What Happens When Westside Doesn't Work

TAGS: variety, range of motion, aerobics, balance, westside, wendler, training

[I received this article and immediately realized that Alan’s plight mirrors many other lifters.  His training experience is not unlike many of ours (including mine) when first being introduced to the Westside training method.  What Alan did in response is terrific; he learned, adapted and overcame.  This article may be exactly what you need to start with a fresh slate this New Year.  Even if you aren’t in the same boat as Alan, you may see some of the same trends in your training.  Do yourself a favor; read this article and learn.  He has some terrific points that can help us all. – Jim Wendler]

I love to lift weights.  I love the feeling of fighting and struggling to get strong.  About three years ago I started to awaken from 7 years of hibernation from strength training.  (Don't ask...my reason for hibernation would crash this website).  I wanted to begin lifting heavy again and stumbled onto EliteFTS and Westside and immediately got hooked.  This information was what I needed to move ahead.

I hit Westside hard.  Louie, Dave...they became constant voices in my head.  Fortunately, I lured an unaware suspect into spotting me at the gym one night and left the gym with a new partner.  He and I ate, drank, slept Westside...you know the saying...we loved it.  I would run around preaching Westside to everyone...just like I invented the concept.  After about nine months, (the numbers aren't as important at first, only progress), my bench was soaring and my good mornings were as strong as my previous squat (which was still weak).  I was pumped.

Then it happened.  Within a couple of week’s time I lost it.  My elbows had started to wrench with pain.  I was bed-ridden because I screwed my back up doing deadlifts, seated GM's, and who knows what else.  The strength I had collected was immediately gone.  My bench dropped huge amounts, my partner's shoulder was jacked (he stopped everything), I couldn't squat back without a box, my speed gone, the list goes on and the pain never ends.  I had done it...I was overtrained.  On top of everything else, I heard the dreaded "I told you so..." from those commercial critics.

Internally, I immediately rioted against Westside and Elite; year round training my ass.  Lift heavy every week as long as you change the movement.  Yeah right! Here I am overweight, 30 yrs old, unable to make a fist and straighten out my arm simultaneously.  If I bend over too fast, I may not get up.  What did I do??

When I finished feeling sorry for myself and returned to my mental drawing board, I realized that this was just one of those things that come with being excited about something.  I could choose to quit or keep going.  I needed to step back and reevaluate my approach and get back what I so eagerly yearn for...strength.  This is when I realized six main things that have helped me get back to my quest.


I needed to heed the volume advice that I had always read and knew was crucial.  I was max effort on everything.  It is amazing that I did not crash sooner.  This is a testimony to the Westside concepts.  Get with Prilipin!


I had to remember to strengthen more planes of push/ pull movements.  Get strong everywhere. (Hypertrophy = mechanical advantage.)  I had way overdeveloped certain areas and needed to remember movements from days of old.

Range of Motion

Powerlifting is in part dedicated to shrinking this down so we can gain more leverage....and you know this! For instance, with my bench press I had based everything on board presses and close grips (as per Westside prescription), then I began to develop tight, painful elbows and lose strength.  I am a big proponent of stretching and including full ROM to maintain joint health...no I am not a doctor, this is a personal conviction from experience.

Rest and pain awareness

To some, there is no such animal with Westside.  You must train all the time.  I simply needed to follow the spirit of the law and not the letter.  A week off here and there doesn't mean that you've stopped training.  Training 40 or so weeks out of the year instead of 52 is still training year round.  Be smart and listen to your body.  Not all stress and pain are good for your body.  Be aware of the pain you are feeling; it could be an invitation to injury.  Check into it with someone experienced as a lifter and also someone trained as a rehab specialist...or you can quit.  It’s your choice.


I get bored with my training and need change.  This has been mostly psychological in the past, but as I age I feel like this is very important physically also.  I don't mean go from weights to aerobics...I mean lift heavy, but different heavy. (I love Dave's max effort articles) For instance, kettlebells are a gift from the past that are emerging as giants for not just strength but flexibility, recovery/rehab, conditioning and cardio.  Shake your box of ideas around, be open to new concepts, listen to your body and remember your goals.

Keep it real

Everything is relative.  Remember your personal status.  I was trying to do fourteen workouts a week like Louie.  A max is a max...100 lbs or 1000 lbs.  A hard workout is hard 30 minutes or 2 hours...Don't try to  train like those who have years of experience... listen to their words and apply the concepts, not the specifics.

So I have shared my two cents worth.  These words come from the blood, sweat, and tears of a garage grunter; an average guy, with average strength, a student of the strength world for life. As of current, I am now battling it out in my garage (thanks Elite) and not a commercial gym crisis center. I have not fully returned my strength to its proper place...I still struggle a little with pain, but have made huge strides forward in recovery and as a strength student...I love this stuff. Thanks for your dedication.

Be strong, be courageous, and never stop-

Alan Martin, (CSCS)-like it matters, Lubbock, Texas

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