Strongman and Westside Training

TAGS: strongman, murphy, simmons, sport, Louie, westside, training

I get calls just about every day asking for help integrating strongman training and Westside style training and I see a lot of confusion with this. Many athletes look at Westside and say it doesn’t work or they think it’s all about putting bands and chains on your bar, and that’s it. This is a very common misconception we hear from people only remotely familiar with it. So, before we get into how we do it at Total Performance Sports, let’s clear up a few misconceptions as to how this works.
Westside’s style of training is for powerlifters looking to bring up the total amount of weight lifted in a contest. It is designed to increase the athlete’s 1 rep max in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. I will acknowledge that the sport of strongman does have events where an athlete lifts a 1 rep max, but most events require multiple reps (some as high as 20) with a very heavy weight. Some events require you to move or carry an extremely heavy weight for a specific or maximum distance. This requires a balanced amount of different types of strength which will need to be developed at the same time. Training to increase 1 rep max on the three lifts is not the best way to go for strongman competition.
So, will it work, and if it’s not just bands and chains, what is it? The simple answer is yes it will work if you apply their concepts and training template, modified in a way to suit your sport. We’ll explain that in a minute.
The answer to the second question, what is it, could take eight hours, so I’ll be brief in my description. Westside is a method of training developed by Louie Simmons that produces many of the most dominant lifters in the world. Even those who don’t train there use some of these techniques. The most basic concepts of Westside are work hard and work your weaknesses. If everyone did just that, they all would be a lot stronger. It’s up to you to know your weakness, to not accept them but to eliminate them!
The Westside System
“The System” is the conjugate method, which is different from traditional western periodization. The conjugate method focuses on developing all aspects of strength at once instead of one type at a time. Training consists of maximum effort work, dynamic work, and repetition work. We’ll briefly explain each type.
Max effort means exactly what it sounds like. Warm up and then go heavy with perfect form! Go as heavy as you can for whatever your goal of the day is. I’m a personal believer in maintaining perfect form on whatever it is you are doing as this will minimize your risk of injury.
Dynamic work is, for simplicity’s sake, speed work. On dynamic day we squat, pull, or press a sub-maximal weight as fast as possible with perfect form. Remember, the goal here is speed!
Repetition work is assistance exercises done for higher reps. This causes growth (hypertrophy) and can also be used to develop local muscular endurance, which is important for strongman. For detailed explanations on this, many articles are archived on this subject on this site (
Integrating Strongman and Westside
There are many ways to incorporate these two styles of training. In this article, we will cover a traditional four day week. Day 1 is max effort lower body (Day 1 – MELB), Day 2 is max effort upper body (Day 2 – MEUB), Day 3 is dynamic lower body (Day 3 – DynLB) and Day 4 is dynamic upper body (Day 4 – DynUB).
When choosing exercises and program design, we’ll assume that you have a contest coming up. By incorporating gym exercises and events into each training session, we have found recovery much easier than doing all events on one day.
In the early part of your training cycle, max effort work is best done with gym lifts, with the second exercise being an event. This allows you to develop a good base of strength with your gym lifts and a familiarity with your events using lighter weights. The lighter weights in the events also allow you to perfect technique which will help you out as you go heavier with them later on.
As the training cycle progresses, you can reverse the order and use an event as your max effort exercise and use a gym lift as your second exercise. This will get you used to handling weights that are what you would see in a contest on your event training, and still maintain and build strength on your gym lifts.
The sport of strongman also requires a tremendous amount of strength in the posterior chain and torso. So, when choosing ‘ab’ work, keep this in mind. A few sets of crunches won’t do it. Get in there and work hard with weighted sit ups, heavy side bends, pulldown abs, twisting medicine ball throws, etc.
Your grip is very important too. Work in a different aspect of grip strength at each workout. Hammer leveraging and thumb work are often forgotten when training grip since many folks focus on just closing grippers. Go to for some outstanding articles on grip training.
Sample Week
Day 1 - MELB
Maximum effort lower body is Day 1. Choose lifts in a three week wave; week 1 squat, week 2 deadlift, week 3 good morning. You may use whatever order you like, just keep the same order each week.
For example, choose a squat movement, say Safety Bar Squats, and pick a rep range. If you have a squat for reps, such as a car squat coming up in your next contest, you will need to use higher reps for ME work. (This is also assuming you can currently squat the amount of weight needed for the event) Let’s say the car squat apparatus in your event feels like 600 pounds and you can now squat at least 600 pounds for a triple, you might want to choose a safety bar squat for a 5 rep max. The higher reps will help prepare you because you can be sure 1 rep won’t win in the contest. Remember; don’t waste time trying to squat 900 if you can’t now do 500pounds - 5 times without passing out! If you can’t squat the appropriate amount of weight now, stick with bringing your 1RM-3RM up initially.
The second exercise should be an event. It can be something that is in your next contest, like the farmers walk. Let’s say your farmers walk is going to be 300 pounds each hand for 100 feet, no turns, and you are currently able to do about 25 feet with that weight. Chose a weight about 60% of that to start, and hit 100 feet as fast as you can for 3-5 sets.
Your assistance work (repetition) is next. You will need a heavy dose of posterior chain work, as the posterior chain is dominant in strongman events. You could do glute/ham raises with weight for 2-4 sets of 8-12 and then hit the reverse hyper. We have found that doing the reverse hyper looser (fast) is best on ME day to loosen up your back. Do 2-4 sets of higher reps. I would also suggest that the first and second set is strict with the last sets being looser.
Finally, abs and grip. Always do 1 straight torso exercise and 1 rotational exercise. Choose different aspects of grip and work them as well (pinch, supporting, crushing, etc).
Day 2 - MEUB
Day 2 is maximum effort upper body. Day 2 - MEUB will be a little different for strongman than powerlifters. The bench is out! Until they add a flat bench press as an event, skip it. Overhead pressing is what strongman is all about. You most frequently see a log or an axle in strongman. The biggest problem we see with athletes is that they can’t clean the implement to the pressing position. In all of my email and phone consultations with people, I have never heard one person tell me they will work heavy log or axle cleans first in the workout. If you can’t clean it, you can’t press it. If this sounds like you, add some axle or log cleans in for ME day.
A good first exercise is to start with the Log clean, 3RM. Warm up and work up to a 3 rep max on the clean only.
Your second exercise should be some type of pressing, it doesn’t really matter what you choose, axle presses, dumbbell presses, just work hard.
A tire flip would fit well into this day’s workout as a third exercise. Strongman frequently sees a tire flip for a set distance. You will always see a few guys who can’t finish and a few guys who go so fast it’s scary. My suggestion would be to work up to 10-12 flips over a few weeks. Once you can finish the course, work on shaving time off.
If you have some energy left, do some assistance work for your biceps and triceps.
Finish up with abs and grip. Again, choose different exercises than the previous days.
Day 3 - DynLB
Dynamic lower body day is next. We’ll stick with the basic Westside template and do dynamic squats as the first exercise. Using bands, chains, or straight weight will depend on where you are in your training cycle, and your experience level. I won’t discuss the dynamic squat routine here as there are several articles already archived on this site covering the subject.
The second exercise is almost always stones. We have found that, for us at least, stones seem to fly off the ground after priming our nervous systems with the squats. Use various routines here like speed doubles, 3-5 stone series, multiple reps with the same stone, etc. Be creative and work hard!
The third exercise is usually some form of weighted walking exercise, either yoke or farmers walk. When choosing what to use for weights and distances, it is a good idea to do the reverse of what you did with the stones. As this can be a little confusing, I’ll break it down with a short template for 2 weeks of DynLB days:
2 Week Dynamic LB

Week 1
1. Dynamic Squat – Average Band 10 x 2
2. Stones – Work up to a heavy double, 3-6 sets of 2 / Heavy
3. Yoke – medium weight, for speed, if your max is 600 for 25 feet, try 300-450 for 75-100 feet, as fast as you can, 3-5 trips
4. Pullthroughs 3x 8-12
5. R/H 2 x 12-15 loose
Week 2
1. Dynamic Squat Average Band 10 x 2
2. Stones – Light – Med weight, 5 stone series for fastest time, 3-5 sets
3. Yoke – max weight for 25-75 feet, 3-5 trips
4. Glute/Ham – 3 x 8-12
5. R/H 2 x 12-15 loose
As you can see, we alternated the loading pattern for stones and the superyoke. This loading pattern can be used on all of your events. Using the superyoke as an example, if you use a medium weight one week and take a 100 foot trip, you will build stamina and gain confidence in the event. You will also improve your ability to handle heavy weights on the other week by using a max weight for shorter trips. Obviously, you will add weights progressively as you go on.
By varying the loading patterns each week from heavy to dynamic, it is less traumatic to the body than constantly pounding it to death with huge weights plus you add variety while improving your overall conditioning.
Next, assistance exercises. Add in some assistance for the posterior chain. We almost always do reverse hypers as our last exercise and we use the looser dynamic form. It helps out after the stones and weighted walking.
If possible, end with some ab and grip work. However, at this point it is really optional since they have both have been hit pretty hard by the stones and walking.
Day 4 - DynUB
Day 4 is dynamic upper body day. Remember dynamic work is speed work; squatting, pulling, or pressing a sub-maximal weight as fast as possible with perfect form.
When choosing your first exercise, choose something different than what you did on Day 3 - MEUB. For example, if you did heavy cleans with the axle, you could do dynamic presses with the log here. Again, bands, chains, etc depend on your experience, and where you are in your training cycle.
Your second exercise will be an event: sled, Conan’s wheel, sand bag, etc. Choose something and work hard. Once your event is completed, hit the accessory work hard, rows, shrugs, etc. Bring up your weakness. Abs and grip are last.
Conclusion and Training Template
There you have it - Westside’s conjugate method and its impact on strongman training. Work hard, lift heavy and follow my outline for Days 1-4 and you will see results!
As an added extra, to help continue your progress forward in strongman, I have included a great example of one way to incorporate Westside style training into a strongman workout using this approach. Remember, this is a sample template, not the bible.
8 week Template
We are going to assume that this is an 8 week training cycle for a contest consisting of the following events: car squat for max reps, farmers walk, stones – 5, axle clean & press max reps, tire flip 75 feet.
See chart:
Week 1
Day 1 - MELB
Squat – Cambered bar 5RM
Good morning 3 x 8-12
G/H 3 x 8-12
R/H 3 x 8-12
Day 2 - MEUB
Axle Clean 1RM
DB press overhead 2 x 8-12
Tire flip 4 x 3
Rows 3 x 8-12
Superset curls & tricep extension 3 x 10-12
Day 3 - DynLB
Dynamic squat light band 8 x 2
Stones – light stones speed 3 stone series 4 sets
G/H w/weight 3 x 10-12
R/H 2 x 10-12
Day 4 - Dyn UB
Axle push press 10 x 3
Farmers Walk heavy 25-35 feet, 4 trips
Chins or rows 3 x 8-12
Shrugs 2 x 10-12
Curls & extensions 2 x 10-12, different than last day

Week 2
Day 1 - MELB
Buffalo bar Good morning / suspended 5RM
Manta Ray squat 3-4 x 12-15
G/H 3 x 8-12
R/H 3 x 8-10
Day 2 - MEUB
Axle Press from rack 3RM
Incline DB press 3 x 8-12
Tire flip 3 x 4-6
Fat guy pull ups (blast straps) superset w/ fat guy face pulls 3 x max
Superset curls & tricep extension 2 x 10

Day 3 - DynLB
Dynamic squat light band 10 x 2
Stones – heavy doubles 4 sets
G/H 3 x 12-15
R/H 3 x 10-12
Day 4 - Dyn UB
Log Clean & press 8 x 3
Farmers walk light – medium / 100 feet, 4-5 sets
Shrugs & rows 3 x 10 each

Week 3
Day 1 - MELB
Trap bar deadlift 2RM
Safety bar squat 3 x 10-12
Pullthroughs 3 x 10-12
R/H 3 x 8-12
Sled work - optional
Day 2 - MEUB
Axle Clean & press 5RM
Tire flip 3-4 x 5-6
Pull-ups or pulldowns 3 x 10-12
Face pulls 2 x 10-12
Hammer curls & tricep extension 3 x 10-12
Day 3 - DynLB
Dynamic squat average band 8-10 x 2
Stones – 5 stone series, best time, 3 sets
Keystone or Romanian deadlift 3 x 10-12
R/H 3 x 12-15
Day 4 - Dyn UB
Axle push press w/bands 10 x 3
Farmers Walk heavy 25-35 feet, 4-5 trips
Rows & Shrugs 3 x 10-12

Week 4
Day 1 - MELB
Safety bar squat 6RM
Cambered bar good morning 3 x 10-12
G/H 4 x 6-8
R/H 3 x 8-10
Day 2 - MEUB
Reverse Band Axle Press 2RM
Incline DB press 3 x 12-15
Tire flip 3-4 x 6-8
Blast straps Fat guy face pull & pull ups 3 x max
Band pushdowns 50-60 reps
Day 3 - DynLB
Dynamic squat average band 10 x 2
Stones – heavy doubles 5 sets
Pullthroughs 3 x 10-12
R/H 2 x 10-12
Day 4 - Dyn UB
Axle push press 10 x 3
Farmers walk medium weight speed, / 100 feet, 4 sets
Pulldowns 3 x 10-12
Rows 3 x 10-12
Curls & extensions 3 x 10

Week 5
Day 1 - MELB
Switch events to ME work
Squat contest weight max reps in contest time (e.g. 75 seconds)
Cambered bar suspended good morning 3 x 10-12
G/H 3 x 12-15
R/H 2 x 12-15
Day 2 - MEUB
Axle Clean & Press contest weight max reps in contest time
Tire flip best time 75 feet, 2-3 sets
Rows 3 x 10-12
Face pulls 2 x 10-12
Hammer curls 3 x 10-12
Band pushdowns 40-50 reps
Day 3 - DynLB
Dynamic squat strong band 10 x 2
Stones contest series 3 sets
Pullthroughs 3 x 10-12
R/H 3 x 10-12
Day 4 - Dyn UB
Axle Push press 10 x 3
Farmers Walk contest weight & distance, best time

Week 6 – Deload week
Day 1 No ME
Buffalo bar good morning 3 x 10-12
Manta ray squat 3 x 10-12
G/H 3 x 12-15
R/H 2 x 12-15
Day 2 - No ME
DB OH Press 3 x 10-12
DB Rows 3 x 10-12
Shrugs 3 x 10-12
DB Curls 3 x 10-12
Pushdowns 3 x 15-20
Day 3 - DynLB
Dynamic squat 10 x 2
Deadlift 5x5
Pullthroughs 3 x 10-12
R/H 3 x 10-12
Day 4 - Dyn UB
Axle Clean & press 10 x 3
Farmers Walk Medium weight 3 x 100 feet
Blast straps fat guy pull-ups and face pulls 3 x max reps

Week 7 Repeat Week 5

Week 8 Contest Week
Workout Monday only, light training
Squats 3 x 12-15
Rows 3 x 12-15
Incline DB Press 3 x 12-15
45 Back Raise 3 x 12-15

This cycle should have you prepared and in shape for your events assuming you were well prepared going into the cycle. And as always, look for more articles soon with even more training templates.

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