Westside Barbell Exercises: The Ultimate Guide!


The Westside Barbell powerlifting team is one of the strongest powerlifting teams in the world. They use a wide variety of special exercises for the squat, bench press and deadlift to take their training to the next level.

If you want to learn how the Westside team rotates their powerlifting exercises then this article is for you!

Introduction

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

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you how Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team rotates their special exercises for the squat, bench press and deadlift.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses three different types of exercises in their workouts: max effort exercises, dynamic effort exercises and accessory exercises.

Here is the 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 max effort exercises are variations of the competition squat, bench press and deadlift.

Louie Simmons says the best way to build maximal strength is to max out every week on a different special exercise that attacks your weak points.

One of Louie Simmons favorite max effort exercises is the floor press. Check it out:

The Max Effort Floor Press

The floor press is similar enough to the bench press that it will provide good carryover. However, it is different enough from the regular bench press to challenge your body and force you to adapt.

Louie Simmons says that you should rotate the max effort exercises for your upper body and lower body workouts every single week.

Louie uses dozens of different max effort exercises for the squat, bench press and deadlift. This helps you avoid training plateaus and make consistent progress.

The dynamic effort exercises are variations of the competition squat, bench press and deadlift with added bands and chains. Louie Simmons likes to use bands and chains for the dynamic effort exercises because they force you to train explosively and accelerate the bar all the way to lockout.

One of Louie Simmons’ favorite dynamic effort exercises is the deadlift with bands. Check it out:

The Dynamic Effort Deadlift With Bands

The bands are pulling the bar down to the ground faster than the speed of gravity. They make the exercise feel heavier at the top even though the total weight on the bar is the same.

Louie Simmons likes to use the same dynamic effort exercise for 3-week waves. He will use the same combination of bands and chains on the bar for 3 weeks, then switch things up and use a different combination.

Sometimes he will also change the exercise itself. For example Louie could use speed deadlifts against bands for 3 weeks and then speed rack deadlifts against bands for 3 weeks.

At the end of every workout Louie Simmons performs 3-5 accessory exercises for the key powerlifting muscles.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team likes to focus on exercises for the chest, triceps and upper back on his bench press workouts.

On the lower body workouts they use exercises like reverse hyperextensions, the inverse leg curl machine and the belt squat machine to train the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

Here is a great video of the reverse hyperextension machine:

The Reverse Hyperextension Machine

Louie says that you can use the same accessory exercises for 1-4 weeks depending on how advanced you are.

A beginner powerlifter might use the same accessory exercises for several workouts in a row while an advanced powerlifter might mix things up every single workout. The more advanced you are the more you have to switch things up to continue progressing.

I hope you found this overview helpful. Now let’s take a closer look at the best exercises you can use on the Westside Barbell powerlifting program.

Part 1: Westside Bench Press Exercises

The Westside Barbell powerlifting gym trains the bench press twice per week using max effort and dynamic effort workouts. Here is a basic template for the Westside Barbell bench press workouts:

Westside Bench Press Workout Template

  • Exercise #1: Max effort or dynamic effort bench press
  • Exercise #2: Chest accessory exercise
  • Exercise #3: Triceps accessory exercise
  • Exercise #4: Back accessory exercise
  • Exercise #5: Shoulders accessory exercise

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team always starts their bench press workouts with the max effort or dynamic effort bench press. This is the most important part of the workout so they perform it first when they are fresh.

Louie Simmons says that you should rotate through many different max effort exercises so that you are constantly challenging yourself and getting stronger. Check it out:

“When you use the same routine over and over, you fail to make progress. This is known as accommodation. To avoid this, a rotation of max effort exercises must be cycled in and out of the plan.”

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team has at least 9 basic max effort exercises that they use to train the bench press. Check it out:

The Best Max Effort Bench Press Exercises:

Note: All of these exercises can be performed with chains, bands, reverse bands or chains and bands at the same time.

Every single week they rotate through a different exercise. Some exercises like the board press have many different combinations.

For example you can set a personal record with the 1-board, 2-board, 3-board, 4-board and 5-board. When you throw bands and chains into the mix you have even more options.

Here is the Westside team demonstrating the 2-board press with chains:

Louie says that you should establish records with mini bands, monster-mini bands and light bands. You can do the same with different amounts of chain weight.

Here is how Louie Simmons might rotate his max effort bench press exercises over an 8-week period:

Sample Max Effort Bench Press Rotation

  • Week #1: Floor press with 3 pairs of chains
  • Week #2: 30 degree incline bench press
  • Week #3: Bench press with mini bands
  • Week #4: Flat dumbbell press: 3 sets to failure
  • Week #5: Reverse band bench press (light bands)
  • Week #6: Pin press (6 inches above chest)
  • Week #7: Foam press
  • Week #8: Incline dumbbell press: 3 sets to failure

As you can see Louie Simmons uses straight weight, bands and chains for his max effort exercises. He is mixing it up every single week. Every 3-4 weeks the Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs 3 sets of dumbbell presses to failure instead of a max effort workout.

Louie says the high-rep dumbbell presses will build strength while helping you deload from the previous 2-3 weeks of hard training.

After the max effort exercise the Westside Barbell powerlifting gym moves onto different accessory exercises for their chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders. These will be covered below. But first we have to talk about the dynamic effort bench press!

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs a dynamic effort bench press workout every Sunday. They start this workout with – you guessed it – the dynamic effort bench press!

The Westside team almost always uses the bench press with bands or chains for this exercise. For example here is the speed bench press with chains:

The Dynamic Effort Bench Press With Chains

The Westside team changes the amount of weight on the bar or the combination of bands / chains each week. However, they rarely deviate from the bench press itself for their dynamic effort work.

In rare cases they will use something like a floor press or the cambered bar bench press for their dynamic effort bench press work. Check it out:

Alternate Speed Bench Exercises

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs 8-10 sets of 3 reps on the speed bench press with bands or chains.

After that they move onto accessory work for their chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders. Check it out:

Westside Barbell ME Bench Press Workout

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

This is the basic template for the Westside accessory work. Sometimes they deviate from this template.

For example they might perform 2 triceps accessory exercises or skip the shoulder movement for that day. However, this is the default setup that the Westside crew uses.

Here are some of the best Westside chest accessory exercises:

The Best Chest Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team are huge fans of the bamboo bar bench press. For example:

The bamboo bar is an unbelievable piece of equipment. It oscillates in every direction as you perform the exercise. This forces your chest, shoulders, triceps and rotator cuff muscles to recruit more muscle fibers to stabilize the weight.

The Westside team also likes to use high-rep dumbbell presses at every angle as a chest accessory exercise. Here are some of the best Westside triceps accessory exercises:

The Best Westside Triceps Exercises

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

The Westside crew performs at least 1 triceps exercise per bench press workout. For some workouts they perform as many 2-3 triceps exercises!

One of Louie Simmons’ favorite triceps exercises is the JM press. Check it out:

The JM press is like a hybrid between a lying triceps extension and a close grip bench press.

Louie Simmons says this is one of the best exercises for developing the medial head of the triceps, the part of the triceps on the inside of the arm right near the elbow joint.

If you are going to train using the Westside Barbell powerlifting program then make sure you train your triceps hard using a wide variety of extension exercises.

Here are some of the best Westside upper back accessory exercises. Check it out:

Westside Upper Back Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons says that rows are more important for your upper back than exercises like lat pulldowns.

Rows train your upper back in the same movement pattern as the bench press and will provide you with more overall carryover. Louie Simmons also performs lots of lat pulldowns in his workouts but he doesn’t think they do very much for his bench press.

The Westside crew usually performs 1 shoulder exercise at the end of their workout. Check it out:

Westside Shoulder Accessory Exercises

Louie says the shoulders are nowhere near as important as the triceps or upper back for a huge bench press but you should still train them.

Louie likes to use different shoulder isolation exercises like front or side raises or even the reverse pec dec machine. 

Part 2: Westside Squat / Deadlift Exercises

The Westside Barbell powerlifting gym trains the bench press twice per week using max effort and dynamic effort workouts.

Here is a basic template for the max effort squat / deadlift workout:

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

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team starts their max effort lower body workout with some type of special exercise for the squat or deadlift.

Louie Simmons likes to focus on variations of the squat or deadlift but he also performs good morning variations for the max effort exercise. Check it out:

 The Best Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Exercises:

As usual all of these exercises can be performed with bands or chains. The Westside team is constantly mixing things up to keep their body off balance.

Sometimes Louie Simmons likes to perform max effort exercises with a tremendous amount of band tension. For example here is the Westside team performing max effort rack deadlifts with quadrupled light bands:

The quadrupled light bands add about 400 pounds of band tension in the top position! That is enough band tension to knock you into next week! For other workouts they will stick with good-old-fashioned “straight weight” without bands or chains.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team puts a lot more thought into how they rotate their max effort lower body exercises. For example you would quickly overtrain if you tried to max out on the deadlift for 3-4 weeks in a row.

To avoid overtraining the Westside team rotates between different exercises for the squat, deadlift and good morning. They never perform 1 type of exercise for 2 weeks in a row.

If they perform a deadlift one week then the next week would be a squat or good morning variation.

Here is one example of how Louie Simmons might rotate his max effort squat / deadlift exercises:

Sample Max Effort Squat / Deadlift Exercise Rotation

  • Week #1: Rack pull against bands
  • Week #2: Cambered bar box squat with chains
  • Week #3: 2 inch deficit deadlift
  • Week #4: Chain suspended good morning

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team tries to pick a new max effort exercise every single week. If you are creative enough then you can find tons of different variations to challenge yourself for a long time.

For example you can perform rack pulls with the weights 2 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches or 8 inches off the ground. You can also perform rack pulls with straight weight, quadrupled mini bands, quadrupled monster-mini bands or quadrupled light bands.

That gives you (4 x 4) = 16 variations of rack pulls! That doesn’t even count other variations of deadlifts or even squats or good mornings.

If you want to make long-term progress with the Westside Barbell powerlifting team then it is imperative that you constantly rotate your max effort squat / deadlift exercises.

The Westside team keeps things much more simple for their dynamic effort squat / deadlift workouts. Every week you perform speed box squats with bands or chains and speed deadlifts with bands.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team almost always uses the regular 45-pound barbell for their speed box squats but they will occasionally use a specialty barbell like the safety squat bar. Check it out:

The Dynamic Effort Safety Squat Bar Squat

For the speed deadlifts Louie Simmons will perform 6-10 sets of 1 rep on speed deadlifts off the ground or 6-10 sets of 3 reps on speed rack deadlifts.

Both of these exercises are performed with resistance bands to build explosive strength.

After the max effort or dynamic effort squat / deadlift exercises the Westside team moves onto their accessory exercises.

Here is another look at the Westside Barbell max effort squat / deadlift template:

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

The Westside team always finishes their squat / deadlift workouts with 2-4 accessory exercises for the posterior chain. This is another way of saying the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

These muscles are often called the posterior chain because they are located on the back of the body and they all work together to help you perform the hip extension movement pattern during exercises like the squat, deadlift and good morning.

The Westside team likes to perform at least 1 exercise targeting the lower back and at least 1 exercise targeting the hamstrings.

Here are some of Louie Simmons favorite lower back exercises:

The Best Lower Back Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons favorite lower back exercise is the reverse hyperextension. Here is a perfect video demonstration of this exercise:

Louie Simmons likes the reverse hyperextension machine because it strengthens your lower back and decompresses your lumbar spine all at the same time. This is very important when you are performing squat workouts with 800+ pounds on your back!

The Westside team also likes to use the back attack, 45 degree back extensions and high-rep good mornings.

Now let’s look at some of Louie Simmons’ favorite hamstrings exercises. Check it out:

The Best Hamstrings Accessory Exercises

Louie Simmons says that the inverse leg curl is his all-time favorite hamstrings exercise. He likes this exercise even more than the belt squat or the glute ham raise for developing the hamstrings.

Here is a perfect demonstration of the inverse leg curl machine:

The inverse leg curl machine is almost like a Nordic leg curl. The big difference is the machine helps lift you up from the bottom position of the exercise.

The inverse leg curl machine is unique because it trains the hamstrings as knee flexors AND hip extensors all at the same time.

If you have access to this hamstrings accessory exercises then I highly recommend you use it.

Louie Simmons says that beginners can use the same lower back or hamstrings accessory exercises for a few weeks in a row. However, he feels more advanced powerlifters should rotate their accessory exercises almost every single workout. 

Conclusion

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses a huge variety of exercises to build their squat, bench press and deadlift. They have 3 main types of exercises: 

  • Type #1: Max effort exercises
  • Type #2: Dynamic effort exercises
  • Type #3: Accessory exercises

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team rotates their max effort exercise every single week. They perform tons of different special exercises for the squat, bench press and deadlift to avoid plateaus and continue making progress year-round.

The dynamic effort exercises are a little more straightforward: they perform the competition squat, bench press and deadlift plus bands or chains.

Finally the Westside team finishes up their workouts with accessory exercises for the key powerlifting muscles like the triceps, upper back, hamstrings and lower back.

The Westside team rotates their accessory exercises almost every workout to keep their body from adapting to their routine.

If you want to use the Westside Barbell powerlifting program then you must learn how to rotate your exercises correctly. I hope this guide points you in the right direction.

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

“The hardest thing for a human being to do is to change. You have to be willing to change. Dinosaurs didn’t and they are gone. If the athlete doesn’t change or adjust he is gone.”

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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