The Westside Barbell Dynamic Effort Upper Body Workout!


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. The first workout of the week is the dynamic effort upper body workout.

If you want to learn the secrets of the Westside Barbell dynamic effort upper body workout then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • 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 dynamic effort upper body workouts to train the bench press.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting gym is one of the strongest gyms in the world. The head coach Louie Simmons has set many powerlifting world records and has trained countless powerlifters to do the same.

Here is a great video of Louie Simmons bench pressing 600 pounds in competition at 50 years old. Check it out:

Talk about a huge bench press! This lift was performed in 1998 when bench press shirts gave you far less help out of the bottom position. 

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains the bench press twice per week on Sunday and Wednesday.

Sunday is the dynamic effort bench press day where they lift lighter weights as explosively as possible and Wednesday is the max effort bench press day where they max out on a special exercise for the bench press.

Here is the full Westside training schedule:

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

Louie Simmons says that the max effort method is the best way to build maximal strength for powerlifting. The problem is most powerlifters cannot recover from 2 max effort bench press workouts per week.

Louie Simmons got around this problem by performing one max effort bench press workout and one dynamic effort bench press workout per week.

With the max effort workout you work up to a 1-rep max on some type of special exercise for the bench press. The dynamic effort workout is the exact opposite: you lift lighter weights as fast as possible on the bench press.

Louie Simmons says that alternating between a max effort workout and a dynamic effort workout each week is the key to building a huge bench press. Check it out:

“One must train at the highest average of a one-rep max as often as possible. I realized for most lifters this is impossible to do every workout.

That’s why we use the dynamic effort method. We use submaximal weights with maximal speed.”

Most Westside Barbell athletes perform about 4-6 exercises on the dynamic effort bench press workout.

They perform 8-10 speed sets on the bench press followed by accessory exercises for the chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders using the repetition effort method. For example:

The Dynamic Effort Bench Press Template

  • Exercise #1: Speed bench press, 9 sets of 3 reps @ 50-60% of your 1-rep max
  • Exercise #2: Chest accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Triceps accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Back accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Shoulders accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

The most important part of this workout is the speed bench sets performed at the start.

Louie Simmons says that you should use about 50-60% of your 1-rep max plus bands or chains.

Here is the Westside guru Matt Wenning demonstrating the speed bench press:

Talk about an explosive bench press! Matt Wenning is exploding the weight off his chest all the way to lockout.

If you accelerate the bar as hard as possible then you can produce maximal force even though the weight is relatively light.

Just take a look at the following equation:

“Force = Mass x Acceleration”

One way to maximize force production on the bench press is to lift a really heavy weight. The other way is to lift a lighter weight but accelerate it as hard as possible.

This is what the dynamic effort bench press is all about – maximally accelerating a lighter weight to produce maximum force!

You can read my article “Compensatory Acceleration Training: The Ultimate Guide!” for more information.

Louie Simmons says that you must use bands or chains for your dynamic effort bench press sets.

Bands and chains are tools that make the top half of the bench press feel heavier than the bottom half. They force you to accelerate the bar as hard as possible all the way to lockout.

Here is Matt Wenning talking about this phenomenon:

“Benching with bands and chains is like trying to accelerate your car while you’re putting the breaks on. It means you have to work harder throughout the entire lift.

Imagine going 60 miles an hour down the freeway and slowly applying the breaks. You’re really going to have to rev up your engine to maintain the same speed!”

Just take a look at the following video of the Westside Barbell powerlifting team performing the dynamic effort bench press with bands:

“Drive! Drive! Drive!”

Louie Simmons loves to use bands for his dynamic effort bench press workouts.

The bands are pulling down on the bar faster than the speed of gravity and they create more tension as you press the weight to lockout.

If you don’t accelerate the bar as hard as possible then the bands will pull the bar right band down to your chest!

Louie Simmons also likes to use chains or even bands plus chains together for his speed sets.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs 8-10 speed sets on their dynamic effort bench press workouts. They always wave their weights using 3-week waves. Check it out:

“Speed strength work is done for a 3-week cycle. The weight with bands, chains, or both is changed each week, normally increasing each week for the 3 weeks.

On the fourth week, the load is decreased or changed, and again another 3-week wave is started.”

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses specific percentages for the 3-week waves depending on whether you are using bands or chains. The percentages are based on your 1-rep max and reflect the amount of weight on the bar not including bands or chains.

Here is what the 3-week wave with chains looks like:

Bench Press 3-Week Wave: Chains

  • Week #1: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 55% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 60% of your 1-rep max

Here is what the speed bench press with chains looks like:

The chains wobble around while you perform your speed sets. This forces you to recruit extra muscle fibers to stabilize the weight and to maintain perfect technique.

The chains also lower the center of gravity of the exercise which gives the movement a completely different feel.

Chains are a great tool but Louie Simmons likes to use resistance bands even more. Check it out:

Bench Press 3-Week Wave: Bands

  • Week #1: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 45% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max

Here is what the speed bench press with bands looks like:

The bands add more resistance than chains so you should use a lower percentage of your 1-rep max.

Louie Simmons normally recommends 40-50% of your 1-rep max with bands but this is just a rough estimate. The most important thing is that you are accelerating the bar as fast as possible.

If you are not moving the bar fast enough then you need to decrease the weight and try again.

Louie Simmons also likes to use bands and chains at the same time for his speed sets. Check it out:

Bench Press 3-Week Wave: Bands And Chains

  • Week #1: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 9 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max

Here is what the speed bench press with bands and chains looks like:

Using bands and chains on the bar at the same time is an extreme training method. You should master bands and chains on their own before attempting this method.

The powerlifting guru Matt Wenning says you have to use a much lighter weight on your speed sets when you are using bands and chains. Matt says he rarely goes over 185 pounds for his speed sets and he is a 600 pound raw bench presser!

For most people weights in the 30-40% range should be perfect. If you do not have access to bands or chains then you have to fix that!

Louie Simmons says they are a must if you are serious about building your bench press. Check it out:

“You have to use chains or bands on the speed bench day. This is the law of accommodating resistance. I prefer bands because it’s got overspeed eccentricities. Chains do not.”

Bands are relatively cheap and easily fit in your gym bag. I really like the ones available from Rogue Fitness and Westside Barbell. 

The dynamic effort bench press workout features 4-6 total exercises. You perform your 8-10 speed sets on the bench press and then move onto accessory exercises for your chest, triceps, back and shoulders. For example:

The Dynamic Effort Bench Press Template

  • Exercise #1: Speed bench press, 9 sets of 3 reps @ 30-60% of your 1-rep max
  • Exercise #2: Chest accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Triceps accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Back accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Shoulders accessory exercise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

For chest Louie Simmons really likes dumbbell presses and bamboo bar bench presses. For triceps Louie likes all kinds of triceps extensions and tricep pushdowns.

For upper back Louie likes all kinds of rows and lat pulldowns. Finally for shoulders Louie likes front / side / rear delt raises although overhead pressing movements can also be used.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team says that strong triceps are the key to a huge bench press. They perform anywhere from 1-3 triceps exercises on their dynamic effort and max effort bench press days.

Here are some of their favorite tricep exercises:

The Best Westside Triceps Exercises

Almost all of these exercises can be performed with extra band tension for extra resistance. The Westside team really likes to perform rolling dumbbell extensions to build their triceps strength.

Here is Ken Patterson demonstrating this exercise:

Ken is using the 110 pound dumbbells for this exercise. Talk about a strong pair of triceps!

Louie Simmons says that this exercise builds the medial head of your triceps like nothing else. Check it out:

“Notice how the elbows are rolled back. It works the triceps muscles on the inside of the elbow and that’s the one that really does the extension of the arm.

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

Now let’s put together everything we’ve learned by looking at a complete Westside Barbell dynamic effort bench press workout. Check it out:

Sample Dynamic Effort Bench Press Workout

  • Exercise A1: Floor press with chains, 9 sets of 3 reps, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise C1: Rolling DB extensions, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise C2: Band pushdowns, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise D1: Standing cable rope face pulls, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise E1: Standing DB curls (hammer grip), 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout the Westside team performs the dynamic effort floor press with chains. This is a little unusual but they will sometimes use the floor press instead of the regular bench press for their speed work.

Next they perform some heavy dumbbell presses for their chest.

For triceps they perform a superset with rolling dumbbell extensions and band pushdowns. This is one of Louie Simmons’ favorite ways to build size and strength in the triceps.

Finally they finish up with cable face pulls and hammer curls for their upper back and biceps.

The next week they would perform the same workout with slightly heavier weights on the floor press as part of their 3-week wave.

Conclusion

The Westside Barbell training program is built around 2 types of workouts: max effort workouts and dynamic effort workouts.

The Westside team performs their dynamic effort bench press workout every Sunday. This workout is designed to build explosive strength and to give your body a different training stimulus from your max effort bench press workout.

Some powerlifters like Stan Efferding say that the dynamic effort method is useless and a waste of time. However, Louie Simmons still believes it is essential for building a world-class bench press.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team continues to use the dynamic effort method in their workouts and that should tell you everything you need to know.

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

“Don’t be afraid to fail or look like a fool. These are necessary milestones on your way to the top.”

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.

Recent Posts