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Westside Visit Part II
I am still pondering the amazing visit that I had at Westside Barbell. One thing that most people don’t know is that Louie is literally the nicest guy in this industry. I first met Louie in 2001. I have always been baffled by the fact Louie will answer the phone at Westside. The first time that I called Westside, he answered the phone, and we talked for over an hour about all things strength. In a world where people think they are too famous to talk because they have 10k followers on Instagram. It’s refreshing to have someone like Louie Simmons who simply loves strength and wants to see everyone get better.
Louie treated us all weekend, and got all six of us hotel rooms in Columbus. He was excited that someone from the weightlifting world was at Westside. He just wanted to compare notes. He’s not trying to be a weightlifting coach. He just wants to see if he can help get weightlifters stronger in areas that might help them get better. The first thing that we did was sit down at a table and compare notes. We talked for over two hours the second that I got to Westside. Most of it was amazing information. Some of it wasn’t applicable to weightlifting, which I explained to him. The entire time was great discussion.
Here are a few more things that I got from the weekend:
1. To get stronger volume has to increase. A lot of coaches understand this concept. However most of us use the Olympic lifts and squats to increase the volume. The quality of the Olympic lifts can suffer when the volume is taken too high. At Westside the majority of the volume is controlled with accessory work. The focus on quality reps with the competitive lifts, and then the work begins.
All of the athletes there performed massive amounts of work after there work was complete with their competitive lifts. The other thing that I noticed was that all of the athletes were performing different lifts from each other. Every one was working on weaknesses specific to them. Almost everyone performed a variation of the belt squat machine and the reverse hyper, but the variations were designed to target individual weaknesses. For example some people were performing high reps on the reverse hyper. Some were performing isometric holds. Yet some were performing heavy low reps sets.
2. The Westside Culture is something that all of us can learn from. I walked in the gym, and I could just sense the greatness in the air. No one was joking around. No one was messing around. Everyone had his or her hoods up and heads down. No one was complaining. The only thing that was on anyone’s mind was world records or greatness in their own sports. The MMA guys were there to become the best. The Ohio State track stars were there to become the best in the world. No one was there to become “good”.
I feel like we have a good culture at the Mash Compound, but we could definitely improve. The key is raising the bar, and allowing no nonsense. It all goes back to the coach, and from now on I am taking full responsibility about our culture. From now on our athletes are going to demand greatness, or there is another gym for them.
3. Strength speed and Contrast- Probably the coolest part of the weekend was watching Jacky Bigger set PRs right and left. The most impressive PR was a 100k Power Clean. That was a 5k PR, and it was very easy. She caught the bar standing almost completely vertical.
The PR came after performing five sets of triples in dynamic cleans with mini-bands. A lot of people are negative about using bands. I am not sure why. All that I can say is that they had Jacky meeting the bar faster than ever, which is why she was able to power clean so much more. This is called the contrast method. This has intrigued me for a long time. This is basically a cool way to use post activation potentiation. I have used this method a lot with squats and bands, but not as much in cleans and snatches.
Louie’s theory is that weightlifters spend 90% of their time with speed strength. That means everything is fast, so they lose the ability to grind to put it simply. The same day that Jacky hit the PR clean she also performed 5×5 in the box squat with green bands. The bands were the majority of the weight and forced the athletes to grind through the top portion of the squat. The box forced the athletes to learn how to fire the hips to get off the box. Weightlifters are used to bouncing out of the hole in the squat, which causes them to become weak in that bottom position. This weakness can become a potential injury because the decelerators become weak, and the muscles that should be recruited to get out of a squat become weak.
I am not sure where the box squats fit in the program, but I am going to take the next few weeks to think about it. I still believe that high bar squats with a vertical torso are more applicable to weightlifting, but there has to be a spot for the box squats. I have no doubts that getting this exercise stronger will strengthen my athletes. I will either use them as an accessory movement or one of several squat days.
Here’s the thing. I will try these new ideas on myself before my athletes even begin to try them out. I always do the experiments on myself. It’s important for coaches to stay in shape for this very reason. I was able to try most of the exercises that Louie was showing us. Performing the exercises allow coaches to understand the stress put on the body and the CNS. This makes it much easier for me to write new programs.
As I write the new program, I will continue writing down my thoughts for all of you. The one thing about Westside that’s 100% true is that there are aspects of the Westside system for all of us. The key is understanding it form beginning to end. If a program is producing champions, there is always something that all of us could learn. This visit has inspired me to visit other gyms that produce champions. If I learn this much from other gyms throughout the country, it would produce an amazing program. Coaches get out there and learn. Don’t read someone’s post and think that you understand Westside. If you haven’t been there, you have no idea. I can’t wait to release the podcast and the video for all of you to enjoy.
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Remember on September 17th-18th we will be hosting the Mash Barbell Picnic” on the Farm. Weightlifting Day 1 and Powerlifting Day 2, but more importantly hanging out together the entire weekend. Check it out below: