Westside Barbell Approach: What I’ve Learnt From Ryan Kennelly

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Westside Barbell is a strength training gym located in Ohio, USA, that has produced some of the strongest powerlifters in history. Their training approach has become known as the Westside Barbell training style, and is based on the principles of Louie Simmons, the gym’s founder and head coach. This training style has gained a lot of attention and interest from lifters around the world due to its focus on developing maximal strength, speed, and explosiveness. In this article, we’ll explore the Westside Barbell training style, including its principles and techniques. Whether you’re a powerlifter looking to improve your strength or just interested in learning more about different training styles, the Westside Barbell training style has a lot to offer. So let’s dive in and explore what makes this training style unique and effective.

The power of exercise variation

Powerlifting is a sport that requires a lot of discipline, dedication, and hard work. If you want to become a successful powerlifter, you need to train smart and constantly challenge yourself. One way to do this is by incorporating exercise variation into your training program.

Exercise variation refers to the practice of changing exercises regularly to provide new stimuli to the muscles. By doing this, you can prevent plateaus and keep making progress in your training. This is especially important for powerlifting, where strength gains are paramount.

an example of exercise variation in powerlifting is the chained bench press. This exercise involves attaching chains to the barbell, which increases the resistance as you lift the weight. Another example is the bamboo bar bench press, which uses a flexible bar that requires more stabilization from the lifter. The next one is banded bench press is another variation that involves attaching bands to the barbell, which increases resistance at the top of the lift. The reverse grip bench press is another variation that involves gripping the bar with the palms facing towards you, which places more emphasis on the triceps. The last example is weighted dips – another great exercise for building upper body strength that can be used as a variation for the bench press.

By changing exercises regularly, you can keep your training fresh and challenging, which can help you break through plateaus and continue making progress. Exercise variation is a powerful tool for powerlifters looking to improve their strength and break through plateaus. By incorporating exercises like the chained bench press, bamboo bar bench press, banded bench press, reverse grip bench press, and weighted dips into your training program, you can constantly provide your muscles with fresh stimuli and continue making progress.

How to get strong fast?

According to the law of accommodation, exercise variation is a driving factor of constant gains. As you carry on training and developing your skills as an athlete, at some point, performing the same workouts will cause you to stall. It happens so because your body gets used to the stimuli being imposed on it and does not perceive them as life-threatening situations anymore. This, in turn, causes it to stop adapting to the stimuli and a change needs to be made if you want to develop your athletic skills further.

Varying volume, intensity and frequency are ways to prevent that. The same goes for the exercise order but in this article, I am going to explain the importance of varying the specificity that is the exercises chosen within thy routine.

Specificity, in this case, relates to how close the exercises you are using resemble the ones you are training for. In a nutshell, it means that if you are a bench presser, the barbell bench press would be an exercise of high specificity and the machine bench press would be an exercise of relatively low specificity. Varying exercises can be a way to prevent stalling as well as introducing more excitement to your routine as new exercises are usually more exciting than the ones you are already proficient at, correct?

Strength transfer

The thing is before you start randomly swapping the exercises in your routine, you need to first take care of a couple of important factors. The first one is training transfer and the other one is periodisation.

Training transfer addresses the efficacy of certain exercises. Let’s say you are to increase your farmer’s walk. In order to do that, there are a couple of components that drive the gains. If you disassemble the lift into smaller elements, you will see that you will need not only the grip strength but also grip endurance, core stability, core strength, speed and at least basic coordination skills and it’s practically the whole body we’re talking about. You have to be able to lift the weight up, hold on to it for a certain time, stabilise it and move it quickly from point A to point B. Deadlifts are a great exercise and can transfer well to the farmer’s walk but solely maxing out on the deadlift will not improve other training parameters thus a different approach will be required. Performing deadlifts for reps and with a trap bar is a much wiser strategy as the specificity will be higher. The grip will be similar to the farmer’s walk, time under tension will be prolonged and it will not only help your strength but also strength-endurance therefore the general carryover to the desired exercise (farmer’s walk) shall be higher.

Strength training periodisation

Periodisation refers to structuring the workouts over time. As you should already be aware, the workouts need to have some sort of structure assuming you’re after optimal results. The simplest way to achieve that is to think backwards, that is to utilise reverse engineering. Let’s say you want to improve your sprinting skills and the competition is a 60m sprint. Before you can run fast for 60m, you will have to develop the basic training qualities of such a skill and they include speed endurance, speed, power and strength. In this case, reverse engineering will lead to a series of periodised workouts where you first develop the strength necessary to move at a certain speed, then the power required for a quick takeoff, subsequently, you move to the speed development phase which allows you to run fast and finally, you go through a speed-endurance block where you aim to be able to maintain maximum speed for the duration of the event.

The same principles apply to strength sports such as bench pressing and powerlifting. Varying exercises has to be done in a smart way (not in a random manner). If a bench presser is to develop his 1RM, the rep range needs to stay within the power zone and the exercises performed need to resemble the bench press itself. That means, you might first want to focus on the football bar bench press, then banded bench press and eventually, the classic bench press itself.

The power of varying exercises is surely underrated by many that tend to stick to a single exercise of their preference and can bring many benefits into the strength training but all of that needs to be kept under control and developed wisely. Remember, you are not after randomizing the exercises, you are after changing the stimuli and utilising variations of the main lift that allow for a decent training transfer.

If you liked this article, you might also want to check out what I learnt from Josh Bryant and Scot Mendelson.

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