Westside Barbell- The Strongest Gym In The World


Posted on September 27 2016

Authors: Rick Brunner and Ben Tabachnik Ph.D.

I had the great pleasure to talk to Coach Tabachnik, who I will call Ben in the rest of the article. I found him to be the most knowledgeable man about sprinting with whom I have ever had a conversation with. He was in the United States after an exhausting trip that finally landed him and his family in Baltimore.

His start in track was sprinting and he was very fast. He had his own ideas on how to sprint, and wanted to prove it. First he obtained a Ph.D. in Physical Education and Sport Science, plus a Master’s in Biology. He came to the United States because he could go no further in the Soviet Union. He was Jewish and never joined the Soviet Union.

He was very creative, but that made little difference under his circumstances. He wanted to teach speed to sprinters. Thank goodness Frank Costello was the strength coach at the University of Maryland and made it possible for Ben to talk at a seminar in Memphis, Tenn. All the coaches were overwhelmed and he got a chance, after all that is what he wanted to prove that he had a system that would make someone run faster.

I am writing about Ben, who died in May 2008, to thank him and many other Russian Sport Scientists that made it possible to formulate the Westside System. Ben’s goal was to have a system to use for the one’s who do not take drugs.

Drugs or no drugs, his concepts on the training of a youth to Elite athlete is a guide-line from which to teach. Ben had many training innovations one of which was the speed-chute. He saved this device until arriving in the United States.

It seems to me that the difference between philosophy of the United States and the Soviet Union was the United States looks for a better athlete, and the Soviet Union looked for a better training system to make a better athlete. In the book Soviet Training and Recovery Methods Ben takes the reader through the greatest training methodologies ever devised.

Two things come to mind first, a large amount of money was spent on the training of their coaches and athletes. This is not the case in the USA. It may appear to many that are consumed by professional sports, but do not look at the athletes, rather the coaches. Many have not tried to educate themselves past their college degrees. One should be equally equipped to coach a 10-year-old as a pro.

The Soviet Union would have their youth go to a sport school to determine what sport one should enter by the evaluations undertaken at the school. This is referred to as the Rule of Three. After the three years of GPP they are entered into a sport that is best suited for the child by their physical abilities as well as their psychological state.

You will learn that the Soviet Union had two degrees, one for teaching and one for coaching. Westside is attempting to do the same in the USA. Students can only receive teaching. Like the Soviet Union, Westside has a coaching certificate that is very extensive consisting of 12 or so books and many hours of DVDs.

Most sport training starts at nine to 10 years-of-age and every two years they must progress at a certain rate. At 19 to 21 they are considered to be a polished athlete or they’re basically retired. The top young athletes go on to the top sport clubs like the military team or the Dynamo club. It was a way out of poverty to be a top athlete. Many could make more per month than a Ph.D. in Physics or Medicine. Today it is not that much different in the USA with paid college fees and non-college athletes with numerous sponsorships. 

The key to success is a long-term plan. Remember they start at nine or 10, so at 20 years old they have 10 years of sustained efforts at one sport. Then their sports career begins. Be sure not to push the young athlete too fast, or they could burn out far from reaching their upmost potential. This happens in the US far too often. A lesson to be learned for sure.

The Soviets had so many researchers, but no way to get the information to all the other coaches. There is a different problem in the USA. There is no connection between science and team coaches. Ben talks about the importance of top coaches and trainers in all sports. A country needs to put its entire effort into teams that will excel in specific sports, and not waste time on certain sports that they will have little chance of winning.

All training methods must blend together including restoration and pharmaceuticals. This is not the case here. The West has no such plan for training an eight-year-old up to maybe 32-years-old. This leads to a lack of preparation from beginning to the end of a sports career. The parent will always choose the education path for their kids, but not their sports career. This, of course, will lead to a lack of preparation.

Like Ben found, there are many methods of training for a given sport by many coaches. But Westside, like Ben, knows there is only two ways to train. The right way or the wrong way. From basic drills, to weight training or plyometrics the training is at least 30 years behind the Russian Training methods. Too often the coaches in the USA train for strength like bodybuilders. This system builds muscle mass, but not any special strengths. Remember, big ain’t strong, strong is strong. Westside has preached this since 1988. This was six years after I started using the Soviet training. The Soviet training calls for bringing all special strengths along with technique. Technique is important, but there are other factors to account for.

When one talks about training restoration it must play a large role in the development in a sports career. Ben shows that the training of top athletes must be planned carefully. It is easy to make progress early in one’s career. But when at the top to make greater progress it must be planned carefully. Training volume must be raised throughout the athlete’s career. Also intensity must be raised as well, but most important is the correct exercises. The body will adapt to the more rigorous training.

Ben talked about choosing the best special exercises for the right athlete. You will find that weight training builds a large amount of base strength and jumping, not Olympic lifting, builds explosive strength.

There is so much information I cannot begin to talk about everything that is covered in this fine book. It is hard to find and expensive, up to $600, but if you canfind a copy, I highly suggest you buy it. You will see why it costs so much. It is worth it.

Louie Simmons


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