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The Westside Barbell Club—an invitation-only gym in Columbus, OH—is known as the strongest gym on the planet. Its athletes have set more than 140 world powerlifting records. Behind its success is the Westside Barbell Method, the brainchild of founder Louie Simmons. It’s been said that if you don’t train at WSB, then you can’t say you train with the WSB Method. The atmosphere, the unique equipment, and the ability to train alongside Simmons and the world’s elite are big reasons behind the program’s success. Still, the tactics of the WSB Method are used regularly by lifters worldwide with admirable results. Here, we outline what you need to know so you can train this way, too.
The Westside Barbell Method follows a four-day split: two upper-body days and two lower-body days. The defining difference is what Simmons calls the “conjugate method,” meaning joined together in pairs. Instead of separating speed and strength into distinct training blocks, like most strength programs, Westside focuses on strength (maximal strength) and speed (dynamic effort) at the same time. Another major difference: Simmons has his lifters train with variations of the big three (squat, bench, and deadlift) for the max-effort days—think box squats, board presses, and deficit deadlifts. As for accessory work, you choose your own based on your weaknesses. Have trouble locking out your bench press? Double up on triceps. Get stuck in the hole on squats?
Try box squats and band squats. Basically, pick three to four moves that will help your main three lifts, and do a few sets for many reps. It isn’t rocket science.
Lifting heavy weight for low reps and then moving lighter weight (at Westside, the term light is relative) for speed reps teaches the body to strain against a bone-crushing load while also applying rapid, violent force with the same movement. Also, using variations of the big three will prevent you from burning out (these variations are usually less strenuous on the body) and help you blow past plateaus since they also focus on different portions of the lift.
Follow this program for eight weeks and watch your maxes soar.
Dynamic-Effort Bench: Do 9 sets of 3 reps with about 50% of your 1RM, focusing on technique and moving the bar quickly. Then perform relevant accessory work.
Maximal-Effort Squat/Deadlift: Work up to a 1- to 2-rep max of a wide-stance box squat with varying bars (Duffalo, spider, safety squat).
Maximal-Effort Bench: Work up to a 1- to 2-rep max with a different bar or method (Duffalo bar, floor press, or close grip). Then perform relevant accessory work.
Dynamic-Effort Squat/Deadlift: Do 10 sets of 2 reps with roughly 50% of your 1RM, focusing on technique and speed. Then perform relevant accessory work.
Four days doesn’t sound like a lot, but these will not be an easy four days. Also, you won’t have the world’s strongest lifters holding you accountable, so you need to be able to push yourself. Hard. As for what days to lift, the Westside lifters follow this split: