The Squat by Louie Simmons of Westside barbell

THE SQUAT

Louie Simmons

After moving to Westside, A.J. Roberts has improved his squat from 1008 to 1140 pounds in just over 2 years by following the conjugate system. This includes a speed strength day, where a series of 3-week waves are performed. The percent of a 1-rep max used is 50% to 60% within the 3-week wave. Bands or chains or a combination of both is used to prevent accommodation.

A.J. will use an assortment of bars such as a regular 65-pound Bulldog squat bar for a 3-week cycle. At other times a Safety squat bar, a bow bar, or a 14-inch cambered bar is often utilized. Sometimes a front squat apparatus will be used for sets. A.J. has a record for a max single for each type of bar he uses. Westside lifters discovered many years ago that a regular straight bar can cause shoulder discomfort as well as bicipital tendonitis even when using maximal hand spacing.

It is easy to manipulate the volume while doing the same percent, the same number of lifts in a set, and the same number of sets.  After the speed strength sets are done, which occurs on Friday at Westside, 3 or 4 special exercises are selected and rotated when necessary.

Let’s look at some examples of 3-week cycles, or speed strength phases, that A.J. uses.  He will wear a Leviathan suit with the straps down and no knee wraps.

 

START OF THE 3-WEEK SPEED STRENGTH WAVE USING A BULLDOG SQUAT BAR

WEEK

PERCENT

WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION

SETS

REPS

TOTAL NUMBER OF LIFTS

1

50%

560

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

620

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

690

25%

8

2

16

NEW 3-WEEK WAVE BEGINS, CHANGING FROM SQUAT BAR TO SAFTEY SQUAT BAR

WEEK

PERCENT

WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION

SETS

REPS

TOTAL NUMBER OF LIFTS

1

50%

450

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

495

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

540

25%

8

2

16

NEW 3-WEEK WAVE BEGINS, CHANGING FROM A SAFTEY SQUAT BAR TO A FRONT SQUAT

WEEK

PERCENT

WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION

SETS

REPS

TOTAL NUMBER OF LIFTS

1

50%

350

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

385

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

420

25%

8

2

16

NEW 3-WEEK WAVE BEGINS, CHANGING FROM A FRONT SQUAT TO A 14” CAMBERED BAR

1

50%

425

25%

10

2

20

2

55%

470

25%

10

2

20

3

60%

510

25%

8

2

16

These are just some of the speed strength cycles that A.J. uses throughout a yearly plan. Almost always they are 3-week waves, and as you can see, the volume changes each week by changing the percentage. The bars change A.J.’s leverage, and changing from band tension to chains and to just bar weight further prevents accommodation.  The squat is always done to a parallel box with a wide stance, except for front squats. At the end of some workouts the box is lowered. This is typical for all Westside lifters. The strength speed cycle will last only 2 weeks, as it is very taxing with the large amount of band tension. A.J. and our other 1000-pound-plus lifters use 700 pounds of band tension plus bar weight.

Below is an example of A.J.’s last strength speed 2-week cycle.

WEEK 1

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

700

2

SET 2

330

700

2

SET 3

420

700

1

SET 4

470

700

1

The 470 pounds plus 700 pounds of band tension was a personal record.

WEEK 2

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

700

2

SET 2

330

700

2

SET 3

420

700

1

SET 4

480

700

1

SET 5

510

700

1

The 510 pounds plus 700 pounds of band tension was also a new personal record .

This concluded a 2-week strength cycle with two new records. Remember, a strength speed cycle lasts only 2 weeks. It is done twice a year. Why? Because A.J. normally competes twice a year. In 2011 A.J. broke the world record total three times.  While doing this, two circa-max squat cycles were also done. It is very similar to a strength speed cycle but with more bar weight and less band tension. The total lifts over 90% of a 1-rep max are 4 minimum, 7 optimal, and 10 maximal. Westside lifters stay close to the optimal.

Here is an example of A.J.’s circa-max phase. It is recommended to count lifts at 70% and above with a suit and briefs.

WEEK 1

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

440

2

SET 2

330

440

2

SET 3

460

440

2

SET 4

550

440

2

SET 5

660

440

1

SET 6

710

440

1

Set 6 with 710 pounds was a personal record with just Predator briefs.

WEEK 2

BAR WEIGHT  (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

440

2

SET 2

330

440

2

SET 3

460

440

2

SET 4

510

440

2

 

WEEK 3

BAR WEIGHT (LBS)

BAND TENSION (LBS)

REPS

SET 1

240

140

2

SET 2

330

140

2

SET 3

460

140

2

 

This concludes the circa-max phase in a 3-week wave. The third week with the 140 pounds of band tension is the second week of delayed transformation. Providing a week of rest gives A.J. 21 days from the heaviest squat. This makes it possible to be fully rested regarding the bench and deadlift. Seventy-two hours later the max effort workout is done on Monday.

All squat bars are used, but never a regular squat bar, and on some type of box. Deadlifts of all kinds are done, but seldom a regular deadlift, and an assortment of good mornings.  Each week the exercise is rotated and is never done twice in a row.  Below is a sample list of special exercises.

Week 1

Front squat on a variety of boxes

Week 2

Safety squat bar on a variety of boxes

Week 3

14” cambered bar on a variety of boxes

Week 4

Bow bar on a variety of boxes

Week 5

Rack pulls, plates 3” off the floor

Week 6

Rack pulls, plates 6” off the floor

Week 7

Rack pulls, plates 9” off the floor

Week 8

Rack pulls, plates any height with 250 lbs of band tension

Week 9

Rack pulls, plates any height with 350 lbs of band tension

Week 10

Box pulls on a 2” or 4” box conventional

Week 11

Box pulls on a 2” or 4” box sumo

Week 12

Deadlift with 220 or 280 lbs of band tension

Week 13

Concentric good mornings

Week 14

14” cambered bar good mornings

Week 15

Safety squat good mornings

 

A.J. has his favorites and uses a rotation of 5 or 6 special exercises. A.J. knows it does not do him any good to be strong in the wrong exercises, so he picks them carefully. Just like on speed day A.J. will do 3 or 4 special exercises for the low back, erectors, lats, hamstrings, and abs. His main exercises are as follows:

  • Reverse Hyper machine
  • inverse curls 
  • 45-degree hypers
  • bent-over rows with a bar or dumbbells
  • sled pulls
  • all type of abs

This is a standard program for A.J. and his training partners. Our top 5 official squats average 1160 pounds and are constantly going up.

Keep an eye out for A.J.’s progress. There is always progress at Westside.

Westside-barbell.com                                 

Dead Lifting with Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell

DEADLIFT TRAINING

Although we have never had a Benny or an Andy or for that fact a Lamar Grant type of deadlifter, we do have many very good deadlifters, both men and women: 18 men who deadlift over 800 pounds and six women who lift over 500 pounds. That’s a lot of back up. I am always explaining how our top athletes train to produce 13 all-time world records so far and within 4 weight classes, but how does a lifter train who is young and just getting their feet in the game?

Well one such lifter is Jean Fry, a female lifter at 123 pounds body weight.  She has a 415-pound squat, a 255-pound bench, and a 375-pound deadlift. Westside has had several lifters who had or have a push/pull combination record. They all train using the same methods during a weekly plan: the dynamic, the max effort, and the repetition methods. When I say there’s only one way to train, I am referring to these scientifically proven methods, not someone’s opinion.

Now let’s look at how Jean trains the deadlift. On Friday Jean does speed strength squats first. She does 10 to 6 sets of box squats depending on the type of resistance used. After squatting, speed strength deadlifts are done. Jean will use about 100 pounds of band tension at the top of the pull. She uses either sumo or conventional style for the hips while standing on a 2-inch box for leg drive. When Jean uses the conventional style, she will usually stand on a 4-inch box.  Speed strength pulls are also done in a power rack with just bar weight or some amount of band tension and always conventional style. Jean sometimes works out without gear; at other times she will wear Predator briefs. When she has a very taxing squat day on Friday, meaning high volume, or if doing a 2-week strength speed phase, she will reduce or completely eliminate any type of barbell exercises on Monday’s max effort workout.

Monday is a hypertrophy workout for the back, legs, and abs plus flexibility or mobility, 3 days, or 72 hours, after the speed strength workout, which will allow her to achieve full recovery of the particular muscles used for squatting and deadlifting. Most of the research on the 72-hour recovery time was done on track and field athletes and weight lifters. Max effort day normally consists of a maximal effort on a special squat or a deadlift for a max single on that day. Reps of 2’s and 3’s will build endurance with a heavy weight. Think about it. You will always conserve yourself for the final rep. It also distorts the distribution of volume concerning the already high volume on speed strength day.  Jean will do good mornings for 5 reps and reverse pyramids with one or two 10-rep sets. Jean uses several special bar exercises, a different one each week. Closer to a meet, she will eliminate the ones that do less for her strength and pick three or four exercises that work best for her strength.

 Let’s look at some of Jean’s special bar exercises that are most productive in a list of her more commonly used max-effort workouts.

Workout 1: Safety Squat Bar

Jean will work up to a max with the Safety Squat bar on a low, 12-inch box while using an ultra-wide stance. Some workouts are done without gear, while others are done wearing Predator briefs. After hitting a P.R. in this lift, a different version will be used for another max effort workout such as a close stance with or without gear. Safety Squat good mornings are used in some workouts. These are done either with a bend in the back or with an arched back. Some workouts are close stance; others are wide stance. The different styles will ensure that Jean uses all muscle groups. 

Workout 2: Rack Pulls

These are performed with the plates 2 ½ to 6 ½ inches off the floor. She will work up to a max single using one pin height per workout. Some workouts are done with just bar weight, while others are done with a variety of weights and band tension. Remember, use only one pin height per workout with or without band tension added and use a conventional stance only.

Workout 3: Box Deadlifts

Jean will pull standing on a 2-inch box for a max single. For other workout she will stand on a 4-inch box. She uses only bar weight with no bands 90% of the time. The box pulls are done with a close stance or sumo style.  The sumo pulls are done either with feet out to the plates or with a normal sumo stance. Again some workouts are done with gear, while others are done without gear.

Workout 4: Front Squats

Jean does front squats with a front squat harness to save her wrists and shoulders. Jean wants to get the most out of the exercise and not let the exercise get the most out of her. All front squats are done on a 12- or 10-inch box with a long relaxation time (2 seconds). They are done with a very close stance for some workouts and very wide for others. Of course when she wears briefs, the weights are heavier, which puts more stress on the muscles above and below the briefs.

Workout 5: Ultra-wide Sumo Pulls

Jean will place her feet as close to the plates on the Texas deadlift bar without setting the plates down on her feet and then works up to a max single. She is ultra-flexible, so will sometimes pull ultra-wide on 2-inch mats.

Workout 6:  14-inch Cambered Bar

One of Jean’s favorite bars is the 14-inch cambered bar for box squatting or good mornings while using chains. The end result is more stability.

There are many more varieties of workouts. This is just an example of a few of Jean’s max effort lifts.

Special Exercises

 

Just like everyone at Westside Jean relies heavily on special exercises for the back, legs, and abs. This is done normally for 3-8 sets depending on how she feels that particular workout day. For the back, reverse hyperextensions are done 4 times a week. They are done heavy on Monday (max effort day) and on Friday (speed squatting day), 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps on average. On the two bench days, she will do 2 sets for restoration. Belt squatting and walking in the belt squat machine develop her glutes, hips, and legs. An old lifting exercise from the former Soviet Union is to use this machine with the belt around the waist for lower body resistance while doing deadlifts and high pulls with kettlebells. Jean then does a lot of lat work on the lat machine, low-pulley work, or bent-over rows with a barbell or dumbbell. The inverse curl and hip machine are very beneficial to her success. She also does a lot of sit-ups and hanging leg raises, side bends, and kettlebell arm presses. 

Now you know how a 123-pound female athlete trains at Westside–just like the guys. Amy Weisberger and Laura Phelps, who has totaled 10 times her own body weight, also train the same. It’s the Westside system for all.

 Watch for Jean’s progress in the future. 

www.westside-barbell.com