This past Saturday I took the time to attend the Westside Athletic Development Seminar in Grove City. For those of you that are unfamiliar, Westside Barbell has produced the strongest people in the world under the expertise of Louie Simmons. Although the training at Westside is mostly geared towards the sport of powerlifting, Louis has also consulted with and trained many athletes ranging from track and field to the NFL. The seminar outlined Louie's philosophies and methods and a major part of it was dedicated towards strength and conditioning for athletes of all sports. I have been studying the Westside methods for years now, but I felt it was the right time to really dive into the information with a group of like minded strength coaches.
Louie's system of training is called the Conjugate Method and consists of Max Effort Work, Dynamic Effort work, jumps and assistance work. Each week there is a Max Effort Upper body day and a Max Effort Lower body day. Exercises are rotated each week (bench variations for upper, squat and deadlift variations for lower) and the goal is to always beat your 1 rep max on the chosen lift. Its always 1....no sets of 2, 3 or 5. ONE! Louie was emphatic about this.... "You can't do 6 good reps at a weight worth lifting!" he said. Once you break a personal record, max effort lifting for the day is over.
Dynamic Effort lifts are again bench and squat or deadlift variations and are performed with 40% to 60% of the 1 rep max for sets of 2 to 3 reps. Chains and bands are added for accommodating resistance and the goal is bar speed at .7 to .9 meters per second. You would need advance equipment to measure that precisely, so if you stick to the percentages of your max and progress, everything will be fine.
Jumps are cycled in throughout the week. Jumps are performed with weights, without weights, to boxes and from the knees. Jumping is speed strength and essential for athletic performance.
Assistance work comprises of 80% of their weekly training. Basically you find your weakness and work on it at the end of each of the 4 main lifting days. Hamstings, glutes, triceps, upper back and abs are the main focus of assistance work.
Here are a number of learning points I took away from seminar.
1. Rule of 3
Louie is heavily Soviet influenced when it comes to his training philosophies and he talked about the youth training and the Rule of 3 in Russia. Basically, all youth athletes in Russia have to dedicate 3 years to GPP - general physical preparedness before they specialize in a sport. Translation: there is no year round baseball training for 12 year olds!
2. Everything works, but nothing works forever
Exercises must be rotated every 3 weeks or less to avoid overtraining and to continue to make strength gains. This notion condemns the conventional Clean, Squat, Bench week in and week out for ever and ever strength program. If you want training to go stale, do the same thing over and over again.
3 You must recover from intense training
72 hours separated the Dynamic Lower body day and the Max Effort Lower body day. The same goes for the two upper body days. Sled work and other forms of training are used at the end of workouts to restore the body, not to continue to break it down.
One of the most popular slogans at Westside is "Often Imitated, Never Duplicated." After spending 2 hours at Westside on Sunday, I would agree 100% with that slogan. I would be crazy to even attempt to duplicate what they do with my athletes. Keep in mind, that 90% of the kids I train are not even close to ready for that type of programming - hence the rule 3!
I left the seminar on Sunday very confident that I have been doing the right things with my athletes. I have been a firm believer in foundational training for youth athletes (GPP, rule of 3) and not trying to specialize them with advanced "sport specific" training methods. I began experimenting with the Westside model with some of my advanced high school and college athletes and it has paid off big time with performance results. Like anything else, the key is taken the information Louie provided and making it work in my setting.