This is very long, ( about 2 500 words ) but it explains EVERYTHING.
In my previous article I mentioned I would start adding more content on the mechanics of training. Today I’m going to give you my 10 week training cycle that is 99,99% Westside Barbell methods of training. I won’t say it’s their method, because I am not certified, and I probably got a few things wrong that they wouldn’t do, and I adapted it to my intermediate level in weightlifting and powerlifting.
I had a lot of trouble understanding the Westside Barbell Method, and therefore my effort here is not to steal their content, but to give you my feedback on how amazingly well the method works, and how I made it work for me. I am sure I can make great improvements upon it still, but this system works.
Before implementing this you need to know a few things. I lift Raw, No Knee Wraps, No sleeves, No belt, and I take no drugs (except for caffeine in the form of coffee which I looooove!).
This isn’t for complete beginner lifters. You need a good 2 to 3 years of lifting weights consistently before you start implementing this training cycle.
Why? Because you need to understand how you work. I am 100% sure anyone can use this sheet if they already understand their body, and their recovery capacity well enough. It took me about 3 years in strength training to understand what OPTIMAL volumes are. And a LOT of trial and error. You also need to have an idea of HOW MUCH you can lift, an HOW to lift weights. If you don’t, then you should do a full training cycle of Rippetoes Starting Strength, to get reps and technique in, but also do it until you hit a wall, and you need to change your program to make progress.
This training cycle is basically a 9 week cycle, a 10th Deload week, then the Test the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. I would recover during the following wee by doing some light work.
This is the Weekly Training Plan Sheet.
As you can see, there are 7 columns for the days of the weeks, and 3 sections that run across the sheet that are the Type Of Session, the Primary Exercises and the Assistance Exercises.
This is the Training Cycle Sheet.
It helps you understand how the different waves and cycles of exercises work together, and how the volume, reps, and sets vary over time to bring you to the competition / test week.
I suggest you read each section and then take a close look at both sheets once you’re done. I believe these were the only thing lacking in the Westside Barbell Book Of Methods, which would have drastically helped comprehension.
There are four types of sessions :
- MAX EFFORT sessions
- DYNAMIC sessions
- Technical sessions
- Rest or light cardio (GPP) sessions
The main work is done on Max Effort days and Dynamic Days. What differs here are the primary lifts. The assistance work that is done right after the Primary Lifts is basically always the same rep/set scheme, but the exercises change. Here are the detailed descriptions of these different sections.
MAX EFFORT SESSIONS
There are two MAX EFFORT SESSIONS, one for the lower body, one for the upper body. Lower body on Mondays, upper body on Wednesdays. What days you do them on doesn’t matter, just leave a rest day between both of them to let your nervous system recover.
The principle is the same on both days. You try and lift the heaviest weight possible for a certain lift.
Lower Body : Squat, deadlift, good morning, cleans, and all variations of these lifts
Upper Body : Overhead press, Bench press, Incline press, Jerks, Pushes, and all grip variations of these lifts.
You can try for a 1 to 5 rep max.
nb : If you feel like you can’t recover enough (even though you sleep enough), then you might have overrun your nervous system, and only in that case should you go for a Repetition Method day, where you go for 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 controlled Reps at 30 to 40% of your 1rm.
How do you determine what lift you use?
I say do the lift you are the weakest at.
- Your strongest deadlift is conventional? Go sumo.
- Your Overhead Press is less than 80% of your close grip bench press? Do neck presses.
- You’re better at wide stance, low bar squats? Do a close stance high bar squat.
- You have a stronger wide grip bench press? Do a close grip paused bench press.
- You miss your deadlift just above the floor? Do deadlifts on a box.
- Your upper back rounds over in the squat? Do some round back Good mornings.
And every week, you go for a PR on a different lift. I will give you the exact lifts I did over the Cycle at the end of the article to give you an idea of what can be done. The idea being that you won’t tire your central nervous system out if you change the lift every week. I still get tired, so I change the rep scheme a bit in order to make this work for me.
How do you determine the rep range?
Here is where I differ a bit from Westside. I mixed in some of the 5,3,1 principle. Why? Because my central nervous system seems to get very easily drained. I’m getting better, but I still struggle to keep up the 1rm every week.
So what I did was I mostly did a 5 rep max on weeks 1 to 7, then 3 rep maxes on weeks 8, then singles on weeks 9. But I still felt drained on weeks 8 and 9, and started to really struggle with attention on dynamic days.
What I’m going to try this next training cycle is going 5, 3,1, 5, 3, 1, 5, 3,1. See how that works out.
I still got a 10kg PR on the snatch, and a 5kg PR on the Clean and jerk. And I believe I will be easily pushing through to new PR’s on the next training cycle. So this works, but there is always room for improvement.
My training cycle : (lower body / upper body)
- Week 1 : Max test Snatch Clean & Jerk / Overhead Strict Press
- Week 4 : Ass To Grass Paused Squat 1 rm / Behind Neck Snatch Grip Strict Press
- Week 5 : 5 rm Conventional Deadlift / 5 rm Standing Overhead Press
- Week 6 : 5 rm Wide Stance Squat / 3rm Jerk
- Week 7 : 5 rm Front Squat / 5rm Seated Overhead Press
- Week 8 : 3rm Sumo Deadlift / 3 rm Overhead Press
- Week 9 : 1 rm Max Box Squat / 1 rm Floor Seated Overhead Press
DYNAMIC DAY :
Here too, there are 2 different days, a lower body, and an upper body.
Lower Body :
In the Westside Barbell Book Of Methods, for this section, the cycling is done over a 3 week incremental wave base. It goes 75/80/85% of 1 rep max for 12 sets of 2 reps / 12 sets of 2 reps/ 10 sets of 2 reps. However for olympic weightlifting, they suggest 3 sets of 3 reps at 70/80/85% in snatch and clean variations.
For the lower body dynamic day on this training cycle, as my goals were the snatch and clean, those were the lifts I wanted to focus on. As my technique wasn’t great and I was still honing it, I just went for 3 sets of 3 of the Snatch, then 3 sets of 3 reps in the Clean. Nice and simple.
I tested myself for the training cycle on the snatch and clean and jerk : 60kg snatch, 90kg clean and jerk.
I knew these would evolve quickly, as the main issue was technique. So I decided to use 3 increasing waves before testing the snatch and clean and jerk 1 rms again. I used :
- Wave 1 : 70/75/80 % – or 3 sets f 3 reps of 42,5/45/47,5kg snatch, 62,5/67,5/72,5kg cleaning jerk
- Wave 2 : 75/80/85 % – or 3 sets of 3 reps of 45/47,5/50kg snatch, 67,5/72,5/77,5kg cleaning jerk
- Wave 3 : 80/85/90 % – or 3 sets of 2 reps of 47,5/52,5/55kg kg snatch, 72,5/77,5/82,5kg kg cleaning jerk
Upper Body :
For the arms the strategy is a bit different. There are two movement I want to focus on to increase the weight in the snatch and clean and jerk :
- The catch in the snatch
- The jerk
The main goal for the arms is to increase the speed at which the arms straighten out. No so much the strength they exert concentrically ( that is the focus of the Max Effort Upper Body day). The goal is to use bands that represent around 25% of the weight at full extension, and focus on pressing with as much force (think speed) as possible. The bands have a threefold benefit :
- Increase the eccentric speed of the movement, creating greater reversal strength
- Increase the speed at which the lifter has to get under the bar
- Force the lifter to increase the strength as the band tension increases on the concentric portion, training the lifter to be the strongest in the catching position for both the Catch in the snatch, and the catch in the Jerk.
I used 3 movements for 3 weeks each :
- The Split Jerk : 45kg+ 20kg bands 9×3 (22% band tension )
- The Push Press : 45kg+20kg bands 9×3 (22% band tension )
- The Klokov Press : 35kg + 20kg bands 9×3 (28% band tensions )
In my previous powerlifting cycles, I tested my 1 rep maxes in each of the lifts. I used 50% of 1 rep max for each of them, and added around 25% band tension at the extension.
ACCESSORY EXERCISES :
These are done on all four days. I chose between 1 and 4 exercises depending on how taxing the Primary exercises were.
They are to be monitored just as much as the other lifts. You should try and go for 3 weeks waves during which you will increase either the number of reps, the number of sets, or the weight on the bar. All three solutions will help you increase your strength. It depends on how your personality works. The rep ranges are there to help you stay in the “Groove of Gains ». Once you’ve done 3 weeks on a set of exercises, switch them all up.
These exercises must work on the weaknesses that were revealed during max effort days. If your overhead press is weak compared to your bench press, work on overhead exercises such as incline presses, overhead presses etc.
If your back rounds in the deadlift, work on your lower back. If you squat is much weaker than your deadlift, work on quads and upper back.
If you don’t know what your weaknesses are, go for a six week cycle testing out on max days your 1 rep maxes raw ( belt, no knee wraps, sleeves are ok ), and try out the exercises I suggest just afterwards as Accessory exercises during that 6 week cycle.
Lower body : wide stance parallel box squat, ass to grass front squat, parallel squat, conventional deadlift, sumo deadlift, 3rm wide stance arched back good morning, close stance bent leg round back good morning.
Upper body : wide grip bench press, close grip bench press, strict standing overhead press, 60 degree incline press, close grip neck press, wide grip neck press.
For lower body it is usually :
- Hyperextensions, working up to 4 sets of 20 reps, the adding 2,5kg, and going back down to 3x12reps
- Leg extensions or some variation of squats
- Some sort of deadlift, or leg curls for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps
For upper body it is usually :
- Some form of incline press or bench press for 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps
- Alternated with pull-ups or a pulling exercise, and depending on strength it can go from 4 to 10 sets of 1 to 12 pull-ups.
- A tricep extensions, and a biceps exercise in alternation fro 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
TECHNICAL WORKOUT :
If you’re a powerlifter, these four workouts should be enough for your numbers to go up. For a weightlifter that is starting out, there are a lot of different technical aspects that have to be dealt with also. Not that the powerlifting movements aren’t technical, they are probably even more intensely precise than olympic movements.
But Weightlifting movements are far more complex. There are phases, timings, required speeds, and added to that are personal strengths and anatomical individualities that have to be addressed.
In order to allow some time to work on these aspects, and also help recover from the other four sessions, there can be one (or even two) technical sessions that can be added to the weekly program
These are usually made up of 3 different exercise, and most of the time 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps.
The weights used are to be from an empty bar to a maximum of 60% of the 1rm on the given movement.
The chosen movements are the ones the athlete is the weakest on, or has the most difficulty understanding. This part is extremely personalised, and requires great awareness of sticking points, and weaknesses. These should have been made obvious with max effort days. The accessory exercises, speed days, and technical days all should work in unison to correct these weaknesses.
However, here are a few exercises you can pick to work on while determining how to lift. Work up to 50% bodyweight, unless you are grossly overweight, in which case use this formula :
MEN : 12 x (height in meters) x (height in meters) = weight you should use in kilos.
WOMEN : 10 x (height in meters) x (height in meters) = weight you should use in kilos.
- Squat Clean
- Above knees starting position Snatch, Or Clean,
- Below knees starting position Snatch, Or Clean
- Power Snatch, Or Clean
- High Snatch Pull
- Clean Pull
- Snatch Deadlift
- Clean Deadlift
- Drop Snatch
- Split Jerk
- Squat Jerk
- Power Jerk
- And all possible mixes of these exercises.
GPP Workout :
These are to be either done by themselves or associated with technical days. The idea is to work on light exercises for reps, and helping aching muscles and joints recover. They also mean you can ad more work to lagging muscle groups that need the attention, and also add core, or abdominal exercises that I personally never find enough time to do if I don’t add these sessions.
I use the Gymnastics Bodies Fundamental program that allows for mobility and exercises. They give a great pump, reconnect you with your body and allow for great joint health. Their programs a CHEAP for what they deliver.
These days you can also do jumping if you lack explosive power. Usually 4 sets of 10 reps. These can be long jumps, high jumps, depth jumps, etc etc.
If you lack endurance, some sort of cardiovascular exercise can also be done during these sessions.It can be sled pulls, sled pushes, interval running, skipping rope….
Basically these sessions are to be used for light work that increases blood flow and allows for more recovery between hard sessions.
Have fun, and take it easy!
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