The Ulterior Motive

TAGS: the westside barbell, method, dynamic bench press, Q&A, dave, smith, tate, max effort, WSBB

By Dave Tate with James Smith

It seems like yesterday when I first set up the Q&A section on I still remember answering the first question back in the winter of 1998. It was about the dynamic bench press, and I knew this would turn out to be a great thing. What I didn’t know at the time was how great it would become.

Today, we’ve logged in over 36,000 questions from over 41 different team members. What began with one guy wanting to share training information has turned into the best group of lifters, coaches, and trainers EVER compiled. Take some time and read this, and you’ll see what I mean. This group has been hand selected by EliteFTS based on their knowledge, experience, and ability to get the job done. In short, they “walk their talk” and get results.

This Q&A was also set up for selfish reasons—an ulterior motive. I personally wanted to build the best network that I could to help with my own training needs. I wanted to have the best “go to” people I could get in every aspect of strength. I wanted the best rehab people that I could find, and I wanted lifters who were better than me. I wanted coaches who were getting great results, and I wanted trainers who were getting better results than I was with my clients. This became a mission to acquire the best group I could so that I could reach my full potential in the shortest time available.

Over the years, I’ve called on most everyone from this group for advice on training, rehab, diet, mobility, and cardiovascular health. You name it, and I’ve asked it. I still do so today for one reason—they all have aspects that far exceed what mine will ever be. I can’t express how much this group has helped me over the years, and there are no words that can express my gratitude.

I’ll be using this column to post my own personal Q&A’s that I’ve asked and will be asking the team.

DT: James, I remember some time back I asked you about how I might cycle my dynamic bench work. To refresh your memory, I was training at 50% of my shirt max for eight sets of three repetitions. The other day of the week was devoted to ME work, and all was fine there. I had 12 weeks to go before the next meet. I was in a healthy state and was just looking for anything different because my bench speed just didn’t feel that it was where it should be. Instead of posting what you told me then, what would you tell me now?

JS: Dave, here I’m thinking on paper:

Training problem breakdown

Sport: powerlifting

Sport requirements: maximal strength, technical skill in supportive gear, strategy/tactics

Event: bench press

Deficiency: you don’t have one

I’ll start by stating that you don’t have a problem. As you know, powerlifting is about the successful completion of the lift without respect to the time it takes to do it. The sport has modified itself into a test of absolute strength and a skill of maximizing the carryover of the supportive equipment.

A lifter doesn’t miss a weight because he isn’t fast enough. He misses the weight because he isn’t strong enough or made a technical error. If the miss is inaccurately attributed to a lack of speed, the correct diagnosis is that the lifter’s limit of strength is not high enough.

Strength speed is a quality that ceases to matter once the limit is reached. If a lifter’s maximum attempt flies up, that wasn’t his maximum. If that was his third attempt, he has poor tactical skills in selecting his lifts.

The Westside Barbell method has shown (most importantly) that the lifting of submaximal weights with the highest attainable speed (the dynamic effort method) has a positive impact on the heightening of the limit of strength. Though not as important (for the powerlifter), the DE method increases bar speed. As the limit of strength increases, the weights that used to be circa max now become driven farther into submaximal territory. For this reason, those previous circa max weights are now lifted with much greater speed. This, however, is neither here nor there. The significance is that the limit was raised.

The positive aftereffects of the DE method (increased explosive strength, reactivity, speed-strength, etc.) are tremendous for most athletes. However, they aren’t vital for powerlifters. Again, improved limit strength is the best training effect that DE training can have for a powerlifter.

A close examination of the maximum lifts of world class competitors is all the information required to corroborate this fact. As I stated earlier, any lifter who smokes a weight just lifted something less then their maximum. While this may be enough to win certain competitions, the lifter’s performance was not an expression of their highest potential in that moment.

I want to be crystal clear here. The lifting of submaximal weights with great speed positively impacts the raising of limit strength. The results of WSB lifters are more then enough testament to this fact. However, powerlifting performances aren’t inhibited by a lack of strength qualities other than the limit (maximum) of voluntary strength.

So there you go, Dave. I think the most important message that you gave me in the question was that “all is fine” with respect to your maximum effort work. If you felt that your max strength wasn’t improving because you felt slow on everything, we’d have a different conversation. However, if your max strength is improving, you (as the powerlifter) must consider your training to be a success.

If you have your own questions for the team or would like to read more, check out the Q&A page.

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