A general impression I get, and it may not be accurate, is that a lot of people don’t think westside works for raw bench pressers because of the strength curve change when bands are used, and also the choice of max effort movements (4 boards, 3 board, very litte, if any actual bench press pratice etc…).
These criticisms, at least in my gym, are often given along with an explanation that raw lifters should train using something like sheiko, which uses a very high number of sets and amount of volume with the actual lifts you will do in a meet. Now, I’m not saying that sheiko won’t work, and I have used it myself with a lot of success (qualified for nationals using sheiko style training. It fixed all my technique issues). AS I see it though, there are advantages to using westside style training that “just do the lifts” style training doesn’t offer:
Special excercises done for reps. If, say, my shoulders are all that is keeping me away from a 2,5kg pr,is it truly optimal to train the ENTIRE lift? Wouldn’t it make more sense to do a lot of volume with less technical excercises such as lateral raises? Similar results as far as PR:s go, but by doing a smaller, easier movement, you can work the muscle without taxing your entire body, making it easier to recover from.
Max effort movements are designed to improve your lift, not make it worse. Of course if you’re a raw lifter who is stronger at the top than off your chest, you wouldn’t use 4 board presses. Pick movements that either allow you to overload your regular bench press slighly, while still being similar to the regular bench press (for example, slingshot presses, 1 board presses etc…) OR pick excercises that make the excercise harder while improving your speed off the chest (benching on a slight incline, paused benching, ultra wide etc…). These excercises are very similar to the actual lift, and will improve it.
Flexibility with speed work. There are no super strict rules on how to do speed work. You could use straight weight. The difference would be that 50% is probably a bit low if no bands are to be added. Experiment with this one. All I’m saying is that speed work could absolutely count as technique practice. I found that duringg sheiko, I was pretty explosive doing doubles with 70%, so that might be a good starting point. Also, bands are not neccessarily bad for raw benching, and I would still use them, perhaps every other speed workout.
So how am I thinking about doing it? My personal weakness is around an inch off the chest. My lat strength and triceps are pretty good, but my shoulders give out. For max effort I will rotate paused benching, 1 board benching, ultra wide benching, regular touch and go benching, and fleer presses. For speed work I’m thinking of going: w1. 65% 8x3, w2. 70% 2x6 w3. Volume/technique work with 5x5 @75-80%. Once the weights on speed day start feeling too light for it to give me the same effect, I’ll add weight, while still staying fast.
Repetition work will mostly focus on shoulders and lats, but also some tricep work. The majority of work will however be done with front raises, side raises, presses. For Upper back I will do pendlay rows and face pulls. Some pullups to balance out some of the overhead pressing.
Squats and deadlifts will still be done, even though I don’t compete in them. This is mostly so I don’t completely neglect my legs and lower back, but also for balance reasons (too little posterior chain work sucks for overall health).
Any criticisms? I often hear that westside is for geared lifters, but how could this not work? I’m focusing on weak points, practicing technique, rotating lifts to break PR:s and so on… After doing sheiko for so long, my technique is already solid, and I’ve had a good coach look at it, and he agreed.So for an intermediate lifter such as myself, would this be a good starting point? I really feel that the max effort work would give me great results, since I’m so used to training with submaximal weights at around 70-85%