The other day I got off the phone with a friend of mine who coaches college football. I told him that I had recently consulted with Dave Tate about applying the Westside principles for a college football player. He asked if these ideas were applicable for athletes, since Westside is a powerlifting gym.
I responded by asking him what was wrong with having explosive athletes with a strong posterior chain, setting and breaking records every week, keeping a high intensity level in the gym and competition amongst players. Training with these methods do have a carryover to athletics, especially football, as I learned during my college football career.
I was lucky enough to have a progressive strength coach that allowed me to experiment a bit with my training. The last year of my career, including the in-season, I trained using the Westside Methods. Since I had no one who could teach me how to box squat, or what bar speed should be, I had a lot of trial and error.
Now, let's take a look at how I trained, the mistakes I made and how to better structure your workouts for a successful program.
I followed the basic 4-day plan:
Sunday - Dynamic Bench
Monday - ME Squat/DL
Wednesday - ME Bench
Friday - Dynamic Squat
The volume of my in-season training was cut substantially because of this. Looking back, I feel I could have benefited from some extra sled dragging during the season to facilitate recovery. I also was very careful of doing any overhead work, as my shoulders took a severe beating during practices and games. I did a lot of rotator and neck work, as these areas are common problems on any football player.
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I found out that by doing all of my squats on boxes stopped any knee pain. By learning how to sit back properly on a box, the stress was taken off my knees and put on my hamstrings, low back and glutes. This was a tremendous relief for me and allowed me to have quality squat workouts, practices and running sessions. I recovered much quicker than with regular squat workouts.
During the beginning of my training, I made the error that most people do, especially drug-free lifters. My volume was much too high. I did as many as 7 exercises per day and quickly figured out that it eventually this would kill me. I cut back to as little as 3 exercises per day (counting the core lifts) and I responded much better.
The first couple of months I also ignored Good Mornings. I thought that they could be duplicated with straight leg deadlifts. Anyone who has done both of the exercises know how wrong that assumption was. Good Mornings are imperative for strength gains, so quit making excuses and start doing them! Also, I did not put emphasis on ab training and this also was a huge mistake.
As mentioned before, I had no one to teach me how to sit back on the box, and this is where the Squat Workout tapes come in. If there are no experienced box squatters willing to teach you, buy the tapes and learn. Another big mistake I made was too high of a percentage on Dynamic Bench day.
In fact, even now that I'm benching over 100 lbs. more now, I'm still using the same weight for my speed bench workout. Remember the % are a guideline and are not written in stone. Again, having the Bench Secrets video allows you to see what a Dynamic workout should look like.
Despite these mistakes, I managed to do some things right. I did a lot of glute-ham raises, reverse hypers and pull-throughs. After several months of doing these, I felt myself getting faster, quicker and stronger. Once I added in Good Mornings on Max Effort day, my hamstring and low-back strength went through the roof, and I could feel it whenever I played.
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Although upper body strength is not as important in football, I made some great progress during the season. It was a great feeling to know that at the end of the season, I was stronger and thus feeling superior to my opponent. To know that I didn't just maintain my strength, but increase it, was a great confidence boost. In fact a week after the season, I hit a PR in the squat.
There are a few things I should point out about myself. First, I did not play on an every down basis. I probably averaged about 30 plays a game. This should be taken into account. Second, practices were extremely tough throughout the entire season. We had full contact practices two or three times a week, and being the one of two fullbacks on the team, I got plenty of reps and plenty of hits. My body took a huge beating during the season.
The bottom line is to ask if I thought that using the Westside Methods made me a better football player. Without a doubt I got faster, stronger and was much more confident on the field. And when combined with a proper speed and agility program, I believe that using them can and will lead to better football players. I think there is a lot of hesitation to fully commit to such a different program.
Too many times people are scared to step outside of what they think they know and take a chance. But what chance are you really taking? It is a proven program with outstanding results; so don't be scared to succeed. Quit asking "What If?" and get in the weight room.
About The Author
Jim Wendler is a former assistant Strength and Conditioning coach at the University of Kentucky where he worked with several different teams including football and baseball. He currently works as the Senior Editor of Elite Fitness Systems and continues to educate and help others during Force Training seminars across the country.
He played football and graduated from the University of Arizona where he earned three letters. Wendler helped lead the Wildcats to back-to-back bowl games, the Insight.Com Bowl in 1997 and the Holiday Bowl in 1998. Wendler was a key player in helping Arizona defeat the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl and finish with a No. 3 ranking.
He started training for sports at age 14 and his best lifts in competition are a 940 squat, 650 bench press and 650 deadlift and a 2225 total.