In Part I of
this four part series, Dave covered the first three keys of his strength
development system: coaching, teamwork, and conditioning. In this segment,
the big guy will cover the strength portion of the Westside program.
To be strong you must have strength. Pretty simple concept, dont
you think? So did I, but then I started getting a lot of e-mails telling
me strength isn't important for sports. So I had to go back to the drawing
board and rethink this one. After many hours of deep thought I still
have to say: strength is very important! A quick football example
and I'll move on to how to develop strength.
I've been told there's no need for a lineman to be able to squat over
350 pounds as he'll never have to move more than that on the field. This
may be true if he had to move the 250 pound guy one time and it didn't
matter how fast he moved him. We know in the game of football that the
rate of force development is very important. You don't want people being
moved slowly. We know from Mel Siff's writings that max force in the
barbell squat can be measured at around 60%. At Westside we've found
close to the same percentage to be true.
The other thing we know is the average play will last under ten seconds
and there'll be between three and ten plays per drive. Our lineman who
squats the "recommended" 350 will now be able to create max force at
210 pounds and may or may not be conditioned to do this more than one
time. Too bad the guy across from him weighs 350! Who will wear who down?
Now, if the lineman could squat 600 pounds he'd create max force at
360. Does he have to actually squat 600 pounds? No! But he better be
able to create max force with 350 pounds for eight to ten sets of two
to three reps (around ten seconds set length) with 45 to 60 seconds rest.
If not, he's at a disadvantage.
We use a method called the max effort method. This is lifting
heavy weight for one to three reps. There are two max effort training
days per week, one for the lower body (squat) and one for the upper body
(bench). One max effort movement will be completed for each day. The
best movements for beginners to use are listed below:
Deadlifts standing on 3 inches
of mats or boards for 1 rep max.
Good Mornings for 3 to 5-rep max
sets. When you become used to the movement, then singles should be
Close Stance Low Box Squats for
1 rep max . Set the box so your hip at the crease of the leg joint
is three inches lower than parallel.
Safety Squat Bar Squats — If
you have one of these bars then start using it. It's one of the best
ways to build the muscles that squat and deadlift.
Safety Bar Box Squat option
The reason for this is the bar is trying to toss you forward and you
have to fight to keep it in a good path. It also takes the weight off
your shoulders as you don't have to hold the bar as you would a regular
squat bar. You'll hold this bar by the front yokes. Don't hold onto
the rack and pull yourself up, either.
If you don't have one of these bars, then try to do anything you can
to change the center of gravity of the movement. This can be done a
number of different ways. You can use what's called a Manta Ray that
snaps onto the bar; you can do high bar squats; or you can wrap a thick
towel around the bar so it'll sit higher on the back. Each of these
will all work the body differently.
Pin Pulls for 1 rep max. I like
to have lifters use pins below the knee at various positions for this
movement. Only pick one position per day.
Various Board Presses — Same
as bench press except you'll bring the bar down to a select number
of 2 x 6 boards on your chest. The two board press would be two 2 x
6's (one on top of the other). The board is usually around 12 to 16
inches in length to make it easy for a spotter to hold it in front
If you don't have a spotter to hold the board, you can tuck it under
your shirt, use a band, or use one of those rubber waist trimmer things
to go around both you and the board.
Floor Presses — Lay on the
floor and perform a bench press with a one second pause at the bottom.
This exercise is designed to strengthen the midpoint of the bench press.
It's also very effective in increasing triceps strength.
Close-Grip Incline Presses — Use
a low to steep incline with one finger on the smooth part of the bar.
Pin Presses — Place a bench
in a power rack and a bar on the pins. Adjust the pins (safety supports)
to change the range of motion. Do these from various positions, from
just off the chest to two inches below lockout.
Reverse Band Press — This
movement is the same as a bench press except you'll use two large flex
bands to hang the bar from the top of the power rack.
Bands and/or chains
can be added to any of these movements for variety and training effect.
Make sure to only do one max effort movement per session. The sets are
dependent on how strong you are and how you work up. If you only bench
185 pounds, it wouldn't be wise to start with 135, then jump to 155 for
a set and then finish with 185. There's very little volume completed
this way. It's better to use a set rep scheme as follows:
70 for 3 reps
95 for 3 reps
115 for 1 rep
135 for 1 rep
155 for 1 rep
175 for 1 rep
190 for 1 rep
The last one should be an all-out effort. If not, keep working up. There's
nothing wrong with missing a weight on the movement. As you can see,
the volume is much higher and the work load more productive to strength
Your choice of movements after the main max effort movement should be
based on where your weaknesses are. For 90% of the lifters and athletes
I've seen, this movement would be something for the triceps on bench
days and hamstrings on squat days. These would be followed with other
movements designed around the individual lifter. To better illustrate,
see the sample templates below:
Presses. Pick one movement from above and work up to max.
or two of the following listed below:
1) Dumbbell Triceps Extensions with elbows in
2) Dumbbell Triceps Extensions with elbows out
3) JM Presses
4) Close Grip Incline Press
5) Close Grip Rack Lockouts (mid to high)
6) Close Grip Board Presses (mid to high)
7) Barbell Extensions to nose or lower
8) Close Grip Push-ups with hands on hex dumbbells
Sets and reps are dependent on what each lifter feels he needs to do.
Most have found one heavy day and one lighter day per week to work best.
I'd recommend the heavy day to be on the max effort day and the lighter
day to be on the speed or dynamic day.
For the heavy day, work up to one to three heavy sets of five reps.
This can either be the same weight for all sets or it can be staggered
weight for the three sets of five reps. The light day will consist of
4 to 8 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
only do one or two light shoulder movements as the shoulders get hit
in every session anyway. For example, when you squat, your shoulders
are getting pounded. They also get trained each time you bench press.
I believe most shoulder injuries are a result of overuse and overtraining
of the deltoid area. With this in mind, I'd suggest all the shoulder
movements be part of the raises or rotation categories. These would include:
1. All types of rotator cuff work
2. Side Raises of any kind
3. Front Raises of any kind
4. Rear Raises of any kind
The sets and reps would average around 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
I used to feel
all lat work should be performed on the same plane as the bench press.
In other words, all lat work should be rows. While this makes sense in
theory, it doesn't hold up in real life. Too many lifters don't do this
and many bench a hell of a lot more than me!
Yes, I do feel rows are a better choice but there are advantages to
the pulldown and chin-up movements as well. I'd suggest mixing them up
and doing one to two movements per session. The best of the best in this
Chest Supported Rows — Performed
on any rowing machine where your chest is supported on a pad.
Face Pulls — Stand in front
of a lat machine and pull the bar to your face.
Chins to the front
Pulldowns to the front with close
or wide grip
The sets and reps on the lat work is somewhat tricky and will depend
on the movement. All movements should be done strictly and with good
form. This will keep the weight relatively low. For the chins, training
to failure on each set seems to work best, while the rows seem to work
better with lower reps (5-8) and fewer sets (2-3). The pulldown and face
pulls all seem to feel and work better in the higher reps range (12-15)
for higher sets (4-5).
Squats with Safety Squat Bar. Pick one movement and work up to max
are tons of hamstring movements but only a few that'll make my list as
the best of the best. Most hamstring movements are a complete waste of
time for strength because they only work the hamstrings from either the
hip or knee and not both at the same time. The best of the best list
The reason I say "real bench" is
that I'm in the equipment business, so I see the junk that's out
there and it frustrates the hell out of me. First off, a so-called "natural" glute
ham raise (where you kneel on the floor and someone holds your heals
as you fall forward) is not a glute ham raise; it's a manual hamstring
Second, to the beginner, a GHR should be hard to do.
If you get on a bench and can knock out 10 to 15 reps the first time
you do it, then the machine isn't built correctly. The toe plate should
be long enough to push your toes into it. The pad should have an angle
on it to keep your body in the correct position so you don't fall off
at the top. I can go on and on with this, but the fact is that too
many companies build equipment designed by people who've never lifted
a real weight in their lives!
To do a GHR, you'll start with your body in a horizontal
position on the bench with your toes pushed into the toe plate. Your
knees will be set two inches behind the pad and your back will be rounded
with your chin tucked. You then push your toes into the pad and curl
your body up with your hamstrings while keeping your back rounded.
As you approach the top position, squeeze your glutes to finish in
a vertical position.
The sets and rep scheme for the GHR depends on the strength
of the lifter. I find most athletes and lifters to be very bad at these
as the hamstring strength of most people is downright terrible. For
those who fall into this category, I'd have them do two to three sets
of GHR as part of their warm-up for every workout of the week. I suggest
they strive to get 3 sets of 10 reps. This will mean for most that
they'll be doing three sets to failure, failing around 3 to 5 reps
each set. Over time this will improve.
Once they get better, I'd have them keep the GHR as
a warm-up movement and drop the sets and reps to 3 sets of 8 reps.
At this time in the program, they'd now add the GHR as a main movement
as part of the main session at least one time per week. Yes, they'll
be doing GHR's five times per week!
For the main session there are several suggestions to
follow for the highest success. While doing the GHR as the main movement,
it's "bust ass" time. The reps and sets will fall into several categories
and should be rotated every few weeks. Examples of these programs would
Three sets to failure
One hundred total reps (using
as many sets as needed)
Three heavy sets of 5 to 6 reps
while holding weight across chest
Three heavy sets of 5 to 6 reps
while holding weight behind head
Three heavy sets of 5 to 6 reps
with the back of machine inclined up 4 to 30 inches.
Dynamic GHR sets — Here
you get to the top position and drop fast and rebound out of the
bottom with as much force as you can. You can use a heavy medicine
ball or weight to lower faster and drop the weight at the bottom.
Static-Dynamic GHR — Start
at the horizontal position and have a training partner place his
hands on your back for a three to five-second count. While doing
this, drive into your partners hands as hard as you can. After
the five seconds, your partner will pull away and you should fire
up as fast as you can to finish the rep. This is best preformed with
5 to 6 sets of 3 reps.
Yielding GHR — For this
version you'll break the movement into three holding positions, each
for 5 to 10 seconds. Start at the horizontal position and hold for
10 seconds, raise halfway and hold for another 10 seconds, then rise
to the top and hold for 10 more.
Timed GHR — In this version
you'll give yourself a set time and do as many reps as you can. For
example, you use five minutes and end up with 70 reps the first time
you do it. The next time you'd use the same time and try to beat
the 70 reps.
GHR with bands — This is
a movement for the more advanced lifter. Strap each of the bands
around the bottom of the GHR and place the other end around your
upper traps. The bands will add heavy resistance at the top.
Forced GHR with heavy eccentric — This
is a good version for those who aren't strong enough to get one rep.
With this version the training partner will help the lifter get to
the top and then he'd lower the rep on his own. Only enough assistance
should be applied to help the lifter get one rep. Sets of 3 to 5
reps are best with this style of the GHR.
another one of those things that bothers me. The reverse hyper is a
trademarked name, so there's only one way to do them and it's on a
reverse hyper machine. Anything else is not a reverse hyper!
This machine is also very good for the development of
the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. There are many ways to perform
the reverse hyper but these three are the best I've found:
Three to four heavy sets for 6
to 10 reps — This is a looser style then many are used to.
After you get on the machine you'll use a couple of reps to get the
weight moving (these don't count for the total). When you get a full
range of motion, you'll try to catch the weight at the bottom of
the motion where the axis of the plates begins to cross the front
legs of the machine (closest to your head). This way you reverse
the weight before it reverses you. This style seems to hit the hamstrings
and glutes very hard.
Strict sets for 3 to 4 sets of
15 reps — To do the strict reverse hyper, set yourself on the
bench so your hips are 3 to 4 inches off the back of the machine,
then arch your back as hard as you can while keeping your chest off
the machine. This will put your body in a diagonal position.
To perform the motion, you'll begin with the axis of the plates
even with the back legs on the machine (closest to your hips). From
the start position, focus on arching the weight up with the lower
back. You'll only be able to get the weight so high. When you get
to the top, try and hold the position for a one count. This will
be impossible to do but try your hardest. The tempo of this movement
is twice as slow as the first style of hyper. You'll feel this style
more in the lower back than anywhere else.
Timed Reverse Hypers — This
is a classic Louie Simmons movement. Use much less weight than you
would with the other two styles. Either style of the reverse hyper
can be used for this. Pick a designated time (usually 3 to 5 minutes)
and continue with the set nonstop for as long as you can or until
you hit your time deadline.
pull through is a special exercise designed to train the muscles of
the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. Begin by facing away from a
low pulley cable with a single "D" handle. Next, bend over and grab
the handle between your legs while facing away from the machine. Then
pull the handle through your legs until your body is in an upright
position. This movement is best trained with 4 to 6 sets of 10 to 15
Dimel deadlift is the one movement we get the most questions about.
To perform it, stand in front of the barbell with around 30 to 40 percent
of your max deadlift weight. Pull the bar to the top position. This
is the starting position of the exercise.
From here you want to arch your back as hard as you
can and push your hips back until you feel a extreme stretch in your
hamstring and glutes. For the first few reps you'll lower the bar with
a controlled tempo to just below knee level then rebound back up. Once
you get the bar path figured out you'll then begin to lower very fast
and rebound out of the bottom in a ballistic fashion. This is a high
speed, high rep exercise that's best trained with 2 to 3 sets of 20
This is another great movement
for the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Stand on a four inch
box and pull deadlifts. The key here is you'll not touch the floor
until the set is finished. The bar will stop short of the floor by
a few inches before you complete the next rep. I've seen this trained
two ways. First, for a couple of heavy sets of 3 to 5 reps; second,
for a few sets of 15 to 20 reps.
dragging is a very underrated hamstring movement. There are a few ways
to really hit your hamstring with the sled. The most popular is forward
walking where you make sure to really kick the front leg out.
The second method is to grab the sled handle or strap
behind your knees with a close stance. While in the bent over position,
keep your hands behind your knees while walking forward. You'll only
be able to take small steps but after a few steps you'll know right
away what you're training.
There are two very good ways to drag the sled for hamstrings.
First is with very heavy weight for 15 to 20 steps per set. The second
is with lighter weight for 70 to 100 steps per set.
movement is performed on a glute ham bench or a standard hyper extension
or back raise bench. To perform it, set your body on the bench as you
would a back raise. You'll be in a facedown, rounded over position
with your heels and toes off of the toe plate. The only thing holding
you should be your heals against the pad. If you're using a GHR bench
you'll want to set the toe plate forward so your knees are just off
To begin, arch your lower back as hard as you can and
force your heals into the pad. Pull yourself into the horizontal position
and then try to leg curl your way up another three to four inches.
If done correctly, you'll only be able to pull yourself up a few inches.
When you hit your highest spot, you'll hold statically for a three
count then lower. This is best trained for 4 to 6 sets to failure.
These torso movements
are intended to train the muscles of the lower back and abdominals. This
could very well be the most important group of the entire training program.
Many great movements for the training of maximum strength are listed
below. Choose one for the lower back and one for the abs. If you feel
the need, two can be performed for each muscle group, but try to keep
the total main session movements down to four to six movements. If you
feel the need for more torso work, add it to the warm-up or an extra
workout later in the day or on an off day.
movement is already described above. If you choose to do the exercise
as a hamstring movement, find something else to do for the torso work
or use a different method to train it.
is a great high rep movement. To perform this exercise, you'll need
to use a Jump Stretch flex band. Stand on the band with one end of
the loop under both feet using a medium stance. Place the other end
of the band around the upper traps. From here do a standard good morning
movement by bending over and standing up while keep the knees slightly
bent. Make sure you're forcing back onto your hamstrings as you bend
over. This movement can be trained a variety of ways for a few sets
of 20 reps to a few sets of 100 reps.
by placing a rope or leather triceps handle on the lat pulldown machine.
Face away from the machine and grab the rope behind your head with
both hands. Perform the movement in the same motion as a deadlift.
Start by pushing your abs out and then tighten them as hard as you
can. Bend over at the waist until your torso goes below parallel to
the floor. Reverse the motion in the same manner.
exercise will help strengthen your lower back. Using a glute ham raise
or back raise, lock your heels in and bend forward at the waist. Begin
the movement by arching yourself to a parallel position and holding
for a second. Return to the starting position slowly to avoid getting
is a great exercise for your abdominals. All you need is an ab wheel
(which can be purchased at EliteFTS.com). Start on your knees and roll
yourself out, keeping your abs tight. Once you're parallel to the floor,
bring yourself up, back to the starting position. This isn't an exercise
for everyone as it requires great core strength.
can hang from a chin-up bar or use special straps. This exercise can
be done several ways. The first way is bringing your knees to your
chest and lowering them back down. This is the easiest way to do them
and recommended for beginners.
The more advanced version of this is keeping your legs
straight throughout the entire movement. For those wanting a good challenge,
try bringing your feet to the top of the chin-up bar. Make sure you
don't swing and use momentum to perform reps. If you're not strong
enough to do this, have someone place his hands on your lower back.
is a great exercise to develop your hip flexors and abdominals. Place
your feet under the GHR foot pads, keep your knees relatively straight,
and perform sit-ups. To make the exercise more difficult, hold a plate
behind your head.
exercise is designed to isolate the obliques. To begin this movement,
lie on your back with your hands over your head holding onto a heavy
object. Pull both knees toward your chest in a tucked position. Keeping
this tucked position, roll your knees to the left side until they touch
the floor, rotate back to the center, then roll them to the right.
You must keep your shoulder blades on the floor. To increase the difficulty,
perform the movement with your legs raised in a 90 degree angle.
exercise is intended to strengthen the abs and hip flexor muscles.
Lie on your back on a flat bench or on the floor. Keep your arms out
to your sides or hold onto the rack. Raise your legs to a 90 degree
angle and press your lower back into the bench as hard as possible.
Lower your legs until you feel your back start to arch. At this point,
raise the legs back to the starting position. Not everyone will be
able to go all the way down at first, just go as low as you can before
your back arches. If you try to force it too soon you may injure yourself.
You have to always remember that with this style of training every movement
has its own life cycle associated to it. In other words, each movement
cycles independent of the other. Also, each day cycles independent of
the other days.
For the max effort day, the first movement (max effort movement) will
rotate in a one to three week cycle. There are several ways to accomplish
this. The more advanced the lifter, the faster the movement has to change.
An advanced lifter will need to change this movement every week. An intermediate
will change every two weeks while a beginner will change every three.
How do I know if I'm a beginner, intermediate or advanced? If you have
to ask this question, then you're a beginner. Everyone new to this style
of training should treat himself as a beginner. There are checks and
balances (C & B's) throughout the program so you'll know when to
change. The C & B's for the max effort movement are if you're breaking
records or not. If you chose two board presses and hit 315 on week one,
320 on week two, and 335 on week three, then you should use a three-week
Now, if you hit 315 on week one, 320 on week two, then cant do
315 on week three, then you should switch every two weeks. The longer
you use the method, the sooner you'll be switching every week. There
are a few alternative approaches worth looking into:
Many coaches have found it best
to use a two week cycle with their athletes where week one would be
an intro week to the movement. Here they may use a percentage based
scheme for a week (such as 70% of their best with the same movement
for 2 sets of 5 reps, or 80% for 3 sets of 3 reps). These coaches have
found the athletes do much better on week two (when they hit the one
rep) when they use an intro week to the movement.
Another approach similar to the
first one is a three week cycle based on 70% for 5 reps on week one
followed by 80% for 3 on week two and then 100 plus on week three.
I personally don't like this as I feel the chance of injury is too
high with the higher reps when compared to the singles.
One approach told to me by a very
successful lifter overseas was to cycle the down sets of the max effort
movement. This lifter would work up to a one rep max and then hit a
down set of a prescribed percentage. He'd use 70% for 2 sets of 5 reps
on week one, 72% for 2 sets 5 reps on week two, 76% for one set of
5 reps on week three and 80% for 5 reps on week four. The max effort
movement would change every week but the down sets percentage went
up for the fourth week, then the cycle would start again.
This answer depends on what you're doing on all the other days as well
as the individual. If you're hitting it very hard with bands on the dynamic
day, then you may find you cant hit the max effort movement every
week and may have to take it easy one workout of the month. If you find
you're not recovering, then you'll want to take it easy one of the workouts
each month. When you "take it easy" (not a day off) you'll replace the
movement with higher rep work using a movement intended to train the
If you have to ask this question, then you're totally missing the boat.
This movement is about straining as hard as you can. If you make the
weight and have something left then you need to add more weight and go
again. When using the max effort method you must strain to gain!
The max effort movement isn't the only movement that has to cycle on
this day. All the supplemental movements must also cycle. These movements
won't cycle at the same rate as the max effort movement as they can be
cycled longer. The four ways I recommend cycling these movements are
weight related, rep related, set related, and movement related.
this method you'll try to use more weight for the same reps with the
same movement until you cant increase any longer. At this point
you'll switch the movement.
For example, let's say you choose dumbbell extensions for your triceps
movement. For week one you perform 50 pound dumbbell extensions for
3 sets of 10 reps. The next week you do 60 pound dumbbells for 3 sets
of 10 reps. The third week you use 70 pound dumbbells for two sets
of 10 reps and one set of 6 reps. Now it's time to change the movement
or the method of training the same movement.
this method you'll try to get more reps on each set of a given movement.
For example, let's say you choose the GHR for your hamstring work and
get one set of 6, one set of 5 and a third set of 5. The next week
you want to try to get more reps then you did the last time. After
three to four weeks (or when you can no longer add more reps), you'll
switch the movement or the method for training the same movement.
method is one of the best for increasing volume fast over the training
cycle. All you do here is add an additional set to the movement with
a desired number of reps. For example, you decide to use reverse hypers
as your lower back movement. For week one you do 2 sets of 10 reps.
Week two, 3 sets of 10 reps, for week three, 4 sets of 10 reps, and
on week four you get 4 sets of 10 reps, but only 7 reps on the fifth
set. This is when it's time to change the movement or method.
this method you'll switch the movement every week and cycle the sets
and reps from week to week. This is the best choice for the more advanced
lifter as they've already figured out how to train on feel.
The actual movement doesn't need to change every three weeks but something
has to change every few weeks. I feel the reverse hyper and GHR are
both very important to my training and both are trained two to four
times per week. This would be an example of how I'd cycle my GHR movement
for the main session:
Monday: GHR, rep related cycle
Friday: GHR on 6 inch incline, weight related cycle
Monday: Ballistic GHR, rep related
Friday: GHR on 10 inch incline, rep related cycle
These cycles may
not last the three weeks as the change may need to happen before then
because of stagnation. The two days will also cycle independent of
That wraps up the strength portion of the eight keys. In the next segment,
I'll cover the speed element of the Westside training style.