Westside Barbell Dynamic Effort Workouts: The Ultimate Guide!


The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses the dynamic effort method in their workouts to build explosive strength, improve their exercise technique and increase their work capacity.

It plays a critical role in their overall training program.

If you want to learn how the Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses the dynamic effort method then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Dynamic Effort Bench Press
  • Part 2: The Dynamic Effort Squat
  • Part 3: The Dynamic Effort Deadlift

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team design their dynamic effort workouts to build the squat, bench press and deadlift.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses three training methods in their workout programs: the max effort method, the dynamic effort method and the repetition effort method.

The dynamic effort method is used to build explosive strength. It teaches you how to produce maximum force with a moderately heavy weight by accelerating the bar as fast as possible.

Just look at the following equation:

“Force = Mass x Acceleration”

Powerlifting is all about teaching your body to produce maximum force.

One way to produce maximum force is to perform a 1-rep max on a special exercise for the squat, bench press or deadlift. This is called the max effort method and it is an important part of the Westside Barbell training program.

The other way to produce maximum force is to lift a lighter weight as explosively as possible.

If you accelerate the bar as fast as you can then you will produce maximum force on the bar even if the weight is only 50-60% of your 1-rep max.

Here is the Westside guru Matt Wenning giving a perfect overview of the dynamic effort method:

Matt Wenning Dynamic Effort Method

Here are Matt Wenning’s exact thoughts on this superior training method:

“The dynamic effort method has various amounts of abilities in your training: force production, coordination and increased fitness level with short rest periods.

With the dynamic effort method we like to keep the rest periods very very short so we can maintain high velocity even in a very fatigued state.”

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs two max effort and two dynamic effort workouts per week. 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 team performs a dynamic effort bench press workout on Sunday and a dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout on Friday.

The dynamic effort method is performed first in these workouts before any accessory work for individual muscle groups.

Here is what the dynamic effort bench press should look like:

The Speed Bench Press

“Drive! Drive! Drive!”

The Westside Barbell team always performs the speed bench press with bands or chains. These tools make the exercise feel lighter at the bottom of the exercise and heavier at the top.

Bands and chains are so effective for speed sets because they force you to accelerate the bar all the way to the top position.

The Westside team performs 8-10 sets of 3 reps for their speed bench workouts. Louie Simmons says you should wave the weights you use for your speed sets in a 3-week wave. 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.

Now let’s take a quick look at the speed squat and speed deadlift.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains both of these exercises on their dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout on Friday. Here is what the speed squat looks like:

The Speed Squat

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team always uses the box squat for their speed squats.

The box squat teaches you to sit further back while you squat and to maximally recruit the glutes and hamstrings. Louie says these are the key muscle groups for building a huge squat.

The Westside team performs 6-12 sets of 2 reps on the speed squats although they sometimes perform 5 sets of 5 reps on this exercise.

After their speed squats they move right into the speed deadlift. Here is what the speed deadlift looks like:

The Speed Deadlift

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs 6-10 sets of 1 rep on the speed deadlift and they always use resistance bands for this exercise.

The Westside team also likes to perform speed rack deadlifts with band tension for 6-10 sets of 3 reps. After the speed squats and speed deadlifts the Westside team performs 2-4 accessory exercises for their hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

I hope you found this overview of the Westside Barbell dynamic effort workouts helpful.

Now let’s take a deep dive into the dynamic effort workouts of the greatest powerlifting gym of all time.

Part 1: The Dynamic Effort Bench Press

The Westside Barbell powerlifting gym trains the bench press twice per week. They perform a dynamic effort bench press workout on Sunday and a max effort bench press workout on Wednesday.

Both of these workouts are important but today we are talking about the dynamic effort bench press.

Here is a basic template for the Westside Barbell dynamic effort bench press workout:

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

The Westside team starts their workout with the dynamic effort bench press. They perform 8-10 sets of 3 reps with about 30-60% of their 1-rep max. The percentages vary depending on how much weight you are using with chains or bands.

After the dynamic effort bench press the Westside team performs accessory exercises for their chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders. Sometimes they deviate from this template but this is what they use most of the time. 

Here is an old video of the Westside team performing the dynamic effort bench press. Check it out:

The Speed Bench Press

The Westside team is absolutely exploding the weight off their chest all the way to lockout. That is what your speed sets should look like!

If you are not accelerating the bar as fast as you can then you are completely defeating the point of the dynamic effort method!

The Westside team uses chains, bands or a combination of chains and bands on the bar in 3-week waves. After the 3-week wave is up they switch to a different combination of chains or bands and perform another 3-week wave.

Louie Simmons says this is the only way to continue making progress. Check it out:

“Why do we start again after 3 weeks? We found that after 3 weeks, one cannot become faster or stronger. That is exactly why a 3-week wave is used.”

Here is a simple 3-week wave that you can perform with chains. Check it out:

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

The basic idea is to start with a moderate weight and increase the weight by 5% each week. The exact percentages are not super important.

The important thing is that you are accelerating the bar as fast as possible all the way to lockout. If your bar speed is slowing down too much then you should take some weight off the bar and try again.

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

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

Bands can add a lot more tension than chains so you have to be careful with how much weight you use on the bar.

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

The Speed Bench Press With Bands

These guys can bench press 400+ pounds raw and they are only using 185 pounds on the bar. That should give you an idea of how much weight to use on your speed bench with bands.

Louie Simmons believes bands are a better overall tool than chains. They pull the bar down faster than the speed of gravity which creates a phenomenon called “overspeed eccentrics.

The bands increase the strength of your stretch reflex and help you to produce more force on the concentric range than otherwise possible. Check it out:

“The bands produce a large amount of eccentric overloading and can cause excessive soreness, but they are more than worth it. They build the lockout as well as the start.

One realizes very fast that you have to outrun the bands, so you develop a fast start to enable you to lock out a heavy weight.”

Louie Simmons also likes to use bands and chains on the bar at the same time.

If you are going to use this option then you need to be careful with how much weight you use on the bar. 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

The powerlifting guru Matt Wenning says he uses about 185 pounds on the bar plus bands and chains for his speed bench sets and he is a 600 pound bench presser!

Remember, the most important thing is that you are exploding the bar up as fast as possible. The amount of weight on the bar is less important.

You can use straight weight on your speed bench day but Louie Simmons says bands and chains are essential. 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.”

After you perform your 8-10 speed sets on the bench press you move right into your upper body accessory work.

Here is the basic template that the Westside team uses:

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

After your 8-10 speed bench sets you perform accessory exercises for your chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders.

The Westside crew changes their accessory exercises every single workout. For example they might perform 1-3 triceps isolation exercises per workout and they will change the exercises every single time.

As a general rule of thumb the more advanced you are the more often you should change your accessory movements.

Here are some of the Westside crew’s favorite chest accessory exercises. Check it out:

The Best Chest Accessory Exercises

The Westside crew likes to perform a few sets using dumbbells or the bamboo bar. Louie Simmons sometimes calls this a second bench exercise rather than a chest movement.

Here is what your high-rep dumbbell presses could look like:

The Westside crew pretty much trains to failure for 2-4 sets. Louie says that these high-rep sets to failure with dumbbells are very beneficial for building size and strength.

Here are some of the Westside crew’s favorite triceps accessory exercises. Check it out:

The Best Westside Triceps Exercises

The Westside crew uses a ton of different triceps accessory exercises. Louie Simmons loves to use lying triceps extensions, aka “skull crushers” but he also uses tricep pushdowns and overhead triceps extensions.

The Westside crew performs 1-3 triceps accessory movements per workout. Louie Simmons says the triceps are the most important exercise for a big bench press so train them hard.

After triceps the Westside team trains their upper back. Check it out:

Westside Upper Back Accessory Exercises

All of these exercises deserve a place in your long-term programming. Louie says that rowing movements are more important than lat pulldowns but you can use both in your workouts.

Finally the Westside crew finishes their workouts with some shoulder isolation work. For example:

Westside Shoulder Accessory Exercises

Don’t overthink this: just pick one shoulder exercise and perform a few moderately hard sets.

Now let’s put it all together by looking at some complete speed bench workouts. Check it out:

Westside Speed Bench Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Speed bench press with bands, 9 set of 3 reps
  • Exercise #2: Overhead cable rope extension (low pulley), 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Machine pushdowns, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Lat pulldown (wide / neutral grip), 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: DB front raises, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is a very normal looking speed bench press workout. The Westside crew performs their 9 sets on the speed bench press followed by accessory work for their triceps, upper back and shoulders.

Every once in a while the Westside crew will perform their speed sets on something like the floor press instead of the regular bench press. Check it out:

Westside Speed Bench Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Speed floor press with chains, 9 set of 3 reps
  • Exercise #2: 30 degree incline DB press, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Lying DB extensions, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Band pushdowns, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Cable rope face pull, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Standing DB hammer curls, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout the Westside crew uses the floor press with chains for their speed sets rather than the regular bench press. This is something they do every once in a while to mix things up.

The rest of the workout was very normal for the Westside team.

One interesting thing they did for this workout is they supersetted two triceps exercises: lying dumbbell extensions and band pushdowns. Louie Simmons likes to use this strategy for building size and strength in the triceps. 

Part 2: The Dynamic Effort Squat

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains the squat and deadlift twice per week. They perform a max effort squat / deadlift workout every Monday and a dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout every Friday. 

Both of these workouts are important but today we are talking about the dynamic effort squat / deadlift.

Here is a basic template for the Westside Barbell dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout:

The Westside Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Template

  • Exercise #1: Dynamic effort squat
  • Exercise #2: Dynamic effort deadlift
  • Exercise #3: Posterior chain accessory exercise
  • Exercise #4: Posterior chain accessory exercise

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team always starts this workout with the dynamic effort squat. They usually perform 6-12 sets of 2 reps on the squat with 60 seconds rest in between each set.

After their 6-12 sets of squats they perform a few sets of speed deadlifts and 2-4 posterior chain accessory exercises.

The Westside crew always performs their dynamic effort squats using the box squat with bands or chains. Here is a perfect demonstration of the speed box squat:

Perfect Speed Squat Video

The Westside crew is exploding as fast as possible all the way to lockout. This is exactly what you want!

Remember, the whole point of the dynamic effort method is to produce maximal force by accelerating the weight as fast as possible.

Take another look at the following equation:

“Force = Mass x Acceleration”

The only way to produce maximal force with a moderately heavy weight is to accelerate it as fast as possible. It should feel like the bar is going to fly off your back in the top position!

The Westside crew uses bands or chains for their dynamic effort squats. For example they might use chains for 3 weeks, bands for 3 weeks and then bands plus chains for 3 weeks.

If you do not use the 3-week wave then you will have a much harder time making long-term progress.

Here is what a 3-week wave with chains could look like:

Squat 3-Week Wave: Chains

  • Week #1: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 55% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 60% of your 1-rep max

The percentages only tell you the amount of weight on the bar. The chains would be added in addition to the bar weight. Most of the time the Westside crew uses bands for their speed squats.

Here are some sample percentages that you could use:

Squat 3-Week Wave: Bands

  • Week #1: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 45% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 50% of your 1-rep max

Louie Simmons first started using bands on the squat all the way back in the 1980s. Louie’s squat absolutely took off and he never looked back!

Here is an old-school video of Louie performing the dynamic effort squat with bands:

Louie went on to squat over 900 pounds in competition at 52 years old. Talk about a huge squat!

Louie says that the bands are more effective than chains because of their over-speed eccentric properties. The bands pull you down to the bar faster than normal which helps you produce more force on the concentric phase.

Sometimes the Westside crew will perform their dynamic effort squats with bands and chains at the same time. Here is a sample 3-week wave you could use:

Squat 3-Week Wave: Bands And Chains

  • Week #1: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 6-12 sets of 2 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max

If you are going to use bands and chains at the same time then be careful with how much weight you use on the bar. Louie recommends around 30-40% of your 1-rep max but the most important thing is that you are accelerating the bar as fast as possible.

The Westside Barbell started experimenting with a new set / rep scheme for their dynamic effort squats around 2010. Instead of performing 6-12 sets of doubles they perform 5 sets of 5 reps.

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

Squat 3-Week Wave: Bands And Chains

  • 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 for the 5 x 5 speed squats:

Louie Simmons says that this method is better if you are trying to build muscular hypertrophy and move up a weight class. If you are not trying to gain weight then you are probably better off using 6-12 sets of 2 reps.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs their speed deadlifts immediately after their speed squats.

Let’s take another look at the Westside dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout template. Check it out:

The Westside Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Template

  • Exercise #1: Dynamic effort squat
  • Exercise #2: Dynamic effort deadlift
  • Exercise #3: Posterior chain accessory exercise
  • Exercise #4: Posterior chain accessory exercise

As you can see the speed deadlifts are scheduled right after the speed squats. Here is what Westside-style speed deadlifts look like. Check it out:

Speed Deadlifts

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs all of their speed deadlifts using a special deadlift platform and either mini bands or monster-mini bands.

The mini bands add about 220 pounds of band tension at lockout and the monster mini bands add about 280 pounds of band tension at lockout. The bands add so much tension that you have to use a relatively low percentage of your 1-rep max to maintain good bar speed.

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

Speed Deadlift 3-Week Wave: Bands

  • Week #1: 6-10 sets of 1 rep @ 30% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 6-10 sets of 1 rep @ 35% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 6-10 sets of 1 rep @ 40% of your 1-rep max

Bands are always used for speed deadlifts. If you do not have access to a deadlift platform then you may have to use regular straight weight. In that case you would use 50-60% of your 1-rep max for your speed deadlifts.

Around 2010 Louie Simmons started experimenting with speed rack deadlifts instead of speed deadlifts from the floor. Today the Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses speed rack deadlifts about 50% of the time and speed deadlifts from the floor the other 50% of the time.

Here are what the speed rack deadlifts look like:

Speed Rack Pulls

For the speed rack deadlifts Louie Simmons likes to use quadrupled mini bands or quadrupled monster mini bands.

The mini bands add about 220 pounds of tension at the top and the monster mini bands add about 280 pounds of tension at the top.

Louie Simmons likes to perform these explosively just like you normally would. However, instead of performing singles Louie Simmons likes to perform 3 reps per set. He says the rack pulls are a better option for building work capacity and muscle mass on the backside of your body.

Here is what a 3-week wave on speed rack deadlifts might look like:

Speed Rack Deadlift 3-Week Wave: Bands

  • Week #1: 6-10 sets of 3 reps @ 30% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #2: 6-10 sets of 3 reps @ 35% of your 1-rep max
  • Week #3: 6-10 sets of 3 reps @ 40% of your 1-rep max

After you perform your 8-10 speed sets on the bench press you move right into your lower body accessory work.

Here is the basic template that the Westside team uses for their dynamic effort squat / deadlift day: 

The Westside Dynamic Effort Squat / Deadlift Template

  • Exercise #1: Dynamic effort squat
  • Exercise #2: Dynamic effort deadlift
  • Exercise #3: Posterior chain accessory exercise
  • Exercise #4: Posterior chain accessory exercise

Louie Simmons likes to focus on accessory exercises that target the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. He says that these are the most important muscles for building a world-class squat or deadlift.

Louie likes to perform at least 1 exercise targeting the lower back and at least 1 exercise targeting the hamstrings.

Some of his favorite lower back exercises include reverse hyperextensions and the back attack machine while some of his favorite hamstrings exercises include the inverse leg curl machine and the belt squat.

Now let’s look at a sample dynamic effort lower body workout. Check it out:

Sample Speed Squat / Deadlift Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Speed buffalo bar squat with chains, 6-12 sets of 2 reps
  • Exercise #2: Speed deadlift with bands, 6-10 sets of 1 rep
  • Exercise #3: Belt squat machine, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Glute ham raise, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Reverse hyperextension, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is a very standard looking dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout.

First the team performs multiple sets of speed squats and speed deadlifts with 60 seconds rest in between sets. Then they perform a variety of accessory exercises for their hamstrings, glutes and lower back. 

Conclusion

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs 2 dynamic effort workouts per week.

These workouts are designed to build explosive strength, improve your exercise technique and increase your overall work capacity. They also challenge your body with a different type of training stimulus vs the max effort workouts which helps you to avoid training plateaus.

If you are serious about using the Westside Barbell powerlifting program then these speed workouts are an absolute must.

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!

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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