T Nation

Westside Seminar In PA This Past Summer

Hello folks. I am in the library at the university where I am completing a dietetic internship and my graduate degree and I am taking a break from work right now. Since I really want to be a journalist/write, trainer, and speaker in addition to the traditional work of being an RD, I had some tips in my head that I wanted to share with everyone on this board. I learned these tips when I attended a Westside seminar this past summer in Shenandoah, PA. It was put on by Jim Wendler and Thomas Deebel, DC.
 These tips are so simple, yet so profound, that they are worth being pounded into the heads of every trainer and trainee out there. Keep in mind that despite my love for proper articulation, I am merely dropping tips off the top of my head because I am bored out of my skull from writing a meal plan for a case study diabetic. Anyway, here goes....

Tip #1: Stop doing hundreds of exercises!
Mr. Wendler explained that although variety is great, many trainees make the mistake of incorporating too many different exercises into their routines, therefore never gauging what is enhancing their max lifts in the deadlift, bench press, and squat. One should pick 5 max effort exercises for the bench press and 6 to 7 for the squat and deadlift. For supplemental and accessory work, one should only swap around 2 to 3 exercises. Seek to learn what is helping your max lifts and what is not. Also seek to learn what exercises are indicators for your max lifts. For example, one could gauge their max bench press as a percentage of their floor press, board press, incline press, etc. Same goes for the squat.
Tip #2: Nutrition is overrated.
Now, this one may sound strange to you, especially coming from a dietetic intern and graduate student and future RD. However, I know where Mr. Wendler was going with this. Like training, many people make this nutrition thing way too complicated and many successful powerlifters and strongmen simply eat enough or as little as they need to make changes in body composition and absolute strength. They may seek to get adequate protein and caloric amounts but do not get hellbent and panic stricken with all sorts of exotic diets and different macronutrient ratios.
Tip #3: Stop making training complicated!
When I first heard of Westside and learned that it was a system based on many training principles espoused by trainers and coached from the former Soviet Union, I thought that on paper, the routines and training templates utilizing these principles would look so darn fancy, with all sorts of different tempos, rest periods, set and rep schemes and so on. When I learned more about this form of training and looking at Elite Fitness Systems manuals and training logs at www.elitefts.com, I was amazed at how darn basic these routines looked. Yes, some lifters go through deloading phases, lactic acid tolerance training, circa max phases, and the like. However, their routines are nevertheless uncomplicated and basic. Take home tip for conjugated/cybernetic periodization: pick assistance work that builds muscle and increases your power lifts, use a speed day, use a max effort day, eat enough, sleep enough, and use YOUR head, not a famous strength coach’s! Use literature in all forms and from all sources to touch up on YOUR training!
Tip #4: Seek to increase your amount of lifts above 90%.
As you become more experienced and more tolerant of more volume and intensity, employ anywhere from 3 to 10 lifts at 90%+. AGAIN, use YOUR head and see how much you can handle.
Tip #5: There is no magic set and rep scheme for hypertrophy/assistance work!
Not much explanation needed here! It is envogue to think the classic 3 x 10 is outdated but if it builds muscle, do it! It worked for Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman as well as many natural lifters that I know of personally as well. Who are we to fault them? Again, use YOUR head and YOUR body!
Tip #6: Box squatting does not entail sitting so far back that if someone were to remove the box from under you that you’d fall to the ground and break your back and behind!
Box squat as if you were doing a free PL squat but simply pause on the box for 1 to 2 seconds.
Tip #7: Yes, your mirror muscles do aid in the three lifts!
Wendler has gone over this in his articles as well. The last time anyone checked, in addition to your tris, upper back, lats, and P-chain, your quads, chest, and front delts do some work, or perhaps A LOT of work!
Tip #8: Get jacked!
Once again, Wendler has stated this in various articles. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you will have great strength just because some exceptions to the rules can lift a ton while being relatively slender. EAT and bodybuild!
Tip #9: Find your REAL weaknesses!
When we think of weak points, we think “weak tris,” “weak lats,” weak schmeak! Is your weakness lack of muscle mass? Flexibility? Speed? Relative strength? AGAIN, read the man’s articles at www.elitefts.com.
Tip #10: “What is good for getting stronger and bigger is good! What is bad for getting stronger and bigger is bad!” (Me)
This is perhaps the most profound take-home message I got from the entire seminar! Many people like to say, or SEEM to like stating “I’m a Westsider,” “Darksider,” “MM guy,” or “modified Poliquin-King-MM-WSB-CW-Coach Staley-WS4SB mutation from Mars guy!” The fact is that the more successful lifters are ones who use THEIR style of training. Mr. Wendler put it very well, when alluding to the fact that when he got really good at powerlifting is the time when he said “I’m not doing WSB style or MM style; I am doing Jim Wendler style!” We must realize that WS is more of an attitude than anything else. What works is good and what does not work is bad! That is it! Some guys have a speed day, some don’t. Some guys deload every third week, some take more or less time to deload. Some guys thrive on high amounts of volume, some guys would get fried from high volume. You get the hint!
OK folks, just thought I’d like to share this with you. Get to an Elite seminar soon!

Tip: If you are comfortable benching and squatting, then you are not bencing and squatting correctly!

I thought I had a decent form in both lifts until Wendler showed me what to do. One needs to arch VERY, VERY hard in these two lifts in order to stay tight and have enough drive coming off the chest or out of the hole and not slipping out of form while completing the lift. This is not comfortable. I started to feel sore, from hams to traps a few hours after squatting and benching with an empty bar on my car ride home!

[quote]BradleyGrunner wrote:
Tip: If you are comfortable benching and squatting, then you are not bencing and squatting correctly!

I thought I had a decent form in both lifts until Wendler showed me what to do. One needs to arch VERY, VERY hard in these two lifts in order to stay tight and have enough drive coming off the chest or out of the hole and not slipping out of form while completing the lift. This is not comfortable. I started to feel sore, from hams to traps a few hours after squatting and benching with an empty bar on my car ride home![/quote]

I find speed benches to be one of the most tiring exercises. Once you get really tight this exercise just takes it out of you.

I’m gobbling up this info. Anymore tips?(smiling with greed)

There aren’t that many seminars available. You’re lucky to have participated.


Some solid info in their, Dude. Thanks for that.


Solid. Information sharing at its best.

Tip: Flare your elbows in the high end of the bench press.
Although Louis Simmons has stated over and over that we should be benching in a straight line, Wendler told us that he had seen too many lifters put on pounds to their bench press to discard the arching motion used in the bench press by some powerlifters, particularly the old school ones. When lowering the bar, tuck your elbows so that they are under your wrist. Lower to the lower chest-upper abdomen area. Begin pressing in an arch towards the top of your shoulders. As you pass the mid phase of the press, flare your elbows. This leads to a much stronger and smoother lockout. It is very difficult to bench press in a straight line for the average person. I personally have noticed I am much more able to apply force to the bar when flaring during the lockout phase. It seems that my chest and triceps really work better together in this fashion.

Thanks Bradley, but I’m still muddled about the various bench techniques in regards to flaring, whether the bar travels in straight line or not, where the bar hits the chest, tucking in elbows, preventing shoulder injuries, using leg and foot placements, arching the low back minimally or substantially, engaging the traps and girdle muscles, etc. I’m a muffling a scream! This is the process of learning, I guess.

Is this like swimming where everyone needs to find what works for him or her given that technique is the priority? In the world of swimming, there is old and new school and coaches are constantly debating heatedly.

I am by no means an experienced powerlifter. I am simply a serious recreational trainee who plans on competing in the future. However, from what I have gathered from the seminar and observing the sport of powerlifting, you must find what works for your leverages and where you feel the strongest. Look at squatting. You have guys who squat narrow (Kirk Karwoski, Steve Goggins), guys who squat medium (Jim Wendler, Garry Frank), and guys who squat wide (Brent Mikesell, Ed Coan, Chuck Voghelpol). Then look at bench pressing. There are guys who bench press relatively narrow (Glen Chabot), one guy who has benched with a reverse grip (Anthony Clark), and pretty much all the others bench press relatively wide. Then there are those who hug the bench with their thighs (Scot Mendelson), guys who bench with their heels raised, and others who bench with their feet in front of them. Some bench in a straight line (think Ryan Kenelly) and many who bench in an arch. So find what works best for you. That is what I am doing. I pretty much am most comfortable benching in an arch and with my heels on the floor but still hugging the bench with my thighs ala Scot Mendelson. I tried benching with wide foot placement but I just do not feel nearly as tight as when I hug the bench with my thighs. I got pretty darn strong thighs (particularly quads) and I think this lends to this particular style. I also bench in an arch. I am just not strong and/or quick to bench in a straight line. Right now I am simply doing a novice speed day with 20-30% for 15 to 20 sets of 3. Same goes for the squat but with 2 reps and with the deads with 15 singles at 20-30%. I still got a lot of muscle to build (in my opinion, I am 193 at 5’10" but feel I need to be thicker for my subpar leverages since I am not a genetic freak).
I think you should get the manual by Ryan Kennelly, the Kennelly method. Its a good manual on benching and is sort of like a Westside program for bench specialists. He basically has a speed day and max effort day coupled with 3 bodybuilding days for arms, thighs, and upper back. He also goes into great detail about the implementation of proper setup and form, bands, chains, boards, and pre event nutrition and activities.
Also, I think you should get Training Templates and Beginner’s Manual, both put out by the staff of Elite Fitness Systems at very cheap prices. I learned more from these manuals than some huge books (aside from maybe Supertraining and some flexibility books by Pavel and a few other books and videos).
And do not forget to bodybuild (eg: eat and seek to add weight and volume to your assistance stuff). I have found that squatting and benching has improved SO MUCH from adding thickness to my upper back and lats. OK, thats it for my random thoughts (I am in the library again and need to take a break from proper articulation and writing for 8 hrs in the internship and classes). Later.

I also squat with a medium stance and a close conventional stance for deadlifts. I use the sumo deadlifts because of my relatively weak glutes as a max effort exercise. I just find I can explode more with a conventional deadlift as well as use my strong quads. The sumo deadlift is more like a slower squeeze with the glutes and I can’t really move fast enough once I get it off the ground. This is also why I am using it as a max effort variation (ie: get stronger at what you are not strong at).

Thanks a lot for the suggestions and will buy the books for my collection. Don’t you love books?

Anyways, don’t study too hard.