The Westside Barbell training program is one of the most popular powerlifting programs in the world.
It uses 4 different workouts per week to help you build strength in the squat, bench press and deadlift. One of the most challenging workouts is the max effort lower body workout.
If you want to learn how to perform the Westside Barbell max effort lower body workout then this article is for you!
- Part 1: The Westside Barbell Training Split
- Part 2: The Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Template
- Part 3: The Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Workouts
In this comprehensive guide I will show you exactly how Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team perform their max effort lower body workouts.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting gym is the strongest gym in the world. The head coach Louie Simmons has trained many of the strongest powerlifters of all time.
Here is Louie Simmons squatting a massive 920 pounds at 53 years old:
Talk about a huge squat! Louie Simmons says the only way he could perform this lift was by following the Westside Barbell training program.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains 4 days per week using an upper body / lower body split. Check it out:
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 crew trains the squat and deadlift twice per week.
There is one “max effort” workout where you train with extremely heavy weights and one “dynamic effort” workout where you perform speed sets with weights around 50-60% of your 1-rep max.
For the max effort workouts you are going to work up to a 1-rep max on some type of special exercise for the squat or deadlift.
Louie Simmons says this is the most effective way to build maximal strength and to teach you how to strain against heavy weights. Check it out:
“The max effort method is highly neurological.
That means that the max effort method teaches you how to coordinate each muscle group to lift a super heavy load in the squat or deadlift.
All those muscles have to work synergistically together in order to create maximal force production and proper motor patterns.
So the max effort method does create a ton of coordination and a ton of power in that area.”
Here is a great video of the Westside team performing rack deadlifts with bands for their max effort squat / deadlift exercise. Check it out:
Max Effort Deadlift
Louie Simmons says the bands add about 280 pounds at lockout. This is enough band tension to make your head explode!
Don’t worry, the point of the max effort method is NOT to make your head explode. The real benefit is it teaches your nervous system to become more efficient at recruiting and coordinating the high-threshold motor units.
The max effort method actually makes your central nervous system better at performing the lift so you can become super strong without having to build a ton of muscle mass.
Here is Matt Wenning explaining this concept:
“The max effort method works very very well for creating strength over size because max effort training is neurological.
It teaches you how to coordinate the spark plug from the brain to control the muscle tissue that you already have.
So if you want to get super strong and not get any bigger then the max effort method is for you.”
The max effort method is probably the single most important part of the entire Westside Barbell training program. Each week you work up to a new 1-rep max on a different special exercise for the squat or deadlift.
Louie says you should rotate through many different exercises to avoid hitting a plateau.
Here is his favorite way to cycle max effort squat / deadlift exercises:
How To Cycle Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Exercises
- Week #1: Deadlift
- Week #2: Squat
- Week #3: Deadlift
- Week #4: Good Morning
It is very important to cycle your exercises using this system or another similar one. If you try to max out on the squat or the deadlift every single week then you will quickly hit a plateau.
When you rotate through different variations of squats, deadlifts or even good mornings then you are much less likely to hit a training plateau.
Here are some of Louie Simmons favorite max effort exercises. Check it out:
The Best Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Exercises:
- Exercise #1: Box squat
- Exercise #2: Safety squat bar box squat
- Exercise #3: Buffalo bar box squat
- Exercise #4: Cambered bar box squat
- Exercise #5: Deadlift
- Exercise #6: Deficit deadlift
- Exercise #7: Block pull
- Exercise #8: Rack pull
- Exercise #9: Chain suspended good morning
- Exercise #10: Good morning squat
All of these exercises can be performed with bands, chains or even bands and chains at the same time.
For example Louie Simmons says bands and chains are an awesome way to introduce more variety to your workouts. You could easily use quadrupled mini bands, monster-mini bands and light bands to add more variety to your max effort rack pulls and so on.
Here is Louie Simmons talking about the importance of changing the max effort exercise every single week:
“We never do the same max effort lift two weeks in a row. Instead we change max effort exercises weekly.
We do this by changing the intensity of the workout (adding bands or chains) and the difficulty of the workout (specialty bars, box height, increasing deficit).”
You are always going to start the max effort squat / deadlift workout with some type of special exercise for the squat or deadlift.
After that you are going to perform several accessory exercises for your lower body.
Here is a basic template for the Westside Barbell max effort lower body workout:
The Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Template
- Exercise #1: Max effort squat / deadlift / good morning
- Exercise #2: Posterior chain accessory exercise
- Exercise #3: Posterior chain accessory exercise
- Exercise #4: Posterior chain accessory exercise
Louie Simmons wants you to put most of your energy into the max effort exercise performed at the beginning of the workout.
The accessory exercises are still very important but you don’t want to go crazy on them.
Louie Simmons believes the hamstrings, glutes and lower back are the most important muscles for building a huge squat or deadlift. For this reason he focuses almost all of his accessory work on these exercises.
Here are Louie Simmons’ favorite squat / deadlift accessory exercises:
The Best Westside Squat / Deadlift Accessory Exercises
- Exercise #1: The reverse hyperextension
- Exercise #2: The inverse leg curl
- Exercise #3: The belt squat
- Exercise #4: The back attack
- Exercise #5: The forwards sled drag
These exercises are performed in order of importance.
Louie’s favorite posterior chain accessory exercises are the reverse hyperextension and the inverse leg curl. The other exercises are also fantastic for building the posterior chain but these are Louie’s absolute favorites.
Here is a great video of the reverse hyperextension:
Louie says he was using the reverse hyperextension machine 8 times per week when he squatted 920 pounds at 53 years old!
If you don’t have access to the reverse hyperextension then you can use the back attack machine, 45 degree back raises, 90 degree back raises, good mornings, band pull throughs or any other good lower back exercises in your workouts.
Louie’s new favorite hamstring exercise is the inverse leg curl. Check it out:
The inverse leg curl is basically a more challenging version of the glute ham raise. Almost no one can perform this exercise with their bodyweight so Louie invented a machine to give you some assistance.
The inverse leg curl is so effective because it trains the hamstrings as knee flexors AND hip extensors at the same time.
If you do not have access to an inverse leg curl then you can use glute ham raises, belt squats, sled drags, leg curls or any other good hamstrings exercises in your workouts.
After your max effort exercise you should perform 2-4 posterior chain accessory exercises for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps. As long as you do one exercise for your lower back and one exercise for your hamstrings then you are good to go.
Now let’s look at some sample Westside Barbell max effort squat / deadlift workouts. Check it out:
Westside Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Workout #1
- Exercise #1: Rack deadlift with bands, 3 sets of 1 rep
- Exercise #2: Belt squat, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
- Exercise #3: 45 degree back extension, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
Here is the training video for this workout:
This is a very straightforward max effort squat / deadlift workout. The Westside crew works up to a 1-rep max on rack deadlifts with light bands.
These bands add 400 pounds of band tension at the top of the lift! That’s enough band tension to make you feel like Vegeta performing his final explosion attack vs Top the destroyer!
After the max effort rack pull the Westside crew performs belt squats and 45 degree back extensions for their lower back and hamstrings.
Now let’s look at a max effort squat / deadlift workout where the Westside crew went heavy in the squat. Check it out:
Westside Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Workout #2
- Exercise #1: Buffalo bar box squat, 3 sets of 1 rep
- Exercise #2: Inverse leg curl, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
- Exercise #3: Reverse hyperextension, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
- Exercise #4: Belt squat good morning, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
Here is the training video for this workout:
For this workout the Westside crew worked up to a 1-rep max in the buffalo bar box squat.
After that they performed a variety of high-rep accessory movements including inverse leg curls, reverse hyperextensions and belt squat good mornings.
As long as you perform at least 1 accessory exercise for your lower back and hamstrings then you are good to go.
The Westside Barbell max effort squat / deadlift workout is one of the most difficult workouts of the week.
Louie Simmons and the Westside crew start the workout by performing a 1-rep max on some type of special exercise for the squat or deadlift.
After that they perform 2-4 posterior chain accessory exercises including reverse hyperextensions, inverse leg curls, belt squats and the back attack machine.
If you have the guts to perform the full Westside Barbell training program including the max effort lower body workouts then you will make some of the best gains of your life.
Here is one more quote by Louie Simmons to pump you up even more:
“To master Kung Fu, the training must be severe.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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