ME/DE days). My ME days are 3 weeks of triples, 3 weeks of doubles and 3 weeks of singles all using the squat (this last cycle was all SSB because of my biceps), so it is linear periodization. I call it ME day eventhough, technically speaking, it's not.

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFabsik View Post
    I understand your critique, but would say some of the common counter arguments would be:

    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.

    Box Squatting is not practice on the competition lift, in my opinion. Plus, the weight is just too light for any true form work to be done. 60% just doesn't cause form breakdown, at all.

    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.

    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.

    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.
    I do see where you're coming from.

  24. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clone View Post
    Didn't Rob Wilkerson use a lot of box squats? I seem to remember them in his vids.
    I would argue that Rob is an exception. He is the BEST raw squatter in the world. I would equate it to saying, "Well, I'm going to do what Michael Jordan did and I'll be just like Mike." Well, Mike is the best ever because he's Mike. Rob's the best because he's Rob. Not to say you can't take ideas, but I'd rather look at the masses rather than the exception.

  25. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by RhodeHouse View Post
    I would argue that Rob is an exception. He is the BEST raw squatter in the world. I would equate it to saying, "Well, I'm going to do what Michael Jordan did and I'll be just like Mike." Well, Mike is the best ever because he's Mike. Rob's the best because he's Rob. Not to say you can't take ideas, but I'd rather look at the masses rather than the exception.
    I agree. Rob could probably not squat at all and do leg presses and squat over 900.

    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.
    Best Lifts unequipped
    765
    505
    755
    Best lifts Equipped
    1050
    840
    715

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  26. #25
    Dr. Subtotal
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    Travis,

    Was Amy W. still at Westside when she did Raw Unity or her other raw meets? Are you aware of how her training differed? She hit the 4th ranked 2007-current Raw Total with wraps at 148. Could be another example
    Trample the weak, hurdle the dead
    http://www.wannabebig.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=132318

    Satisfaction is the Death of Desire...

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