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elitefts™ Classic: Training The Bench Press by Jim Wendler
elit eft s™ Sunday Edit ion Originally Published: December 13, 2003 T he training program explained here is one based on the principles of Westside. While Westside originated in Culver City, Calif ornia, Louie has taken the attitude and innovative training techniques to Columbus, Ohio. I will attempt to explain the myths, method and the program. Let’s examine some of the misconceptions of this type of training. First, Westside is not about chains and bands. Adding chains and bands does not automatically make a program stronger. Members of Westside trained f or many years without the use of chains and bands and have always had impressive results. T hey are merely a tool, and when used appropriately, can cause large increases in strength. T he Westside method revolves combining the Dynamic Ef f ort, Max Ef f ort, and Repeated Ef f ort Method—coupling them together in a method called “conjugated periodization.” Another common myth is that this type of training is only f or those who use anabolic/androgenic drugs. Most of the lif ters that I’ve talked with on the internet and in person do not use drugs. Once they grasp the concepts behind this training, they undoubtedly make huge gains. T he trick is not overtraining, which is common among drug-f ree lif ters, and strengthening your weaknesses. In f act, when one looks at a drug-f ree lif ter’s program, the volume and total number of exercises of ten exceeds a drugged lif ter. T he trick is knowing your own strength and staying within your workload and capacity. Let’s look at some of the science behind the training. Here is an excerpt f rom the article “HIT or Miss?” by Louie f rom the 1998 issue of Powerlifting USA. “A.S. Prilepin suggested that to achieve the proper intensity, one should use the rep/set scheme shown in the table, to ensure the greatest development of speed and strength. He discovered that if 7 or more reps were perf ormed at 70%, the bar speed slowed and power decreased. T he same holds true when using 80% or 90%; once one goes above the rep range shown, the bar slows, which translates to less power. Doing f ewer or more lif ts than Prilepin suggests will cause a decrease in training ef f ect.” Number of Reps for Percent Training PERCENT 55-65 70-75 80-85 90+ REPS/SET 3-6 3-6 2-4 1-2 OPT IMAL T OTAL 24 18 15 7 RANGE 18-30 12-24 10-20 4-10
T hese percentages and rep ranges are what the Westside program is based upon. Louie has also used Vladimir Z atsiorsky, Mel Sif f , and many other Soviet experts to help design the program. According to Z atsiorsky there are three ways to achieve maximal muscle tension: 1. T he Maximum Ef f ort Method (Lif ting a maximal load).
2. T he Dynamic Ef f ort Method (Lif ting a non-maximal load as f ast as possible). 3. T he Repeated Ef f ort Method (Lif ting a non-maximal load to f ailure or near f ailure). If one wishes to gain strength, all three methods should be employed. Why limit yourself to just one method? By improving both speed and strength (combining the Maximal Ef f ort and Dynamic Ef f ort Method), it teaches the muscles to contract in the shortest amount of time. T he Repeated Ef f ort Method is used to develop the necessary hypertrophy f or leverage and muscle mass. T his method is used with various auxiliary exercises but not with conventional exercises like the bench, squat and deadlif t.
Max Ef f ort Bench Press
Lif ting maximal loads (at or above 90%) is “considered superior f or improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination; the muscles and central nervous system (CNS) adapt only to the load placed upon them. T his method should be used to bring f orth the greatest strength increments” (Z atsiorsky 100). T he big drawback with handling weights at this percentage is that af ter three weeks, the nervous system begins to weaken. T hus, your strength diminishes. So how does one use the benef its of maximal ef f ort training without the negative consequences? Switch exercises every one to three weeks. T his keeps the body f resh and the athlete is able to train this way yearround. Another benef it of this training is that a sense of accomplishment and well-being is maintained in the weight room. By keeping accurate records and encouraging the athletes to break them, athletes have proof of getting stronger every week. T here is no need to wait 12 weeks f or proof of strength gains. T his can do wonders f or the morale of the team, as well as increasing the emotional intensity in the weight room. A competition-like atmosphere is created and thus athletes are f orced to respond in a positive manner. Here is a sample Max Effort Exercise. EXERCISE Floor Press SET S 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 REPS 5 5 5 3 3 3 1 1 1 1 1 WEIGHT (pounds) 45 95 135 185 225 275 315 365 405 425 45
In the above example, 450 pounds would be the lif ters 1RM f or the f loor press. T his number is to be recorded and broken. As you can see, the lif ter makes small weight increases and begins with a general warm-up. He will drop f rom three reps to one rep when he f eels the weight getting heavier. T he athlete will then keep increasing
the weight until he reaches his 1RM. It is important to try and break records, but it is imperative that the athlete strain. The general loading parameters of Max Effort: Intensity # of Exercises Reps Rest Interval Frequency/Week Weeks/Exercise 90-100% 1 1-3 2-5 min 1 1-
The Dynamic Ef f ort Method and the Bench Press
T he Dynamic Ef f ort Method is not used to develop maximal strength but to increase f orce production and explosive strength. By training at 50-70% and using compensatory acceleration, the athlete will become more explosive. Using compensatory acceleration (pushing as hard and as f ast as one can during the concentric phase of the lif t) allows the athlete to push maximally against sub-maximal weights. T hus, an athlete that can bench press 300 pounds using 180 pounds (60%) can produce 300 pounds of f orce as long as he concentrates on accelerating the bar. T he training of f orce development is imperative in order f or an athlete to achieve his potential. Here is a sample Dynamic Bench workout. The athlete has a 450-pound bench press and trains at 50% of his max (225). Exercise Bench Press Sets 2 1 1 1 8 Reps 5 5 3 3 3 Weight 45 95 135 185 225 Rest Interval 1min 1min 1min 1min 1min
It should be noted that the percents could vary f rom 50-60% depending on the athlete. T he more advanced the athlete, the lower the percentage and vice versa. T here are two things that the coach must do to insure that the athlete is training at the right percentage: 1. Monitor bar speed. Having an experienced coach watch the athlete is crucial. T he athlete should also know that the weight shouldn’t be heavy and should move explosively. 2. Monitor Max Ef f ort workouts. When the athlete f ails to improve on the max ef f ort day, it is usually the result of too high of a percentage on dynamic day. T he coach should always error on the side of the lighter percentage. T he athlete should use three dif f erent grips on dynamic day; all should be inside the rings. T he rest periods are crucial to the dynamic day. T he goal is to f atigue the f ast twitch muscle f ibers and thus make them
stronger. Also, the more they f atigue, the more f ibers will be activated with each set. T he rest times must be caref ully monitored. Parameters of the Dynamic Effort Method for the bench press: Load (Intensity) # of Exercises Sets Reps Frequency/Week Rest Interval 50-60% 1 8 3 1 1min
The Repetition Method
T he repetition method is “lif ting a non-maximal load to f ailure” (Z atsiorsky 100). T he repetition method is best f or hypertrophy. According to Z atsiorsky, it is only the f inal lif ts of the set that the maximal number of motor units is recruited. T he big drawback to this method is that when one trains to f ailure, it is dif f icult to recover. Also, because of the f atigue, the last reps are of ten done with poor f orm and thus injury can result. T his program uses a modif ied f orm of the repetition method. All supplementary and accessory lif ts are done until a breakdown of f orm takes place, or when an athlete perceives that he has only one or two reps lef t. It is important f or the athlete to push himself but to also know his limits. T he parameters of this method are broad and really depend on the individual lif ter. Generally though, the sets f all between 3-8 and the reps f rom 6 to 15. It is important to point out that these lif ts should not take away f rom the overall program, but add to it. By training to f ailure on every set, the ef f ect of the program would be lost. Modified Repetition Method Parameters: Load (Intensity) # of Exercises Sets/Reps Rest Interval Frequency/Week Weeks/Exercise 60-80% All supplementary and accessory lif ts 3-8/6-15 1-3min All Workouts 1-5
The Basic Training Template
Day I 1. Dynamic Bench Press – 8 sets of 3 using three dif f erent grips. 2. Supplementary Exercise – Triceps training with high intensity, lower volume. 3. Accessory Movements – (triceps, delts, lats) 4. Prehab work – (upper back, rotators, extra pushdowns f or elbows)
Day II 1. Max Ef f ort Exercise – Work up to 1RM 2. Supplementary Exercise – High volume triceps work 3. Accessory Movements – (triceps, delts, lats) 4. Prehab Work – (see above)
Putting it together
Here is a sample workout: Day I. (Dynamic Day) Bench Press – 8×3 @ 50-60% 5 board press – 3-5×5 Lat Rows – 4×10 Rear Laterals – 3×15 Day II (Max Ef f ort Day) Floor Press – to 1RM DB Triceps Extensions – 7×8 One Arm DB Row – 4×8 DB Cuban Press – 3×15
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