EKnight's Modified Westside Barbell Strength Workout

Eric Knight's modified Westside Barbell workout is beginner friendly and allows for progress without chains and bands. The program is 4 days a week.

Workout Summary

Increase Strength
Split
Intermediate
4
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Other
Male & Female

Workout Description

This is a modified version of the Westside Barbell routine, that is more beginner friendly and allows for progress without the use of chains or bands. The program is 4 days per week and uses relatively heavy weight two of those days and very light weight for the other two, where speed work is involved.

For the first week, use the 1 rep max calculator on this site to determine 1 rep max. Program should be followed for 8 weeks, at which point you would peak for a contest, or take 8 weeks to train with a hypertrophy routine, allowing the joints and muscles to benefit from the new strength you’ve gained, while allowing your CNS to have some extended recovery time.

If you have any questions about this workout post them up on the Muscle and Strength Forum.

Day 1 - Max Effort Squat/Deadlift Day
Max Effort Squat/Deadlift Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Box Squat (bench shown in video) 5 3-5 reps with 80% of 1RM
Deadlifts 5 4 reps with 80% of 1RM
Barbell Rows 4 8-10
Cable/Dumbbell/T-Bar rows (choose 1 per week, rotate) 4 8-10
Hammer Curls 4 6
Cable Crunches 4 6
Notes
After the first week, shoot for adding 5-10 pounds per week to your Squat and Deadlift numbers. Some weeks this may not happen, so don’t get discouraged, but continue going to failure at 3-5 reps until you can add the weight.

DAY 2 - REST DAY

Day 3 - Max Effort Bench Day
Max Effort Bench Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 5 3-5 reps with 80% of 1RM
Floor Press/Dumbbell Floor Press/Rack Lockouts/Board Presses (choose 1 only, rotate week to week) 5 4
Dumbbell Bench Press on Swiss ball if available. If not regular Dumbbell Press 4 8
Close Grip Bench Press/Dips (choose 1, rotate weekly) 4 6
Skull Crushers/Pressdowns (choose 1, rotate weekly) 4 6
Side Lateral Dumbbell Raises 4 8
Notes
See day #1 notes. Increases of 5-10 pounds weekly.

DAY 4 - REST DAY

Day 5 - Speed Squat Day
Speed Squat Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Box Squat (bench shown in video) 8 2 reps with 40% of 1RM
Barbell Rows 4 8-10
Cable/Dumbbell/T-Bar rows (choose 1 per week, rotate) 4 8-10
Hammer Curls 4 6
Cable Crunches 4 6
Notes
The sets of box squats should be done with slow, controlled movement on the way down, and as fast and explosive on the way up as possible. 60 second timed rest between sets here. You should be able to count 3 seconds down and less than 1 second up. The idea here is to exert the same force (Force = mass x acceleration) as on a heavy day, but save the joints and CNS the trauma further heavy lifting.

DAY 6 - REST DAY

Day 7 - Speed Day Bench Press
Speed Day Bench Press
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 8 3 reps with 40% of 1RM
Dips 3 10 (heavy as possible)
Light, controlled, SLOW upright rows with a cambered bar 3 10-12
External & internal cable rotation AND standing DB rotation 3 of each 15
Notes
Same slow controlled downward movement as speed squat day, same explosive movement up. The final 12 sets are rotator cuff exercises and should not be neglected. Very light weight is used when training the rotator cuff, as the muscles making it up are likewise, very small.

If you have a contest or want to determine a new 1RM after the 8 weeks, plan on taking a full week of training off before your meet or max. Don’t even go to the gym. No strength will be gained during the last week, but stupid injuries can occur. I know a guy who was determined to “stay warm” a few days before his meet. He dropped a 25 pound plate on his foot, broke three bones, and couldn’t compete at all. Let your body recover, then make sure you have good spotters and are safe with your lifting. Good luck!

EKnight, 2002, 2005, 2006 Nation bench Press Champion; IFPA Certified Personal Trainer.

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About The Author
Eric is a former bench press champion. He won 3 national titles in the 132 and 148 pound weight classes, hitting a personal best 420 pound bench press.

93 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Sun, 06/21/2015 - 21:45
randy

This program has worked great for me and is one of the few programs that really helped me increase my strength. Now I am almost through 8 weeks of it. What is a good hypertrophy program to follow next if my only concern is strength gains. I don't even want to change programs but I know my joints need the break.

MikeWines's picture
Posted Mon, 06/22/2015 - 09:54
MikeWines

Randy,
Here's a solid program that should coincide exactly with your strength goals: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/phul-workout

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Posted Sat, 02/07/2015 - 00:43
LFlowers

Hey I'm failing off the chest on my bench press what can I do to get stronger in that position?

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Posted Mon, 12/22/2014 - 23:55
Tyler

Has anyone burned fat using this routine?

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Posted Wed, 01/28/2015 - 18:21
deeb

you can't burn fats using this program

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Posted Wed, 10/08/2014 - 16:34
Dusty

To answer your question about speed work. 40% isnt low, it is actually accurate for speed work because it is to build strength not size. day 1 bench press is to be heavy.

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Posted Wed, 10/08/2014 - 05:04
Dusty

I was wondering if I should substitute a lift for a Military Press or just add it in? My thought is to replace it by taking out the floor press. Reason I want to add it, is because my OHP is a bit weak.

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Posted Mon, 02/10/2014 - 21:30
Ryan

Just a couple questions here: isn't 40% a bit low for speed work? I am a somewhat advanced lifter, but have never done strict programming before, so I am using this program. But if im not adding band tension to my speed work wouldn't 50-60% be better? Also, is it possible to work some overhead training in on any of these days? Maybe speed bench? Just curious, thanks!

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Posted Thu, 01/30/2014 - 12:03
Simon

Hi Steve,

Is there a possibility to do this workout on 3 days? I did a bulk season until begin of spring and I'd be really interested in a powerlifting/strength routine with this split system but I'd love to focus on kickboxing/cardio on other days as I begin to cut in spring.

Thanks for your answer

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Posted Tue, 04/02/2013 - 17:20
big d

hi iwas wondering if it is normal when training in this method to poop a lil in your pants on the heavy squats.thanks

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Posted Wed, 03/13/2013 - 16:08
Steven

so you dont need incine bench to get more stength in bench press?

mnsjason's picture
Posted Wed, 03/13/2013 - 17:31
mnsjason

Incline bench focuses more on your upper chest, which is often neglected. I personally hit the incline bench right after flat bench, as I don't want an imbalanced look. While incline doesn't work the same portion of your chest as flat, I wouldn't go so far as to say that it doesn't increase flat bench performance.

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Posted Thu, 03/07/2013 - 14:12
david

no hamstring or quad accessory lifts?

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Posted Wed, 02/27/2013 - 15:23
Jose

Ive noticed that these 5x5 variations never have much shoulder work involved is that ok......will ur shoulder strength still increase if u run this program for longer periods of time

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Posted Fri, 02/01/2013 - 01:42
Rhino

I have used this routine with great success, however I find having military press in here somewhere really helps with my lifts. In your opinion, where would you put military press?

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Posted Mon, 10/15/2012 - 14:33
Josh

Why is there no deadlifts on the speed day?

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Posted Sun, 10/14/2012 - 22:01
Danny

Can the work be performed mon,tues, rest wed, thurs, fri

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Posted Wed, 10/10/2012 - 23:10
Loren Greene

Hi,I'm 17 years old I'm trying to get in shape so that I won't be gasping for breath when I go to Basic Training for the Marines. I was wondering if anyone could give me any pointers? I don't really have access to the proper nutrition,just whatever my grandma buys. There is often alot of rice and beans around the house but that's about it.
I have a been doing a body weight only workout for the past week and was wondering if anyone could revise it or offer any other workouts that would be better suited,I have also just recently acquirred a barbell that weighs 64 pounds with the weights that came with the barbell loaded on and I'm interested in incorporating that into my current workout which I will post. I appreciate any and all help.

Monday- 100 pushups, 3 sets of 15 Leg Raises,3 sets of 20 Floor Crunches(rest time-45 seconds between each set),Plank until failure

Tuesday-135 pushups, 3 sets of High Knees 30 seconds, 50 Crunches,50 Situps,3 sets of 15 dips

Wednesday-100 pushups, 3 sets of 15 Abdominal Air Bicycles, 3 sets of 20 Floor Reaches, 4 Sets of 45 Second Planks(One set with left leg extended, one set with right leg extended, one set with left arm extended, one set with right arm extended)

Thursday-170 pushups, 3 sets of High Knees 30 seconds, 50 Crunches, 50 Situps, 3 sets of 15 dips

Friday- 100 pushups, 3 sets of 15 Leg Raises, 3 sets of 20 Floor Crunches, 4 sets of 15 Side Plank Leg Raises

Saturday- 200 pushups, High Knees 40 seconds, 3 sets of 15 Leg Raises,
Bed Plank until failure, 5 sets of 15 dips

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Posted Fri, 08/31/2012 - 10:25
Andrej

I'm wondering what u can expect from this workout schedule? Yes increase in strenght, but would you get any increase in muscle mass? Or would you recomend this type of workout durring a cutting phase? Today I'm doing HIML-4 for the last 8 weeks, and consuming about 3200kcal/day and about 160-220g of protein/day. Is this a good way to keep variation in your workouts? By using this workout scheduele?

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Posted Mon, 06/04/2012 - 14:44
Jordan

Beast.... Im going to give this a try after football season to really get strong during the off season

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Posted Sun, 04/01/2012 - 13:05
Alex

Hi Steve! Thanks for all you help and support. I'm on the 7th week and wanted to see what routine do you recommend next? I'm thinking of doing your "Power,Muscle,Burn" routine. Thanks for everything.

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Posted Mon, 03/05/2012 - 21:16
Filip Sakanovic

I was just wondering since it said it should be done for 8 weeks, what would i do after the 8 weeks?

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Posted Mon, 02/20/2012 - 09:09
Dan

New to powerlifting, due to work commitments would it be ok to train for two days have one days rest then do the speed days together before resting again. Eg, train mon tue, thur fri.

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Posted Mon, 02/20/2012 - 07:22
kent

Hi there. Would you see anything wrong with me starting this in the middle of a cut? (I wont be finished my cut in 8 weeks time either) I have some strength work in my programme at the moment anyway but nothing like this. Thanks

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Posted Tue, 01/03/2012 - 23:25
Daren

This workout looks great! I have reached a plateau and need something to get me over it so I hope this helps! I watched the video for the barbell row, and I was told to let the bar rest on the ground between reps to keep it controlled, which way is correct? Also, would it be okay to run on the off days or play basketball? I feel worthless on days I don't workout.

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Posted Wed, 12/07/2011 - 13:41
Atlas

Hi Steve,

It seems there is not much leg work do you think only the squats are enough?

What would you change if a bodybuilder would like to run this program?

thank you!!!!

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 12/21/2011 - 10:44
Steven

I wouldn't try to turn this into a bodybuilding program to be honest. I would stick with a muscle building program:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/muscle-building

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Posted Fri, 10/28/2011 - 10:14
marcus

On day three of this routine could you do speed deadlifts after the speed squats?

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/31/2011 - 14:27
Steven

Yes, I don't see why not.

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Posted Sat, 10/22/2011 - 10:27
arlie collins

Could you or do you recommend using chains with this workout? I have done the westside method and simply don't have the time to do it correctly. This seems like a nice alternative. I have found using chains on heavy and speed days to bea big help. My bench has always been terrible. I am 42 yrs old and just once I would like to flatbench 315!!

Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/24/2011 - 14:28
Steven

Certainly...you could fit in chain work.

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Posted Thu, 10/06/2011 - 10:12
marcus

Just started this routine and was wandering if on day four i could add 4sets of shoulder presses at 8 reps and maybe some shrugs?

Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 10/07/2011 - 14:20
Steven

Sure. I would drop the upright rows.

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Posted Sat, 07/30/2011 - 23:35
sam green

hey steve i really think your awesome for answering questions like this. well im 5,4 weigh bout 195 and i play football. how much protein do you think i need to be getting?

Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/04/2011 - 15:59
Steven

Hi Sam,

I recommend about 30-40 grams every 2.5 to 3 hours. Here is an article that can help as well:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-...

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Posted Thu, 07/21/2011 - 22:23
Anthony

ok hi i am getting ready for my first year of high school football and need to start getting bigger push ups and sit ups just are cutting it anymore so i looked at your work out... I just was wondering was could i do instead of the dumbbell excersices because are weight room doesnt have enough dumbells for every one so i usually work out at home i just bout a golds gym but dont have any dumbbells so what do you suggest i do instead of the dumbbell excersises?? Please respond

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Posted Thu, 06/02/2011 - 21:19
arlie collins

What do you do inner elbow tendonitis? I have been doing the Westside work with chains on speed day and my elbows are killing me!!

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Posted Mon, 05/30/2011 - 15:38
Nate

This program seems very promising and I am considering trying it, but why are there no lifts directed towards shoulders?

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Posted Tue, 03/29/2011 - 12:41
Lokesh

When I lift weight my nerves get shaken.nomatter how much or less the weight is tey r getting shaken.Suggest me How can I overcome this problem.

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Posted Tue, 03/13/2012 - 18:07
Alex

To a certain degree it is normal, if you are a beginner or it is a new workout for you. Make sure you drink plenty of water all day and stay well hydrated during your workouts. Also make sure you are eating properly. Good luck to you!

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Posted Mon, 02/07/2011 - 21:33
Jaedin

If i wanted to add in pull ups or chin ups somewhere, where would I add them. And how can I do this program diet wise in order to have maximal strength gains and only slight size gains.

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Posted Sat, 02/05/2011 - 14:49
Garrett

I'm not professionnal weight lifter so I was woundering what this means? 3-5 reps with 80% of 1RM

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Posted Thu, 01/06/2011 - 13:13
Prav

I'm not really an intermediate yet, but i was looking for a strength building routine. I've been going to the gym for about 5 months now. I dont wanna do starting strength. Would this be a decent routine for me to do? Or is their a more noob friendly strength training I can do besides starting strength?

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 01/19/2011 - 11:46
Steven

Hi Prav,

If you feel very comfortable with the basic strength building lifts, and have made sound progress previously, I think you would be OK to use this workout.

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Posted Tue, 12/14/2010 - 02:18
Chris

Hey ummm...im still VERY confused on the External & internal cable rotation AND standing DB rotation....can you explain in DEPTH for me? hahaha i like this alot and i want to make sure i do it perfectly
Thanks!

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Posted Sat, 12/18/2010 - 05:58
Lifter

Look it up on You Tube so you can get a visual of what it looks like because it is kind of hard to explain.

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Posted Tue, 11/30/2010 - 15:46
yusuf

I am training for football and would really like to try this workout. But I really would like to continue doing hang cleans, as well as more lateral movements. Would adding these be too much? and if not, what would be an effective way to incorporate those exercises into the westside routine?

Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:02
Steven

Hi Yusuf,

I would add them on day 1 and/or day 5 as a replacement for:

Cable/Dumbbell/T-Bar rows (choose 1 per week, rotate)

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Posted Fri, 11/26/2010 - 22:11
Graeme

Just for some of you guys reading in here, within 3 weeks of my first bench day I have added 30 pounds to my 5x5. I seriously recommend this workout.

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Posted Fri, 11/05/2010 - 23:02
Lame duck

The advise about 30-40 g protein 5 times a day on a strength workout for a tiny perosn is probably 2x needed. How much would be needed for a big person?