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Discussion on Westside for Beginners

Hello.

After reading discussions on WSB methods on other forums, namely using the methods with raw lifters, it got me thinking. how effective are WSB methods for beginners?

On one hand you have people saying that WSB is a template/system designed for advanced lifters to work on bringing up weakpoints and as a result beginners will be shortchanged if they attempt this style. These people then suggest a beginner should start with some very basic periodization, espousing routines like Rippetoes, Bill Starr 5x5, etc. Basically working the main lifts as frequently as possible with little to no assistance work.

You also have those who say that WSB can be used by beginner and elite alike - indeed, Louie himself touched on this topic inthis article of his: http://westside-barbell.com/westside-articles/PDF.Files/04PDF/ADVANCED%20SYSTEM%20FOR%20BEGINNERS.pdf he says that ‘even someone who squats just 100lb can start training on WSB, as it is a program based off of percentages’.

Similarly coaches like Joe DeFranco has his famous WS4SB programs that are designed with beginners in mind to get them strong fast.

There is probably no right or wrong answer. And I’m not really asking a question here in the first place. What I was hoping here would be a discussion by lifters here as to what their opinion on this subject is. And for the strong people here - if you were to start a beginner off on PLing, how would you coach them, and why? I’m not trying to turn this into a ‘VS’ debate, rather, to have a proper discussion.

Thoughts?

My opinion: The fastest way to gain strength is a simple linear progression. A beginner will be able to manage this for quite some time, so why sabotage your progress with something like westside (changing exercises), when you can progress much faster on a 5*5 style routine? Sure you could do westside, but I bet your strength levels would go up a lot faster with starting strength. Once a simple linear progression stops working for someone, then they can give westside a try.

If a beginner tried to do westside barbell training they’d most likely fuck it up because there’s something they didn’t understand or they missed the point about something. Just from lack of knowledge and experience. Couple that with the fact that beginners can gain on very simple programs and use pretty much linear progression for a good while you have to wonder if it’s really worth it and if they’ll actually gain significantly more anyway.

I have a lot of opinions here, because im pretty much a begginer; depending on who you talk to, and Westside is my favorite method to use.

Well first off. If your asking for YOU, or how I would train a beginner that may be different. You didn’t mention anything as to your history, so we’ll assume you are a beginner at the moment.

Ideally, a brand new beginner with NO weight training experience would start out with Rippetoe. Its high frequency and will teach them the lifts quickly, while getting their strength moving upwards. You could stay on Rippetoe’s for a couple of months, or possibly up to 8 months or a year. There is a whole discussion on the starting strength wiki that talks about knowing when to switch things up. Based on what I get from Rippetoe’s being a begginer, intermediate, or advanced has very little to do with strength; because everyone is different, but more has to do with how you are recovering from the starting strength workouts. So thats pretty subjective, but the FAQ over there gives a pretty clear guideline as to when you should move on.

As for what a beginner is, like I said, the opinions on this are going to vary. Some will say bench 1.5xbw, squat 2xbw, and deadlift 2xbw. While others will say something much lower or higher. If you look at that Westside article, it looks like Louie is saying that George Halbert was a beginner when he came to them benching 475. A beginner strength trainer, may be very different than a beginner Pl’er. The main thing is that it doesn’t matter, and I think thats what Louie is tryiing to get across with that article.

ANY program can work for the newest beginner, or the most advanced elite lifter. Yes, I said ANY. The thing is, depending on that person there is going to be a certain amount of customization needed to meet the lifter’s needs. I guarantee you some guys at westside could trained with a highly modified Rippetoe program and make great gains. It would probably end up looking a lot like westside, but you get the point.

So thats pretty much my thoughts on different systems for beginners vs. advanced.

Here’s my opinion on Westside for beginners. Depending on your current status, Rippetoe may be better. BUT, if you are going to train and eventually be using Westside, why not just start now. Your results may be a bit slower initially, but you’ll be gaining experience in using the system.

A lot of people that dont really know what they are talking about, will tell you that as a beginner you dont need to do speed work. This is a big mistake. Keep the speed work. You may want to go a bit heavier if you are RAW, and even a bit heavier if your max strength isn’t very high. You gotta figure out what works for you, but pretty much anything 50-80% is an option. The main thing with speed work, is that you must intend to move the weight fast, must practice perfect form, shouldn’t be anywhere remotely near failure, use short rest breaks, so that there is some fatigue by your last few sets.

ME work should be done pretty similar to how westside suggests, but you’ll probably need more volume, since your strength will be low. I didn’t do this my first couple of times with westside, but am starting to do this now. This is the way it was described to me. “A very strong lifter can build up to a max deadlift of 800lbs and be completely shot. They wont be even thinking of deadlifting again for the next couple of weeks. And a beginner can build up to a max deadlift of 400, rest a few minutes and then repeat it again.” So for me, i’ll be doing mainly singles and doulbes at around 90% and shooting for 9-12 reps total most of the time. But others will suggest just using a 3RM or 5RM and doing it the westside way. This didn’t work for me, but feel free to give it a shot.

I’d probably rotate your exercises far less often than westside suggests. At the moment, I have no planned rotation for main lifts. I’ll be squatting on all DE and ME days for lower, and i’ll be BB benching on all ME and DE days for upper. If I do need to do any rotation, i’ll probably switch to front squat, and incline or decline bench.

Accessory work. I think this is pretty individual, because WS4SB has a lot of accessory work, but I found that I put too much emphasis on accessory work and not enough on the main lifts. Remember though, WS4SB isn’t designed to just get you strong at bench,squat,deadlift. Its a program to prepare athletes so thats probably why there is so much accessory work. So for me, other than the main lifts each day, 2-3 other exercises maybe 4 if they are for smaller muscles. And the number of sets will start lower around 3, and possibly go up to 5.

Bands/chains - You’ll be tempted to use chains/bands early on as I was, and this is entirely up to you. I have found a big advantage to using them on DE days occasionally, because it allows me to fully accelerate the weight. Other than this, I dont see much need for using bands or chains early on.

Box Squat, and squatting in general - This may be debatable, but if you are going to go RAW, you’ll need to train a bit differently than the westside guys. Box squats are good either way, but the Westside guys place emphasis on keeping the shins perpendicular to the ground and pushing your hips back. For a raw lifter, you are going to need to build and rely on quad strength, so the hips dont need to be pushed back as far.

As a lot of people will say, as a beginner you probably dont have any weak spots, everything is weak. This means that you should for the most part build up everything equally. I will say though, I think there are a lot of advantages to putting extra emphasis on triceps, front/rear delts, traps, lats, glutes, and hamstrings. Or basically you probably dont need to put too much emphasis on chest, biceps, and quads. But this is up to you. You likely also wont need the lockout work and board pressing that westsiders use, and will probably need more work on strength off the chest, and the bottom of the squat.

Thats should be enough to get things started. And im sure its going to be a debate, not a discussion.

Good luck with everything.

The fact that Dankid is telling you that westside is his favorite program for beginners should tell you something.

I strongly feel like Westside or any Westside variations are not for beginners.

I think there’s probably some dispute in terms of what a beginner is. For someone who’s never lifted at all, the most important thing in my opinion is for that person to learn proper movement patterns and negate any imbalances, impingement, etc.
For someone who is relatively new to lifting but can properly execute lifts and has no imbalances, I think a linear progression would be most appropriate - something like starting strength or the madcow linear 5x5.

Dankid’s phrase “as a beginner you probably dont have any weak spots, everything is weak” is tremendously bothersome to me. Sure, “everything” might be weak, but how can one assume that this person’s body is actually moving correctly? Someone with terrible glute recruitment, tons of anterior pelvic tilt, and no core stabilization will NOT benefit from doing max effort deadlifts or speed box squats with bands. It’s simply a recipe for an injury.

[quote]Stronghold wrote:
The fact that Dankid is telling you that westside is his favorite program for beginners should tell you something.[/quote]

I have to agree with stronghold here. I don’t have any problems with Westside, and have made lots of gains using that method, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner. I think that beginner’s really should worry a bit more about the movements, and how their body reacts than worrying about DE work.

Also, no fucking way I was going to read dankid’s post.

[quote]Vir wrote:
If a beginner tried to do westside barbell training they’d most likely fuck it up because there’s something they didn’t understand or they missed the point about something. Just from lack of knowledge and experience. [/quote]

I also agree with this, I think beginner not being prepared for Westside has more to do with lack of knowledge and experience, and not because they aren’t strong enough.

[quote]Benway wrote:
Someone with terrible glute recruitment, tons of anterior pelvic tilt, and no core stabilization will NOT benefit from doing max effort deadlifts or speed box squats with bands. It’s simply a recipe for an injury.[/quote]

I agree. This doesn’t rule out westside. They just need to adress these “weakneses” This would be the same no matter what program they went with. The same person would have to adress these problems on starting strength, and there would be just as much risk doing starting strength as westside. The point is you have to make it work for you.

I agree with what you said, if you are considering a beginner someone that doesn’t have reasonable form on all the exercises. In this case something like starting strength is definately the way to go. But if someone has good form on bench, squat, and deadlift, but is just not strong or big, then there is no reason at all to not go with westside, or any other program for that matter.

I started on Westside. So did the three other members of the gym. Stuck with it for about 2 years, with the first year on and off. That said, I don’t think it’s ideal for beginners; there’s way too much freedom, which inevitably gets used to fuck the program up.

D.E. work was pretty useless when you’re starting out, ESPECIALLY when you’re weak and following percentages instead of bar speed. 60% of my 1RM was the same speed as my 85%. I got nothing out of doing reps on 100lbs. Straight weight D.E. work sucked balls for getting me stronger, and continually doing work with straight weight or contrast lead to a whole host of joint issues.
I felt it made me a better athlete, but not a better lifter.

M.E. work was good and fun, but as a beginner I fell into the trap of trying to PR every time I did it. Your volume suffers, as you cut the lead-in sets short so you’re fresh for your PR attempts, when really you should be working hard. Also, always doing 1RM’s instead of 3 and 5RM’s negatively impacted my strength and size gains. Once I started doing more of them, and focussing on more quality work rather than a PR every week, I started getting good results.

The template is good, and methodology behind it is sound. It’s just difficult to cut through a lot of what is said and written about it, and move outside generic templates to actually follow the guidelines. Tailoring the supplemental and accessory work to suit you, as well, is an art in of itself.

If you’re looking solely to get bigger and stronger, the D.E. work is the biggest bugbear. All in all, as someone who went through the Westside experience with a group of people as a beginner, I don’t think it’s ideal for beginners.
Definitely worth trying later on in your lifting career though, and well worth reading up on even when you’re starting out.
Particularly look at modifications made to the standard template over the years, such the heavily endorsed dropping of doing 1RM Good Mornings, working up after speed work, and the changes made in the successive WS4SB’s.

Westside isn’t the be-all and end all, but it did get a lot of people very fucking strong, and there’s a lot that can be taken from it to make your own training better. In our team (which includes an international 242) we still use Westside principles to structure our training; but without D.E. work, and cycling M.E. work in and out as necessary, it’s not really Westside.

I know my opinion doesn’t really count, but OP I strongly feel if you dont do DE work you are cutting yourself short with Westside. It is one of the main emphases of the program, and potentially where most of your size/strength gains are going to come from. You may have to change things around to get the benefits of it, but without DE work you might as well not be doing westside.

Basically if you are really strong on ME but slow, do lighter weights on DE. And if you are not very strong on ME (as a beginner would be) then you’ll want to go heavier on DE. There is nothing wrong with going up to 80 or even 85% on DE work, you just have to be smart about it, and the results will come.

[quote]dankid wrote:
I know my opinion doesn’t really count, but OP I strongly feel if you dont do DE work you are cutting yourself short with Westside. It is one of the main emphases of the program, and potentially where most of your size/strength gains are going to come from. You may have to change things around to get the benefits of it, but without DE work you might as well not be doing westside.

Basically if you are really strong on ME but slow, do lighter weights on DE. And if you are not very strong on ME (as a beginner would be) then you’ll want to go heavier on DE. There is nothing wrong with going up to 80 or even 85% on DE work, you just have to be smart about it, and the results will come.[/quote]

What the fuck are your lifts again?

I feel that the concepts of Westside (max effort, dynamic effort, static overcome by dynamic, etc) are great and could be used by anyone, regardless of their lifting age. But if a true beginner were to use a Westside template maybe the exercise selections would be a bit different than an advanced PL.

Its funny, nobody reall has anything to add to this thread.

Typical trolling like:

“A beginner will probably screw something up”

“The fact that Dankid is telling you that westside is his favorite program for beginners should tell you something”

“I tried it and didn’t get results”

BLAH BLAH BLAH.

These guys aren’t offering anything to the discussion. There just trying to be cute.

I already suggested that there is a BIG difference between a beginner to weight training and a beginner to powerlifting. But everyone seems to ignore this fact. The fact of the matter is, ANY powerlifting program is acceptable for a beginning powerlifter. Distinctions between beginning/intermediate/advanced/elite are arguable, and usually not that helpful. Any program is working IF YOU MAKE GAINS. And making gains is completely in your power. So dont blame a program because you didn’t get gains on it.

Seriously, Louie Simmons the guy behind the method tells you that beginners should train this way, but you are going to listen to the ramblings of a bunch of annonymous people on a forum. At least if they could offer some sort of reasoning to back up their opinions we’d get someting out of this. But that is far too much to expect.

1 Like

[quote]dankid wrote:
Its funny, nobody reall has anything to add to this thread.

Typical trolling like:

“A beginner will probably screw something up”

“The fact that Dankid is telling you that westside is his favorite program for beginners should tell you something”

“I tried it and didn’t get results”

BLAH BLAH BLAH.

These guys aren’t offering anything to the discussion. There just trying to be cute.

I already suggested that there is a BIG difference between a beginner to weight training and a beginner to powerlifting. But everyone seems to ignore this fact. The fact of the matter is, ANY powerlifting program is acceptable for a beginning powerlifter. Distinctions between beginning/intermediate/advanced/elite are arguable, and usually not that helpful. Any program is working IF YOU MAKE GAINS. And making gains is completely in your power. So dont blame a program because you didn’t get gains on it.

Seriously, Louie Simmons the guy behind the method tells you that beginners should train this way, but you are going to listen to the ramblings of a bunch of annonymous people on a forum. At least if they could offer some sort of reasoning to back up their opinions we’d get someting out of this. But that is far too much to expect.[/quote]

Typical trolls who are stronger and more experienced than you. You bench what? 245? yeah, you know what you’re talking about.

Reasoning has been offered time and time again on this subject, but you ignore it or respond with horribly flawed arguments and then ignore it when your arguments are refuted.

If you have a coach who knows what the hell he is doing and has a lot of under the bar experience, the Westside system can work for beginners. Having tried to do Westside-style training on my own, and then being coached for a few weeks, there is no comparison between the two. If you are a beginner you absolutely need to be coached through the Westside system.

That being said, I think simpler is better for a beginner. Stick to the basics and then progress from there. Its better to make slow and steady progress than it is to spend 6 months spinning your wheels like I did.

@ OP - Here is the program im going to be using for myself and my GF. Its follows the westside template with some modifications, but is kept pretty simple because im a beginner as far as powerlifting. Nothing is set in stone, as it should be modified to match each person’s individual needs, and there are still a few things I have to experiment with as far as sets/reps and loading. But you’ll get the general idea.

DE Days - Same sets/reps as westside, but I lower the weight more controlled (same speed as if I were maxing) and maximal acceleration on the concentric. I haven’t decided completely on the percentages, but they will likely start as 60,65,70. Bands may be incorporated to allow me to accelerate fully, or I may go withhigher percentages, like 60,70,80. Or some combination. THE BASIC IDEA HERE IS PRACTICING PERFECT FORM, GETTING SOME VOLUME IN, ACCELERATION.

ME Days - Instead of building to a RM, im gonna try something different. About 90% of 1rm will be used for all working sets. The goal is 9 total reps. I haven’t determined my exact method here, but i’ll either stick with this weight until I can get all 9 reps in 3 sets or less, or there will be a time limit, (like 15 minutes or so) But basically when its time to go up, the weight will be increased about 5-10 lbs or 5%. The exercises will not be rotated like normal westside. Squat will be squat, bench will be bench, and deadlift will be deadlift. Occasionally, if needed, an ME day will be skipped or a different variation will be subbed in temporarily. THE PURPOSE OF THIS IS MORE VOLUME WITH HEAVIER WEIGHTS AND PRACTICE. I FOUND THAT MAXING OUT DIDN’T ALLOW ENOUGH VOLUME, AND WAS PRETTY DRAINING FOR ME. Also, ME work potentially will help identify sticking points or weak muscles, but this isn’t going to be stressed that much.

***Every 3rd squat workout will be a deadlift workout. Everything will be the same, but the main lift will be deadlift instead of squat. And by doing this every 3rd workout, it will alternate between ME and DE each time.

The workout will look something like this -

DE Squat

  1. DE squat or deadlift

2a) Front squat 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Chest supported row 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Pull-through 3-4 x 10-15

DE Bench

  1. DE bench

2a) Incline DB press 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Pullup 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Face pull OR triceps 3-4 x 10-15

ME Squat

  1. ME squat or deadlift

2a) Front squat 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Chest supported row 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Pull-though 3-4 x 10-15

ME Bench

  1. ME bench

2a) Incline DB press 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Pullups 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Face pull or triceps 3-4 x 10-15

NOTES

The exercise selection was set up for ME based on my needs, so you may be different. EX: Incline db press and shoulder strength in general are somewhere where I have a lot of room for improvement so I chose them. I also chose front squat for an assistance exercise, because I feel it strengthens the entire core and hips very well.

On DE days, the assistance work will be heavier, (5x5 or 4x6 etc.) and on ME days the assistance work will be lighter (3x10 or 4x8 etc.) Also, on DE longer rest breaks will be used for assistance work, and on ME days shorter rest breaks will be used for assistance work. These are just little things that dont really matter, but i’ll be doing them to add some variation since im sticking with a small amount of assistance exercises.

I may stick with the same assistance exercises for 4 weeks or more.

I also may occasionally max out on a DE day if Im feeling strong, or skip an ME workout and do a max to test my progress. But this may not be necessary, and I may just keep focusing on increasing the weights on my ME workouts.

So thats how ive set up westside for me, who happens to be a beginner. And I dont see any reason why any other beginners wouldn’t do well on this program, assuming they know how to squat, deadlift and bench, and dont have any horrible imbalances or injuries.

I think its pretty simple, and am hoping to make some good gains both in strength and mass using this plan. Im sure I could get similar strength gains using Rippetoe’s, but this is the choice Ive made.

Dankid, you might have more success conveying your ideas if your posts weren’t so long.

[quote]Benway wrote:
Dankid, you might have more success conveying your ideas if your posts weren’t so long.[/quote]

Learn to read good.

[quote]dankid wrote:
@ OP - Here is the program im going to be using for myself and my GF. Its follows the westside template with some modifications, but is kept pretty simple because im a beginner as far as powerlifting. Nothing is set in stone, as it should be modified to match each person’s individual needs, and there are still a few things I have to experiment with as far as sets/reps and loading. But you’ll get the general idea.

DE Days - Same sets/reps as westside, but I lower the weight more controlled (same speed as if I were maxing) and maximal acceleration on the concentric. I haven’t decided completely on the percentages, but they will likely start as 60,65,70. Bands may be incorporated to allow me to accelerate fully, or I may go withhigher percentages, like 60,70,80. Or some combination. THE BASIC IDEA HERE IS PRACTICING PERFECT FORM, GETTING SOME VOLUME IN, ACCELERATION.

ME Days - Instead of building to a RM, im gonna try something different. About 90% of 1rm will be used for all working sets. The goal is 9 total reps. I haven’t determined my exact method here, but i’ll either stick with this weight until I can get all 9 reps in 3 sets or less, or there will be a time limit, (like 15 minutes or so) But basically when its time to go up, the weight will be increased about 5-10 lbs or 5%. The exercises will not be rotated like normal westside. Squat will be squat, bench will be bench, and deadlift will be deadlift. Occasionally, if needed, an ME day will be skipped or a different variation will be subbed in temporarily. THE PURPOSE OF THIS IS MORE VOLUME WITH HEAVIER WEIGHTS AND PRACTICE. I FOUND THAT MAXING OUT DIDN’T ALLOW ENOUGH VOLUME, AND WAS PRETTY DRAINING FOR ME. Also, ME work potentially will help identify sticking points or weak muscles, but this isn’t going to be stressed that much.

***Every 3rd squat workout will be a deadlift workout. Everything will be the same, but the main lift will be deadlift instead of squat. And by doing this every 3rd workout, it will alternate between ME and DE each time.

The workout will look something like this -

DE Squat

  1. DE squat or deadlift

2a) Front squat 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Chest supported row 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Pull-through 3-4 x 10-15

DE Bench

  1. DE bench

2a) Incline DB press 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Pullup 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Face pull OR triceps 3-4 x 10-15

ME Squat

  1. ME squat or deadlift

2a) Front squat 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Chest supported row 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Pull-though 3-4 x 10-15

ME Bench

  1. ME bench

2a) Incline DB press 3-5 x 5-10
2b) Pullups 3-5 x 5-10

  1. Face pull or triceps 3-4 x 10-15

NOTES

The exercise selection was set up for ME based on my needs, so you may be different. EX: Incline db press and shoulder strength in general are somewhere where I have a lot of room for improvement so I chose them. I also chose front squat for an assistance exercise, because I feel it strengthens the entire core and hips very well.

On DE days, the assistance work will be heavier, (5x5 or 4x6 etc.) and on ME days the assistance work will be lighter (3x10 or 4x8 etc.) Also, on DE longer rest breaks will be used for assistance work, and on ME days shorter rest breaks will be used for assistance work. These are just little things that dont really matter, but i’ll be doing them to add some variation since im sticking with a small amount of assistance exercises.

I may stick with the same assistance exercises for 4 weeks or more.

I also may occasionally max out on a DE day if Im feeling strong, or skip an ME workout and do a max to test my progress. But this may not be necessary, and I may just keep focusing on increasing the weights on my ME workouts.

So thats how ive set up westside for me, who happens to be a beginner. And I dont see any reason why any other beginners wouldn’t do well on this program, assuming they know how to squat, deadlift and bench, and dont have any horrible imbalances or injuries.

I think its pretty simple, and am hoping to make some good gains both in strength and mass using this plan. Im sure I could get similar strength gains using Rippetoe’s, but this is the choice Ive made.[/quote]

So how’s that working for you?