Training

How I Would Westside


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The methods used by a certain powerlifting gym in Columbus, Ohio are undoubtedly among the most popular in powerlifting and strength & conditioning today. This gym has produced some of the strongest geared powerlifters in history through the use of heavy good mornings, box squatting, training with bands and chains and partial range bench press movements, not to mention excellent coaching and atmosphere. The gym’s owner has also greatly contributed to the strength community by publishing in depth articles on his club’s training through their website and various publications like Powerlifting USA. As great as this gym’s methods are for producing great strength in multiply powerlifting, I feel they are often misused when trying to develop strength in the raw lifter. It is undeniable that raw and geared lifting are different animals, the strength curves are different and the means which are used to develop them must be different.

 Differences between raw and geared training…

1-Full Range Movements: The raw lifter must place greater attention to developing strength through the full range  of motion of a lift. Multiply bench shirts and squat suits aid the lifter greatly during the bottom portion of each lift, placing much greater emphasis on the lifter’s top end strength. Rarely do you see raw lifters miss benches at lockout or squats in the top half, so they must devote more energy to training full ROM (or even beyond full ROM) lifts than the geared lifter.

2-Practice of the Competition Lifts: There are many more movements that have correspondence to the geared lifter than there is for their raw counterparts, because of this the raw lifter must use a smaller pool of max effort exercises and must perform the competition lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) more frequently. One of the main criticisms I have of this style of Conjugate Periodization for raw lifters, is that too many people will tend to use a wide variety of max effort lifts and in doing so are never really able to build enough skill in the lift to progress and can’t measure their progress.

3-The Deadlift: In 2012, big geared totals are built with massive squats and benches, big raw totals are built on massive squats and deads. It is often joked about in powerlifting circles that this Columbus based gym places no attention on the deads (that isn’t to say that they haven’t had some great pullers). The typical Conjugate template is full of box squats and good mornings, but deadlifts aren’t often a staple. If you wanna be a great puller, you’ve got to pull. Deadlifts need to be part of your max effort rotation and they need to be addressed with supplementary work and on dynamic effort days.

The world record deadlift of 1015 pounds, done by Benedikt Magnusson, was performed raw and is possibly the greatest strength feat of all time.
The world record deadlift of 1015 pounds, done by Benedikt Magnusson, was performed raw and is possibly the greatest strength feat of all time.

4-Volume: The raw lifter can’t handle the same poundages that the geared lifter can and because of this they can and need to handle more volume. The raw lifter needs to build volume, particularly early in a training cycle, through back down sets of their main movement and variations of the competition movement.

 

 

It isn’t uncommon to see great raw lifters perform great feats of rep effort strength. Here is Misha Koklyaev, 900 pound raw deadlifter and all-around strength badass, deadlifting 750×10!! Increase the volume of your training and watch your raw lifts skyrocket!!

 

Chad’s Conjugate Periodization Template

Day 1-Max Effort Upper Body

  1. Plyometric Pushup Variation-These are the best way to build explosive upper body strength and will have great carryover to your bar speed.
  2. Max Effort Upper Body Movement-A rotation of 3 exercises will be utilized here.
  3. DB Press Variation-The DB Press variation picked each week will be used to compliment your max effort movement by training a different ROM.
  4. Horizontal Row Variation-Training the back hard is critical to building a massive bench. Horizontal rows are great because they allow you to directly train the antagonists to your pressing muscles.
  5. Shoulders/Biceps/Triceps-This training will utilize the Repetition Effort Method and will aim to build size in these muscle groups.

Day 2-Max Effort Lower Body

    1. Box Jump Variation-Jumping exercises will build great explosiveness and the best way to get through a sticking point is to blast through them with speed. Doing these before heavy squats or deads will prime your CNS through a post-potentiation effect and better prepare you to handle heavy weights.
    2. Max Effort Lower Body Movement-A rotation of 3 exercises will be utilized here.
    3. Supplementary Lower Body Movement-This movement will compliment the max effort movement. When using a squat variation as your main movement, we will use a deadlift variation for supplementary work and vice versa. This will allow you to strengthen weakpoints, add volume and improve technique through repeption.
    4. Posterior Chain Work-Big squats and pulls require big hamstring, glutes and erectors, train them hard.
    5. Abdominal Training-A strong midsection is critical to supporting big weights on your back or in your hands, don’t neglect training your abs and training them heavy.

I recently sat down with former Westside Barbell and Lexen Extreme lifter, Brandon Lilly, to talk about how he would tweak Conjugate Periodization for a raw lifter. Here are some of his thoughts…

-Lower Your Percentages from what is outlined in articles or you will break down your body

-Use gear (briefs, loose suit) to protect your body and allow you to overload the movement and train your CNS

-Do bodybuilding work to develop the individual muscle groups

-Use the box squat to develop your hips and glutes but at some point you must remove the box to accommodate what you will do in the meet.

For my full interview with Brandon click here

Day 3-Dynamic Effort Upper Body

  1. Speed Bench Press-Speed in the bench is critical just as it is in the squat. Train your speed bench from a variety of grips to improve your pressing power.
  2. Overhead Pressing Variation-The overhead press is great for building a huge raw bench, include them in your training and watch your numbers skyrocket.
  3. Vertical Rowing Variation-Hit the back from all angles to help it grow and maintain healthy shoulders.
  4. Tricep Work-Big, strong triceps are key to a massive bench in gear or raw, train the horseshoes hard.
  5. Direct Chest Work-Direct chest training won’t just build size and strength in the pecs, it will also help keep you healthy.
  6. Rear Delts/Biceps/Upper Back Superset-Rear delt and upper back strength and size is critical to a big press and healthy shoulders. Bicep work is often overlooked by today’s lifters, but all-time greats like Bill Kazmaier and Doug Young definitely weren’t shy about training their guns.

Day 4-Dynamic Effort Lower Body

  1. Dynamic Effort Deadlift Variation-Dynamic effort deads are a great way to work on your deadlift technique without overtraining
  2. Dynamic Effort Squat Variation-Great bar speed is key to a great squat. The dynamic effort work for the raw squatter though should be done without a box.
  3. Unilateral Leg Training-Quad dominant, unilateral leg work will help you build big, strong quads (key to a big raw squat) and stability.
  4. Posterior Chain Work
  5. Abdominal Training

 

Full 12 Week Training Cycle

Ideally this training would be done on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday or a similar split of the days.

Now that you know how I would set the training up, let’s take a look at a full meet (12 week) training cycle designed for the raw lifter.
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 Weeks 1-4

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4 (Deload)
Day 1Day 1Day 1Day 1
1-Explosive Pushup onto Box-4×21-Explosive Pushup onto Box-5×21-Explosive Pushup onto Box-6×21-Explosive Pushup onto Box-3×2
2-2 Board Press-Up to 3rm, Backdown-75% of day’s best 3×5-82-Floor Press-Up to 3rm, Backdown-75% of day’s best 3×5-82-Bench Press-Up to 3rm, Backdown-75% of day’s best 3×5-82-Reverse Band Press-75% of Week 3’s bench for 3×5
3-DB Incline Bench-2×123-DB Flat Bench-2×123-DB Floor Press-2×123-Chest Supported Rows-3×10
4a-Chest Supported Rows-5×154a-Chest Supported Rows-5×124b-Chest Supported Rows-5×104-Arms and Shoulders-2×15-20 of whatever you want
4b-Band Pullaparts-5×204b-Band Pullaparts-5×204b-Band Pullaparts-5×20
5a-DB Front Raises-3×205a-DB Front Raises-3×155a-DB Front Raises-3×12
5b-DB Hammer Curls-3×205b-DB Hammer Curls-3×155b-DB Hammer Curls-3×12
5c-Rope Pushdowns-3×205c-Rope Pushdowns-3×155c-Rope Pushdowns-3×12
Day 2Day 2Day 2Day 2
1-Seated Box Jump wearing 25-50# weight vest-6×3 to 75% of max height1- Seated Box Jump wearing 25-50# vest-5×2 to 85% of max height1- Seated Box Jump wearing 25-50# vest-4×1 up to a max height1-Seated Box Jump-3×3 to 75% of max height
2-Safety Squat Bar Squats-Up to 3rm2-Deadlift-Up to 3rm2-Back Squat-Up to 3rm2-Reverse Band Squat-75% of Week 3 Squat 3×5
3-Rack Pulls-3×5 at 55-75%3-Dead Squats-10×1 at 60% w/ 1 min rests3-Defecit Pulls-3×5 at 55-75%3-GHRs-3×10
4-GHRs-5×154-GHRs-5×124-GHRs-5×104-Ab Wheel-2×10
5a-Ab Wheel-3×155a-Ab Wheel-3×125a-Ab Wheel-3×10
5b-BB Twists-3×15/155b-BB Twists-3×12/125b-BB Twists-3×12/12
Day 3Day 3Day 3Day 3
1-Speed Bench Press w/ Chains-6×3 at 60%1-Speed Bench Press w/ Chains-6×3 at 65%1-Speed Bench Press w/ Chains-6×3 at 70%1-Speed Bench Press-6×3 at 50%
2-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×122-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×102-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×82-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×5 (Light)
3-Chinups-5×5 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-5×5 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-5×5 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-3×5 with bodyweight
4-Dips-3×8 with weight4-Dips-3×8 with weight4-Dips-3×8 with weight4-Dips-2×5 with bodyweight
5-DB Incline Flies-2×125-DB Incline Flies-2×126-DB Incline Flies-2×12
6a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×206a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×156a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×12
6b-BB Curls-2×206b-BB Curls-2×156b-BB Curls-2×12
6c-DB Shrugs-2×206c-DB Shrugs-2×156c-DB Shrugs-2×12
Day 4Day 4Day 4Day 4
1-Speed Deadlift w/ Chains-6×1 at 50%1-Speed Deadlift w/ Chains-6×1 at 55%1-Speed Deadlift w/ Chains-6×1 at 60%1-Speed Deads-3×3 at 50%
2-Speed Squats w/ Chains-6×2 at 50%2-Speed Squats w/ Chains-6×2 at 55%2-Speed Squats w/ Chains-6×2 at 60%2-Speed Squats-3×3 at 50%
3-Single Leg Squats-2×8 each leg3-Single Leg Squats-2×7 each leg3-Single Leg Squats-2×6 each leg3-Reverse Hypers-2×10
4-Reverse Hypers-3×154-Reverse Hypers-3×124-Reverse Hypers-3×12
5a-Wide Leg Situps-3×155a-Wide Leg Situps-3×125a-Wide Leg Situps-3×12
5b-DB Side Bends-3×15/155b-DB Side Bends-3×12/125b-DB Side Bends-3×12/12

Utilizing backdown sets, like the 75%x3x5-8 after the ME Bench work on Day 1, is a great way to build size and practice technique.

Elite raw powerlifter, Yessica Martinez of Miami, FL, uses Westside methods for her training…I’m sold

Click here to listen to my interview with Yessica

Week 5-8

Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8 (Deload)
Day 1Day 1Day 1Day 1
1-Drop Pushups-4×21-Drop Pushup-5×21-Drop Pushup-6×21-Drop Pushup-3×2
2-2 Board Press-Up to 2rm, Backdown-80% of day’s best 2×3-52-Floor Press-Up to 2rm, Backdown-80% of day’s best 2×3-52-Bench Press-Up to 2rm, Backdown-80% of day’s best 2×3-52-Reverse Band Press-80% of Week 3’s bench for 3×3
3-DB Incline Bench-2×103-DB Flat Bench-2×103-DB Floor Press-2×103-Chest Supported Rows-3×10
4a-DB Rows-5×154a-DB Rows-5×124b-Chest Supported Rows-5×104-Arms and Shoulders-2×15-20 of whatever you want
4b-Band Pullaparts-5×204b-Band Pullaparts-5×204b-Band Pullaparts-5×20
5a-DB Front Raises-3×205a-DB Front Raises-3×155a-DB Front Raises-3×12
5b-DB Hammer Curls-3×205b-DB Hammer Curls-3×155b-DB Hammer Curls-3×12
5c-Rope Pushdowns-3×205c-Rope Pushdowns-3×155c-Rope Pushdowns-3×12
Day 2Day 2Day 2Day 2
1-Seated Box Jump-6×3 to 80% of max height1- Seated Box Jump-5×2 to 90% of max height1- Seated Box Jump-4×1 up to a max height1-Seated Box Jump-3×3 to 75% of max height
2-Safety Squat Bar Squats-Up to 2rm2-Deadlift-Up to 2rm2-Back Squat-Up to 2rm2-Reverse Band Squat-80% of Week 3 Squat 3×3
3-Rack Pulls-3×3 at 60-80%3-Dead Squats-6×1 at 70%-90 sec rest3-Defecit Pulls-3×3 at 60-80%3-GHRs-3×10
4-GHRs-4×124-GHRs-4×104-GHRs-4×84-Ab Wheel-2×10
5a-Ab Wheel-3×125a-Ab Wheel-3×105a-Ab Wheel-3×8
5b-BB Twists-3×12/125b-BB Twists-3×10/105b-BB Twists-3×8/8
Day 3Day 3Day 3Day 3
1-Speed Bench Press w/ Bands-6×3 at 60%1-Speed Bench Press w/ Bands-6×3 at 65%1-Speed Bench Press w/ Bands-6×3 at 70%1-Speed Bench Press-6×3 at 50%
2-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×82-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×72-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×62-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×5 (Light)
3-Chinups-5×5 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-4×5 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-3×5 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-3×5 with bodyweight
4-Dips-3×6 with weight4-Dips-3×6 with weight4-Dips-3×6 with weight4-Dips-2×5 with bodyweight
5-DB Incline Flies-2×125-DB Incline Flies-2×126-DB Incline Flies-2×12
6a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×206a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×156a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×12
6b-BB Curls-2×206b-BB Curls-2×156b-BB Curls-2×12
6c-DB Shrugs-2×206c-DB Shrugs-2×156c-DB Shrugs-2×12
Day 4Day 4Day 4Day 4
1-Speed Deadlift w/ Bands-5×1 at 50%1-Speed Deadlift w/ Bands-5×1 at 55%1-Speed Deadlift w/ Bands-5×1 at 60%1-Speed Deads-3×3 at 50%
2-Speed Squats w/ Bands-5×2 at 50%2-Speed Squats w/ Bands-5×2 at 55%2-Speed Squats w/ Bands-5×2 at 60%2-Speed Squats-3×3 at 50%
3-BB Lunges-2×8 each leg3-BB Lunges-2×7 each leg3-BB Lunges-2×6 each leg3-Reverse Hypers-2×10
4-Reverse Hypers-3×154-Reverse Hypers-3×124-Reverse Hypers-3×12
5a-Wide Leg Situps-3×125a-Wide Leg Situps-3×105a-Wide Leg Situps-3×10
5b-DB Side Bends-3×12/125b-DB Side Bends-3×10/105b-DB Side Bends-3×10/10

For exercises that don’t outline percentages or guide you towards a rep max, you want to use a weight that is challenging but still submaximal, don’t miss reps ever on supplementary or accessory work.

Week 9-12

Week 9Week 10Week 11Week 12 (Deload)
Day 1Day 1Day 1Day 1
1-Rebound Pushups-4×21-Rebound Pushup-5×21-Rebound Pushup-6×21-Rebound Pushup-3×2
2-2 Board Press-Up to 1rm, Backdown-85% of day’s best 1×2-32-Floor Press-Up to 1rm, Backdown-85% of day’s best 1×2-32-Bench Press-Up to 1rm, Backdown-85% of day’s best 1×2-32-Reverse Band Press-85% of Week 3’s bench for 3×1
3-DB Incline Bench-2×83-DB Flat Bench-2×83-DB Floor Press-2×83-Chest Supported Rows-3×10
4a-Reverse Band Rows-5×154a-Reverse Band Rows-5×124b-Reverse Band Rows-5×104-Arms and Shoulders-2×15-20 of whatever you want
4b-Band Pullaparts-5×204b-Band Pullaparts-5×204b-Band Pullaparts-5×20
5a-DB Front Raises-3×205a-DB Front Raises-3×155a-DB Front Raises-3×12
5b-DB Hammer Curls-3×205b-DB Hammer Curls-3×155b-DB Hammer Curls-3×12
5c-Rope Pushdowns-3×205c-Rope Pushdowns-3×155c-Rope Pushdowns-3×12
Day 2Day 2Day 2Day 2
1-Depth Jumps from 18”-3×51- Depth Jumps from 21”-3×41- Depth Jumps from 24”-3×31-Seated Box Jump-3×3 to 75% of max height
2-Safety Squat Bar Squats-Up to 1rm2-Deadlift-Up to 1rm2-Back Squat-Up to 1rm2-Reverse Band Squat-80% of Week 3 Squat 3×3
3-Rack Pulls-5, 3, 1 at 65-85%3-Dead Squats-3×1 at 70-80%-120 sec rest3-Defecit Pulls-5, 3, 1 at 65-85%3-GHRs-3×10
4-GHRs-3×104-GHRs-3×84-GHRs-3×64-Ab Wheel-2×10
5a-Ab Wheel-3×105a-Ab Wheel-3×85a-Ab Wheel-3×6
5b-BB Twists-3×10/105b-BB Twists-3×8/85b-BB Twists-3×6/6
Day 3Day 3Day 3Day 3
1-Speed Bench Press-6×3 at 60%1-Speed Bench Press-6×3 at 65%1-Speed Bench Press-6×3 at 70%1-Speed Bench Press-6×3 at 50%
2-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×52-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×42-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×32-Seated Military Press to Top of Head-2×5 (Light)
3-Chinups-3×5 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-3×4 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-3×3 with weight, 1xAMAP with bodyweight3-Chinups-3×5 with bodyweight
4-Dips-3×5 with weight4-Dips-3×5 with weight4-Dips-3×5 with weight4-Dips-2×5 with bodyweight
5-DB Incline Flies-2×125-DB Incline Flies-2×126-DB Incline Flies-2×12
6a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×206a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×156a-DB 90/90 Swings-2×12
6b-BB Curls-2×206b-BB Curls-2×156b-BB Curls-2×12
6c-DB Shrugs-2×206c-DB Shrugs-2×156c-DB Shrugs-2×12
Day 4Day 4Day 4Day 4
1-Speed Deadlift-4×1 at 50%1-Speed Deadlift-4×1 at 55%1-Speed Deadlift-4×1 at 60%1-Speed Deads-3×3 at 50%
2-Speed Squats-4×2 at 50%2-Speed Squats-4×2 at 55%2-Speed Squats-4×2 at 60%2-Speed Squats-3×3 at 50%
3-BB Step Ups-2×8 each leg3-BB Step Ups-2×7 each leg3-BB Step Ups-2×6 each leg3-Reverse Hypers-2×10
4-Reverse Hypers-3×154-Reverse Hypers-3×124-Reverse Hypers-3×12
5a-Wide Leg Situps-3×105a-Wide Leg Situps-3×85a-Wide Leg Situps-3×6
5b-DB Side Bends-3×10/105b-DB Side Bends-3×8/85b-DB Side Bends-3×6/6

Final Considerations

There isn’t anything too fancy or clever about this program. Three weeks of 3 rep maxes, 3 weeks of 2 rep maxes, 3 weeks of 1 rep maxes; decreasing volume of supplementary work and basic assistance work to promote growth and stay healthy. Use this simple equation to compare your 3, 2 and 1rm and set goals for yourself each week…

.033(Weight Used x Reps)+Weight=Projected Max

For example if you bench press 315×3 in week 3, a projected max of 346; during week 6 you should aim to do at least 330×2, a projected max of 351. Go into each session with a goal number in mind and stick to that plan. Another important thing to keep in mind when doing Max Effort work is to NEVER MISS REPS!! Missing reps doesn’t make you stronger, making them does, plus missing reps is a bad habit to get into and will wreak havoc on your confidence. If the plan for the day calls for a 3rm, you are much better off doing something slightly lighter for 3 and walk away telling yourself you had it for 4+ reps, than getting 2 reps and missing a 3rd. Success breeds confidence.

Conjugate Periodization is a proven system to get people brutally strong, make sure that you are choosing your ME exercises wisely, using a small enough exercise pool that you can really track your progress and getting in ample volume to improve your motor learning. Do all of these things and Conjugate Periodization can produce huge numbers for a raw lifter as well.

Related Articles: A Decade On Westside by Brandon Lilly

Westside for Raw Benching by Greg Panora 

Peaking for Powerlifting by Dr. Mike Israetel 

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