Posts Tagged ‘Westside Barbell’

The life of an intern in the world’s strongest gym

Written by P.J. Dundass

The Final Weeks

"You fuckin geeks who can't get your name on the board, keep your fuckin hands of it. Louie"

“You fuckin geeks who can’t get your name on the board, keep your fuckin hands of it. Louie”

Let’s do this motherfucker, let’s go

It is meet day and one of upcoming biggest deadlift meets of the year. From the corner one of the new lifters gets shouted at as though a drill sergeant was in his face.

The Westside crew at meet day are a family, a very dysfunctional one, at one spectrum like older brothers and on the other like pitbulls shot up with adrenaline wanting to rip each other to shreds. As they walk in you can feel an aura, a psychological dominance is evident in this room.

I recall a statement made by one of the lifters of Westside just a week ago:

When people see us walk in, they know its game over, they are just there to compete for fun then.

The Westside Barbell men place in the top 4 places, eliminating the all-time American record holder in the deadlift Vince Urbank to concede 5th place.

This brings back a scene I once saw in the film “Tyson” where Mike quotes

Most guys lost the fight before they even got hit

Since I got to Westside, I watched the conditioning behind the scenes in progression. The mentality being acquired: The Westside mentality.


It is a last man standing every day on max effort day and the first man to bow out is alienated due to sheer frustration. Speed day is another way to throw down the gauntlet to lay for the next lifter. This is the tough study period, and come examination time, the homework is done. This is the MIT of psychological warfare, except in 300-400 pound gladiator form.

There is no room for mistakes here, if your stance is an inch off in the deadlift you lose a PR. You don’t give the opposition an INCH. You show no weaknesses.

This brings us on to our final method, which fixes up all those inches and weaknesses in a lifters armour… The third and final method…


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The repetition method is defined as-“Using considerably less than maximal resistance until fatigue causes one to fail” and “Lifting a non-maximal load to failure; during the final repetitions the muscles develop the maximum force possible in a fatigued state.” (Zatsiorsky, 1995).

The repetition method is utilized to increase the general physical preparedness of an athlete, augements their work capacity and permits strengthening of the muscles encompassed within the anatomical structure of an activity- In Westside Barbells case, the muscles utilized in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

This method is performed on all 4 days on the Westside Barbell Conjugate system routine and often performed in the form of extra workouts.

Understanding the repetition method and the conjugate system- Variation in intensities and volumes

The Westside Barbell conjugate system operates on a basis of constantly changing volumes and intensities.

The conjugate systems loading parameters are based on the recommendations of “Prilepin’s chart” (See  Managing the Training of Weightlifters by Laputin and Oleshko) this chart is based on studies performed on thousands of lifters in the former Soviet Union. The total volume and intensities for Westside’s waves in each workout is based off of this chart. It provides important and intellectual guidelines for an individual in any given workout.

Prilepin’s Chart

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Now to define both INTENSITY and VOLUME for you all.

Intensity– Is defined as the mass used on the barbell or machine (Kraemer and Hakkinen, 2008). Basically speaking the entire quantity of weight used in relation to a lifter’s one repetition maximum. Higher the weight used, the higher the intensity.

Volume- Volume is usually expressed as the following formula-

Volume= Sets (Number) X Repetitions (Number) X Resistance (Weight)-

(Chandler and Brown, 2008)

Volume simply is the total amount of work completed in a single training session. In baby language, the more repetitions/sets you do, the more volume is performed.

As I have previously mentioned Westside Barbell utilize a four day training split, with two days dedicated to The Maximal Effort Method and two days to The Dynamic Effort Method.

Now to explain wave peroidization of these four days and how volume/intensity is regulated.

To demonstrate this, in its easiest form, I present this kick ass table.

Max Effort Days: Intensity: High Volume: Low
Dynamic Effort Days: Intensity: Low Volume: High

Varied intensities and volume create the wave of a typical weekly training cycle and this is what is known as Wave Periodization. The repetition method is used in the same fashion on all these four days.

Why it is used

The repetition method can strongly increase General Physical Preparedness A.K.A. G.P.P. which in turn increases a person’s work capacity and fitness levels. An increase in ones size, strength endurance and recuperation can also all be achieved effectively with this method.

Simply increasing one’s work capacity and the volume they are capable of handling leads to an increase in an athlete’s level of fitness and ability to produce force, power and strength.

“Why the hell would I want to increase my fitness levels, I just want to pick things up and put them down”… Hold up my badass friend and I will explain why.

Generally speaking a person’s natural energy levels and testosterones levels deplete quickly, in some studies in less than 40 minutes. An athlete needs to attack and at the least finish the most vital part of the workout within a 40 minute period to have as effective workout as possible.

When lifting in a fatigued state, this is the point where a person’s muscles produces maximal force output, bringing forth the greatest amount of motors units which can possibly be recruited.

Up to 80% of Westside Barbells training revolves around specialized exercises as this is the key to improving the lifts. Louie has often told me

You don’t even have to perform the deadlift to build a good deadlift, How? Train and make the muscles used in the deadlift stronger, that is the key.

The key role of the repetition method is to develop an athlete’s weakest links (Muscles) up to the exact same level as the strongest muscle groups and develop the ability to recover faster from workouts. If you only deadlift, more deadlifting is not only not going to increase progress but you are only reinforcing the same bad technical issues and the weak muscles remain unaltered.

Developing G.P.P./ Work capacity

General Physical Preparedness (GPP) relates to a type of fitness which is an expansion of an individual’s absolute strength and is developed extensively when using the repetition method.

All lifters can deadlift and squat, but we are not all built the same, some develop immense hamstrings and poor glutes and some develop the very opposite. If one muscle group is substantially more powerful than another, your weaker muscles are holding back your progress.

An example. If you have hamstrings capable of deadlifting 200Kg (Breaking the floor) and hips only strong enough to lockout 160Kg, what is your 1RM? It is 160Kg. You are only as strong as your weakest link.

G.P.P. training has many advantages


1) Strengthening of individual muscles in actions/movements in sporting performances.

2) Growing or maintaining work capacity.

3) Supporting restoration (active rest) or healing process.

4) Reduction of the onset of injury.

5) Eliminates the law of accommodation/speed barrier.-

G.P.P. can be developed through utilizing the repetition method on both the max effort and dynamic effort day and by performing extra workouts also.

How the repetition method is used- The Westside way


Monday- Squat/Deadlift Max Effort Day

Friday- Squat/Deadlift Dynamic Effort Day

Execute the following after main movement


Choose one- Squat/Deadlift/Good morning variation-

Perform- 2-5 sets of 3-6 repetitions target specific weakness

Glutes /Hamstrings/Erectors/Lower back/Lats-

Perform for each muscle group- 2-4 sets of 1-2 exercises in a 8-12 repetition range


Same as above but perform 2-4 sets of 4-5 exercises for 15-20 repetitions+

Wednesday- The Bench Press Max Effort Day

Saturday- The Bench Press Dynamic Effort Day

Execute the following after main movement


               Choose one- Barbell/Dumbbell press/Push ups/Dips variations-

Perform– 2-5 sets of 3-6 repetitions target specific weakness


Perform- 2-4 sets of 1-2 exercises in a 8-15 repetitions


Perform- 1-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions


Same as above but perform 2-4 sets of 4-5 exercises for 15-20 repetitions

All week-


Perform- 1-3 sets of 15-30 repetitions+ Perform standing up predominantly

pj 33Designing extra workouts

Extra workouts can be done to raise G.P.P./work capacity on off days or several hours after a max effort or dynamic effort day. These workouts should last 20–30 minutes. This is conditioning the muscles to either become stronger or allow for faster recuperation from taxing workouts.

Ways of raising G.P.P. are areas such as sled dragging, light weight exercises, mobility/flexibility work, rehabilitation and prehabilitation work.

Every sport requires conditioning. Boxers, for example, train 2-3 times a day, but a powerlifter trains 3-4 times a week maximum. If you increase your volume and workouts gradually and systematically over time, you become better conditioned.

Conditioning is absolutely fundamental. If I gave a boxer the program the guys in Westside perform they wouldn’t be able to box a bag with any power later in the week. Give a powerlifter a boxer’s warm up? That powerlifter wouldn’t even make it to the ring. Conditioning, gradual systematic progression over time and sports specificity is KEY.

An example of extra workouts

-Sled dragging-

Sled work is executed in 3 prime ways

  1. Strap attached to the back/front of a power/weightlifting belt.
  2.  In an individual’s hands/arms.
  3. On the ankles.


  • 600 feet for a max effort/strength workout (More weight/Less distance)


  • 2000 feet for light/recuperation workout (Less weight/ More distance)


Quick notes on sled dragging

  • Perform six trips of 60 yards each at a time.
  • Increase the weight each time a length is covered working up to a weight of six 20kg plates+ depending on your level of conditioning and your goals for that session.
  • Recuperation between trips is about 90% of your fitness level.
  • One should do no less than 6 trips of 60 yards and 12 trips maximum.


  1. Band good mornings 1 set going 6–8 minutes depending on band tension. Finish with light dumbbell presses for 2–4 minutes nonstop.
  2. Sled dragging up to five minutes with light resistance. Finish with abdominal work.
  3. Dumbbell bench pressing on a stability ball, use different weights on different days, work up from 3-5 minutes with a given weight.

Utilizing resistance of 20-30%1RM works perfectly for restoration. This allows sufficient circulation in the contracting muscles without being overly taxing/heavy.

High repetitions with low weight is seen to be advantageous (Kurz, 2001) when this repetition range is performed in terms of 100-200 repetitions.

The repetition method- Application to athletes

For athletes, the repetition method should be sport specific. MMA fighters who fight 5 minute rounds should perform five minute intervals with a form of resistance, mimicking an action they would find themselves in a fight with. The same goes for boxers who do 3 minute rounds and short distance athletes who run in the region of one minute.

All athletes have limited time allocated to complete an action or they will fail, be it a max effort type movement or more long endurance. When your muscles are under contraction, you will fail to lift more weight at some point, so both optimal speed and work capacity are essential.

Sure we all see sprinters burst out of the blocks but what separates the winning sprinter from the eventual loser? Strength endurance and strong muscles. The repetition method utilizes a type of training known as lactic acid tolerance training, conditioning the muscles to produce repeated, continuous and maintained force and power and basically to avoid “Gassing” as the term we refer to in sport.

All top sprinters decelerate at some point in a race, only maintaining top pace for so long, this is basic sport science. The winning sprinter is the one who can maintain top acceleration over longer distances than those who lose, this is applicable to all sports. You must increase your muscles ability to produce consistent power and force, not just a quick burst.

Earning your stripes

 If Westside Barbell is anything like what I experienced, 90% of these lifters wouldn’t last a week. They might be able to withstand the physical pounding, but the mental stress would chew them up and spit them out. (Dave Tate, former Westside Barbell lifter).

The real battle is the psychological warfare. You are not allowed to be a pussy, if you have a problem, talk to your shrink about it.

This is possibly my biggest lesson taken from my time here, you will indefinitely earn your stripes… Every god damn one of them.

During dinner one evening a news report on a Miami Dolphins player attempting to sue for bullying/harassment comes on, Lou almost chokes on his dinner “If that kid can sue them for bullying I could have a hundreds of lawsuits put against me with you guys” just before proceeding to pay for everyone’s meals. Although Louie has a tough exterior character, he is one of the most giving people I have ever met.

He has the most unique approach in getting the best out of his athletes, making them tick, the master motivator. He has preached to me during my own study a different variation on a Bruce Lee quote

Don’t fear the man who has read 100 books once, beware the man who has read one book 100 times

To fully comprehend your discipline is a lifelong journey, life itself is trial and error, trust your intuition and the constant beating down on your craft. You will forever be a student.

I am asked to name the 3 main things I would take away from my experience. I answer this question the very same way Louie answers mine, by giving him a million different answers.

In just a few weeks after I leave, Westside Barbell will evolve. Only the people who train in here will know what happens inside of these four walls. In one year, you will see totals and numbers which were thought inhumanly possible achieved, all due to the time and effort Louie and his array of athletes put into their ever expanding research and experiments. It will, as it always has been, be better than ever.


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P.J. Dundass is an aspiring Irish strength and conditioning coach originating from Connemara, Co. Galway. He is a recent graduate from The Waterford Institute of Technology having completed a Bachelor of Business (Hons) degree in Recreation and Sport Management. He is currently completing an 8 week internship in Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio.

Id like to personally thank PJ for the wonderful blogs and it was great getting an insight into the going on in westside. Pj will be doing some programming work for us now and leading the way with the new GAA 12 week pre season training block. If you would like more info on this then please call us on 0861677045

James Murray