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Westside is famous for its Max Effort (M-E) workout and using the Dynamic Method for speed or explosive strength. But Westside also uses the third scientifically proven method—the Sub Maximal Effort method. This method requires the lifter to develop maximum force possible while in a fatigued state, but not to complete failure. More can be found in the book Science and Practice of Strength Training by V. M Zatsiorsky and W. J. Kramer.
By using several special workouts, Westside has produced 10, 600-pound raw bench pressers including the late, great Nick Winters with a 700-pound raw bench. The ten include:
They had several special workouts they rotated on both M-E day or on Dynamic day. Avoiding accommodation by changing the reps, angles, and grips is key to success. Two workouts were used in place of the Dynamic Method. They used two workouts for the Repeated Effort Method.
First, let’s look at a program that was shared with me from Bill Seno, a Chicago power lifter and high-caliber body builder who won many “Best Chest” awards. It called for using a very wide illegal grip. You start with six sets of six reps and a weight that is fairly easy so as to jump five or 10 pounds each week for three to five weeks until it is almost impossible to complete. At this point, reduce weight and start over with eight sets of eight reps. Again, add five or 10 pounds a week until you find it almost impossible to complete. Again, reduce weight and start over with 10 sets of 10 reps. Work up for a few weeks until you again cannot add weight. Now it is time to return to six sets of six reps. You will find that your plateau is now much higher. Repeat the sequence.
This program brought my raw bench from 340 pounds at 172 bodyweight to 450 pounds at 175 bodyweight to 500 pounds at 197 bodyweight. This has worked very well for some at Westside. Thank you, Bill Seno.
The second workout calls for a high volume dumbbell workout using at least two angles. After warming up with lighter dumbbells, choose three weights to test yourself for three sets of eight to 10 reps of pressing from two angles. Two examples are flat/incline or seated/decline. Your goal is to set a single set rep record and a three-set record for total reps.
I was no match for our 600-pound plus benchers, but my best with 155 pounds was 13-11-9. With 125 pounds, I managed 23-21-19 reps on a flat bench. Most will have to rest about six minutes between sets. Remember, you must choose a second angle. You may not be able to use the same dumbbell weight while doing flat or reclined pressing compared to seated or inclined pressing.
Let’s look back at the 6-8-10 set of reps for a comparison from doing nine sets of three reps on speed strength day. When using 225 pounds for nine sets of three reps, it adds up to 6,075 total volume. When doing six sets of six reps with 225 pounds, it adds up to 8,100 pounds of volume. And when doing eight sets of eight reps, now the volume is 14,400 pounds. And 10 sets of 10 reps with 225 pounds would be 22,500 pounds of total volume. Two hundred twenty-five pounds can be done by the majority of lifters. But, think when you become much stronger, 315 pounds for 10 sets of 10 reps will be commonplace. That’s 31,500 pounds!
After building a base from the high reps, you can concentrate on doing just one top set of six, eight, or 10 reps per week. Try a new single rep record with an ultra-wide grip every three weeks. Then, reduce weight and work up to a max close-grip record. The close-grip should be with the index finger touching the smooth part of the bar.
This second workout is much less volume, but you reach a one rep max much faster than doing the high reps. Chest flys and lots of tricep work is very important while doing this program. Here is a dumbbell workout: Using dumbbells is a fast way to build muscle mass. Remember the three-set system? Don’t forget to choose a second angle for three more top sets. Afterward, do front, side and rear delts. Upper back and lat work will conclude the workout.
For building mass, do incline and decline work. Work up to a single, three or six rep max. Then, go to a second angle. For example, incline first, and then go to the decline press. The next time, do the decline first, and then incline. My best, very steep incline press was 370 pounds close grip. Then I broke a record with 315 pounds, then 275 pounds, and last 225 pounds. Follow a workout that compares to this. Then, do as much tricep extensions as possible finishing with side, rear delts and upper back.
Two more strength and mass builders are dips and pushups. Dips with body weight or with weight, when possible, will build a strong chest, delts and arms. Do full dips first with different grips. For extra strong triceps, point knuckles toward each other. To overload, stand on a box and do weighted-dip lockouts. As you become stronger, add weight or lower box.
My good and very strong friend Jesse Kellum would hand walk on his special set of 80-foot dip bars to build tremendous pressing power. One final note, press at all angles from flat to seated to even standing up.
What about the lower body? How can you add volume to your low back? Start with reverse hypers. If your squat is 400 pounds, we have found that you need 4,800 pounds of squat volume. Westside also has found that your reverse hyper volume is four times your squat volume. This means 20,000 pounds for a 400-pound squat, and 40,000 pounds for an 800-pound squat. A 1,000-pound squat requires 48,000 pounds of reverse hypers two times a week. Plus, two days a week, preferably, one-half the volume with 50 percent of the weight on your two lower body days. As you can see, adding reverse hypers to your program can increase the volume for the lower back, glutes and hamstrings.
The Athletic Training Platform (A.T.P. ®) is a major part of the programming for higher volume for the lower body. Belt squatting is the base of our squat and pulling power that includes the Olympic pulls. Enormous tonnage can be used with the A.T.P.
A combo squat and deadlift performed on the A.T.P. has made it possible for 25, 800-pound deadlifts, plus over 900-pound belt squats. Power cleans and snatches are done for the upper back. The Reverse Hyper® and the A.T.P. provide spinal traction while making the lower body strong. They played a large role in making it possible for 92 men who have squatted at least 800 pounds.
A third method to raise volume for strength as well as restoration is power walking with a weight sled. To begin, hook the sled strap to your power belt and walk forward, and backward, for trips of 60 yards. Walk with a long stride, heel first. This should feel like the start of a calf-ham-glute raise. Use heavy weight on Monday and make eight to ten trips. The track girls at Westside use 180 or 235 pounds for their trips. Backward walking will hit the quads and hips in the front very hard. On Wednesday, drop your weight 45 to 60 pounds and make eight to 10 trips. On Friday, use two plates or 90 pounds and make six trips for a warmup before squats and pulling.
If your hips are weak, hook the sled straps around your ankles and walk with long-as-possible steps, which will build the hips. Sled work does not require loading the spine while adding volume to the training.
Well, there you have it—many ways to build muscle mass for the upper and lower body. Some of this work can be on a second small workout, or take a short 30-minute break and do the extra special work noted above. While it is perfectly alright to do compound exercise for the upper body at any angle, the lower body training cannot sustain the constant compression on the spine. For this reason, single-joint exercises like the Reverse Hyper should fill the void for lower back training.
The A.T.P. has a similar effect on training by constantly reducing spinal pressure by having the belt secured around the waist. The belt also helps increase intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), which protects the spine.
One last note on back safety: As the barbell load increases, it is advisable to wear a weight belt. In the Science and Practice of Strength Training, by V. M. Zatsiorsky and W. J. Kraemer (2006), they show on page 150, Fig. 7.15 the amount of IAP with no belt, an Olympic weight lifting belt, and a special belt with abdominal support much like a four-inch Powerlifting belt, which was designed by Zatsiorsky. This is scientific research to prove why you should wear a belt. Read it for yourself.
Always train your abs.