I am excited to announce that in a couple of weeks we will be launching our new e-book “Westside for Weightlifting”. This will be my take on the applicability of the Westside System for Weightlifting. Until then, you can check out the “Mash Method” E-Book for Free at:
Westside is Applicable to all Strength Sports?
I just watched the trailer for the new documentary based on Westside Barbell entitled “Westside vs. The World”. I made the mistake of watching it at night, so there wasn’t a lot of sleep going on that night. The trailer sparked me to write a little something about the infamous Westside Barbell Club and their fearless leader Louie Simmons.
I just spent the last two months rereading Louie’s book on Olympic weightlifting and rereading just about every article that he ever wrote. Do I agree with everything that he says? Well no frankly, but I don’t agree with 100% of what anyone says. However, Louie makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways.
I am not talking about bands and chains with the Olympic lifts. I am definitely not 100% on that either. I definitely don’t take a dogmatic approach saying that it’s 100% wrong. I simply don’t know, so I am not having my athletes experimented on.
There are some Methods and Principles that Louie promotes that simply make sense, and that’s what this article is about. So let’s look at them:
1. Special Exercises and Accessory Work to Target Weaknesses- Louie has spent his life inventing machines and special movements to target the weaknesses of his athletes. If you are a weightlifter, you can’t expect the snatch and clean & jerk to miraculously fix all of your muscular imbalances. You have to first identify those weaknesses, and second you have to attack them.
If you ever visit Westside Barbell, you will find machines that you will only see at Westside Barbell. Louie’s desire to be the best pushed him to invent some of the coolest pieces of equipment that I have ever seen. He has three different reverse hypers, inverse leg curls, plyo swings, and a lot of others that I don’t even know what they are.
I also agree 100% that accessory work shouldn’t be dropped the last few weeks before a meet. If certain movements got you strong, then why would you drop them right before you compete. Just like the Chinese, Louie recommends keeping the accessory work the entire time. The key is to limit the movements that cause a lot of muscle damage like RDLs and DB Flies basically movements that stretch muscles while under a load.
2. Conjugate System to Avoid Accommodation- He recommends change in workout programs to avoid a weak stimulus. Louie changes bars, adds boards, and waves percentages to avoid accommodation. I like a little more specificity than he does, but I still use this concept in a more specific way like pauses, tempo changes, and different rep schemes. As long as a stimulus is changed often as new and better response will be incited.
3. Max Effort Method- I definitely agree that the best way to get strong is going heavy. I also agree that maxing out week in and week out with the same movement leads to accommodation. I am totally fine with altering the bars, adding bands, or whatever when it comes to the power movements. However when it comes to the Olympic lifts, more specific is better. Here are some versions that I will use with the Olympic lifts:
• Complexes of several versions
• Pauses at different parts of the pull
• Different rep schemes
• Off Blocks
When you get closer to a meet, I recommend getting more and more specific.
4. Work Capacity- this is the area that most of us are missing. I know several of America’s best weightlifters, and frankly they are simply not capable of enough work capacity to make improvement. The people that can work the hardest and recover the quickest are ultimately going to win out. I have watched several great weightlifters come into a session, Clean & Jerk to a heavy single, and go home. Then they wonder why they are not getting better.
I think that this is the biggest reason why so many weightlifters in America have been plateaued for multiple years. They simply don’t posses the work capacity to spark a new stimulus with the proper amount of work. Louie advocates using low impact movements to get in shape, recover, and build core stability like carries, sled drags, and prowler pushes. I think that this one concept has helped many of my lifters pass up people in their weight class.
5. Compensatory Acceleration- this is a method made popular by the late Dr. Fred Hatfield. This is where the athlete tries to accelerate through the entire concentric contraction. There are two ways to improve at this:
• Simply by trying to accelerate through the lift. This sounds too easy, but many athletes simply don’t try to push as fast as possible.
• Accommodating resistance with bands and chains. By increasing the load as the angle of the lift gets easier, you teach the body to push harder and harder this faster and faster.
The atmosphere at Westside Barbell is something that can’t be duplicated. That’s why it’s not on the list. The atmosphere and culture of a facility matches that of its leader or coach. Louie Simmons is driven to be great. No he is driven to be the best. All he thinks about is world records and winning, and therefore he attracts athletes that want to win and be the best. This is the real Westside Method. Heck this is the main reason behind any great club or gym. Personally I love Louie Simmons, and I have learned way more than I have ever disagreed with. I hope that some day other coaches out there can put their egos behind them, and realize that there is so much to learn from a man that has committed his whole life to strength.
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