Forgotten Secrets of the Culver City Westside Barbell Club

Louie Simmons
Thu May 11, 2017

Everybody knows Louie and the Westside guys in Columbus, Ohio. The gym has its great and historic past with its lifters, innovative training methods and devices. No one knows how the pyramids were built, but thanks to Dave Yarnell - you are about to find out how Louie started his club; the original Westside club from Culver City, California.  Bill West, George Frenn, Bill Thurber, and Pat Casey trained for pure strength training.

Before Westside California, bodybuilders were basically the only ones on the scene. It was also a haven for throwers like Frenn, Hal Connelly, George Woods and Dallas Long. They wrote articles in a magazine known as Muscle Power Builder. Their article on box squatting caught Louie’s eye first, as his squat was stuck at 410 pounds.

But Westside had much more to offer - power rack training for all three lifts, floor press, belly toss, benching with rubber pads on the chest, pulling on boxes, and many more innovations for which Louie will always be indebted to Westside. Beyond innovations in movements, they also had technical innovations, such as the first use of a wide stance squat with the bar set lower on the back - the first power squat.

Back then, the AAU controlled powerlifting due to their reigning control over weightlifting. It was West and Frenn who pushed for powerlifting to have its own body. Their effort lead Bob Hoffman of York Barbell to host the first world powerlifting championship. The Culver City guys were basically done by then and it was at that point that Louie started unofficially calling his one-man show Westside. 

This was a tribute to West and the gang, and was fitting as he resided on the western side of Columbus. Joe Dimarco, still kicking in California, had much input on the early training innovations and shared many of these ideas with Louie. Like today’s Westside, the Culver City gym has countless visitors.

A friend of Louie, Roger Estep, made a trip to visit Bill, Frenn and the rest of the Culver City members. He spent the summer training in California and went back to Ohio University with about 200 pounds added on his total. Remember, there was zero gear and no 24 hour weigh-ins. Roger told me what he did during his visit and I was on track by reading those articles. Roger brought back the information to the wild bunch, including Luke Iams and Chuck Dunbar, and from there they were hard to beat.

All the lifters who started in the 1960’s adopted some of their training methods from the early Westside boys. Like Westside today, the Culver City boys shared all of their training methods for anyone to try. Their own Pat Casey had the first 800 pound squat, 600 pound bench and a 2000 pound total.

They were light years ahead of their time and Louie took it all in and later, improved on it. It was his duty - for without Bill, Pat, Joe, George, and all the Culver City guys, there would not be a Louie Simmons and today’s Westside Barbell. This immense work by Dave Yarnell is a must-read; know the past and present so you will succeed in the future.