The Westside Journey Continues Full Article
The Culver City boys had changed my life with their advanced training methods. They helped others as well. A good friend and lifter, Roger, made the trip I could not to Culver City Westside to learn first-hand how to implement their system. After returning to Ohio with about 200 lbs. on his total, I asked Roger what he did while training with West, Frenn, and the gang at Culver City. He told me about the box squats rack work for all three lifts and floor press, benching with the rubber pad on his chest, the high dead lift, and the very high volume. After returning to West Virginia he became a world record holder for the squat and total at 198 pounds.
Roger had the body to go along with his great strength. After his return to West Virginia and working with the wild bunch at Luke Iames gym, Chuckie Dunbar became a world champ and many time national champ and world record holder. Not to mention Scott Warman, Jack Wilson and maybe the most charismatic of them all, Rickey Crain, who went on to a long and highly successful lifting career breaking many world records including the first 800 squat at 165. He also made a 716 deadlift at 165. He now runs Crain's Muscle World. I was doing the same things Roger had talked about, so I was on the right track.
The strength was there at a high level, but it was by doing the only periodization known at that time in America. It would call for increasing intensity while lowering volume. This was western periodization and it was hit-or-miss at best; mostly a dead-end street. I remember Dave Waddington, the first 1,000 pound squatter from Sandusky, Ohio, was at my house eating chicken when he said “You know Louie, you break a gym record in the weeks before the meet only to fall short on the meet day.” Ricky Crain would call me and say he did big numbers in training only to go backwards on meet day. What’s wrong? I recall telling Rick, “ When you figure that out, call me.” I was having the same problem they were encountering, but no answer.
As usual, an injury would cause me to find a better way. I broke my fifth lumbar in 1981 and trained on it until I got smashed like Bill West did. But, this time, I set the safety pins in the power rack to low and when missing a heavy low-box squat, I set back down on the box and bent over to unload the 725 on the pins. When I did, I was trapped on the box with the bar on my back and that is when it broke for good. A doctor wanted to remove two disks and take bone spurs off and fuse my back. I refused and rehabbed it myself. It took 17 weeks and during that time I knew I was missing something in my training, but what?
Just like other top- 10 lifters I was not reaching my full potential where it counts-on meet day. I knew the Soviets were way ahead of the rest of the world in sports performance. I saw kaiju’s, meaning strange creatures, yes, real monsters, on the platform in America. No country, including Russia, had such physical specimens. But since their Olympic weight lifters had left our Olympic weight lifters far to the rear, they must know something. There was no power-lifting in Russia, but maybe their approach to training could be the answer I was looking for.
I found the name of a man who had translated Russian training into English. His name was Bud Andrew Charniga, Jr. I called him and said I wanted to buy any books he had. He said, “You know, Louie, the books I have are class-room books.” I said, “That is exactly what I need.” I started with Managing the Training of Weightlifters. The book covered all aspects of weight-lifting. I converted it to powerlifting by following the data by A S. Prilepin. I never thought about how many lifts per work out and how many lifts at a certain percentage.
This would keep my training optimal for the first time. But where should most of my barbell training be trained? This was covered by more scientists such as A.D. Ermakov and N.S. Atanasov and their research on 780 high-level weight-lifters. By this time it is early 1982 and I did have training partners. However, now I had even more training partners influencing my training just like Frenn, West and the rest of the Westside guys from Muscle Power Builder. This time it was a group of Soviet sport scientists who, unfortunately, I would never meet.
I truly believe I owe everything to those Soviet scientists for what Westside has done and will do. I bought every book Bud had to gain further knowledge and now I sell them at Westside. There are too many great men to name all of them, but I was highly influenced by A.S. Medvedyev, R. A. Roman, Laputin, Oleshko, Frolov, Ivanov Vorobyev, and Kusnetsov Bosco.
But Verkhoshansky would be a guiding light to my thoughts on training. His work on the stretch-reflex system lead my work on over speed eccentrics. He was the total master in all aspects of sport and combining exercise to athletics. Additionally, another true genius to the Soviet system V.M. Zatsiorsky had the first edition of Science and Practice of Strength Training in 1992.
That book showed I was on the right track. Just like the Culver City system, until I talked to Roger Estep I was not sure I was on the right track. So ten years into the new system there was a book that confirmed I was doing things correctly: Placing severe workouts 72 hours apart; training special strengths separately; using a max effort day twice a week, one for the upper and one for the lower body; and having a dynamic day that proved to be very important for all three lifts.
Many don’t understand it, but the barbell volume on max effort day is very low. On dynamic day it is very high. All training must be extreme, including volume, to avoid accommodation. Also, the bar velocity must change radically as well. This is proven by the force-velocity curve, first shown by Hill's equations. While the Bulgarians would do a max based on a daily record max where the intensity zone would be close to 100 percent, the Westside system for max effort results in a new all-time record on a special barbell exercise over 90 percent of the time for the entire group. This was documented by our statistics man Joe Lasko.
For our dynamic or speed strength the barbell weight in a three week pendulum wave is 75 percent to 80 percent and 85 percent or with accommodation resistance, the bar weight is 50 percent to 55 percent and 60 percent with 25 percent band tension at lock out. I used the data from the work of A.D. Ermakov and N.S. Atanasov showing 50 percent of the training of 780 high-skilled weight-lifters was 75 to 85%. By matching this data along with A.S. Prilepin's data on loading it is impossible to under or over train with the barbell. The Soviet training method, the three-week pendulum wave cycle, came from the research by (Ermakov,1994). By now I knew what I had missed in training-it was science.
I knew exercises- having talked to great lifters-in all three lifts, but it now was clear when and how to implement them to the program. But there was an aspect to the Soviets training system that kept their lifters well ahead of ours. It was special exercises and special exercise machines. Power rack training, isometrics, belt squats, Good-morning machines, chambered bars, jumping and even an accommodating resistance device, like Culver City Westside and their advanced training methods. (And don’t forget the calf/ham/glute machine!)
The Soviets were combining exercise and science to promote sports excellence. The Soviets really applied this term to sports by letting their sports scientists work closely with their top sportsmen. The term “sports science degree “ is just a catchy name to place on a worthless degree in the United States. It has no substance for real-life training.
I realized the Soviets were always looking for new training methods or the approach to training. V. Alexeev would do 100 singles with 100 kilograms in the power snatch or do pulls standing in water up to his knees, hips, or even higher. He also did inverse back raises. I thought about their special exercises and remembered after breaking my lower back in 1973 how it was that no one had an answer to my problem. I thought about how a back raise was a great special exercise, but by applying pressure on my heels to raise my upper body it hurt so much I could not begin to do it. But, what if I did it in reverse by supporting my upper body and lifting my legs up to the rear? I did it with no pain after 12 months of pain. And that’s how the reverse hyper was first used in our training.
Next, our A.T.P, Athletic Training Platform.
I knew Westside must stay out in front of all gyms in athletic performance and training methodologies as well as with special training devices. One of these is the band bar created by one of our long-time members Jimmy Seitzer, who has trained at Westside since 1976.
So far 11 United States patents have been granted to Westside. The next one in the next few months will revolutionize the strength world. To raise the stakes at Westside we had to bring a new person, special exercises, or exercise machines like the inverse curl into our training to advance the lifts and totals. Westside started in my basement, then my garage, and on to bigger buildings until our present 3,600 square foot facility. It is private with no sign, but is known around the world.
I was influenced by Dr. Squat (aka Fred Hatfield) and his very explosive style of lifting, but more so his scientific approach to lifting. Fred said I needed a calf/ham/glute bench, then an isokinetic power rack. He even suggested an electric stem machine. He was at a much higher level about training then anyone else. In 1979 at the North American championships we both competed and he hands the IPF official a set of knee wraps that were huge compared to what everyone else was using. The official said, “No way Jose. “ Fred had sewed the waist bands of jock straps together making his wraps about three times thicker then any other wrap at that time. After a long argument, Fred won as there was no rule in place that would disallow his new thicker wrap. He then broke the record of the great Ron Collins of Great Britain with a 738 pound lift at 181 pounds.
The more I read the more I saw science must be tied to my training. I knew I had to apply physics to further my goals. First it was using submaximal weights with the highest attainable speed (F=ma)-this is the dynamic method. It made it possible to regain bar speed into our training. I was reading Super-training and was fascinated by the term kinetic energy (KE).
KE is based on its mass and its speed. If you want to increase KE, it is more important to increase velocity rather than its mass. So how could I increase the eccentric phase to increase the reversible speed of the athlete? I decided that by attaching rubber bands to the barbell it would cause greater bar speed on the eccentric phase, which leads to a faster concentric effort resulting in lifting larger weights in training as well as when competing. Unlike in school, Newton's laws became extremely important to me to advance the training at Westside.
What is momentum? And what is work, and how can being more powerful help you work faster?
After experimentation by my old friend Dave Williams of Liberty University with rubber bands with great results the concepts of Hooke's Law of Elasticity proved to be of great importance. And, after becoming friends with Dr. Mel Siff of Super training fame it was clear that sports are a combination of physics, biomechanics and mathematics. It made me realize that when you solve a training problem you just create a new problem.
This is the theory of advanced training. Dr Siff credited my findings with weight releasers, chains and bands as combinations of resistance methods. It was such an honor to do seminars with Mel, but most of all to have a relationship about training at the highest level as well as a friendship I will never forget.
I have been very fortunate to know Dr. Nicholas Romanov PhD, who developed the pose method of running.
A team doctor of the Bulgarian Olympic Weight lifting Team also came to visit Westside and talked about their training system, so I could fully understand it. Boris Sheiko, the renowned Russian powerlifting coach, paid Westside a visit as well. It was such a pleasure to sit and talk training methods.
I don't know why our countries can't get along as well as brothers in sports. I remember when this jacked dude came walking into Westside and proclaimed he was the strength coach for the Jamaican track club. And that he was. His name was Jay Spry. He was excited to exchange training methods. He was also fascinated with our specialty equipment for track. The Jamaican team now has them at their disposal. Phil Richards came to Westside and studied our methods, returned to the United Kingdom and had the only team in the premier league to go 26 and 0, as well as several other titles.
Many NFL coaches have spent time at Westside...really too many to recall. But two shook hands on the field before the 1996 Superbowl and sent me the picture: Ken Johnson and Johnny Parker of the Packers and Patriots, respectively. There have been so many college coaches at the lowest level visit Westside only to raise up to become athletic directors or top college and pro level coaches. I like to think that those visits to Westside had something to do with it. Westside has worked with UFC heavyweight champs to Olympic gold medal champions and every sport in between. I could never visit Culver City Westside, and it would have meant so much to me.
This is why all are invited to come to Westside to visit or train. We have never said no to anyone, man or woman. Some of the strongest men and women come from all over the world to train not only powerlifters, but all sports. And we have our education certificates for all sports training set up by Tom Barry.
Tom, who is from Ireland, came like many to do an internship over six years ago and he now runs the business side of Westside. Outside of the business Tom has become one of my most accomplished students and he coaches our pro fighters, football players and multiple other top level athletes at Westside.
The lifters are accustomed to having visitors ask all sorts of questions after training. Westside has many lifetime friends from every corner of the world from China to South Africa and all points in between. Everyone thanks us, but it is Westside that thanks them for the honor to host them. A gym is just four walls without the men and women inside those walls.
Westside is a club. Since its start it has been very a close group- always going out at night and eating breakfast together. Like any family we hate and love each other at the same time. The greatest asset a lifter can have is good training partners. Westside is not open to the public due to its highest caliber of lifters. Anyone can visit, but only a very few can train at Westside. But it should be everyone's goal to train hard and someday join the club. Danny Dipascuia, the strength coach of the Melbourne Storm, comes to Westside each year to see what's new that can help his team. He always trains while he's at Westside. Not only is Danny a great coach, but also an accomplished lifter. One time he went to the Nite of the Living Deadlift event. It is a deadlift-only meet in Johnson City, Tennessee, home of the legendary deadlifter, Bob Peoples.
All my friends and memories come from Westside, as Westside is my life. Like I said, lifters make a gym. I never had a training partner from 1970 to 1973. Bill Whittaker was my first training partner in 1973. He won his first national championship in 1980 and later became a doctor of veterinarian medicine. Then there was Doug Heath who would win many championships. An early training partner, Jim Seitzer, became Mr. USA and third and fifth in the Mr. America. He is still a regular at Westside who invented the Band Bar.
I must say Doug and Jimmy are just as crazy as they were in the 70s. Then Gary Sanger came to Ohio State to teach. Now Gary leads the department of economics at L.S.U., he was also the number one on the 1984 top 10. Another brainy guy, Dr. Tom Paulucci, was an attorney and doctor of psychology. All of these men are lifetime friends. Tom passed away a few years ago and now his son Ethan trains at Westside just like his dad did. This group trained in my garage; most were PhD's. Then Matt Dimel came to train with Gary Sanger. This was our odd couple. A college professor and a maniac. But he was our maniac, holding the world record SHW squat for several years.
A short story: one Sunday I benched 500 at 198 and Matt did 505 at SHW. That Friday after squatting we were sitting in my living room- me in my underwear- when Matt reminded me he had out-benched me. I said, “F you fat ass. I benched 515 before and that beats your 505.” He said, “I will bet you a case of beer I can bench 515 cold right now.” I said ok, and he grabbed me by my shirt and threw me through my backyard in my underwear into the gym and loaded 515 on the bar with no warm-ups and benched it. I got the case of beer, but I put on pants first. He was mental. Matt passed on in 1994 at 34, way too young. He was like the son I never had and sorely missed.
He was bigger than life. He put Bob Coe through hell, but it was like heaven to us. Matt had a tattoo on his arm that said “G.F.H.” That was my advice to him the first time I saw him. He's at rest now, but there is no peace for anyone up there with him. It's hard to see guys like Matt and John Flor go so young, but they lived life to the fullest.
Gary Benford also trained in the garage and at the Downtown YMCA. He also ran some of the best power meets ever: The Senior Nationals and the YMCA Nationals, along with the WPC Worlds. I don't want to forget about the early Westside women. Lara Dodd, for example, a former track star at Ohio State turned power lifter extraordinaire, breaking the world record in the squat at 165 plus a 534 dead lift. Also a track background helped Tarry Blylen pull a 556 deadlift also at 165. Debby Swanson at 181 raw made 485-290 and a 540 deadlift. Sue Meany was the first woman to squat 500, bench 300, and pull 500. Karen Sizemore benched 450, squatted 650 with a 500 pull. All total, Westside has had seven women pull 500 or more. Mariah Leggett at 132 pulled 484 and dominated the 132 and 148 in the 80s and 90s.
My wife, Doris, won six WPC Worlds and for years held all-time squat, bench, and totals at 105. This was after she won the Miss Ohio State Bodybuilding title. The Late Karen Michael trained at Westside and made the famous Karen Bench press shirts. Our women team won the women's team title at the WPC Worlds, winning every class but the 181 class as Sorenson sat on the side line.
In 1986 Westside owned a commercial gym by accident, but that accident turned into a positive. It opened the door for many men and women who would be very successful and some famous by breaking world record holders. Ken Patterson, George Halbert, Chuck Vogipaol, Joe Mccoy, Amy Wiesberber, Rob Fusner, Gerry O are names many will remember. All were national champs or world champs and many time world record holders. I still have lunch with Darrel Mayo after 35 years. This is a club.
Joe and Mike Jester are still in the gym after more than 30 years and still training. In the very beginning-1974-we had a record board for the biggest meet lifts, a second board for the best coefficient lifts. Westside has almost 100 USPF Standard Elite Lifters who made their total at Westside. We have had the greatest bench pressers of all time along with five other men holding world records-this is all time. As well as six men holding all time world records in the squat, there are too many women to count to tally up. We currently have the greatest women Coefficients.
Laura Phelps Sweat with 1,800 at 165. She alone has broken 34 all-time world records. She joined Amy Wiesberger holding three world record totals. Laura is a great ambassador to our sport as well as helping the Crossfit nation with great seminars with her husband Shane.
Westside led the way with Chuck V. and Greg Panora. Then at 15 years old, Dave Hoff walked into Westside. Like Floyd Mayweather, he was surrounded by greatness. Three world record holders in the bench, and three world in the squat using the greatest system in the world and the constant over seeing by Bob Coe; the path was set. Like the others, I could see that he was special: A fast learner with the right proportions. But what I could not see at first was his mind. I have known the greatest of all time- first Larry Pacifico, then Mike Bridges he was unbelievable, lifting weights that were unheard of. He was the strongest man under 200 pounds.
Next Ed Coan. I saw Ed come out of no where and beat Bobby Wahl at 165. Then, going up in weight to pull 793 at 181 twice in the same meet in Dayton. He did 859 at 198 and a mystical 901 at 220. Both men had a special mind set. I knew Mike used metaphysics and passed that advice onto me, but I was no bridges.
Next up Shawn Frankel with today's gear making unreal weight: 1,055 squat and a 850 bench to total 2,630 at 198. This was Panoras world total at 242. He went on to total 2,715 at about 215. I thought the two coefficients totals would never be broken. I guess I forgot about Dave Hoff. After Donny Thompson made the historical 3,000 at the Powerstation Pro/am, one year later, Dave totaled 3,005 at 271. He recently broke his own 308 total doing 2,965 at 284. His stat's are too extensive to list, but he was the youngest to total 2,400 through 3,000 and has made a 2,900 total nine times so far.
But look for more, many gyms are like a million, having a special one and a bunch of zeros. Westside is not one of those gyms. Men like Arnold Coleman setting world squat and total records. Phil Harrington breaking several world squat records at Westside, along with Chuck V setting squat records in three weight classes. Now, Wes Mccormick doing 900 at 165.
Jason Coker holds the world bench records at 181 and an incredible 900 at 198. At one time three men held world records at the same time Patterson, Halbert, and Rob Fusaer. Jay Fry came to Westside with a 525 bench at 181. As an experiment he used a bench shirt for 23 weeks and made his first 700 meet bench. Jay made two world records before hanging it up.
We have four men who total 2,800 or more and four have an over 900 deadlift. Our top 10 average is 866. So far 26 men have an over 1,000 squat , two with over 1,200, three bench over 900 and one is over 1,000 officially. AJ Roberts came with a 2,400 total and in three and a half years set three 308 world total records with best lifts adding up to 2,930.
I just can't mention all of the great men and women that made Westside what it is today; there are too many. But, to end, I would like to thank Ken Patterson, Chuck V., George Halbert, JM Blakely, Rob Fusner, Joe Mccoy and Dave Zippy Tate for pushing to 57 years old making top 10 lifts.
Westside made more than great lifters. It made great men known worldwide in fitness. First, Jim Wendler, an ex fullback in college and 1000 pound squatter. After retiring from Westside Jim wrote a very popular book entitled 5/3/1 that many have read. Its good to see Jim doing so well.
Then, another author came out of Westside. His name is Brandon Lilly. After a good run at powerlifting, he started a system of Westside that called for less volume, called cube. It's a good system to be just good. We still see Brandon at meets, and he is still huge. Good luck Brandon.
I was coming out of the Arnold classic after the WPO meet, ran by Karen Kidder with John Stafford leading the way when I heard someone call out “Mr. Simmons!” I turned around and saw a young man-it was Matt Wenning. He must have been a freshman in college at that time. I said, “Whats up?” He said he was a Westside fan from Ball State. His professor came to Westside years before after his time playing with the Cincinnati Bengals. I told him he could train at Westside whenever he could make the trip. After college he joined Westside for good. He became very strong after a few years. He began training military men and became very successful along with his personal training business.
Soon after leaving Westside he broke the world 308 total record. It lasted a few minutes before his new training partner, Chuck Fold, pulled a massive deadlift to break his total record by five pounds!
It is amazing how Matt made such a journey. The Westside system started in 1982 when Matt must have been three or four years old. But somehow with his desire, he finally crossed paths with Westside, and later after starting to expand his business, became highly respected. I hope the future is even brighter than the past. Good luck, Matt.
The next man who has made a name for himself is Mark Bell. Mark came to train at Westside while trying out for the WWE. His personality was perfect for Pro Wrestling, but unfortunately he never made the cut. His promo tape had him beating up a guy and later seeing him again he beat him up again and said you're a two-time loser. That became his nickname.
Oh, by the way, the guy he was beating up was his older brother Chris. Mark and Chris made a movie called bigger, faster, stronger. It covered the roid use in sports. It was very entertaining and to the point. Mark has a great gym. He says Super Training Gym is the strongest on the west coast. He also has a great magazine on powerlifting and strongman info called Power Magazine. And last, but not least, he invented the Slingshot, a device that assists a lifter in maintaining proper bench press form, while also allowing the lifter to overload either in weight or reps. It was very popular everywhere. I will never understand how a two-time loser became so great, but he did and I am proud to know him.
Marcus Marinelli was also in the first group. While going to Ohio State he came to the garage to train. He became a top ten lifter after 716 at 212. While lifting not that long by some standards, he moved back to Cleveland and started doing MMA with Mark at his Karate studio, later becoming a very accomplished trainer.
He has a strong group of fighters led by the UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic and a fine female fighter, Jessica “Evil” Eye. Marcus had completely dedicated his life to MMA. Marcus holds and operates Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center a 30,000 square foot facility. I am very proud to know Marcus and watch how successful he has become. Marcus has just brought in three fighters from Westside to be on his team. With Marcus's drive, I can rest assured long after I am gone he will be developing more great fighters. Good luck, Marcus, and the strong style gang.
The last, but certainly not least, is Dave Zippy Tate. To say “The lights are on, but no one's home” would be kind. He came to train at Westside after playing football. At first, he thought Westside was crazy, but after getting hurt, he found the light and started doing Westside. While training at Westside he began to sell Westside products, so he could start his own business EliteFts. It grew into a multi-million dollar business. Zippy was a great training partner. He was like Prince's mother-, never satisfied.
And that's the story of Westside to this day; always wanting to achieve more and more. I will always respect the men who helped make Westside the club it is today. Everyone helped contribute during our countless experiments.
As long as there is a single breath in my body, Westside will continue to break records and lead the strength world in technology of special strength equipment. In closing, I would like to thank everyone who had entered the door of Westside and all of our Westside-certified gyms around the world and especially the conjugate gym owned by Laura and Shane Sweat in Cincinnati. This is just a little history of Westside Barbell, but to make history, you must look to the future.