Westside Barbell Program - Louie Simmons


The Westside Barbell program is the brainchild of powerlifter and strength coach Louie Simmons. The program's principles are borrowing from Soviet and Bulgarian weightlifting training techniques and ingeniously adapted to powerlifting. The Westside Barbell philosophy challenges popular beliefs about the way we think, how a strength training program should be structured and implemented.

The efficacy of the program is validated by the success and continued progress of the athletes training under Coach Simmon's. Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio is the only gym in the world to have two powerlifters with over 2700 pound totals, five over 2800 pounds, and one who has the biggest total of all time at 3005 lbs.

Dave Tate continues to be Westside's most well known and outspoken disciple, although he now operates his own training facility. Tate was an established elite powerlifter and who studied Exercise Physiology in college. He was initially skeptic of the Westside Barbell program, as so many are - until his totals went up 300 pounds and his squat went from 750 pounds to 900 pounds!

"That's when I realized that the last 15 years of my training and education were bullshit. All the classes I took, the seminars I attended, the coaches I spoke to, and my time in the gym made me educated, but it didn't make me the expert I thought I was. What it did do was put me in a position to really learn my trade. My education was about to begin."

The Westside barbell system continues to evolve under the guidance of Coach Simmons. This article represents a description of the Westside Barbell techniques at the time of this writing.


The Westside method incorporates 4 workouts per week, training:

  • Upper body and bench press related exercises in one day
  • Lower body, including squat and deadlift related exercises the another day.


Workloads incorporate:

  • 'Maximum Effort' method
    • on the main lift which are trained with a large number of sets (8-12 sets) and very few reps (1-3 reps)
    • progressing from light to a very heavy weight (90-100 1RM for the last 3-5 sets)
  • 'Dynamic Effort' method
    • on the main lift(s) which are trained with a large number of sets (9-12 sets) and very few reps (1-3 reps)
    • utilizing 40-60% of 1RM in addition to 25-30%1RM load from accommodating resistance
      • accommodation resistance involves increasing the resistance as the movement progresses towards completion by use of chains or anchored bands attached to the barbell.
  • Repetition method
    • After the main lift(s) on both Maximum Effort and Dynamic Effort days, accessory exercises are performed with more conventional loads (Repetition Method) mostly utilizing 2-4 set of 6-10 repetitions.
    • Every fourth week, 'Maximum Effort' work on main movements is replaced by 'Repetition' work for restoration

Maximum Effort and Dynamic Effort workloads on the Main Lifts are alternated within 72 hours of each other.


Westside Barbell implements Conjugate System where exercises are cycle frequently, depending on experience level. Exercises or variations are changed every 3 weeks for intermediate trainees and every week for the elite lifter.

To train the 3 powerlifts, Westside tends to rely heavily on dozens of subtle variations of the Main Movements:

  • Box Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Bent-knee Goodmorning (about 40% of time)
  • Bench Press

Exercises variations may include:

  • Grips width
    • narrow, medium, wide
  • Stances width
    • close, wide, ultra-wide
  • Specialty bars
    • safety barbell, cambered barbell, etc
  • Depths and various ranges of motions
    • deep, parallel, off floor, on rack, boards, and other elevations
  • Accommodating resistance (contrast method)
    • bands and chains
      • alter resistance curve, making it more difficult in range of motion that is normally easier
    • two light chains, one for each side of the barbell that hang down and hold other heavier chains.
      • Heavier chains should be about 5’ in length and weigh about 20 pounds.
      • Adjust chains so about three links are on the floor for squat and good morning type exercises

A group of accessory exercises are performed after the main lift(s) for the day. Accessory exercise can be classified into 4 groups depending on their purpose:

  • Supplemental
    • Addresses individual weaknesses of athlete
    • Eg: Glute Ham Raise, Partial Deadlift, Seated Leg Curl, Pull Through, Zercher Squat, Box Jumps
    • Others: Sled Pull, Wheel barrel push
  • Low Back
    • Eg: Reverse Hyperextension
  • Abs
    • Eg: Incline Sit-ups, Weighted Crunches, Standing abdominal movements
  • Pre-habitation
    • Strengthens stabilizing muscles to decrease injury
    • Eg: Lat Pulldown, Seated Row, Reverse Curls, Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise, Cable External Rotation

Sample Workout

Monday (Maximum Effort)
Exercise Sets Reps
Box Squat 8-12 1-3
Bent-Knee Goodmorning 2-4 6-10
Reverse Hyperextension 4 8-10
Weighted Incline Sit-up 5 6-10
Sled Pull 1 10 min
Wednesday (Maximum Effort)
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 8-12 1-3
Close Grip Incline Bench Press 2-4 6-10
Barbell Lying Triceps Extension 2-4 6-10
Cable Pulldown 2-4 6-10
Lever Reverse Fly 2-4 8-10
Barbell Upright Row 2-4 8-10
Friday (Dynamic Effort)
Exercise Sets Reps
Box Squat (with bands) 10-12 2
Deadlift (with bands) 6-10 1-3
Box Jumps 4 4
Machine Assisted Inverse Leg Curl 2-4 6-10
Cable Standing Crunch 6 15-20
Saturday (Dynamic Effort)
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press (with bands) 9 3
Dumbbell Bench Press 2-4 6-10
JM Press 2-4 6-10
Lever Seated Row 2-4 6-10
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 2-4 6-10
Hammer Curl 2-4 6-10

Exercise are changed every 3 weeks and every week for the elite lifter. Workout should be no more than 60 minutes.

Workouts and Loads


  • Main Movement
    • Maximum Effort
    • Squat (1-3 rep) or Deadlift (1-3 rep) or Goodmorning variations (3 rep)
      • Bent-knee Goodmorning is not as commonly used as a max effort exercise by trainees
      • However, Bent-knee Goodmornings are reportedly popular max effort squat exercises at Westside Barbell Club
        • 40% of all max effort workouts
    • 8-12 sets x 1-3 reps
  • Accessory exercises
  • 3-4 Lower body exercises
    • Low Back, Hamstrings, Abdominals (in order)
  • Repetition Method


  • Main Movement
    • Maximum Effort
    • Bench Press variation
    • 8-12 sets x 1-3 reps
  • Accessory movements
    • 3-4 Upper body exercises
      • Triceps, Lats, Upper Back, Rear Delt, Shoulders (in order)
    • Repetition Method


  • Box Squat
    • Dynamic Effort
      • Typically with bands or chains
    • Always performed first
    • No knee wraps
  • Protocol
    • 10-12 sets x 2 reps
      • 12 sets are only performed when workload percentages are low
    • 50-60% 1 RM
      • Plus 25% 1RM band tension at top position
      • Or hanging chains
    • Pendulum wave
      • Week 1: 50% 1RM + Bands or Chains
      • Week 2: 55% 1RM + Bands or Chains
      • Week 3: 60% 1RM + Bands or Chains
      • Following weeks, continue above 3 week cycle
  • Deadlift variation
    • Dynamic Effort
      • Typically with bands or chains
    • Always performed second
    • 6-10 sets x 1-3 reps x 60-85% 1RM
  • Accessory movements
    • 3-4 Lower body exercises
      • Low Back, Hamstrings, Abdominals (in order)
    • Repetition Method


  • Bench Press variation
    • Dynamic Effort
      • Typically with bands or chains
    • Always performed first
    • 9 sets x 3 reps
      • Possibly 3 sets each at narrow, medium, and wide grip
    • 40-50% 1RM
      • Plus 25% 1RM band tension at top position
      • Or add chains
    • Pendulum wave
      • Week 1: 40% 1RM + Bands or Chains
      • Week 2: 45% 1RM + Bands or Chains
      • Week 3: 50% 1RM + Bands or Chains
      • Following weeks, continue above 3 week cycle
  • Accessory movements
    • 3-4 Upper body exercises
      • Triceps, Lats, Upper Back, Rear Delt, Shoulders (in order)
    • Repetition Method

If Deadlifts are to be performed, lats and back can be performed on Monday and Fridays (same day as deadlifts) instead of Tuesdays and Saturdays due to the lats intense involvement in heavy deadlifts.


Maximum Effort Method:

  • Builds absolute strength
    • Employed on main movements 72 hours after dynamic effort day
  • Protocol
    • Work up to 90-97% of 1RM
    • Multiple sets of 1-3 reps
    • Start at light weight and progress in small increments to heaviest weight
      • Generally, warm up using three reps until no longer possible, then switch to one rep.
      • Do not push to failure. Leave a rep or two remaining in every set.
        • Only one 1RM at end

Preferred Progression

  • 135 (26% 1RM) x 3
  • 225 (44% 1RM) x 3
  • 275 (54% 1RM) x 3
  • 315 (62% 1RM) x 3
  • 365 (72% 1RM) x 3
  • 405 (79% 1RM) x 3
  • 455 (89% 1RM) x 1
  • 475 (93% 1RM) x 1
  • 495 (97%1RM)x 1
  • Total Volume = 6585

Counterproductive Progression

  • 135 (26% 1RM) x 3
  • 225 (44% 1RM) x 3
  • 315 (62% 1RM) x 3
  • 405 (79% 1RM) x 3
  • 495 (97%1RM)x 1
  • 495 (97%1RM)x 1
  • 495 (97%1RM)x 1
  • 495 (97%1RM)x 1
  • 495 (97%1RM)x 1
  • Total Volume = 5715
    • Slow gear, however, bar is lowered quickly
    • Ad Lib rest (3-5 minutes is typically sufficient)
    • 12 max effort lifts / month (3 near max x 4 weeks)
  • Dave Tate explains:
    • Performing more than four heavy singles above 90 percent of your max is ignorant and counterproductive
    • Even if you think you can do more after hitting a PR, leave it until the next workout, since you'd only be risking injury

Use One Reps Max Calculator to figure percentage of 1RM loads.

Dynamic Effort Method:

  • Builds rate of force development and explosive strength
    • Employed on main movements
    • Sub-maximal weight at maximal velocities
    • Employed on main movements 72 hours after maximum effort day
  • Exercises typically use accommodating resistance through use of bands and chains
    • Reduces bar acceleration
    • Adjust band tension or chain weight to add approximately 25-30% additional resistance to load
    • Commonly implements use of elastic bands (8 sets)
      • Anchored below and attached to bar
      • More intense, so less sets are required
      • Elastic bands are favored for speed work
        • their elastic energy lowers the bar faster (over speed eccentrics)
          • thereby engaging a stronger stretch reflex
    • Also can be performed with chains (10 sets)
    • Other accommodating methods include the lightened method and use of weight releasers
    • Although not as ideal, it can be used without contrast method [no bands or chains] (12 sets)
  • Protocol
    • 40-60% 1RM (Weight) + 25-30% 1RM (Accommodating Resistance)
      • or 65-75% 1RM or 75-85% 1RM weight if no accomodating resistance is available - not the ideal method
    • 8-12 sets x 2-3 reps
      • Single or double can be performed periodically on last set if feeling strong
    • On every rep, move weight as fast and explosively as possible
      • Ideally 0.8 to 0.9 m/s
      • Lower bar as fast as possible
        • creates 'over-speed eccentric effect' (See Stretch-shortening Cycle)
    • Short rest periods 45-75 seconds rest between sets
  • 80 lifts speed strength lifts / month
Squat Example (500 lb 1RM)
Week Weight Band Tension Reps Total Lifts Total Volume
1 250 125 10 x 2 20 5000- 7500
2 275 125 10 x 2 20 5500- 8000
3 300 125 8 x 2 16 4800-6800
Bench Press Example (400 lb 1RM)
Week Weight Band Tension Reps Total Lifts Total Volume
1 160 100 9 x 3 27 4320-7020
2 180 100 9 x 3 27 4860-7560
3 200 100 9 x 3 27 5400-8100

Repetition Method

  • Builds strength hypertrophy
    • Employed on accessory exercises
  • Also can replace maximum effort day on main movements
    • Typically every fourth week
  • Protocol
    • 3-5 accessory exercises per workout
    • Typically 2-4 sets of 6-10 reps
      • High reps are performed every third mini cycle
        • Sometimes up to 20 reps per set
        • Higher reps can also be timed
    • Rest between sets: 1-3 minutes
  • Benefit / Objective
    • Targets supporting muscles and individual weaknesses
    • Increases muscular size, strength endurance, and restoration from maximal effort loads
    • Raises work capacity and volume accounting for 75-80% of total training volume
  • Exact prescription based on exercise and individual's weakness
    • Strength
    • Explosive strength
    • Explosiveness

Load Notes

  • Maximum Effort sessions can be replaced with Repetition Method incorporating sets of 6-10 reps
    • Periodically for periods of 2 weeks
  • Test for 1RM every 3rd wave (ie: every 9th week) or at meet.
  • If using a bench shirt, use during training once a month.
  • Plyometrics 4 set x 4 reps, 80% max height

Conjugate System and Exercise Selection

Westside Barbell implements Conjugate System where different exercises or exercise variations are performed every 3 week and every week for the elite lifter. Exercises should not be reused until after 4-6 weeks. Performing an exercise at 90% of 1RM for more than 3 weeks will result in accommodation and digression in strength.

  • Base Movement: new exercise or exercise variation every week, exercise not reintroduced until at least 4-6 weeks
    • When you do go back, attempt to break your previous 1-3 RM personal record
  • Auxiliary exercises: perform different exercises every 1-3 weeks.

Changing exercises is thought to prevent accommodation. Exercise variations can be slight and resemble or emphasize movements of the main powerlifting movements. A variation can be as simple as a varying an exercise's range of motion, grip, or stance. Most at Westside gym (elite lifters) will alternate between a full range movement one week and a partial range motion the next workout. Switching to different exercises is generally more effective than switching to a variation of the same exercise. In other words, if you had been performing a Goodmorning, it is far better to switch to a squat or deadlift, rather than to switch to better another type of goodmorning.

The specific exercise selections or variations can either be planned ahead of the workout or selected spontaneously following a planned template. Auxiliary lifts should address known weaknesses and stabilizing muscles. Emphasis in max effort and dynamic lifts should also address relative weaknesses in strength or speed respectively.

20% of the work consists of Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press. The other 80% of the work is accessory work designed to prepare for that 20%. Emphasis is placed on the Box Squat (sometimes to the near exclusion of squats), and Bench Press as basic movements. Good Mornings and Reverse Hyperextensions are emphasized as accessory work.

See common Westside Barbell Exercises and Variations.

Adapting Westside to Fit Your Needs

The Westside program was originally designed for advanced powerlifters (lifting with powerlifting gear). If you don't have at least a couple years of consistent training under your belt, start with a basic weight training program to build your foundation and exercise form with traditional workloads. Intermediate trainees could consider adapting the program by incorporating less sets.

Since the Westside program trains both strength and power, it could be adapted for a variety of sports requiring enhancement of those fitness components. The Westside program is an alternative to more traditional periodization protocols, allowing the powerlifter or athlete to be able to compete at a moments notice in as little time as it takes to taper. 

If you are not a competitive powerlifter, but would like to adapt this program for sports conditioning, choose lifts conducive to the conditioning requirements of your specific sports and customize the program accordingly. Minimize the number of accessory exercises performed in a single workout unless you have an unusually high ability to recover between workouts. Likewise, minimize unnecessary sports conditioning work outside the weight room. 



Muscle & Mirth / Garage Gym Powerlifting strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise.

Muscle & Mirth / Garage Gym Powerlifting is not a licensed medical care provider and represents that it has no expertise in diagnosing, examining, or treating medical conditions of any kind, or in determining the effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition.

You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Muscle & Mirth / Garage Gym Powerlifting and its affiliates from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published