Westside for Raw Lifters: Choosing the Right Accessories to Maximize Results

Posted by Tom Barry on

By: Burley Hawk

 The main exercise of a training day, whether it is a squat, bench, or deadlift, is what most lifters believe to be the pinnacle of the workout. The philosophy tends to be that the main exercise is where you put up or shut up, and then come accessory time it ends up being a race to get home and relax.

Then, in eight weeks time when you've barely made progress, you log onto your favorite forum and trash whichever method seemed to have failed you. What if it isn't the program failing you, but your own approach to the program? Your main exercise of the training day isn't where you improve, it is where you prove. You prove that you're making proper progress by hitting a PR, or you prove that you need to correct your weaknesses.  

The success of any program depends on two things; your ability to find your weaknesses, and your ability to properly select accessory movements to correct the weakness. Hopefully by the end of this article you will either have an affirmation that you're training correctly, or an epiphany that you are fucking over yourself. Below you will find suggested accessories for each training day, along with a brief explanation regarding the approach.

Max Effort Lower Accessories

On max effort lower day, I tend to choose accessories that primarily train the hamstrings/glutes, lower/mid back, and quads. I choose two hamstring/glute exercises, a lower/mid back exercise, and a quad exercise.

On this day accessory volume is a bit less than normal, but the intensity makes up for it. You want to make sure your effort matches the suggested rep range, don't be a 700lb deadlifter and use 225lbs for RDL's. The table below provides suggested accessory movements, as well as set and rep guidelines.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Romanian Deadlift

3-5

5-8

Good Mornings

5

3-5

Bent Over Rows

3-5

5-8

Leg Press

3-5

10-15

Abs

3-5

15-20

  

Max Effort Upper Accessories

On max effort upper day, the primary focus is on two muscle groups; your arms and your back. You won't find many great bench pressers who have small arms and narrow backs.

Taking this into consideration, I typically choose two tricep exercises, two back exercises, one bicep exercise, and one shoulder exercise. As stated above, if the reps are low the weight should be heavier.  The table below provides suggested accessory movements, as well as set and rep guidelines.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

3-5

10-12

Tate Presses

3-5

10-12

Bent Over Rows

3-5

8-10

Pullups/ Or Cable Pulldowns

3

10-12

Hammer Curls

5

8-10

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

3-5

12-15

 

Dynamic Effort or Repetition Lower Accessories

On dynamic effort/repetition lower day I select accessories that are different from the movements I used on my max effort lower day. I use both my dynamic lower and upper days to focus on exercises I wasn't able to do during my max effort training days. I also like to throw in an extra squat exercise as an accessory, but I keep the reps higher and the weight at or below 70%. I use this extra squat exercise as a way to work mobility as well.

The emphasis is more on depth and bar speed opposed to heavy weight. This breaks down to an extra squat workout, two glute/hamstring movements, a back movement, and a quad movement. The table below provides suggested accessory movements, as well as set and rep guidelines.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Paused Front Squats

3-5

5-8

Deficit Stiff Legged Deadlifts

3-5

5-8

Dimel Deadlifts

3

8-10

Power Cleans

3

3-5

Hack Squats

3

8-10

Abs

5

15-20


Dynamic Effort Upper Accessories

As stated in the dynamic lower accessories above, the dynamic effort day accessory selection is used to catch yourself up with whatever exercises you weren't able to hit on your max effort upper day.

The approach is still the same in regards to focusing on arm and back development, but I also like to throw in an overhead press exercise immediately following my speed bench workout. I do this for two reasons; I tend to have fresh shoulders after speed bench, and I get a carryover in bar speed from being fresh off a speed bench workout.

Whenever I would do overhead presses following a ME upper exercise I would end up grinding out weights and going home with achy shoulders. Also, I prefer to use overhead presses opposed to incline bench presses. Incline benching with a bar puts my shoulders in a much more compromised position than overhead pressing does. If I do any incline benching, it is always done with dumbbells. I typically do two tricep exercises, two back exercises, one bicep exercise, and one shoulder exercise. The table below provides suggested accessory movements, as well as set and rep guidelines.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Standing Overhead Press

5

3-5

V-Bar Tricep Cable Presses

3

10-12

Tate Presses

3-5

8-10

Bent Over Rows

3-5

5-8

Pullups/ or Pulldowns

3

10-12

DB Bicep Curl

5

10-12

DB Lateral Raises

3

10-12

 

Final Thoughts

People in the strength community like to discount the Westside Method due to a lack of volume, when that couldn't be further from the truth. When I trained at Westside one of the biggest ideas Lou drilled into my head was to identify my weaknesses and train my accessories like a son of a bitch to bring my weaknesses up quickly. Guess what this entails? Volume. When I train a main lift I want to train it with maximum speed and effort, the same way I would approach a lift on the platform.

I'll get my volume and hypertrophy work achieved in the accessories. I may be stupid, but for the life of me I cannot understand the craze of squatting, deadlifting, or benching for sets of 5 and 8 as a main exercise. In my opinion, 1-3 reps is the desired rep range for a main workout, sets of 5 and 8 set the intensity level too low.

If I do a set of 5 I am either taking it light that week or I went for an AMRAP set, which I do sometimes for fun. The goal of your main lifts should be to train for strength and power, or bar speed. Save the hypertrophy and volume for your accessories. There are tried and true methods and then there are trends, choose wisely.

Burley Hawk