You must have a plan to succeed”
In Powerlifting USA, there was a discussion of what is the best training system. Everyone had an opinion, and of course so do I. I believe it’s the Westside system. Westside had 13 men who have totaled over 2500 pounds, 4 over 2700 pounds, and 2 over 2800 pounds. This is just a taste of what Westside training has done. The common denominator of the success of Westside lifters is pendulum wave periodization.
For explosive or speed strength training, a three-week wave is performed. I am amazed at how many people think Westside trains with light weights; not so. The recommended bar speed is 0.8 m/s. I have mentioned countless times that we train at 50-60% of a contest max for squatting, but also have stated that we train the box squat at parallel. If you were only box squatting, the training percents would be at 75-85% of that box record. I hope this makes it clear. Now back to a contest max.
While training on a box, the barbell weight should be 50-60% and the band tension should be 25% at the top of the lift. Let’s analyze with band shrinkage. The weight plus band tension on the first week at 50% for a 1000-pound squatter (which we have had 17) is 600 pounds on the box and 750 pounds at the top of the squat. The second week at 55% would amount to 650 pounds at the box level and 800 pound at the top of the squat. The third week of the wave, the barbell weight is 600 pounds plus 100 pounds of band tension on the box and 850 pounds at the top of the squat. This means the combination of bar weight plus band tension for weeks 1-3 is as follows.
Week 1: 60-75% at the top
Week 2: 65-80% at the top
Week 3: 70-85% at the top
This wave is intended to develop speed strength. Research on 780 highly qualified weightlifters who were training during the two pre-contest months concluded that 50% of the weights lifted in the snatch and clean/jerk should be at 75-85% of a one-rep max. This research was done by A. D. Ermakov and N. S. Atanasova in 1975. Their results can be found in the book Managing the Training of the Weightlifters. This text also states that over 50% of the training was special exercises. Westside uses a much higher percent of special exercises–well over 90%.
For strength speed, or slow strength, where the bar speed is close to 0.6 m/s, the wave must last only two weeks. Longer than this can lead to severe fatigue or injury. Here, one must use more band tension at the top than bar weight. This will slow the lift considerably. Dr. Fred Hatfield said, “no one can lift a heavy weight slow,” and he was right. World records are lifted slower than training weights, but the ratio in a monthly plan should be roughly 80 lifts at 0.8 m/s and 12 lifts at less than 0.6 m/s, or much slower on max effort day.
A.J. Roberts recently ran a two-week strength speed wave and made on the first week 385 pounds of bar weight plus 700 pounds of band tension. The second week A.J. made 425 pounds of bar weight plus 700 pounds of band tension. The second week combination adds up to 1125 pounds at the top of the squat. A.J. also has a record on the box with the opposite combination of weights and band tension. A bar weight of 690 pounds and a band tension of 440 pounds is his best. This adds up to 1130 pounds. At the following contest A.J. made an 1140-pound squat, which is a 40-pound increase officially.
I have talked about two waves that are used on speed day workouts, or Friday, for the squat. All special strengths are trained. This is important for proper restoration for the next extreme workout on Monday, or max effort day. The Friday workout must be high volume with moderate intensity, whereas Monday, or max effort day, is high intensity and low volume. The speed workout plan for speed strength is to return to 50% of a one-rep max and also to change the bar or stance or the amount of band tension or change to chain weight for accommodation. The chains will not add to an increase in kinetic energy because they will not help force your eccentric phase, as bands do, aiding in stored reversal energy. The key to strength increase is to move the same percentage of a one-rep max at a different speed. The speed waves must be used with accommodation to help reduce bar deceleration.
Dr. Fred Hatfield opened my eyes in the early 1980s with his theory of compensatory acceleration training (CAT). Dr. Hatfield’s method called upon the athlete to increase muscle tension by trying to move the load as fast as possible throughout the lift. I like to think Westside took it a step further with combinations of resistance methods (CRM). This system is discussed in Supertraining by Mel Siff. Dr. Siff was fascinated by our use of this method while visiting Westside Barbell in 2000. The special strength waves are repeated throughout the year, year in and year out, to maintain a fast rate of force development by changing the amount of band tension or chain weight or by combining both chains and bands. It is also advisable to use two strength bands. Place one over the bar and the other over the plates to cause an abrupt loading effect. It can be effective to place a band over different size plates as well. Every three weeks we know how fast our lifters are on speed day, and every 7 days how strong they are, not like a conventional cycle, which only lets one know his current strength level close to a meet, when it could be too late.
The meet training is two methods that intersect with each other: the circa-max phase plus the delayed transformation phase. Five weeks out from a meet, we will de-load some of the volume on Friday, or speed day, for two weeks. Three weeks out we use a circa-max phase the first week. For example our 1160-, 1150-, and 1140-pound squatters work up to 690-720 pounds of bar weight plus 440 pounds of band tension on a box. Two weeks out they drop down to 510 bar weight plus 440 pounds of band tension for 1 rep. During week 3 they wear their Inzer Predator and Leviathan suits with the straps down and no knee wraps. Two weeks out, the 510 pounds of bar weight plus 440 pounds of band tension is done for 1 rep with just Predators. One week out the heavyweight lifters will do only special exercises, such as the Reverse Hyper machine, glute/ham raises, and pulling a weight sled. The lightweights will work up to 330 pounds of bar weight plus 140 pounds of band tension with no gear on a parallel box, plus light special exercises due to making weight. This is how we use wave periodization.
There are many plans to follow, such as the models that Dr. Tudor Bompa prescribed and Medvedev’s 1964 wave-like scheme, which I modified. Dr. Verkhoshansky, whom I admired greatly, used a longer block style system with long-term delayed transformation. This last style I found somewhat less predictable, but you must have a plan or you plan to fail.
To the wave style by Medvedev, I added the pendulum approach by Arosiev and others to form my Westside system. Vasily Alexeyev, a very famous Olympic lifter, used the same system that I discovered in 1983. Dr. Mel Siff related this to me when he visited Westside and asked how I came up with this model. I told him that after three weeks of training with the same exercises, I did not get any stronger, nor did I get any faster, and would see a detraining effect on the fourth week. So I started the three-week pendulum wave system. Dr. Siff reflected that Alexeyev said the same thing. That was good enough for me.
A 1100+ squatter’s three-week wave would look like this for the final wave for speed strength before a major reduction in training volume for a deloading phase for two weeks.
Week 1: 600 x 2 reps, 8 sets, plus 250 pounds of band tension at the top
Total volume = 13,600
Week 2: 650 x 2 reps, 8 sets, plus 250 pounds of band tension at the top
Total volume = 14,400
Week 3: 700 x 2 reps, 8 sets, plus 250 pounds of band tension at the top
Total volume = 15,200
This is the amount of volume on speed day that an 1100-pound squatter must be able to handle to not only make such a squat on meet day but also endure the training for the bench press and deadlift to succeed as well. There are many reasons why we have so many large totals and individual lifts, and it’s not by lifting light weights. As Dr. Squat once said, “if light weights make you strong, then why not just train with light weights?” Of course they don’t, and Westside knows that. If you’ve never been to Westside, you have no idea of what goes on inside the walls, but hopefully you will research us and reach your true potential.
Bompa, T. O. Periodization Therory and Methodology of Training. Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL,1999.
Laputin, N. P., Oleshko, V. G. Managing the Training of the Weightlifters. Zdorov’ya: Kiev, 1982.
Siff, M. Supertraining. Supertraining Institute: Denver, CO, 2003.