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Beginner Westside Questions


I have decided to pursue powerlifting program for this summer (and forever if I like it). My goals so far have just been to gain weight and size and strength is always nice. I usually prefer upper/lower body splits and I love Chad Waterbury type programs, like TBT. Well, I have become more an more interested in powerlifting (I like both the size and strenth aspect of powerlifters).

So I read DT's 8 keys, and I guess the program he prescribed will be an outline for what I will do. I will start off with ME lifts of goodmornings and pin presses. I have some questions though:

Speed: On things like speed squats, do I need a box? Should I lower in controlled, slow, motion, and then shoot up? Do I just spring up as soon as I hit parallel, or does it matter so long as when I do shoot up, its as fast as possible? Should I invest in bands even as a beginner?

Volume: On the program that Tate gives, he outlines a ton of volume, like 6 sets of 8 and 5 sets of 10, AFTER a max lift! Should I work up to this volume? Are these including gradual progression of weight? Go really light, to ensure that I hit each rep of each set without fatigue?

Could someone please explain the volume and speed aspects of powerlifting? I would appreciate any tips anyone has. I am really looking forward to getting into this. I am just trying to sort everything out, and get started. Also, I appreciate and would love to hear ANY comments or tips or advice or anything about powerlifting and a westside protocol. Thanks a lot!


Yes, use a box for your squatting. Read Dave Tate's article on box squatting, visit elitefts.com and read more about it. The volume should be fine. I recommend following the program as it was written. You can buy bands, but I don't recommend jumping into band use just yet. As a beginner to powerlifting, you'll make great gains using straight weight. However, you can still use the bands for extra workouts(band GMs, band pullthroughs, tricep work, upper back work, etc.) The bands are extremely versatile. Go to elitefts.com and search the questions they have there, and read all the articles. This will be a constant learning process for you, but you have made a wise decision to train following a Westside template. Good luck.


Hey thanks for the reply. Another tough thing to deal with is that I have no access to reverse hyper machines, or GHR, etc. No powerlifting equipment whatsoever. So I guess I will be doing a lot of goodmornings, pull throughs (which will be new to me), deadlift variations, etc. Any other ideas for hamstring accessory work? Also, should I start off my first three weeks with ME lifts goodmornings and pin presses? Any suggestions, comments.


You might want to try out Bob Young's beginner version before going to the higher volume. This is what Louie had Bob do when he first went to Westside.



I personally don't like GMs, since the form is extremely difficult for me for some reason, and they put a lot of stress on my back. You may also notice that the crew over at elitefts.com barely does them at all.

As for the box squat I find that doing normal squats without the box for speed day every once in a while very useful, since the box squat has a different feel to it than regular squatting.

Overall, play around with the westside format because it is designed to be played around with. Don't keep using an exercise if you don't see results from it, and try different things.


Remember though that the guys at Westside pretty much all good morning over 500 and they've said when getting that much weight on the bar it becomes a risk to benefit ratio.

But I agree, if it isn't working do something else. Good mornings work well for me.


When working up to a 3rm, and then a 1rm, what would be the normal amount of sets and progression?


Alright, last night was my first day of Westside method. I did:

95- 2x10
135- 2x5
155- 1x3
175- 1x3
185- 1x3
205- 1x2
225- 1x1

Pull Through:
37.5- 10 (don't ask, cable's weird #'s)
62.5- 2x6
42.5- 8

Hamstring Curl:
140- 2x10

Hanging pike:
10, 8, 8

Crunch w/45 db:

Alright, so volume needs to come up on the abs, and accessory ham work. Any suggestions on other ham exercises in the absence of GHR, or Reverse Hyper? On DE days I plan on doing rack pulls.

Where can I see a video of Pull Throughs, or can anyone explain them. I have never done them before and I am trying to make sure I am doing them right. I stand far out so I am bent way over stretching before I even pull. Then I try to pull with my hams, of course weight is a factor that throws me off and my form changes. Also, I feel like I use too much low back, is this a primarily low back exercise, or more of a ham exercise? My guess is that I need to work on form and stressing hams more.

Any other suggestions? I am a real beginner to this type of strength program so any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks.



I just went to a Elite Fitness Systems seminar in Shenandoah, PA about a week ago. Jim Wendler was the speaker and he was AWESOME! Let me tell you, I learned a TON about Westside style training. Actually, despite the fact that I just used the words "Westside style training", I think people should realize that there really are no definitive or set-in-stone Westside workouts.

From what I learned, it is a mindset and attitude towards training and this mindset can be summed up as: "what works is good and what does not work is bad!" Pretty simple thinking but you can be amazed from the amount of confusion that people bring upon themselves when weight training. Also, just because someone writes a sample workout that is viewed by literally thousands of people, it does not mean it is suited for you and it does not mean that everyone at Westside follows that template. There are Westside lifters that have no speed day and others that do have a speed day. There are Westside lifters that have benched once per week while others have benched twice per week. Sometimes they will train 4 times per week and at other times they may train two times per week. It depends on what the lifter's individual circumstance happens to be.

So, onto your question. You do not have to use the same set and rep schemes that Dave Tate wrote in that article. You can basically use anywhere from 3 to 5 sets of anywhere from 8 to 20 reps for your bodybuilding portion of the workout. Do what works for you! Nowadays, it seems to be envogue to steer away from the old 3-4x10-12 protocol because it pretty much had been beaten to death. However, it still works for me.

As a pure beginner, you do not need a speed day unless you have established good form and a good amount of muscle mass. As a beginner, I am not sure you do have enough muscle mass or coordination for a speed day. Yes, MOST squatting done at Westside is done on a box but this does not mean you have to squat to a box EVERYTIME you do them. There are times when it is useful to not squat on a box. The eccentric on speed benches and squats should be controlled yet fast.

If you can, I highly recommend attending an Elite Fitness seminar. I had TONS of fun for two days. Right now, I am intending to attend a Metal Militia workshop during the summer. Anyone who is interested in powerlifting in NYC, pelace contact me since I am all about making connections in the powerlifting community being that I am a recreational beginner at the moment.
Bradley Grunner


As a beginner, you should not invest in bands or chains. The Westside lifters made progress for YEARS without the use of bands and chains. Before using these tools, ask yourself: "am I strong enough to use bands and chains?" However, you can use bands for calisthenic style exercises like bodyweight good mornings and band pull aparts. That is why I am buying some bands.

I have recently come from a long layoff due to graduate school and work driving me into the ground and me having to relocate to eastern Long Island from my hometown of Queens in a week or two for a dietetic internship at Stony Brook University Hospital. Right now, I have no speed day. My program is simply max effort work and calisthenics for accessory exercises. This will be done until I get back in shape and drop some bodyfat, probably about 3 weeks. Then I will go back to a program that has only max effort and reptition method protocols with no speed day.


Hey Bradley, thanks for the reply.

So it sounds like I should drop the speed workouts and go for something like repetition days. What would that look like? Can you recommend anything? It is nice getting this info now, because I haven't even had any speed workouts yet, but I would definitely agree that I lack mass and strength.


Take a look at the "Westside for Skinny Bastards" article by Joe Defranco and use that sample template if you want to see how you can set up an assistance day with no dynamic effort work. I used that program for a few months and it was awesome.


There is now a beginner westside template/manual you can buy for $20-$30. I would imagine it would be able to answer most of your questions.


Yes, that manual is going to be good. I just ordered it yesterday. Also, the Training Templates manual is great as well and very inexpensive.


I'm going to disagree about the speed days advice. Speed days have two primary goals, work on form for bench/squat and work on the explosiveness. So, even if you are not strong enough, you can still use the appropriate percentages for speed bench/squat. It has helped me in the past with things like speed of the barbell of the chest etc.

But bands and chains are not neccessary. Basically, give it a shot and see what works for you. So don't give up on the speed training without trying it out.

Hope this helps.


I was the host of the Elite seminar in Shenandoah and agree with Brad on the speed day stuff. Most people have shitty form and need to concentrate on getting the form down before they engage in ballistic benching and box squatting.

You need to have some more experienced lifters help you with form before you dive into dynamic days. I myself do not due speed bench anymore after repeated shoulder injuries.

On what would be my dynamic day i substitute 1-2 board moderate rep(6-8 rep) days. This has helepd to keep my shoulders healthy and still has increased my strength.

On the max effort day I concentrate on 3-5 board work for a single to 3 rep max.


Hello Tom. I just wanted to say thanks for hosting such an awesome seminar. I had an interest in starting to get involved in powerlifting but since attending that seminar, my enthusiasm has increased so much! I have a ton of school work for the next year but when that is done, I want to seriously get involved. The hands on demonstration was excellent.


I'm glad you enjoyed it Jim is a great presenter and can break down the complicated to the simple.

As for speed days for the inexperienced. they will work, but the beginners often have form problems. That's the main thrust of my post. Better the form, less chance of injury.


Well, the Beginner Training Manual by Jim Wendler arrived today. It is an excellent and informative manual and I highly recommend it.