The Westside Barbell Max Effort Upper Body Workout!


The Westside Barbell powerlifting team is one of the strongest powerlifting teams in the world. They use a combination of max effort and dynamic effort workouts to get freaky strong in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

If you want to learn the max effort upper body workout then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Westside Barbell Training Split
  • Part 2: The Max Effort Bench Press
  • Part 3: Sample Training Routines

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how the Westside Barbell powerlifting team designs their max effort upper body workouts.

The max effort method is an advanced strategy where you perform a 1-rep max on a special exercise for the bench press.

Louie Simmons says that the max effort method is the fastest way to build maximal strength. It teaches your central nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers and to produce more force. Check it out:

“The max effort method is designed to teach you how to strain and not shut down when you push your limits with a super heavy weight.”

Louie Simmons says that you should change your max effort bench press exercise every single week.  For example Louie might use the floor press on week 1, the bench press with chains on week 2 and the bench press with bands on week 3.

Changing the exercise each week prevents your body from adapting to your routine so you can make consistent progress year round.

Louie Simmons says the key with the max effort method is to work up to a true 1-rep max. You want to strain against a heavy weight!

Here is a perfect demonstration of the max effort floor press. Check it out:

The Max Effort Floor Press

C’mon Dmitry! Go, Go, Go!

The max effort method is so effective because it teaches your body to recruit more muscle fibers and to produce more force on the bar.

The max effort method doesn’t build muscle mass. Instead it makes your central nervous system more efficient and helps you to display your true strength levels.

Here is Louie Simmons talking about the benefits of the max effort method:

“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.”

The biggest disadvantage of the max effort method is that it is very hard on your recovery ability.

Louie Simmons says that you train the bench press twice per week but only 1 of those workouts should be a max effort workout. The other one should be a dynamic effort workout.

Here is the Westside Barbell training split. Check it out:

The Westside Barbell Training Schedule

  • Sunday: Dynamic effort upper body
  • Monday: Max effort lower body
  • Wednesday: Max effort upper body
  • Friday: Dynamic effort lower body

As you can see the Westside Barbell powerlifting team trains the bench press twice per week on Sunday and Wednesday.

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team performs about 5 exercises for their max effort upper body workout. Here is the exact template they use:

The Max Effort Bench Press Template

  • Exercise #1: Max 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 starts their workout with the max effort bench press. This is the most important exercise of the workout so they perform it first when they are fresh.

Louie Simmons says that it is critical to change the max effort exercise every week.

Louie uses a wide variety of exercises and tools including bands and chains to keep the body off balance. Check it out:

“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).”

After the max effort bench press they perform accessory exercises for their chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders.

Let’s continue our discussion by looking at the best max effort bench press exercises. Check it out:

The Best Max Effort Bench Press Exercises:

These are 9 awesome exercises that you can use for your bench press workouts. You can also use different combinations of chains, bands and reverse bands on the bar for even more variety.

You could easily perform a different max effort bench press exercise 52 weeks in a row if you are creative enough!

Let’s look at some of Louie Simmons’ favorite max effort exercises. Here is the max effort bench press with chains. Check it out:

ME Floor Press With Chains

The Westside Barbell powerlifting team loves to perform the floor press with chains. This exercise is very easy to set up: you just drape the chains over the bar and then perform the exercise.

The floor press with chains does a tremendous job of overloading the triceps. The decreased range of motion and the added chain weight forces your triceps to work super hard to lockout the weight.

Another classic max effort bench press exercise is the bench press with bands. Check it out:

ME Bench Press With Bands

The resistance bands are like giant rubber bands that pull the weight down to the ground. The bands let you overload the entire range of motion of the exercise and force you to explode the weight off your chest and all the way to lockout.

If you get lazy and slow down halfway through the exercise then the bands will pull the bar right back down to your chest!

Louie Simmons uses 3 different band tensions for the max effort bench press: mini bands, monster-mini bands and light bands.

The mini bands add about 80 pounds at lockout, the 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 that you should set a personal record with all three band tensions and rotate them in and out of your workouts.

After the max effort bench press you perform accessory work for your chest, triceps, upper back and shoulders. Here are some of the best accessory exercises for each muscle group:

Sample Accessory Exercises

  • Chest: Flat / incline / decline / overhead dumbbell presses, bamboo bar presses
  • Triceps: Lying triceps extensions, tricep pushdowns, overhead tricep extensions
  • Back: Machine rows, cable rows, lat pulldowns, assisted pull up machine
  • Shoulders: Front / side / rear dumbbell raises, reverse pec dec, band pull-apart

Louie Simmons says that the triceps are the most important muscle group for a huge bench press so he always performs 1-3 triceps exercises per workout.

The accessory exercises are important but they are nowhere near as important as the max effort exercise of the day.

Louie says that you should train hard on the accessory lifts but you should avoid training to failure on most of your sets. It’s up to you how often you want to change your accessory exercises.

The max effort exercise should change every single week but you can use the same accessory lifts anywhere from 1-6 workouts in a row.

Louie Simmons says that many of his athletes will use the same accessory exercises for 2 weeks in a row before switching. The stronger you are the more frequently you will have to change your accessory exercises to continue making progress.

Now let’s look at a couple of max effort bench press workouts to bring it all together. Check it out:

Max Effort Bench Press Workout #1

  • Exercise #1: Band bench press, 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

Here is the training video:

This is a very normal looking max effort bench press workout. The Westside Barbell crew maxes out on the banded bench press and then performs a variety of accessory exercises for the chest, triceps and shoulders.

Here is another max effort bench press workout that you can try. Check it out:

Max Effort Bench Press Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree incline bench press, 3 sets of 1 rep
  • Exercise #2: Barbell dead stop skull crushers, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Overhead rope cable extensions (low pulley), 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Machine chest supported row, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #6: Chest supported row scapular retractions, 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps

Here is the training video:

The Westside crew used slightly more volume for this workout.

First they maxed out on the 30 degree incline bench press. Then they performed 2 triceps exercises and 3 upper back exercises.

If you are a “raw” bench presser then you may want to put more emphasis on your chest and shoulders than the Westside crew did in this workout.

Conclusion

The max effort method is one of the most powerful training methods you can use to build maximal strength. Louie Simmons says that it is the key to building a world-class bench press.

If you are going to use the max effort method to build your bench then make sure you change the exercise every single week.

Louie Simmons uses floor presses, board presses, incline presses and many other exercises to avoid training plateaus.

Here is one more quote by Matt Wenning on the max effort method to pump you up even more:

“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.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. When I'm not writing about some of the greatest minds in the fitness industry - including Charles Poliquin, John Meadows, Josh Bryant, Dante Trudel, Louis Simmons, and more - I can be found lifting pink dumbbells in gyms all over Panama!

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