Dear John Coffee

Dear John Coffee

Dear John:

It is always great to hear from you, and especially to hear your views on the Westside Strength Manual for Olympic Weight Lifting. But I did not write the book for you. I wrote it for open-minded individuals who want to raise American weight lifting to where it once was. I am not the enemy, but I hope an ally to Olympic weight lifting.

All of Westside’s methodologies came from the former Soviet Union methods for strength GPP as well as recovery. John, you must remember when powerlifting and American weightlifting were joined at the hip like Siamese twins?

Fred Loswe, Russ Knipp, Ernie Pickett would do the powerlifts. Remember, Russ held three American and nine world records. His squat was in the low 600s. His great strength helped lead to his success in Olympic lifting.

Many weight lifters come to visit Westside and they have a common denominator: a poor back and front squat, plus a weak back. Their level of preparedness is very low. About ⅓ of our powerlifters in special exercises. Like Goodmornings, back raises, belt squatting and other special exercises that makes it possible to do the volume needed to excel with the large special exercises for the back and legs, as well as the classical lifts. I do not criticize; I analyze then and do something about it. First I would like to address the fact that technique must be taught at an early age starting at 10 years old.

You say that in other countries they test young children and select for a sport. This is exactly what I talk about in the manual, but I guess you did not read that section.

The lifters that come to Westside had adequate technique with sub maximal weights, but not with the top weights.

After talking to the Olympic weight lifters, they do very little M-E work. This leads to the inability to lift new records. Westside has followed the conjugate system that was constellated by A.S. Medvedyek. This theory of training made it possible to lift new limits throughout the training year in special pulls and squats. The key to raise totals is the systematic raising of volume without having an ill effect on lifting technique in the classical lifts. Like Westside, Medvedyev found it was of great importance to raise GPP. If too much SPP or the work on the classical is too great, it will cause a distortion in technique.

This is shown in the data by A. S. Prilepin in his Managing the Training of Weightlifters. You must learn to train the classical lifts optimally or bad technical habits are learned.

But if one raises total volume with special pulls or squats it has no ill effects on technique. This system of first 25 special exercises grows to 100 later on.

Medvedyev used isometric, eccentric, concentric as well as mixed regimes of muscle work.

After a five-year plan a shock week of about 800 lifts was increased to 1,300 lifts.

The results were greater interest in workouts that lead to improvements in work capacity, something that is lacking in our lifters.

Medvedyev also notes that a wide range of special exercises that are constantly rotated was responsible for improving coordination and speed-strength qualities, like the snatch and clean and jerk.

This is what the manual emphasizes. By constantly breaking records in special pulls and squats it helps one to overcome psychological barriers when lifting new or never before weights.

The Soviets would use at least 50 percent and Westside uses as much as 80 percent special exercises in training. A women lifter at 132 pound bodyweight pulled off a 484-pound conventional-style deadlift by only training sumo style in the entire training cycle.

Westside switches a special bar every three weeks for speed strength squatting and speed strength pressing. This led to six men breaking the all-time world records in the bench press and five men that have held the all-time world record in the squat. All training was done on a box for 99 percent of all training.

How is this done? By not having accommodation in training through switching bars volume, intensities, and rest intervals between sets.

You must watch the web and see the Russian and Chinese do feats of great strength in special exercises. Don’t worry what weights they are using, but you must break your own records. It would not teach me anything to watch a 10-day national championship. But I would like to view the training three or four months before a major meet.

Do they change up their program to attack a weak muscle group? Do they know how? Do they invest in special training equipment? Westside has 11 US patents for special strength development that will cost well over $100,000. Why? To increase the ability to gain further advancement in special strength to break records. Ask yourself, are you going to the county fair or the world championships?

As far as going to watch the U.S. nationals, I prefer to watch the world leaders even if it is on the internet.

This is how I determine what is right about training by watching the best trained. After all, a meet is just a few hours and training is hundreds of hours.

John, next you talk about squatting. It is funny, but coach Fang Sey says when squatting one should lean somewhat forward as this will happen with max weights and at the same time build great back strength. Many times it is the back that gives out and not the legs. The Chinese also squat down under control and also pause in the bottom on some reps.

John, you are right that I did not go to your nationals, and I don’t recall seeing you at Westside ever, but somehow you know how we train the squat. No, John, we do not carry the bar low, but high on the traps. We use safety squat bars, bow bar, 14-inch camber bar, front squat harness, a meet squat bar that weighs 65 pounds and a manta ray. A manta ray is a device that makes the bar sit at least 2 inches above the shoulders making an Olympic-style squat look easy. You just cannot do the same style squat and make progress forever. When you squat Olympic style with your hips on heels plus glutes maximally these muscles are the prime movers in squatting.

The body has some 640 muscles. Why not use them all? I Olympic-squatted 410 at 14-years-old at 140 bodyweight. At 19 it was still 410 at 165 pounds bodyweight. I started box squatting and in three months Olympic squatted 450 pounds. In two years in the close stance with heeled boots I broke the jr.national 181 squat record with 565 pounds at 172 bodyweight. This was proof for me there was a second way, a better way to squat.

I also started doing belt squatting in 1975. Now today with all the special bars our squats go up.

Yes, we squat wide because you can squat large weights, but the wide style builds muscles that are not used in a close stance. It is common to do a low box squat 10“ and sometimes 8” with training with a close stance. Why do we use a close stance? To work the muscles that are not used while wide squatting.

John, why would you listen to Stand Efferding, don’t you know he is a powerlifter like me?

For your information sprints are done with hamstrings, hips and glute muscles. The quads are really breaking muscles. I have trained two Olympic gold medal 400-meter champions one male, one female.

The top strength coach for the Jamaican sprint has come to Westside to visit and they are now using a Westside belt squat, and inverse leg curl for the teams, but that’s another story. John, if you really read the strength manual you would see 100 programs that were influenced by Medvedyev. Just like him, I realized that one must use several special means to be a top weight lifter. I have read more than 100 books on strength development and have learned something in each and every one of them.

As you said you have not gone anywhere since 1988 when drug testing began. John, if roids make other lifters stronger, then would it not help to become stronger through better training? I find it funny that people like to think roids makes Westside what it is. Did you ever think it could be hard work and a well thought-out program?

Powerlifting is about 10 percent of our success. Football, rugby, golf, baseball, swimming, and track and field also take advantage of the Westside system.

Oh, by the way, my guys want to thank you for your thoughts about them being well-steroided when none have ever failed a drug test.

But, thanks for the compliment.

Hey, John, why can’t we work together?

Your friend,


P.S. Louie does not do seminars.


Info taken from:

  1. A System of Multi-year Training in Weightlifting‑‑A.S. Medvedyev
  2. Science and Practice of Strength Training‑‑Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, William J. Kraemer
  3. Managing the Training of Weightlifters‑‑N.P. Laputin, V.G. Oleshko
  4. Soviet Training and Recovery Methods‑‑Richard Brunner, Ben Tabachnik Ph.D
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