Westside Barbell Accessory Exercises: The Ultimate Guide!


The Westside Barbell powerlifting team relies on many different accessory exercises to build their squat, bench press and deadlift. They are one of the most important parts of the Westside Barbell training program!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Bench Press Accessory Exercises
  • Part 2: Squat / Deadlift Accessory Exercises

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you the best Westside Barbell accessory exercises.

Louie Simmons says that only 20% of your total training volume should be on special exercises for the squat, bench press or deadlift. The other 80% of your training volume should be on smaller accessory exercises to strengthen your weak points and build muscular hypertrophy.

Louie Simmons says if your legs are strong enough to squat 500 pounds but your lower back is only strong enough to squat 300 pounds then you will be stuck at a 300 pound squat!

The only way to break through this plateau is to perform specific exercises for your lower back.

Here is Louie Simmons talking about this concept:

“It’s one area! It’s always the weakest link in the chain.”

This is one of the most difficult parts about using the Westside Barbell powerlifting program: you have to know which muscle groups are weak and which exercises to use to strengthen them.

In the rest of this guide I will help you answer both of these questions. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Bench Press Accessory Exercises

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains the bench press twice per week. They like to alternate between a dynamic effort workout on Sunday and a max effort bench press workout on Wednesday.

Here is what a typical Westside Barbell bench press workout would look like:

A Typical Westside Barbell Bench Press Workout

  • Exercise #1: Max effort OR dynamic effort bench press 
  • Exercise #2: Chest assistance exercise
  • Exercise #3: Triceps assistance exercise
  • Exercise #4: Upper back assistance exercise
  • Exercise #5: Shoulders assistance exercise

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs about 5 exercises for their bench press workout. First they perform their max effort or dynamic effort bench press.

For example they might work up to a 1-rep max on a special exercise for the bench press or they might perform 8-10 speed sets on the bench press with bands or chains.

The bench press is the most important exercise in the workout so they perform it first when they are fresh. After the bench press the Westside team moves onto accessory exercises for their chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders in that order.

Louie Simmons says the triceps are the most important muscle group for a huge bench press so he often performs 1-3 exercises for them.

Here is a typical Westside Barbell bench press workout. Check it out:

A Typical Westside Bench Press Workout

This workout follows the bench press template perfectly.

First they max out on the regular bench press. Then they perform several assistance exercises like decline dumbbell presses, JM presses, barbell dead stop rows, prone shoulder raises and triceps pushdowns.

In other words they pick exercises that target their chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders. 

Let’s take a closer look at Louie Simmons’ favorite accessory exercises for each of these exercises.

The Best Chest Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons says that you should perform one accessory exercise for your chest right after your max effort or dynamic effort bench press. Louie sometimes calls this the “second bench press” in his workout programs.

One of Louie’s absolute favorite chest accessory exercises is the bamboo bar bench press. He often has his athletes perform it on the dynamic effort bench day as the second exercise.

Here is Louie Simmons talking about the benefits of this bench press specialty barbell:

The Bamboo Bar Bench Press

“It’s helped me rehab, it works all the stabilizers and also with heavier weights it actually makes me stronger.

I used a bar like this when I had shoulder socket surgery and 3 months later I benched 300 pounds. My surgeon says hardly anyone else can even touch a weight 3 months out!”

When you use the bamboo barbell the extra weights bounce in every diffraction. This forces your body to activate more muscle fibers to stabilize the bar and perform the exercise correctly.

Many people find that their chest gets extremely sore the first time they use this bar.

You can also perform dumbbell presses or even high-rep bench presses to failure as your chest accessory exercises. Louie often uses sets as high as 15-25 reps for chest so don’t be afraid to bump up the reps!

Westside Barbell Triceps Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons says that the triceps are THE most important muscle group for a huge bench press.

He says that you actually want your triceps stronger than your chest or shoulders so that you can bench press with proper form and avoid chest and shoulder injuries. 

“The major muscle in the bench press is the triceps. Larry Pacifico said this in 1971 and it’s still true.

You’ll notice that Kenny Patterson and all the other Westside lifters have tremendous triceps development.

When the arms are very strong the bar will go in a straight line.”

One of his favorite triceps accessory exercises is the rolling dumbbell extension. Check it out:

The Rolling DB Extension

Kenny Patterson is using the 110 pound dumbbells for this exercise. Talk about strong! The rolling dumbbell extension is a tremendous exercise for the triceps. It is almost like a hybrid between a compound exercise and an isolation exercise.

Don’t be afraid to use a little bit of controlled momentum on this exercise.

Here is Louie Simmons describing this movement:

“Remember guys, we’re not bodybuilding here, we’re powerlifting! We’re going for maximum absolute strength.

The JM press is another one of the Westside team’s favorite triceps exercises.

If the close grip bench press and the skull crusher had a baby then it would be called the JM press. Check it out:

The JM Press

With the JM press you lower the bar down towards your clavicle and then roll your wrist back while raising your elbows up towards the ceiling. You roll your wrists back until the bar is 2 inches above your chin, pause and then press the bar straight back up in a straight line.

Louie Simmons says the JM press is one of the best exercises for building the medial head of the triceps. You can use whichever triceps exercises work best for you. The important thing is to really hammer your triceps hard twice per week.

Louie Simmons says they are the most important muscle group for a huge bench press so don’t slack off here!

Westside Upper Back Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons believes the upper back is another extremely important muscle group for a huge bench press. Louie says you should train the upper back at least twice per week.

Many Westside athletes also perform upper back work on their lower body training days!

Louie uses a wide variety of accessory exercises to train the upper back. However, he really prefers all types of rows. One of his favorites is the machine chest supported row. Check it out:

The Machine Chest Supported Row

Louie prefers rowing variations that do not tax your lower back. Exercises like heavy barbell rows or heavy t-bar rows are definitely out while other exercises like chest supported rows, cable face pulls and lat pulldowns are definitely in.

If you use too many heavy rowing variations that tax your lower back then you may have a hard time recovering for your squat / deadlift workouts.

Westside Shoulder Accessory Exercises

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team likes to finish their upper body workouts with one shoulder exercise. This is usually an isolation exercise like a lateral raise or a rear delt fly.

One of their favorite isolation exercises is the reverse pec dec. Check it out:

The Reverse Pec Dec

These shoulder exercises aren’t going to build a ton of muscle mass or strength so don’t kill yourself on them.

They are primarily used to keep your shoulders healthy and in balance with the rest of your upper body.

Part 2: Squat / Deadlift Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons believes that the most important muscle groups for a huge squat or deadlift are the lower back, glutes and hamstrings.

Together these muscles are called the “posterior chain” because they are located on the backside of your body. They all work together to help you extend your hips during exercises like the squat and deadlift.

Louie Simmons says that you should perform 1-2 exercises for your lower back and 1-2 exercises for your hamstrings on your lower body training days.

For example here is what a typical Westside Barbell max effort lower body day looks like. Check it out:

Westside Barbell ME Squat / Deadlift Workout

  • Exercise #1: Max effort squat / deadlift variation
  • Exercise #2: Posterior chain assistance exercise
  • Exercise #3: Posterior chain assistance exercise
  • Exercise #4: Posterior chain assistance exercise

You always start with your special exercises for the squat or deadlift. This could be a max effort squat / deadlift exercise or your 6-10 sets of speed squats and speed deadlifts. After these exercises you move onto your 2-4 posterior chain accessory exercises.

Here is a typical Westside Barbell dynamic effort lower body workout. Check it out:

A Typical Dynamic Effort Lower Body Workout

This is a very normal looking Westside Barbell workout. The Westside team performs speed squats, speed deadlifts, reverse hyperextensions and glute ham raises in that order.

Louie Simmons says that all of his favorite accessory exercises work the lower back, glutes and hamstrings at the same time. However, there are some exercises that place more emphasis on the lower back and some that place more emphasis on the hamstrings.

Let’s start by looking at his favorite lower back accessory exercises.

The Best Lower Back Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons says that the reverse hyperextension is the king of lower back exercises. Actually it is his favorite overall accessory exercise for building the posterior chain.

Here is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:

The Reverse Hyperextension

Louie Simmons invented the reverse hyperextension machine in 1974 after he broke his lower back. He says the reverse hyperextension is the best lower back exercise because it strengthens and rehabilitates the lower back at the same time.

The machine actually decompresses your lumbar vertebrae as you use it. This is a fancy way of saying it takes the pressure off of your lower back by increasing the space between your lumbar vertebrae.

Louie Simmons says this machine is the reason he could squat over 900 pounds in his 50’s!

Another one of Louie’s favorite lower back machines is the back attack. Here is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:

The Back Attack Machine

The back attack is almost like a good morning machine. It applies force to your back in an arcing motion as you perform the movement. In the bottom position the machine presses down on your back but in the top position it actually presses forwards on your back.

The back attack machine strengthens your back throughout the entire range of motion with very little risk of injury. You can also add extra band tension to this exercise for an even stronger training effect.

Now let’s look at some of the best hamstrings exercises.

The Best Hamstrings Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons says that the inverse leg curl is the greatest hamstrings exercise in the world. Here is a perfect video demonstration of this exercise: 

The Inverse Leg Curl

The inverse leg curl is almost like a Nordic leg curl. The big difference is you have a machine to help lift you out of the bottom position of the exercise.

The inverse leg curl is so effective because it trains your hamstrings as knee flexors and hip extensors at the exact same time. The only other exercise that can do this is the glute ham raise. As you get stronger you can progress to performing this exercise without any help from the machine.

Another one of Louie Simmons’ favorite hamstrings exercises is the belt squat. Here is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:

The Belt Squat

Louie Simmons invented the belt squat in 1975 and it is still one of his favorite accessory exercises today.

The belt squat lets you train the big squatting muscles without putting any compressive pressure on your lower back. In fact this exercise actually tractions your lower back to speed up your recovery!

Louie Simmons usually likes to perform the belt squat by sitting down on a parallel box. This helps you to recruit more muscle fibers in your glutes and hamstrings at the expense of your quads.

Conclusion

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses many different accessory exercises to build the squat, bench press and deadlift.

In fact Louie Simmons says that 80% of your training volume should be dedicated to training these movements.

This is the only way to bring up your weak muscle groups and add muscle mass while using the Westside Barbell training program.

Here is one more quote by Louie Simmons to pump you up even more:

“No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

 

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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