Westside Powerlifting Bands: The Ultimate Guide!


The Westside Barbell powerlifting team started using resistance bands in the 1980s. Sense then resistance bands have become one of the most powerful training tools in the world of powerlifting!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Bands For The Bench Press
  • Part 2: Bands For The Squat / Deadlift

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how the Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses resistance bands to break powerlifting world records.

Louis Simmons says that resistance bands are the single most important tool that you can use to get stronger. They are great for big compound exercises like the squat, bench press and deadlift as well as smaller isolation exercises like tricep pushdowns and face pulls.

Bands can even be attached to different machines like the belt squat or the back attack to produce faster results. Let’s take a look at the band box squat. Check it out:

The resistance bands are like giant rubber bands. They are literally pulling down on the bar as you perform the exercise.

The bands only weigh a few pounds but they add a ton of tension to the exercise. The Westside team uses bands that add up to 400+ pounds on the squat and deadlift!

So how do the bands create tension? The bands are pulling the bar down faster than the speed of gravity. You are literally fighting against the bands as you perform the exercise.

The bands create an enormous amount of eccentric stress and help you lift more explosively thanks to a phenomenon called “overspeed eccentrics.” The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses bands on everything from the big compound exercises to the smaller accessory lifts.

In this guide I will show you every possible way you can use bands and chains to boost your squat, bench press and deadlift, Westside-style. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Bands For The Squat / Deadlift

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains the squat and deadlift twice per week.

On Monday they have their max effort squat / deadlift workout where they work up to a 1-rep max on a special exercise for the squat or deadlift. Then on Friday they have a dynamic effort workout where they perform lots of speed sets for the squat and deadlift.

Here is the full Westside Barbell training split:

The Westside Barbell Training Split

  • Sunday: Dynamic effort bench press
  • Monday: Max effort squat / deadlift
  • Wednesday: Max effort bench press
  • Friday: Dynamic effort squat / deadlift

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses bands on their max effort and dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout. Let’s start by looking at the dynamic effort workout.

Louie Simmons says the dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout is the most important workout of the week. He says you should perform your speed squats, speed deadlifts and 2-3 accessory exercises in that order. For example:

The Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Template

  • Exercise #1: Speed squat, 6-12 sets of 2 reps
  • Exercise #2: Speed deadlift, 5-10 sets of 1 rep
  • Exercise #3: Posterior chain accessory movement, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Posterior chain accessory movement, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

The Westside team always starts their workout with the speed squat. Their goal is to lift moderately heavy weights as explosively as possible.

Louie Simmons almost always uses extra band tension for the speed squats. The bands make the exercise heavier in the top half of the exercise and lighter in the bottom half.

You are basically forced to lift the weight as explosively as possible all the way to lockout. If you get lazy and slow down halfway up then the bands will spit you out and eat you up alive!

Here is a great demonstration of the speed squat with bands. Check it out:

Westside Speed Squat With Bands

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team always performs their speed sets using the box squat. All of the usual rules with box squats apply here: sit back on the box, push your knees out, initiate the lift off the box using your glutes etc.

Louie Simmons says that you should adjust your band tension on the bar depending on how strong you are. The stronger your squat the more band tension you should use.

The Westside team likes to cycle their weights in 3-week waves. They slowly increase the training weights for three weeks and then bump them back down on the 4th week. This helps them avoid training plateaus and fosters consistent long-term strength gains. Check it out:

Westside Squat 3-Week Wave With Bands

  • Week #1: 10-12 sets of 2 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 10-12 sets of 2 reps @ 45% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 10-12 sets of 2 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max

The exact percentages that you use on your dynamic effort squats are not super important. The important thing is to make sure you are lifting the weight explosively all the way to lockout and to cycle your percentages using the 3-week wave.

The Westside team also likes to perform their speed squats with bands and chains at the same time.

Powerlifting chains are just construction chains that hang from either side of a barbell. They have a different training effect from bands but they also make the top half of the exercise feel heavier and the bottom half of the exercise feel lighter.

Louie Simmons says that you should lower your training percentages when you squat with bands and chains at the same time. Otherwise your bar speed will slow down too much.

Here is a sample 3-week speed squat wave using bands and chains. Check it out:

Westside Squat 3-Week Wave With Chains And Bands

  • Week #1: 5 sets of 5 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 5 sets of 5 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 5 sets of 5 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max

Here is a sample training video:

In this video the Westside team is performing 5 sets of 5 reps on the speed squat rather than their usual 8-12 sets of 2 reps. Louie Simmons likes to use the 5 sets of 5 reps scheme with anyone who needs to build muscle mass and move up a weight class.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team likes to go very heavy on their dynamic effort squat day the last 3 weeks before their competition. They call this the “circa-max phase” because they are squatting with weights very close to their 1-rep max. They also use an incredibly large amount of band tension on these workouts.

Here are some sample training percentages for the circa-max phase:

Westside Circa-Max Phase

  • Week #1: Speed squat @ 47.5% bar weight + 40-45% band tension for 5 sets of 2 reps
  • Week #2: Speed squat @ 50% bar weight + 40-45% band tension for 4 sets of 2 reps
  • Week #3: Speed squat @ 52.5% bar weight + 40-45% band weight for 3 sets of 2 reps

All of the percentages are based on your previous best competition squat. Week 4 would be your deload week prior to your powerlifting meet and week 5 would be the powerlifting meet itself.

Louie Simmons says that the extremely heavy band tension is great for peaking your strength on the squat right before your competition. The Westside team only performs this phase 2-3 times per year because it is so hard on the body.

Here is a good video showing what the circa max squats should look like. Check it out:

The bottom line is the Westside Barbell powerlifting team loves to use bands for their speed squats. However, they also like using bands on their speed deadlifts. In fact the Westside team uses extra band tension on 100% of their speed deadlifts. They never use chains or regular “straight weight” for these sets.

Here is a sample 3-week wave for the dynamic effort deadlift with bands: 

Westside Deadlift 3-Week Wave With Bands

  • Week #1: 4-6 sets of 1 rep @ 40% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 4-6 sets of 1 rep @ 45% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 4-6 sets of 1 rep @ 50% of your 1-rep max

Here is a perfect demonstration of the speed deadlift:

As you can see the Westside team is ripping the weight off the ground as fast as they can. The bands make the exercise feel MUCH heavier at the top of the lift so you have to accelerate the bar and use momentum to lock the weight out.

Normally the Westside team performs 5-10 sets of singles for the speed deadlift. However, in recent years Louie Simmons has experimented with speed rack deadlifts instead of the regular speed deadlifts.

Here is what a 3-week wave might look like:

Westside Rack Deadlift 3-Week Wave With Bands

  • Week #1: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 8-10 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max

Louie Simmons performs the speed rack deadlifts with a tremendous amount of band tension. He literally quadruples up the bands which creates an insane amount of band tension in the top position of the lift.

Here is a great video demonstration:

Louie Simmons says quadrupled mini bands add about 220 pounds of tension at lockout and the quadrupled monster mini bands add about 280 pounds of tension at lockout.

Louie says you should use slightly lower training percentages to compensate for the heavier band tension.

Louie also recommends you perform sets of 3 reps for the speed rack deads instead of the singles for the regular speed deads. He says that the speed rack deadlifts are great for building muscle mass and improving your overall work capacity.

Now let’s look at a sample Westside dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout using band tension. Check it out:

Westside Dynamic Effort Squat Workout

  • Exercise #1: Speed foam box squat squat with bands and chains, 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Exercise #2: Speed foam deadlift with bands, 5 sets of 1 rep
  • Exercise #3: Reverse hyperextension, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Exercise #4: Glute ham raise, 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team loves to use bands on their squats and deadlifts but they also like to use them for different assistance exercises.

One of Louie Simmons’ favorite strategies is to add extra band tension to different lower body machines. For example here is the back attack machine with extra band resistance:

The Back Attack Machine

The back attack is almost like a good morning machine. Unlike a regular good morning the back attack overloads your posterior chain through the entire range of motion.

In the bottom position the machine is pushing your upper back downwards. However, unlike a regular good morning the back attack machine still applies resistance in the top position by pushing your back forwards.

Adding band tension to this machine helps you to overload the top half of the exercise and dramatically increases the eccentric stress on your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

The Westside team also likes to add band tension to the belt squat machine. Check it out:

The Belt Squat Machine

In this video the Westside team is performing the belt squat machine with a resistance band around their feet and over their neck. The extra band resistance overloads your posterior chain in a way similar to a good morning.

The Westside team also likes to add extra band tension to the machine itself so the weights are being pulled down to the ground faster than the speed of gravity.

The bottom line is the Westside team uses band resistance on everything from their squats and deadlifts to their posterior chain accessory exercises. Louie Simmons says that bands are the single biggest reason for the gym putting up so many 1,000+ pound squats over the years.

Part 2: Bands For The Bench Press

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains the bench press twice per week.

On Sunday they perform their dynamic effort bench press workout where they perform lots of speed sets using bands or chains on the bar. Then on Wednesday they perform their max effort bench press workout where they work up to a 1-rep max on some type of special exercise for the bench press.

Here is another look at the Westside training split:

The Westside Barbell Training Split

  • Sunday: Dynamic effort bench press
  • Monday: Max effort squat / deadlift
  • Wednesday: Max effort bench press
  • Friday: Dynamic effort squat / deadlift

The Westside team loves to use bands on their max effort bench press exercises, their dynamic effort bench press exercises and their accessory work. Let’s start by looking at the max effort exercises.

Each week on their max effort bench press day the Westside team works up to a 1-rep max on some type of special exercise for the bench press.

Here are some of their favorite max effort exercises:

The Westside team also likes to add band tension to these exercises to make them even more challenging. There are two ways to add band tension to your max effort bench press exercise.

You can set the bands up so they are pulling the weight down to the ground or you can set them up so they are pulling the weight up towards the ceiling.

Here is a demonstration of the first method:

The Max Effort Band Bench Press

As you can see the bands are pulling the weight right down to the ground. Louie Simmons says that mini bands add about 80 pounds of tension at lockout, monster-mini bands add about 120 pounds of tension at lockout and the light bands add about 200 pounds of tension at lockout.

Louie says you should set personal records with all three of these band tensions and rotate them in and out of your training program.

Another great option is called “reverse bands.” With reverse bands you loop the bands over the top of the power rack so the bands are pulling the weight up off your chest. Check it out:

The Reverse Band Bench Press

With reverse bands you can load up the bar with more weight than you can normally lift. For example if your normal 1-rep max is 300 pounds on the bench press then you may be able to use as much as 350 pounds with reverse bands.

Reverse bands have a completely different feel from regular bands. The weight feels like it is floating in your hands and it is very easy on your joints and connective tissue.

Many of the world’s strongest powerlifters such as Andy Bolton are big fans of reverse bands for the bench press.

Let’s put everything together by looking at a full max effort bench press workout. Check it out: 

Westside Max Effort Bench Press Workout With Bands

  • Exercise #1: Bench press with bands, 3 sets of 1 rep
  • Exercise #2: Flat DB press, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: 30 degree incline Tate press, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Rope cable pushdown, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Reverse pec dec, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

This was taken directly from the Westside Barbell training log. The Westside team likes to perform their max effort exercise followed by different accessory exercises for their chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders.

Now let’s look at the dynamic effort workouts.

The Westside team loves to use bands on the dynamic effort bench press. The bands have overspeed eccentric properties which increases the strength of your stretch reflex and helps you lift the weight to lockout even faster than normal.

Here is the Westside team demonstrating the speed bench press with bands:

Westside Speed Bench With Bands

As usual the Westside team likes to cycle the speed bench press using a 3-week wave. If you are using bands on the bar then you should probably stick with a weight that is no more than 40-50% of your 1-rep max. For example:

Bench Press 3-Week Wave With Bands

  • Week #1: 10 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 10 sets of 3 reps @ 45% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 10 sets of 3 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max

The Westside team also likes to use bands and chains on the bar at the same time for their speed bench sets.

Using bands and chains simultaneously creates a very chaotic environment for the exercise. Your body has no choice but to recruit more muscle fibers to stabilize the bar and execute the exercise correctly.

Here is a sample 3-week wave with bands and chains. Check it out:

Bench Press 3-Week Wave With Chains And Bands

  • Week #1: 10 sets of 3 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 10 sets of 3 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 10 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max

Here is a sample training video:

When you are using bands and chains on the bar at the same time you have to be very careful with your training percentages. The Westside guru Matt Wenning says he rarely uses more than 185 pounds on the bar for his speed sets and he is a 600+ pound raw bench presser!

The Westside team loves to use bands on the max effort and dynamic effort bench press. However, they also like to use bands for different upper body accessory exercises.

One of their favorite accessory exercises is the bamboo bar bench press. Check it out:

Bamboo Bar Bench Press

The bamboo bar bench press is an incredible exercise. You are basically bench pressing with a bar made out of bamboo with extra weights hanging from resistance bands on either side of the exercise.

The bamboo bar and the hanging weights wobble all over the place as you perform the exercise. This forces your body to recruit more motor units to stabilize the weight.

Here is Louie Simmons describing this exercise:

“It’s helped me rehab. It worlds all the stabilizers and with heavier weights it makes you stronger.

I used a bar like this when I had shoulder socket surgery. Three months later I bench pressed 300 pounds in a t-shirt.

Hardly anyone else can touch a weight after 3 months!”

The bamboo bar bench press is certainly one of the more creative applications of resistance bands! The Westside team also likes to use bands for different triceps isolation exercises.

One of their favorites is the rolling dumbbell extension with bands. Check it out:

Rolling DB Extension With Bands

The Westside team started performing this exercise back in the 1980s. Today it is still one of their most popular triceps accessory exercises.

The bands make the exercise much harder as you lock out your elbows. The rolling dumbbell extension with bands is so effective because it overloads your triceps in the bottom third, middle third and top third of the range of motion.

Another great band triceps exercise is the band tricep pushdown. Check it out:

Band Tricep Pushdowns

This exercise is very simple to perform. You just loop a band over the top of a power rack and perform a tricep pushdown.

The Westside team loves to perform high-rep band pushdowns as a “finishing exercise” towards the end of their workouts. They also like to perform high-rep band pushdowns on their off days from training if their triceps are a weak muscle group.

Conclusion

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team says that resistance bands are one of the most powerful and effective tools that you can use in the gym. They use bands on their max effort exercises, dynamic effort exercises and even their accessory exercises.

If you are serious about getting stronger using the Westside Barbell powerlifting program then you have to start using bands in your workouts. Bands are very inexpensive so there is no excuse for not using this superior training tool in your workouts. 

“Not being willing to try is the beginning of the end.”

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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