Written by Brandon Lilly
There is an old saying that I use often; “When I was 16 my father was the dumbest man I knew, by 25 he was the smartest man I’d ever met.” That pretty much sums up the relationship I have with Louie Simmons. He was the man that inspired me to become a powerlifter, the man that looked at me, and believed in me. This was a monumental thing to me as Powerlifting USA was my only avenue to powerlifting information, and as far as I was concerned then, and to some degree now, Louie is a God amongst men in the world of strength.
Even during my time at Westside I found myself struggling to find the words to talk to him, as I didn’t want to sound stupid, or say something to piss him off. What I’ve come to realize after years of coaching athletes, and working with primarily people that want to get stronger that Louie never gave me bad advice in this area. Disagreements that I’ve had with Lou, or aspects of his Westside Method are my own… In retrospect Louie has always written to his audience; Multi Ply Powerlifters. Some of that information does not translate 100% to raw training, or to athlete training, but Louie knows how to adapt the information, he just usually writes his information to HIS audience… That is something that I have mistakenly misunderstood, as well as many that attack him, or his method. Do I agree with his methods 100%?
No. Do I think for geared powerlifting it is the best method? I’m hard pressed to point to a method that has produced more success, over, and over. Before you eye roll, and say “they don’t play by the rules”, I’ve been there, I trained there, and I am lucky enough to have shared many a Bob Evans Breakfast with Lou, and I can promise you I’ve been around the world, and NEVER have I been in a more competitive environment, and NEVER in one place were there guys that would dominate any gym, but would fight anybody to defend the name on their shirt. THAT, is Lou. That is what he built. I owe the old man a lot, and for years I lost sight of the lessons he gave me, but in time those lessons revealed themselves again, and this year during Arnold Weekend I met with Louie and everything came full circle for me. I will never be able to truly explain these “lessons”, but here is my best effort.
1. Be a Pitbull
It’s not just a statement that Lou said, its a mentality he expects, a way of life. I don’t know how many times I heard him say “there should be something that scares the shit out of you, in every person you train with”. He expected us to be competitive, and have a win at all costs mentality. Not just in competition, but in everything we did. Every exercise was a chance to prove yourself, and you had best not take a fucking rep off. I will say this, this is not a lesson you learn. You are either born with this or you’re not. Sorry if you fall into the “have nots” but I don’t think many people realize the effort, and dedication it takes to train at the level that Lou expects of his guys. Some guys give up because the weight gets heavy, others break because of the mental side… Lou has been at it for almost 50 years, and if he’s gonna give it everything he has each day, then you had better bring nothing less.
[quote]The only time you have an excuse to give up is when you are dead.[/quote]
2. Never Quit
Lou used to say “quit once, and I’ll never forget”. This always stuck in my head, and even to this day. Some days will be good days, and some days will be awful, but you have a commitment to excellence, more importantly you have a commitment to yourself to be the absolute best you can be. He would often tell me that “if you will quit on a rep today, it becomes that much easier to quit the next time.” You have to realize that this journey is yours, and you will face hardships, but as long as you keep pushing, you will come out ahead. Giving up cannot be a part of your psyche. Most people give up because it gets too hard, not because their body can’t do more.
3. Training Partners Make You
I remember training with Dave Hoff, AJ Roberts, Jake Anderson, Jon Shack, and others and they were there to win 100%. It was hard to feel sorry for yourself, or take a day off knowing those guys were pushing to be number 1. If I didn't go to the gym they would, and they would push, so many days that got my ass out of bed, because I didn't want them to get ahead of me, and I didn't want to let them down. Ive seen it in every gym I train in, "bad seeds". Motherfuckers that wanna talk the talk, and look the part but they kill the workout. You keep them around because they are likable enough, or they are your buddy, and you know what? Your workout will suffer. Surround yourself with like minded people... People that want to push, and believe in the same things you believe in. You take two competitive guys pushing hard, and you are gonna get results.
4. Nobody Cares About Yesterday
PR's, victories, and accolades count. They do, to you. If all you are, is what you were, then you are dust in the wind. You have to commit to the constant pursuit of getting better. If you aren't PR'ing, two realities need to be understood... 1. You are not progressing. 2. You are to blame. Those two lessons were brutal lessons for me. I used to go months without a PR telling myself I was "off season", or it was my training plan, or blah blah blah. Most times you can match success with effort, and when I worked hard I got results, and when I got satisfied I stagnated. Under Lou if you stagnate you get "the bullseye". He doesn't write you off you get pushed harder. Not just physically, but mentally, and in the end you rise, or you fall... The lesson always learned, if you don't want it bad enough there are 10 guys ready, scraping, and willing to replace you. And they will.
5. If You Aren't Training Heavy What Are You Doing
If you want to be a world class powerlifter you have to accept, and enjoy heavy weight. It cannot be a max effort session every day, but you should absolutely love every opportunity to train hard, and heavy. I know many guys that bitch and moan when its heavy day... Fuck that. On my way to the gym I feel goosebumps, I love the idea of weight so heavy it scares others. Turn up the music, and lets go!! I wholeheartedly agree that training optimally, and sub maximally is the way to be, but if you don't love heavy weight you are never gonna make it...
Many of these seem simple, and repetitive, but that is what works, and what will always work... Hard work, over, and over again. I look back almost daily at the lessons I learned, and while they were some very hard lessons, but now I am very thankful for those lessons, and try to pay them forward at every turn.