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Westside - Lower Max Effort Exercises


How do you guys cycle your max effort exercises on a Westside Program?

Yes I understand to swap them every 3 - 4 weeks but I also read that you should be doing Good Mornings 70% of the time.


Best idea...?

Good Morning Type Exercise
Squat Type Exercise
Good Morning Type Exercise
Deadlift Type Exercise



It all depends on what works for you. If you don't have a ton of experience under your belt, you can progress doing just about anything for ME work. There are tons of variants in the squat, even if you don't have any special bars. You can hit boxes of various heights, front squats, zercher squats, high bars, manta rays if you spend the few dollars on that device.

The thing about this training is there are no solid rules, except maybe the dynamic training percentages. You might make a ton of progress by just doing squat variants while someone else might need more GM work. Hope that makes sense.


Yeah it makes sense and I know of the squat / deadlift variations.

I was under the impression you would get more out of it from varying between squat / dealift ME work rather than just squat variations?

Each squat cycle use a different variation but between each squat cycle use a deadlift / GM variation...?


We swap deads and squats week to week and swap good mornings and glute ham raises as first assistance.


I am a little more advanced than you but it has taken me a couple years to figure out what works best. This general template has been giving me RIDICULOUS results in the past couple months:

Week 1:
Squat Variation for 1rm
DL Variation for 6rm
Heavy Core work/Grip

Week 2:
DL Variation for 1rm
Squat Variation for 6rm
Heavy Core work/Grip

Week 3:
Good Morning Variation for 1rm
Whatever the hell I feel like for a 6rm

Week 4:
60% Squat and Deads

Like I said, I am a little further along than you and I am slowly realizing assistance work is a waste of time.


Thanks guys, two very good ideas.

So it seems people swap squat and DL weekly rather than per cycle... I guess that way you are not going 4 weeks without doing the other. Hmm....

Thanks again given me something to go off.


I'm realizing the same thing...if you've got a good base, all it does is beat you up.


Definitely try switching up your exercises unless an injury prevents it, or if you are focusing on a specific lift. If you have it in your gym, use different barbells, use chains and bands to vary the resistance of your exercises, and a rack or mats to vary the height of your starting point of your DL. And of course a box for your squat.

My Lower ME has been:
Sumo DL from the floor this week
Conventional DL from the floor against chains last week
Conventional rack pull against bands two weeks ago
Safety bar box squat three weeks ago
Band assisted conventional DL four weeks ago
Cambered bar good morning from chains five weeks ago


What's a good base? I don't have anywhere near the strength or experience STB has, but I find I start getting hurt if I slack on assistance. I have to work my back and triceps hard after my ME to keep mys shoulders healthy and I have to hit my hams and lower back pretty good to avoid hip and back problems. Thoughts?


Hey Storm, what do you do for core and grip?


Even westside does not do it exactly like that anymore. They are always changing everything, so it is hard to follow.

I personally use a bastardized westide template.

I have found that max effort GMs, ect do very little for me, and they are better as assistance, for me at least

The theory states to just change something, in my opinion doesn't have to be a new movement. It can be varying band/chain/bar/straight weight/range of motion/reps

I have found that when peaking for a meet, or doing a heavy training cycle, squatting once a week max effort, with various bars (SSB mostly) and various resistance from bands, followed by speed pulls, then some assistance work is the best for my squat day.
Then the other lower day, do 8-10 sets of speed squats, followed by pretty heavy(90+%) on deadlifts, or a variation, followed by some assistance works very well. I suggest deloading every few weeks.

Working in stuff like zerchers for assistance, or max effort work is good sometimes too. Just keep switching it up.

A lot of stuff I have read has said that after the initial growth, WS is not the best option for raw. Something to take into account to if you are a raw lifter.


I'm not a big fan of GM's for ME work either...We don't rotate deadlifts and squats every week, it's more of a "by feel" thing, but I'd guess 1/3 to 1/4 sessions are ME deadlift or variant. That doesn't mean we're not doing deadlifts on squat day, SLDL's + boxes are a staple and sometimes we hit these after squats for assistance work and then it turns into "lets see how painful we can make this" and we keep adding plates.

I chatted with Mike Ruggiera a few years ago and if I'm remembering correctly the template he was suggesting to beginners was stick with a ME exerise for 2-3 weeks, trying to beat your previous week lift, usually by weight but it could be by reps also. He said when he was training at Westside they were changing ME lifts every week...which seems to be what everyone is doing these days. The "old school" way is to stick with something for awhile and you should still progress, assuming it's a special lift that works for you...and that's the problem with swapping ME lifts every week if you're a beginner.

Say you're planning for a meet in 8 weeks and you're rotating ME exercises every week, not really knowing what ME special exercises are really benefiting you the most. Granted when you first start lifting anything will probably help, but there are some things that are going to work leaps and bounds over other lifts. Well...if you're rotating every week, you could easily work your way through 8 different lifts and after 8 weeks you're stronger but you don't know what really contributed to the strength increase. If you rotate every 2-3 weeks, that would cut the exercises down from 8 possible variants to 3-4...and there's nothing saying you couldn't run an exercise for 2-3 weeks and then return to the core lift for a week and see where you stand.

Also, I think that this style of training is just as effective for raw lifters as it is for equipped lifters...not really sure where the difference is...there are some special exercises that absolutely work better for equipped lifters, like high board presses...you've got to figure if you're a raw lifter and you're going to fail on the bench it's probably going to be off of the chest. I can't really remember anyone hitting a raw max and making it up to lockout and failing. In contrast the shirt is going to give an equipped lifter a shitload of pop off of the chest and then they can focus more on lockout. So if I were training for a raw meet I'd be doing things to assist where the leverages are worst (where the equipment usually provides the most help) instead of the other way around.


This is a great point.


I have read a lot about people thinking speed work and especially work off the box is sub optimal for raw lifters. Westside focuses heavily on the box, and on speed work.

There are definitely ways to tweak it to fit.

I have personally seen far better results raw with block periodization. Geared I see far better results with a bastardized westside template.


I agree for beginners. However if someone is truly a beginner they probably need more work with the core lifts anyway in my opinion, because they need to master the form.
If they are stalling at one place, that doesn't mean they are weak there, it could be form. Once the form is correct you can see where the muscular weaknesses are and rather than guessing at what lifts may work, you can plan lifts to focus on your weaknesses. If they work they become a staple. If not chuck it.


I really disagree with speed work and box squats being sub-optimal for the raw lifter. According to legend, (rocking) box squats were used at the original Westside Barbell in Culver City, CA and produced an 854 lbs. squat @ 242 lbs. in gym shorts (George Frenn).

The speed work was a Russian development from the 70's, probably researched and applied for the Olympic lifts.
In any case, the speed work teaches the CNS to fire and develop force. Which I think is important for any lifter, raw or equipped / chemically-enhanced or drug free.

I'd be interested to know what you've read or what leads you to believe some of these methods are sub-optimal for raw lifters...and which training methodologies would be more effective?

I don't think the WBC approach is necessarily the end-all and be-all of training. Some of the greatest lifters of all time didn't use the WBC approach, but over the years it seems that WBC has consistently turned out some real strong lifters and what works has been re-used the world over.

Again, it's my thought that raw training doesn't differ too much from equipped lifting, the leverages just change...right? The best leverages exist at the top of the lift, if we're talking about the squat the more you bend your knees, the worse your leverages-which is why guys do 1/4 squats with too much weight. If we're talking about the bench, the more your bend your elbows, the worse your leverages-which is why you see guys cutting the bench short like they have an invisible 2 or 3 board on their chest and with the deadlift your leverage improves the closer you get to finishing the lift (for the most part).

When you're wearing a squat suit and wraps, the natural weak point (the hole) should be artificially increased. If you weren't handling maximal weights you might have equal leverages throughout the lift...(if not even a stronger bottom than top). This causes a situation where equipped lifters can come out of the hole and then stall...which is where bands and chains come in and you get an advantage of overloading the top of the lift where the suit and wraps fail to provide support/assistance, but where you have the best natural leverages.

For a raw lifter, I can't see chains and bands being AS effective as they would be for an equipped lifter. I'd expect the raw lifter to spend more time trying to overcome the shitty leverages you have at the bottom of the lift compared to the top.

definitely interested in discussing further.


Most of my opinions have been drawn on posts on outlaws, and my own experience with block periodization and volume training.

The box does provide an artificial bottom to the lift for a raw lifter. Modern gear is strong enough that it is almost like a box to bounce off of when the straps are up. Raw lifters do not have this feeling. I think it CAN be a useful tool but is far less useful for a raw lifter. Too much use for anyone will create instability in the hole if you are used to having a box to sit on rather than stabilizing and reversing in the hole. The raw guys I train with NEVER do box squats anymore, because they just were not getting carryover from it.

Even some of my multiply training partners are shying away from box squats now. They are definitely a tool and if they work for you then do it. Everyone is different and all of this is basically just different training theories.

There are differences between raw and geared training though.
It is my personal belief that volume work is more effective for raw training. Max Effort should be worked in, but not constant. Remember gear provides protection, and when I have done westside raw I have been terribly beat up in just a few weeks.
Beyond that your form, the volume you can handle, the CNS taxing, ect all changes when you go from raw to geared or vice versa. As far as leverages those change some too, but proper form should allow you to confidently go full range of motion. Of course cutting a rep short makes it easier so some people cheat, but I don't think that is due to leverages, just due to moving the weight further and people wanting to avoid weaknesses.

I stuck with a pretty strict westside template for years and made great gains at first, then stalled out. I took the speed work out and replaced it with volume for a few months and my lifts skyrocketed. I now only work speed work in 3 weeks at a time, and have made continual, fast gains. In a one year span like this I added 255lbs to my squat, granted I was gaining weight but still.

As far as bench/deadlift training, with just a 460 bench and 565 deadlift I suck at those, so I will not even begin to say I know how to train those. I have made some fast progress lately with raw volume work though, and look forward to big PRs when I max soon.

In my opinion there are people westside works for, regardless of raw/geared/ect... one of my friends is by far the best raw lifter in the state, and he is strict westside. Every week is max effort work one day, and speed work the other day. He is the most explosive person I have ever met.

I don't think he ever deloads either. I was convinced he was just a freak since he has a FAST 740 raw squat.

I would like to hear your feedback on westside for raw. Maybe my problem when I tried that was using too much band and chain tension to get carryover to raw.

I would like to add that in general I just seem to respond better to volume anyway. In gear I seem to do better with doubles and triples as opposed to singles. So perhaps my personal observations have been biased significantly by what has worked for me.



I appreciate you taking the time to respond back. I'm not a raw lifter, I'm just a pupil of the iron game and I do my best to make sense of things. My argument was entirely theoretical.

I will say that my raw numbers usually go up with my equipped numbers. Would my raw lifts be higher if I trained exclusively for raw? maybe.

I also agree that the speed work seems to reach a point where you have diminishing returns. I've heard of guys dropping the speed work and then bringing it back in after a few cycles. I experimented with dropping the speed squat and replacing it with a 5x5 squat variant like a front squat just to get some extra work in.

For box squats, I'm not sure I'm with you on the artificial bottom. Assuming you're hitting parallel on the box, it should be comparable to a conventional squat because the stretch reflex is in play. Think...if you're benching out of a power-rack with the pins 4" off of your chest, would it be any easier bringing the weight down onto the pins and reversing the weight to lockout or on a regular bench bring the weight 4" off of the chest and press it? Granted without the pins you're going to be guessing where 4" is off of your chest, but if you've got someone calling your depth I can't see the pins really being any different than without. I'd figure the same would apply to box squats.

Also...an idea to experiment with is pausing on the box for a 2-3 count, it should turn it into a concentric.

Last, I have to say that not all of this shit makes sense. I remember reading Louie Simmon's articles in PLUSA back in the mid-90's and he always stressed how sticking with a ME exercise for too long resulted in detraining...which is why you supposedly aren't going to get stronger on the bench by maxing out on a flat bench week after week. If I remember correctly, 6 weeks was the maximum amount of time before you begin to regress.

It had to be about 10 years later around 2005 that I bought a copy of a Metal Militia bench seminar. I read about what they were doing to produce huge numbers on the bench and it was heavy weight and high volume, week in and week out. As far as I could tell, what they were doing went against what Louie Simmons had been preaching.

I posted this question to a forum...because like I said, I like to make sense of this shit as best as I can...mainly because it allows me to troubleshoot my own problems when I'm not making progress.

Vincent Dizenzo wrote back and said "too many guys are looking for the right program instead of just smashing fucking weights"...So a cool mantra was born that day (SFW) but I never managed to understand what the hell was going on.

At the end of the day...do whatever the hell works, until it doesn't...then try something else.



I agree with the last statement. I talked to Louie on the phone and he is where I got the concept of an artificial bottom. Something to bounce off of. Without it, raw you have to expend energy to slow the weight and reverse it. With the box it stops you and you just push it back up.

The last statement is the most accurate. I totally dropped speed work after it ran its course and I add it back when I feel slow.

My raw/geared numbers both grow with each other as well, but I have recently found that training raw for awhile then going back to gear can work well.

Some pro lifters at stratiform did this with good results, and I followed suite.
I also talked to Goggins on facebook, and he said he always tries to train with as little gear as possible.

I live close to stratiform and yes I bug the hell out of all the big name guys I can find contact info for, haha.

I figure if they are nice, I will make some friends and learn a lot.

If not, then I didn't lose anything.

Also Lilliebridge told me on facebook that he doesn't follow any of it specifically.
Goggins said something similar, he doesn't follow a program he finds what works.

I think that is how you get the best results.
WSB priciples basically promote that, and say to find the special exercises that work, and constantly experiment.

I think that is something many overlook, and fall into a similar routine.


Thank you all for the great replies and discussion has helped alot.

I will have to test swapping out the ME exercises every 3/4 weeks and swapping each week and see what works best.

Is this the same principle for the Bench ME work too?

If box squats don't help raw lifters what would be a good replacement? 60% pause squats?
(I am not saying box squats are or are not helping me it is too soon to say I am just asking in case!)

On a plus note I hit 400lb squat yesterday!