Westside Barbell Powerlifting Training Made Easy

Jeremy Wood
Written By: Jeremy Wood
July 14th, 2010
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
107.2K Reads
Baffled by the Westside Barbell powerlifting system? In this article Jeremy Wood walks through the basics of upper and lower body work.

There are a lot of articles on the Westside Barbell template, but it can be confusing to someone that is new to it.  I am going to try to simplify it and make it work for you.  The key is to keep it simple and work hard.

Westside Barbell Upper Body Training

Westside barbell training is effective.The upper body portion of the Westside Barbell routine will focus on the bench press, but also include all of your assistance work for your upper body.  A mistake that many people make is not planning out their assistance work correctly.  This will cause your lifts to stall and progress will come to a halt.

Max Effort Days

This is the key to the Westside Barbell routine; once a week for upper bodies you need to work up to a max effort.  This does not necessarily mean that you need to work up to a one rep max. If you are more of a beginner or just turned intermediate you should work up to a five rep max or a three rep max.  Many people get better results when they use higher rep sets and only work up to a one rep max every few weeks.

There are many different exercises that you can choose for your max effort days, but I suggest picking three of your favorites.  The three I would pick are barbell bench press, two board press, and incline bench press.  These are basic exercises that everyone can do.  Rotate these exercises each week and find out the amount of reps that works best for you.

Dynamic Effort Days

The dynamic effort day is also known as a speed day, where you work on moving the bar as fast as possible with lighter weights.  On this day you should do 10 sets of 3 reps, you can also use 8 sets of 5 reps, but 3 reps works better for most people. You should use approximately 50 to 60 percent of your one rep max on this day.  An effective way to use the speed work is to rotate the percentage of your max that you use:

  • Week 1 50%
  • Week 2 55%
  • Week 3 60%

...then start over.

This workout should be done approximately 3 days after your max effort workout and try to keep the rest periods under one minute.  So if your max effort bench press is done on Monday, your dynamic effort day should be on Thursday.

Assistance Work

On each of your workout days you need to do assistance work.  I think all assistance work should be done for 3 sets of 6-10 reps and here is how I suggest doing it.

On Max Effort days, you should pick one upper back exercise like bent over rows or pull-ups.  Next, you should do one tricep exercise like skull crushers or close grip bench press.  Finally, you should do one shoulder exercise like side raises or rear delt raises.

On Dynamic Effort days you should do a heavy overhead pressing exercise such as behind the neck press or standing military press, this should be done for 3 sets of 6 reps with heavy weight.  After this you should do one upper back exercise, it can be the same as your max effort day or pick a different one you like.  After this you should do a tricep exercise like cable push downs for reps of 10.  And you should finish up with hammer curls that will work the biceps and also the forearms at the same time, these should also be done for ten reps.

The key to the Westside Barbell template is to stay consistent and always push for progression.  Your assistance work is very important; you should do the same assistance exercises each week and push for more weight on each of these exercises.  If you do this program correctly you will make tremendous gains in strength and still put on mass.

Westside Barbell Lower Body Training

The setup for the lower body is very similar to the set up for the upper body Westside Barbell routine.  You will have one day that is max effort focused and another day reserved for speed work.  It is suggested that you do a lot of good mornings while on the Westside template.  I am going to try to simplify this template as much as possible for someone that is just beginning to use the Westside template.

Max Effort

One workout a week will be your max effort squat day and I suggest once again that you pick your three favorite squat focused exercises and rotate them on a three week schedule.  I would be box squats, good mornings, and front squats.  These are not necessarily best for everyone but they work for me.  Many of you may be thinking that there is no deadlift work, but good mornings and front squats will both improve your deadlift.  Pick one of these exercises and then work up to a 5, 3, or one rep max.  If you are just beginning this program, I suggest the 3 or 5 rep max.

I am going to simplify Westside for beginners.

Dynamic Effort

These are also known as speed days.  On this day you should do 12 sets of 2 repetitions of box squats using short rest in between.  Focus on exploding off of the box as fast as possible, but lowering back down slowly with a controlled motion.  You should use 50 to 60 percent of you one rep max box squat on this day.  Also on this day you can do speed deadlifts.  The same concept is used but only do 5 to 8 singles using 50 -60 percent of your one rep max deadlift.  Focusing on exploding off the floor, but stay under control to prevent injuries.  The dynamic effort day will help to push through any sticking points you may have.  While doing your speed work think about where you get stuck on the max effort days, and really try to explode through these particular points.  The speed days are very important to improving your maxes on the squat and deadlift.

Accessory Exercises

On each of the lower body days you should also do accessory exercises for your lower body. One of these exercises should be hamstring focused.  The best exercise for hamstring is the glute ham raise machine, but most people do not have access to this.  My second favorite is the stiff legged deadlift and this can be done with a conventional stance or a sumo (wide) stance.  Another exercise that should be done for accessory work are good mornings for higher reps.  Even if you do these on your max effort day you can do good mornings again with lighter weights for higher reps.  Good mornings work the entire posterior chain, which is the back and hamstrings.

Another exercise group to focus on is quad dominant exercises. You can hit this muscle by using lunges or step ups.  Both of these exercises are very effective and there are a ton of variations to each.  Finally, you should finish up by working your abs. You do not want to work your abs like anyone else though; you want to work your abs like a powerlifter.  The best way to do this is either weighted sit-ups or leg raises with weights on your feet.

If done consistently the Westside Barbell template is one of the most effective programs to gain strength.  You must work hard each week to get more weight on your max effort sets and also your accessory lifts.  The accessory lifts will help you to bust through plateaus and also put on more muscle mass.  So get in the gym and push some serious weights.

Posted on: Thu, 09/08/2016 - 17:26

So you just repeat the same 3 weeks for ever and do whatever you want? Because that's what it says

james mckee
Posted on: Wed, 03/30/2016 - 21:34

Typical article by so-called 'i know Westside better' lifters, There are so many inaccuracies and holes in this article, it matches another 20/30 written by smart guys who claim to understand WS. This article is a joke....

Posted on: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 00:22

One thing i really need clarification on is how one is supposed to progress with this program. Like what is the progression cycle in terms of adding weight?

Posted on: Thu, 03/14/2013 - 10:13

I do not notice how many sets you are supposed to do for Max Effort Bench days. Could you please advise?

Posted on: Sun, 02/10/2013 - 17:13

Thanks for the article. Just wondering, how does the warmup template go?

donald baker
Posted on: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 09:53

Great article but I need you to clarify one thing.Three heavy days are allocated for the three lifts and one more day for speed work for the bench. On what days do you work assistance exercises for the squat and deadlift or are they comnbined for speed work on one day leaving two days for rest?

Posted on: Tue, 02/26/2013 - 11:49

monday do max effort squat/dead, wednesday max effort bench, friday dynamic lower body, sunday dynamic bench

Posted on: Sat, 09/22/2012 - 10:38

Can u send me the routine u do of westside