Saturday, September 30, 2017


Once again, props to Will Ruth of r/strongman forpitching this idea to me.  Westside has regained some popularity now with the upcoming release of “Westside vs The World”, and people are starting to dig back into the training.  In turn, people are starting to jump to the same wrong conclusions and make the same mistakes that many of us made back in the day when Westside was super popular, and I figure I can at least share my perspective, experiences and understandings in the hopes that it clears things up slightly.  Of course, that’s a big hope, because this always ends up being a gigantic mess, but one can hope eh?

To establish my own experience, let me give a brief history of what the internet lifting world was like in the early 2000s.  Back then, lifting was basically either bodybuilding or powerlifting.  If you weren’t one, you were the other.  If it turned out you were a powerlifter, what it really meant was that you were running Westside Barbell, because this was the only “powerlifting program” the internet knew about.  Well, I take that back; we all knew about linear periodization, but we also all knew that was garbage, because come on, it wasn’t CONJUGATE periodization.  To understand why we thought this, check out Dave Tate’s “Periodization Bible” articles, which had hit the net in the late 90s.  Now, the real, actual, honest to god powerlifters out there were using a whole bunch of different approaches, but in the land of the internet, the only thing we knew about was Westside Barbell.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Although, somehow, we still knew this was a bad idea

As such, we yahoo’d (remember; early 2000s) the “Westside Barbell Template” or bought the Elifefts basic training manual or bought a copy of Powerlifting USA and found an article written by Louie and figured out that Westside was Max Effort (ME), Repetition Effort (ME) and Dynamic Effort (DE).

And here is what we all screwed up and what I now know.


Image result for nosebleed squats
Probably an RPE 8...maybe 8.5

What we did wrong:

We believed that the max effort work was where strength was BUILT.  This is where you lift heavy weights for low reps, so as such, of course, it’s where you get stronger on the program.  Additionally, since this was powerlifting (the sport of the squat, bench and deadlift), of course you want your ME movements to be squats, benches and deadlifts.  MAYBE make them a little different, like close grip bench for 1 week, but in general, you gotta practice the big movements a lot to get better at them.  And, of course, you need to always beat your previous PRs from last ME day, because otherwise you aren’t getting stronger; you’re getting weaker.  How else will you know if the program is working if you’re not testing it?

How it SHOULD work:

ME work is where strength is PRACTICED, not built.  Specifically, you’re practicing the ability to STRAIN against a heavy load, which is a pretty crucial element in powerlifting or any sport of lifting maximal poundages.  There is a big difference between the reps you crank out on a 10 rep set vs one you do for a max single or triple, and a lot of different physical qualities come into play on the latter.  You want to be experienced in knowing how to best recruit your body to the task while staying tight, strong, and in position.

In turn, the goal of ME work is max STRAIN, not max weight lifted.  Depending on how your training cycle is going, you might show up to an ME workout and hit a PR compared to a previous ME work but it was so smooth you didn’t strain.  This means you didn’t really accomplish the goal of ME work.  Consequently, you might be having a bad day and end up using 50lbs less than a previous workout, but you blow out all your blood vessels and collapse on the floor. Congrats, goal accomplished; you achieved max strain.

Image result for full body cast
Hey look: it worked!

In turn, you don’t need to use the competition lifts all the time to accomplish this goal, and this is why Louie advocated rotating the implements; to keep from getting burnt out from straining the exact same way over and over every week.  To do otherwise would be to invite overuse injury, but by changing the stimulus, you have a chance to spend a week being bad at the lift due to a lack of practice and then can spend another week or 2 moving heavier poundages as your skill improves before you move on to something else.  It necessarily auto-regulates poundages moved while still allowing you to strain.  And, consequently, since straining is a less specific skillset, using different implements (as long as they’re SOMEWHAT similar to the competition lifts) should carryover to your more specialized movements.  Ideally, you already have some mastery of the technique of the competition lifts, but if not, your time to practice them is on dynamic effort day.  ME day is about getting better at straining, not at the competition lifts.


Image result for slamming head into wall
Amazingly, this sums up my experience with dynamic effort

What we did wrong:

The only way to get stronger is by lifting heavy weights for few reps, right?  Well after all that ME work, we’d keep it up by doing pretty much the same lift again for 4-5 sets of 5.  In fact, let’s go set some PRs in the repetition effort work.  Max stack facepulls, max stack pushdowns, man, I’m going to get so strong!

How it SHOULD work:

RE is where we actually get strong; not ME.  This should make sense, when you consider that RE work makes up 80% of the training in most of Westside.  It also makes sense when you consider that every other strength athlete in the world knew this BUT us idiots on the internet.  Lifting weights through a broad spectrum of rep ranges with a bunch of different angles accumulates volume, which is a driver of hypertrophy, which is necessary for building a baseline of strength.  Ability to move heavier loads is a skill that is developed with practice, and the ME day allows for that, but in terms of the actual BUILDING of strength, this is happening in the RE movements.

This means that focus needs to be placed on generated the necessary degree of strain on the MUSCLES needed to improve the competition lifts.  We’d get caught up in number and PR chasing on the RE work and in turn strengthen our strengths while leaving our weaknesses the same.  This is the time to do the things you are bad at so that you can get stronger at the things you are good at.

Image result for puking workout
Granted, for most people, this is conditioning

And don’t get me wrong; Dave Tate has a good “supplemental vs assistance” philosophy that explains the differences in the RE work, but the biggest thing to keep in mind is that these are muscle building movements rather than strength practice movements.  Westside wasn’t all that mysterious, it was pretty much what most powerlifters were doing everywhere else; lift something heavy, then go lift some lighter stuff.

Also, we were idiots because we bought all the hype of what the Westside lifters were doing, not realizing that most of them were geared and we were raw.  And this is nothing against Louie Simmons, because that’s simply who he was training AND it was what powerlifting actually WAS back then. But the approach to Westside raw is going to be vastly different than geared when it comes to RE work, with more emphasis placed on pecs, quads, and shoulders than we see with geared lifting.  And this is up to the USER to figure out.  You can’t just be lazy and copy someone else’s routine.


I got nothing here folks.  Never been able to figure this stuff out.  Magic maybe? 

Once again, I never trained at Westside, this is all just my rambling, but further along now, this makes so much more sense and is so much easier to implement.  Hopefully it helps you.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Dear readers, I have once again ventured out amongst humanity in an 8 day vacation, with 4 days spent in the Disneyworld parks and 4 other days on a Disney cruise.  This has once again given me an opportunity to observe humanity en masse, in many senses of that word, and report back my findings.  Without further ado

-Once again, I am aghast at the obesity epidemic hitting this country.  In fact, as a sad observation, with the cultural melting pot that is Disney, I learned to make the observation that, if someone was obese, they were American and, if someone wasn’t, they didn’t speak English.  This was helpful whenever I needed to ask someone to move out of my way, especially how, most often, the reason someone needed to move was because they were obese.

-The above is especially unfortunate as it relates to children.  These kids don’t stand a chance.  Their parents are doing them a disservice by starting them off so far behind the physical 8 ball, and if you want to know what the worse culprit is, it’s drinkable calories.  My kid eats a ton of junk and stays in good shape because it’s simply difficult to EAT a lot of calories, but you can suck down tons of juice/sodas/slushies/whatever and not even notice it.  That was why I was fat as a kid; Koolaid, but even then I was “90s kid” fat.  These kids are a whole different issue.

Image result for kool aid man
This was pretty much me from ages 4-14

-As I get older, my indulgence in foot seems more variety oriented than quantity.  I’d be at the buffet, get a big plateful of a bunch of different food, eat it all and then contemplate getting more.  Realizing that I’d simply be getting more of what I already had rather than anything different, I saw no reason to make the second trip.  I had already “done it”.  It’s a weird psychological shift for me.

-On that note, I’m also a very simply creature.  I had a meal plan that allowed me to eat at the hotel every night, on their menu was a double bacon angus cheeseburger, and I had it every night after getting back from the parks.  And I looked forward to it every night.

-You can get in a solid workout with zero equipment.  Everyone complaining that they can’t is simply uncreative.

-I stole a page from Josh Bryant when the cruise dumbbells only went up to 50lbs and sat on a flat bench and pressed overhead, then went as high an incline as possible, then slowly worked all the way down to flat bench pressing.  Mechanical advantage dropsets.  Once again, people complaining about the dumbbells “not being heavy enough” simply aren’t creative enough.

Image result for squatting on a bosu ball
Look at this guy maximizing 135lbs

-I ended up losing 4lbs by the end of the vacation.  Part of this was walking 12 hours a day for the first 4 days, and part of it was, despite the food I had access to being very decadent, it simply wasn’t ALWAYS there.  I think food availability is one of our more critical nutritional issues compared to food quality.

-I engaged in “intermittent fasting”, aka, skipping breakfast, for the first 4 days.  Of course people like it; it’s easier. 

-It’s amazing how being around a bunch of out of shape people does nothing for your own body dysmorphia.  I still went through bouts of feeling too small or too fat over the course of 8 days, and of course that was primarily a result of different lighting/mirrors/photos/etc.  Nothing really changes over 8 days but our minds.

-The common stereotype is that women are insecure about their bodies and men don’t care, but I saw TONS of women just letting it all hang out in super small bikinis and tons of dudes who refused to be at the pool without a shirt on.  I do imagine we are seeing something of a cultural shift.

-It amazes me how many adults eat like children.  I was overjoyed at the amount of fresh veggies made available to me while cruising, and saw many plates that were the typical “brown and gray” of nothing but meat and potatoes.  And yeah, I get it “I’m on vacation”, but part of that experience is your ability to be able to eat all those things that are a pain in the ass to cook and clean.  And really, how many of these people are actually eating differently than they do at home anyway?

Image result for hungry man meals
"Hey man, the brownie adds color"

-Gaston wears a stuffed suit with fake muscles.  Come on now!  However, he also has the longest line for character visits, and it’s usually all women.

-I saw a LOT of obese people wearing Disney princess outfits or marvel superhero attire.  The crowning achievement was a dude in a motorized scooter with a batman shirt, a Deadpool tattoo, and a DBZ backpack.  I don’t get it.  I have a Punisher tattoo and wear a LOT of Punisher shirts.  I want to BE the Punisher.  I train hard in these hopes.  I can’t tell who is more deluded.

--Also, that guy in the motorized scooter was walking around later that day.  Don’t get me started on that.

-If you want to get super cut for a photoshoot or something, just walk around Disneyworld for 12 hours in 100 degree heat with a million percent humidity. 

-Rogue should pay some people to NOT wear their shirts.

Image result for Rogue Fitness shirt
Hell, these guys aren't even WEARING the shirt

-My go to snack at parks/fairs is always the giant turkey leg.  Low carb, high protein right?  However, it always seems to be me and some 100lb girls that really enjoy this treat.

-I still can’t get the damn sword out of the stone.

-I like having a kid, because now I can buy all the toy swords and Viking stuff from Epcot under the guise that it’s “for them”.

-I’m starting to think I just don’t get joy out of food any more.  There is rarely something out there that is so delicious that I feel compelled to eat it knowing full well it’s not very beneficial to eat.  Meanwhile, I observe people that shovel copious amounts of garbage in their face in.  Really, how much happiness can a second serving get you that the first didn’t?