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:
Note: 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:
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 gains.
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:
A) Max Effort Movement — Board Presses. Pick one movement from above and work up to max.
B) Triceps Movement — Pick one or two of the following listed below:
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.
C) Shoulder Movement — You should 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:
The sets and reps would average around 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
D) Lat Movement — 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 category include:
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).
A) Max Effort Movement — Low Box Squats with Safety Squat Bar. Pick one movement and work up to max
B) Hamstring Movement — There 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 includes:
C) Torso Work — 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.
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 rotation.
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:
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 same muscles.
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.
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.