How to Learn the Westside Barbell Routine

The bench is one of a triad of powerlifting exercises.

The bench is one of a triad of powerlifting exercises.

You are about to become a powerful Nestie if the Westside Barbell routine is on your list of things to learn. The two masterminds of Ohio-based Westside Barbell, Louie Simmons and Dave Tate, mostly work with guys looking to master powerlifting -- which entails the squat, deadlift and bench press. But they’ve also trained plenty of women, including Jean Fry, who weighs 123 sculpted pounds but can squat 415 --- more than most men. If you’re not in Columbus, Ohio, nor near a Westside Barbell affiliate, you can still model a workout based on Westside principles.

Start with body-weight squats until you can do them with perfect form before beginning your barbell work. Lower yourself until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Work on your hip and ankle mobility or lateral hamstring stretches if you cannot achieve this low squat position, advise the authors of “Advances in Functional Training.”

Master correct form for the barbell squat, deadlift and bench press. You can study video and animations to get the basic idea, but you really want either an experienced powerlifter buddy or ideally a powerlifting coach to help you perfect your form. Fry and sister powerlifters Laura Phelps and Amy Weisberger describe working closely with coaches at Westside Barbell or similar gyms focused on powerlifting to perfect their form.

Set up a training schedule based either on the original Westside Barbell template or sports performance coach Joe Defranco’s alternative template designed for skinnier folks -- including female athletes. The “original” Westside template entails four days of training -- Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- with four exercises each day. You’ll be doing a blend of three sets of eight reps of your squats and benches, as well as max-effort single lifts, with two additional lifts at 90 percent of your one-repetition maximum. You also need triceps kickbacks work, exercises for your shoulders and upper back, and reverse hypers.

Schedule yourself to work Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to follow Defranco’s alternate Westside template if you are a skinny Nestie. Push yourself for maximum effort on your benches on Mondays and your squats and deadlifts on Fridays. You’ll be performing three to five reps instead of your one-rep maximum for these lifts, followed by two sets of lighter weights with high reps. Perform jump training -- box jumps, broad jumps, vertical jumps and hurdles -- to add a dynamic lower-body strength component to the Tuesday workout. These jumps allows smaller, skinnier athletes to gain the strength to perform better on their squats.

Amend your workout every three weeks to keep boredom at bay and muscles challenged, because your goal is always to lift more weight. And add tools recommended by Westside Barbell for more effective training. These include boxes or benches to support your squats and allow you to train more aggressively, as well as chains linked to the end of the barbell, which increase your challenge the higher you lift the bar in any of the three powerlifts.

Items you will need

  • Plyometrics boxes
  • Hurdles
  • Squat box
  • Chains
  • Post-workout snacks

Tip

  • Consume a meal containing protein within an hour of completing your workout. Fry notes that this is essential to rebuild your muscles. Phelps advocates six small meals a day containing lean protein and carbohydrates, and drinking a gallon of water a day.
 

About the Author

An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.

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