elitefts™ Sunday Edition

Originally published: July 12, 2003

Jim Wendler has written a great series on tips for beginners. I was talking to Dave Tate about it, and he gave me the idea for this article. I want to share what my workouts looked like when I first got to Westside. I walked in with a 580-pound squat, a 390-pound bench, a 520-pound deadlift, and a best total of 1,450 pounds. Let’s just say that I was very weak compared to the other guys. My GPP and work capacity were also very low.

The first thing Louie told me was that there was no way I should try to do as much as the other guys. That volume of work would run me into the ground—I needed to raise my GPP and work capacity over time. He then told me to do three exercises per workout and go from there.

Here is how my workouts looked for the first three months:

Monday (max effort squat and deadlift day)

  • Main exercise: a good morning, a low box squat, or a deadlift variation up to a max single or triple
  • Glute ham raises: I would do three sets of as many as I could
  • Leg raises: three sets of as many as I could

Wednesday (max effort bench press day)

  • Main exercise: pick one and work up to a max single
  • Extensions: three sets of eight to twelve reps
  • Chest supported rows: three sets of five to eight reps

Friday (dynamic effort squat day)

  • Box squats with straight weight: I always did twelve sets of two reps
  • Reverse Hypers: three sets of eight to twelve reps
  • Weighted sit ups: three sets of five to eight reps

Sunday (dynamic effort bench press day)

  • Speed bench press: eight sets of three reps
  • JM Press or carpet press: three sets of three to five reps
  • Lat pulldowns: three sets of eight to twelve reps

As you can see, my volume was very low in the beginning because that was all that I could handle. I had to get in shape to train. I want all of you beginners to look closely at the above. More is not always better.

After three months or so, Louie had me add a fourth exercise to each day. On Mondays I added in reverse hypers after the glute ham raises. On Wednesdays I added in side lateral raises after the extensions. On Fridays we added glute hams after the reverse hypers. Then, for Sunday, Louie had me add in front plate raises after triceps work.

The main reason I wrote this is so that you would get an idea of the progression I followed for my first six months at Westside. The training logs on this site are great learning tools for everyone. However, they are not intended for you to exactly replicate. It has taken me seven years to get to my current GPP and work capacity levels. For example, I love to read Paul Childress’s workouts, but Paul is much stronger than I am. I can’t just change the weights and do what Paul does. I do look at Paul’s workouts and to get some ideas for different exercises to try, or to see how he cycles his squat waves going into a meet. You can learn a lot from the logs, but don’t look at them as “cookie cutter” workouts for you to follow. They are tools for you to look at and get ideas from. You want to look at what we did to get to where we are today.