T Nation

Westside for Raw Lifters?


Are there any raw lifters on this forum who have had success with Westside-style programming? I know that most people say Westside is only for equipped lifters but there are guys like Burley Hawk and Jordan Syatt who use the conjugate system for raw lifting and set records. I have been reading some things speaking in favor of doing bodybuilding-style hypertrophy work and taking a break from the comp. lifts so obviously Westside comes to mind. Any thoughts on this and how to adjust things accordingly?


I’ve had more success with westside type programming than any other. I think it’s because it really allows me to push hard without getting the overuse injuries of programs that have me going hard on the comp lifts week in and week out.

Just some main points.

*Westside DE box squats can work, but you have to use very good form. They help me pop right out of the hole on a free squat.

*I do best to include the comp lifts. For squat, I pick something from Prilepin’s table after DE work and same with bench. For DL, I just do few speed pulls or double paused deads after DE squat and comp squats. The idea with the comp lifts for me is just to get some practice in without hurting recovery too much. That’s what all the other work is for.

*I get the most out of it if I block it up some. Like 3 weeks with a 5RM for max work; higher reps and density for supps, higher volume no accomodating resistance for DE work. 3 weeks 3RM, higher intensity and less volume for supps. Some accomodating resistance for DE work with lower volume. Last 3 weeks 1RM for ME work, even lower rep for supps but don’t go below what would be a 6RM in that movement. DE work uses even more accommodating resistance and less volume. Also, I do less assistance work as intensity rises simply because I can’t recover from it at that point.

*This programming is huge on developing work capacity. At some point, you should be able to do so much work that the main workouts become inordinately long and then you take some of that work and do feeder workouts on other days. These should help your joints stay healthy and/or work on weaknesses and be very general in nature. As in, don’t do your comp squat this day, maybe do some goblet squats and back raises and abs or whatever helps you with your specific weakness.

*It takes time to figure out the best exercises for your weaknesses. Sometimes there really isn’t a specific weakness and you can just pick stuff real close to the main lift. I don’t really get much out of GM’s anymore, but there was a time that whenever I was able to increase my volume on these my DL and squat would go up. But after a while they did nothing for me. So that is to say, exercises that might have helped at one time may not always be helpful.

*For the ME work, don’t go so heavy and hard that your form puts you at risk. But it doesn’t have to be totally perfect. The weight should be kind of scary, but you should only rarely fail a weight. I find I do best if I don’t psych up for the lift. I get a little nervous energy at times but I’m not going out of my way to psych up.
Also, the ME work should help you strain through the angle, movement, and muscle pattern that’s weak with on your comp lift. Like if you suck at staying tight at the bottom of a bench press then paused bench presses might be a good movement since it really emphasizes staying tight there.

*Personally, I have to free squat both lower body sessions to keep the squat groove. But only one of those days is the comp squat.

*If your feeling beat up, it’s okay to pass on ME work and do some more DE work or GPP work like tire flipping or sled work. I’ve read they actually do that at westside and I find it can be helpful for me.


Great information fletch!

Can you tell us more about increasing work capacity, and feeder workouts? Do you have any giudelines for adding the extra sessions into your 9 week cycle?

Are you doing the most days of lifting week 8 and 9, to make up for the lower reps/higher intensity? Or during weeks 6 and 7 to “peak” for the end?


Early in my 9 weeks, the feeder workouts are more body comp. and conditioning based and toward the end they become more pre and rehab oriented to help the beating my joints take from the heavy lifting. I also incorporate more recovery methods towards the end like contrast showers, foam rolling, epsom salt baths, and that kind of stuff. I find the heavy stuff towards the end will not just cause some joint issues, but also make sleep more difficult and cause me just generalized anxiety and agitation if I don’t do the feeders and extra recovery work.

I just use my bodyweight, DB’s and the bands I have at home for feeders simply because I don’t have the time to drive to the gym those extra days. But it’s still worked pretty well.

At the moment i just do 2 feeders on my off days. My goal is to work up to doing feeders before or after my main workouts and I’m actually going to try adding an extra session next 9 weeks on my last off day because my sessions are starting to get too long because of the extra work I’m doing. I prefer to do them after my ME days to help muscle soreness and that dull achiness in my joints subside but it probably isn’t super important when you do them. You should be fully recovered from them by the time your next main workout rolls around. If not, you probably need to either back off or not do anything extra until that happens.

So first, get to the point where your sessions are taking more than 75-90 minutes. Upper body will typically be 75min and lower body 90min. Then take 15-30 of those minutes and place them in a feeder workout. Rinse and repeat. This is a process that can take very long time.

Something to consider for ME work. I do best when I think of taking 3 attempts for ME work. I consider these 3 attemps my working sets. 1st attempt is something you should be able to hit under almost any circumstances. Dog died, you got 0 hours of sleep, you lost your job, your girl broke up with you and destroyed all your stuff and convinced all your friends your a psycho, but you can still hit that number! 2nd attempt should be challenging, but should have a couple reps left in the tank. Last attempt for me may or may not be a true max, but I’m unable to do any more reps. So something like 97-100 percent I guess of what I can do for that day if I had to tack a number to it.

Now I don’t have anywhere close to the best numbers on this site for the number of years I’ve trained, but it has been the method that’s produced the best results for me personally. Also, considering where I started I’ve come a long way. When I started, I stuggled to do sets of 10 on bench with just the barbell using only about half the ROM. And now I’m closing in on a short paused 315 at 190. I was so scrawny and weak when I first started that one of my friends who hit a 500lb squat in HS football was amazed when I eventually worked up a 315 squat just to give a little perspective and now 405 feels like a 3-5RM. So take that fwiw.


[quote]chris_ottawa wrote:
Are there any raw lifters on this forum who have had success with Westside-style programming? I know that most people say Westside is only for equipped lifters but there are guys like Burley Hawk and Jordan Syatt who use the conjugate system for raw lifting and set records. I have been reading some things speaking in favor of doing bodybuilding-style hypertrophy work and taking a break from the comp. lifts so obviously Westside comes to mind. Any thoughts on this and how to adjust things accordingly?[/quote]

Personally, I’ve done it. Max effort work is worth doing at intermediate level. Speed work is a waste of time at beginner/intermediate levels ( I say this as an intermediate, however; at elite level it certainly might have benefits). Repetition effort is worth doing at any level.

As a raw lifter - DO NOT vary the lifts too much especially using max effort. You want to increase good form with the competition lifts. Best way to do that is to do them using ME and RE work.

For max effort bench - comp bench / 2-board / close grip are all fine.
For max effort squat/DL - comp squat/DL / box squat diff heights / sumo pull if comp conventional and vice versa.

Just make sure on ME day the reps are smooth and controlled. Do not make a habit out of grinding every ME day.

Personally, I would replace DE day w/ RE day and use lifts like floor press/SLDL/good mornings/slingshot/deficit pulls/block pulls/incline bench, etc. on RE days.

Keep all the bodybuilding/isolation stuff to a minimum. Remember, you have to be able to recover from all of this.

It was a nice break from what I normally did. I don’t know that I got much out of it other than I got better at some of the other lifts. Fact is, raw lifters don’t really need a lot of extra. Basic lifts and conditioning and you should be good and strong if you set up your training well. WS is overrated and has gained a lot of attention due to clever marketing. It does work well for those who can apply those principles and recover from the work, but it isn’t any better than some other systems that are out there.

Also, Storm the Beach has a pretty good post about WSBB method here on this site. Just search it and you should find it.



I’m totally with you on a lot of that, but especially Westside not being the be all end all. There’s a myriad of training methodologies and I think that’s because there’s a lot of people that respond differently to different programs. But in the end, we all basically use the same methods. We just use varying amounts of those methods.

Even with the Bulgarian method, there is some daily undulating training in there because of the fact that since it’s a daily max and that max changes so there is a change in volume and intensity day to day. Have you ever switched your assistance exercises or taken a break from the comp lift to focus on say something like front squats? You’re using the conjugate method. Are you moving up the weights you use through your training life? That’s linear training method. Do you ever work up to heavy singles, then do back off sets for more volume and less weight? You’re doing the concurrent method; training both strength and hypertrophy at the same time.

That thread is pretty awsome. If you want to talk to him personally, he’s on bb . com and is hamburgertrain.


There are a ton of forum posts with some guys using westside/conjugate/concurrent/wtfyouwanttocall it.

There’s also been an article recently on EliteFTS about making it work for raw lifters, worth checking out. It was by Gareth Williams.


I have used it for 1 year and really like it. My raw lifts are going up and my joints feel better than 5/3/1 or 5x5 stronglifts.

My tips,
1.I use safety squat bar for dynamic day to save my shoulders.
2. I got rid of box squats because they were hard on my back.
3. I like to use accessory work to bring up one or two muscle groups a month.
4. I like the autoregulation on max effort day and the consistency.
5. Learning about the reverse hyper was the best part of starting westside. I built a reverse hyper myself and use it 4 times a week. My back has never felt better. When the back is strong everything else falls into place for me.
6. Is use bands every couple of months.
7. On dynamic day I increase the reps on the main movement.


Not just for fatloss, this works a treat…


Based off all I have read about “west-side” and read over at wanna be big, from the guys who ACTUALLY train at Westside, they pretty much train raw or with old loose gear most of the time. Only near a competition do they go full kit. Many people, including yours truely, have had much success training"west-side". Keep in mind tho that folks who actually train there get specific workouts and are trained individually. There isn’t really a standard template and the methodologies evolve over the years. This is apparent in the writings of Louis as he cahnges stuff as needed to keep his athletes in top shape. The information disseminated to us guys is only general in terms.

If nothing else I like the variation of the exercises and I have always tended to do stuff I suck at to improve overall. To me that is just common sense. YMMV.