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Questions on W4SB Program


Last week i started trying the W4SB program. Though, during these past couple of months I was back to being inconsistent with my weightlfiting workout regimen due to summer school and having a relapse of uncertainty with the way I have been weight training. i've actually been considering about trying out the W4SB workout as soon as I know I am ready for it. however, I am concerned that because I have been going on and off again with my weight training for a while now that I may have do another workout that involves GPP strength and conditioning for a novice weighttrainer like myself in order to be physical prepared enough for W4SB. Also, if I do try the W4SB (version II) program, then I have a few questions with regard to this particular:

  1. I've recently learned that it is best for novice weightlifters to do weightlifting exercises with the heaviest weight they can within 4-6 reps (without going to failure). So, why does DeFranco want novices to do most of the weight exercises on his template with higher reps than 5 reps if beginners are supposed to work with lower reps and heavier resistance in order to build a solid foundation of strength and technique?

  2. DeFranco has designed this program as a split routine for beginners, but I recall most trainers and coaches including Tony Gentilcore saying that novice weightlifters are supposed to do full body workouts. So, I am curious as to why DeFranco did not lay out a full body workout instead for beginners.

  3. He has lists of exercises to choose from in his upper body workout days. Except, sometimes it seem like you must choice between one isolation exercise another such as either doing something like shoulder shrugs or something else like neck flexions. Another example is him giving a list of isolation exercises for the triceps, and so while It seems good that he says that we have some options to choose from for triceps isolation, it still looks like you must choose an isolation tricep exercise. Why are such exercises actually necessary for a beginner to do?

I am not saying that Mr. DeFranco is wrong and I am sure that he knows what he's doing, but I would like to learn exactly all his reasons for laying out this program the way it is and why he has it designed that way compared to the way a lot of coaches and trainers design programs.


I feel like Joe explains alot of this in his articles.

  1. "Rotating back and forth between these two â??rep methodsâ?? is a great way to both build muscle and prevent the athlete from burning out."

  2. "Experience has shown me that skinny bastards do NOT respond well to having a barbell on their back two times per week. Itâ??s simply too taxing on their bodies and they canâ??t recover."

  3. I don't get what you are trying to say here...:stuck_out_tongue:


First of all, you can start WSFSB immediately, just pick fairly manageable weights for first weeks.
Defranco trains athletes who may or may not want to get bigger while getting stronger. So, based on this, his program follows a few basic ideas of his:

  • no heavy leg training more than once a week since his clients do so much running and jumping on top of it.
  • heavy compounds as the base of the program (I think he mentioned that when he says 'ramp up to one top set' he really means to do about eight increasingly heavier sets until you reach a really heavy triple or fiver)
  • higher rep training once you're done with that to flush blood into the muscles
  • a few isolation exercises, mainly for weak points to make them stronger and prevent injuries

Full body? Nope. Compound only? Nope. Low reps? Nope.

"But hawkz, why... Is he full of shit?" No.

What you need to get into your head is that exercise science is not an exact science and people will believe in opposing things. This is because what works for one person may not work for another AND because several things may work. Both full body training and WSFSB work because they stress getting STRONGER on heavy compounds. This is really the core of any good lifting programs for novices and intermediates.

Again, different people may say different things; that's the way the world works, and sometimes several people are correct. What will drive success in the gym for you will be CONSISTENCY. And as long as you do not have that and do not believe in the program you are doing, you will get nowhere. For people like you, the internet is truly a curse because you get lost in all of the information. In the end it boils down to

  • get stronger
  • eat well
  • sleep well
  • keep doing it for a long time.


Seriously? After all the time myself and many, many others (especially in that Combat thread) invested, you still fell back into your old habits? That's a shame, on so many levels.

So you want to get in shape before you get in shape? Man, there's always going to be an excuse why you shouldn't start, so just fucking start. Start tomorrow, start Monday, whatever. But start.

False premise. There is no "best". There's "stuff that works well". And a lot of different stuff works well.

Like Anchor said, DeFranco pretty thoroughly explained his set/rep scheme at the end of the first WS4SB article.

Here's another one of those bad habits of yours. You can always find a successful coach who seems to advocate 180-degrees opposite of another successful coach. Hell, read what Thibaudeau was writing 5 years ago and it's a world away from what he's writing now. Again, it's not "what's best". If anything, it should reinforce the fact that different methods, when intelligently applied, can be equally productive.

Because there's nothing at all wrong with using isolation exercises within the context of a well-designed program. Easy enough.

Then e-mail him or something. Not sure how in-depth you expect us to get defending or explaining the program decisions of a guy who's been at the top of his career for a very long time.


There are three main methods: The max effort method, the repetition/sub-maximal method, and the Dynamic effort method

The maximal effort method: The maximal effort method is best described as three reps over 90%, you must rotate exercises to train over 90% over a period of time. After three weeks using it you will actually go backwards with this method unless you rotate exercises. It is best to use exercises that mimic your competition lift, but uses one thing, or another to make it either easier to recover from, and to train a specific weakness An example could be: Deficit sumo deadlifts off a 2 inch deficit for a one rep max, and around 3-5 reps above/at 90%. It trains weakness off the floor with sumo deadlifts along with your glutes/abductor's/adductors better.

The repetition/sub-maximal effort method: This method is harder to describe. The repetition effort is typically in the 8-15 rep range for several sets. The purpose of this method is hypertrophy of the muscle, and to prevent injuries. Typically it is used later in every session after the dynamic effort method/sub-maximal method/maximal effort method . An example of the repetition effort method is to do 4X12 neutral grip DB tricep extensions after the special exercise you used for your maximum effort bench. For powerlifters it is used for this: Muscle around the elbow/knee joints, muscle in the upper/mid back, and muscle in the abs/obliques/lower back. Additional work is used for weak muscles.

It is hard to draw the line between the sub-maximal method, and the repetition effort. But normally the sub-maximal method is used with more sets, and less reps per set. It is always for a weakness, and is almost always an exercise that can be used for the maximal effort method.

The dynamic effort method: This one is major pain in the ass to describe. Let's make it simple, and just go over the strength speed spectrum, and stay far, far away from speed strength. The dynamic effort method is a sub maximal weight accelerated maximally. It is normally used with band/chains, or anything to accommodate the resistance to get more effect out of it. However, it is still an incredibly effective method used with just bar/plate weight. The rest must stay below 1.5 minutes, and is typically in the 45 second-60 second rest area. The purpose of this method is to practice the competition lift while improving force development, and learning how to apply as much force as possible as quickly as possible.

Westside for skinny bastards uses a modified maximum effort method to introduce you to it, and uses mostly the repetition effort method to supplement the maximal effort/dynamic effort method. There is some sub maximal effort work used also. The dynamic effort method is used for the speed strength part of the spectrum. These methods when done correctly are amazing, and I highly recommend their use. Each of these methods build upon the main groups of strength: maximal strength (move something heavy), strength speed (move something moderate fast), speed strength (move something light very, very fast), and strength capacity (endurance strength, or to do something over an extended period of time). I recommend following westside for skinny bastard for a few months while learning about Westside barbell.

Also, school is no excuse to be inconsistent. I am spending two-four hours every day with just summer homework/essays, plus a summer job, and practicing my three instruments. I am also going to stay as consistent as I am now in the school year. If you really, really want it, you can make it happen.



1) I started the original true Westside split when I was ridiculously unprepared for a true powerlifting routine and was a very bad beginner--I did just fine on it. The only way to progress is to deal with things and push past them. Not endlessly prepare but never test youreslf--that is a fancy way of chickening out because you don't want to work hard. Lots of people fall into that trap. So just get onto WS4SB already.

2) Not everything has to be at 4-6 reps. If you want to build work capacity, which is essential for all athletics, you have to do it somehow, and that usually involves higher rep ranges. That and what The Anchor quoted in his point number one. Beginners would seriously suffer trying to buildwork capacity with more advanced methods while under heavy load because their bodies aren't primed for that and because their form would go to shit too quick. One of your big problems is taking everything as a blanket rule/requirement for everything, at all times. Shit doesn't work like that in real life.

3) In addition to what has been said already, Defranco didnt design a full body routine because he wants more volume for the parts he is working. Also, it is slightly easier for a teen or young inexperienced athlete to deal with upper/lower splits in addition to practices every day if they are on "autopilot" training alone without a coach. But it's re ally just another viable alternative. The world is not black and white like you want it to be, see my point above.


Yeah, school is a bullshit excuse. You got people on here, including myself, who went through grueling programs in school and still got their balls on and did work. Then you have people like Spock here who is a hardass chick, awesome person, single mom--I mean SUPERmom, works full time on top of being a single mom, and she still trains her butt off. Then you have people in medical school which is a full time job at 40 hours of classroom time a week + study time on top of that that train at least once a day, like RyanCXG. Then you have motherfuckers who work 70+ hours a week but still find time to train, like a couple clients of mine (one runs an ER hospital dept, you want to talk about stress?) + a bunch of people, plus me from time to time. THEN you have guys who work gruelling labor jobs doing concrete, roofing, or highway construction full time out in the sun that get off work and go to the gym.

There is almost no damn excuse. Ever. Everyone knows there will be times when shit goes down that result in a missed session or something. Family emergency, funeral, wedding, etc. Those are events. Not months of your life, even if you are dealing with massive fallout and stress you can still work hard. Excuses are excuses.


Well, there are a lot of right programs, but then there are a lot of wrong programs too.

In any case, for the record, I realize that actually in W4SB over 50% of the resistance training exercises are isolation exercises. This is interesting since now I can't help, but feel that this program is kind of "majoring in the minors." I forgot to mention this last week.

Also, with regard to the bench press exercises in this program are you supposed to use the powerlifting style in order to fully integrate the entire body?


The WS4SB program has been proven with hundreds, if not thousand of people who have had success on it. Just because a program uses assistance exercises (pretty much all do) does not mean it is "majoring in the minors". Think of the guy who uses that statement (Jim Wendler). In his program (5/3/1), half the exercises can still be assistance exercises. That doesn't mean that's where the focus is.

For benching, generally Defranco advocated for a more "powerlifting" style form. He doesn't suggest using a big arch because of the lower back strain, but you should arch the upper back, tuck the elbows a bit, use leg drive, etc.


Yeah, but if a program has half or more than half of the exercises being isolation exercises then how is that different from a program designed for a bodybuilder which includes about the same amount of isolations?


The difference is that it's a strength program, and the focus is on improving strength. Just because a program has assistance work doesn't make it the same as a bodybuilding program.

Take these 2 examples, the first is of a Max Effort upper body day using the WS4SB program, and the 2nd is of a chest and triceps bodybuilding workout.

Bench Press- work up to a 5 rep max
Db incline bench- 2 sets of max reps, using a weight that allows 15-20 reps on the first set
Rows/upper back superset- 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps on each
Weighted Abs- 3-4 sets of 10

Bench Press- 4x6-10
Incline Db press- 4x8-12
Chest fly machine- 3x20, focusing on as strong a contraction as possible
Db overhead extension- 3x8-12
Tricep pushdowns- 3x20, focusing on as strong a contraction as possible

Do you see a difference?


So you're saying that a bodybuilding program would have more exercises for each muscle group being worked on compared to a more strength-based program such as W4SB?

Also, the max effort upper body day of W4SB includes doing an elbow flexor exercise such hammer curls or dumbbell bicep curls.

In addition, I was wondering if I did a max effort lat exercise instead of doing an elbow flexor exercise on max effort upper body day, because I think that it would seem to make more sense to day a max effort upper body pulling exercise that would balance out with a max effort upper body push exercise such as max effort barbell bench press. Would this be a good idea?


The entire goal of a bodybuilding program is to increase muscle mass. The goal of a strength program is to increase strength, so you will generally have your main strength work as the first exercise of the workout. From there, you will use assistance work to strengthen the muscles needed to increase that first main lift.

So the difference when it comes to exercise selection is that in a strength program, the assistance work exists to strengthen the muscles needed to get stronger on the chosen exercises. In bodybuilding, the work is there because you need to work those muscles regardless. It exists in and of itself, not to increase a specific lift.

I know that in some of the WS4SB templates it has curls on the max effort upper day. There's also several versions, and it's okay to tweak small things around. That example is just how I set up my max effort upper days. I put the curls on the rep day.

I know that Defranco put weighted chins as an option in one of the articles, so you could use that as an option in your rotation. I would not suggest you do 2 max effort movements, even if they are opposite motions.

The lat/upper back work in the program will be just fine to balance out the pressing. Remember that if you include deadlift variations in your max effort lower days that your lats are getting some max effort work there too.


I see what you mean now. However, if the assistance work exists strengthen the muscles needed to get on the chosen exercises then, why aren't the assistance exercises on the max effort days all max effort lifts (3-5 reps) instead of moderate rep lifts (6-15)? For instance, if I did the row and upper back exercises with the most amount of weight that I can with 5 reps on each set -without going to failure- instead of lifting the most amount of weight that I can with 6-15 reps on each set -without going to failure-, then wouldn't I end up being even stronger on the bench press?


In theory, yes. In practice, no.

If it was possible to use the max effort method on everything, then theoretically that would be the best way to get stronger. The problem is you cannot do that, because the body can't handle it. The max effort method has to be used sparingly because of the massive impact it has on the nervous system. If you were to do everything in a max effort fashion, you would "burn out" and regress in your lifts because the body could not recover properly.

Using a higher rep range is also more effective in building muscle. You should try reading up a bit on the conjugate system, Louie Simmons has written a great deal on it, and Jim Wendler has some articles that make it a bit easier to understand


Dude, quit your overanalyzing the crap out of the program and either get to work on it or pick something else (proven, don't make your own program at this point)! You don't need to know the exact reasoning behind every single exercise, set/rep scheme and program designed known to man to be able to get the benefits from following a proven effective program like WS4SB.

As a beginner You are in no position to critique or second guess successful strength programs like WS4SB, not does doing so do you any good whatsoever.


I have been doing the W4SB for almost two week now.


I see. Makes sense now.

I've read the conjugate method; it has to do with the idea of emphasizing one ability over the other abilities which are usually on a maintenance phase in order to prevent burning out or overtraining. Though I don't see any articles from either Simmons or Wendler talking about the rationale of doing only one max effort exercise for the upper body and only one max effort exercise for the lower body per workout in order prevent over taxing of the nervous system.

Also, with regard to W4SB, specifically on upper repetition day, would it be a good idea to perform the same max effort lift that I perform on max effort upper body instead doing one of the max rep exercises?

In addition, I know that DeFranco wants skinny bastards to rotate all max effort lifts every two weeks in order to prevent burning out. However, if I kept rotating doong that every two weeks then how would I be able to make significant progress on any of the given max effort lifts overtime without consistently applying the progressive overload principle for the purposes of building overall strength?


this has been helping me a lot in learning how to properly program exercises.


I numbered your post to make it easier to understand my response

1- No, it's doesn't. The conjugate system is all about training all abilities at the same time, hence the term "conjugate". This is what makes the conjugate system of training different from other systems.

I doubt any of them specifically wrote an entire article about why there is only 1 max effort exercise. You could read up on prilipen's table as an example of the limited amount of max effort training the body can handle

2- Are you asking if you should do 2 max effort upper body days? Or are you asking about performing the same lift for the max effort and repetition days?

If it's the first, no. Having 2 max effort upper body days per week is not optimal because the nervous system still needs time to recover. If it was better to have 2 max effort upper days per week, Louie Simmons would most likely have his guys doing it

3- Yes, you must rotate exercises, or you numbers on the max effort days will begin to stall and then regress. You make progress by breaking PR's (or attempting to) everytime you step into the gym.

For example, out of my own training this summer:
week 1- Bench 5RM
week 2- Bench 3RM
week 3- Incline 5RM
week 4- Incline 3RM
week 5- Floor Press 5RM
week 6- Floor Press 3RM

and then:
week 7- New Bench 5RM

4- You will always apply the principle of progressive overload. It is impossible to get stronger without doing that.

I think you are getting confused and making the mistake of thinking that the principle of progressive overload only applies to percentage based programs, and it does not. Progressive overload is simply lifting more weight then last time. When you break PR's, you do this.