You’ve probably heard of the Westside, Louie Simmons’ Gym. Intended mainly for powerlifters, the Westside programs remain very demanding (too much?) and are certainly not intended for beginner athletes and/or who have to leave room in their programming for sessions to develop technical and energetic qualities.
Joe DeFranco therefore offers an adaptation of the Westside under the sweet name of “Westside for Skinny Bastard”. This program is in my opinion ideal for sports such as rugby, American football and certain combat sports during a short period of preparation where it is necessary, sometimes in a short time, to develop muscle mass, strength and power.
So here I will simply transcribe for you how DeFranco sees this training program. I will simply give my opinion and the modifications that I will bring to it.
Monday : Max upper body strength
Tuesday : Lower body dynamic efforts
Wednesday : Rest
Thusday : Endurance upper body strength
Friday : Max lower body strength
Saturday : Rest
Sunday : Rest.
Max upper body strength
- push exercise (bench press, bench press with chains, rubber bands, incline press, decline press, etc.). Ascending pyramid for a maxi at 3RM or 5RM.
- Exercise similar to the first (bench press with dumbbells, weighted push-ups, etc.). 2 series of maximum repetitions (load allowing to do between 10 and 15 during the first series). Rest: 3 to 4 minutes between sets.
- horizontal draw (bar rowing, dumbbell rowing, T-bar rowing…) chained with upper back work (band pull aparts, scarecrows, bird…). 3 or 4 sets of 8-12 reps in superset.
- Trapezes (bar shrugs, dumbbell shrugs…). 3 or 4 sets of 8-15 reps.
- arm bending (dumbbell curl, inclined curl, hammer curl, etc.). 3 or 4 sets of 8-15 repetitions.
Maximum strength is placed at the beginning of the week to work on a fresh nervous system. Needless to say that a gradual increase in loads must be required to reach its 3RM or 5RM.
An example, if we aim for 3 x 100 kg in the bench press at the trap bar:
– Series 1: 5 x 45 kg
– Series 2: 5 x 57 kg
– Series 3: 3 x 72 kg
– Series 4: 3 x 87 kg
– Series 5: 3 x 94 kg
– Series 6: 3 x 100 kg
Please note that this pyramid is not fixed. Some will need to increase the load more gradually, with more sets, others will need significantly fewer sets. By experience you will know the number of sets that suits you.
Every week you have to try to beat your record. This is why the cycle cannot continue forever, it is advisable to change movement, for example by passing on a partial movement, every 2 to 3 weeks to “relieve” the nervous system.
The upper body work done in superset with the pulling exercise focuses on the deep muscles of the upper back (rhomboids, rotator cuff). These muscles must have the necessary strength to stabilize the shoulder girdle during a violent push (ruffle in rugby, pushed in US football, hitting volleyball, direct boxing, etc.).
When you know me, you know that I particularly like
mix up work with load with bodyweight or elastic work. Also in the second exercise, I will place an athletic movement according to the athlete’s abilities (one-arm push-ups, ring dips, etc.). Assoon as 20% reps
more could be done compared to the first session, I advise to increase the load (or harden the movement). The horizontal pull can also be replaced by a horizontal pulling exercise on the straps, or on the bar.
As a first exercise, athletic movements on the rings (muscle-up on the rings) can be considered if the practice of sport finds an interest in it, the competitions are far away or equipment is lacking. In which case, we can consider a pyramid where we will relieve the movement less and less, by using rubber bands of different resistances.
Lower body dynamic efforts
- Jumps (box jump, squat jump, horizontal jumps, drop jump…). 5 to 8 sets of 1 to 3 repetitions.
- Unilateral movement (squat one leg, squat lunges…). 2 to 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions.
- Hip extension (good morning, straight leg deadlift…). 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
- Weighted abs (weighted crunch…). 4 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
The “dynamic-effort lower body” was absent from the first version of the WS4SB. We are looking here for a development of power, explosiveness in addition to muscle building. Two sessions of maximum strength for the lower limbs would have been too traumatic, in addition to sports practice and energy work sessions (often running).
I think it’s a very good thing that a session like this has been included in the program. It allows you to quickly introduce the athlete to the work of power and explosiveness which will most of the time follow him throughout his season. We can start here for young practitioners to teach good posture on low plyometric movements.
For the unilateral movementI will also focus on bodyweight movements (one leg squat mastery) easily transferable to sporting activity.
Finally, I will personally replace the weighted abdominals with dynamic sheathing work, thus balancing the lumbar dorsal hinge. For this, dynamic sheathing can be practiced on the Swiss Ball, on the ground, with a partner, with rubber bands or, more advanced, sheathing movements with the rings or high bar (front lever, back lever, etc.). The work of sheathing on the rings, requiring a perfect quality of execution can be programmed at the beginning of the session, before the jumps.
Endurance upper body strength
- push exercise (bench press with dumbbells, inclined press with dumbbells, weighted push-ups, etc.). 3 sets of maximum reps. Rest: 60 seconds between sets.
- Vertical draw (pull-ups, vertical pulling with the pulley…) chained with work of the upper body. 3 to 4 supersets of 8-12 repetitions.
- External deltoids (lateral elevations, dumbbell press, military press, etc.). 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
- Trapezes chained with arm work (curl, forehead bar, neck extensions…). 3 supersets of 8 to 10 repetitions.
- gripping work (grip). 3 to 4 series (work on a given time, or on a number of repetitions following the exercise). Not to be done if the deadlift is planned the next day!
For the first exercise, you can also program 4 sets of 12-15 repetitions. The upper body work exercise (rhomboids, rotator cuff) can stay the same, or vary!
I still like to choose bodyweight movements here (dips on rings, one-arm push-ups, push-ups with rubber bands, etc.), always for the benefit on primal sheathing that this provides (essential for the deployment of speed). For arm work, I will systematically strengthen the triceps, the biceps being worked in isolation on Monday. Grip work can become specificespecially in gripping sports (one obviously thinks of judo) where the “classic” exercise is hanging from a kimono, failing which a towel.
Max lower body strength
- squats (box squat, sumo squat, front squat, classic squat) or deadlift (with Olympic bar, trap bar or partial). Ascending pyramid for a maxi at 3RM or 5RM.
- unilateral movement. 3 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions.
- Hamstrings (leg curl). 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
- Abdominal circuit (crunches, high bar leg lifts, etc.). 2 to 3 times the circuit.
The maximum strength work of the lower limbs is placed the day after the bodybuilding-type work for the upper body. Thus the legs have fully recovered from Tuesday during the jumping session. DeFranco points out that one-sided work in the second exercise serves in particular to fill bilateral strength deficits*.
I’m not changing much at this session. Except that I use for the hamstrings exercises like the Glut Ham Raise or, less traumatic, the leg curl with the straps or on the Swiss Ball. For the abdominal circuit, I use a lot of horizontal bar movements alternated with lumbar strengthening.
This program is simple and effective, offering interesting leeway. For example, for a sport like judo where pulling strength is essential, I will modify the programming to incorporate a maximum strength session on a rowing movement. In the event of a lack of equipment (eg only small equipment available, outdoor physical preparation), the movements can easily be substituted and the work of maximum strength replaced by complex athletic movements.
This program does not replace everything that already exists, but offers a solid working base to whom needs
develop muscle mass, strength, power and explosiveness over a short period of time. But also, by correctly cycling the work of maximum strength and plyometrics, this program allows for long-term progress. Don’t forget, I repeat to myself that this program is MODULAR, which is why I’m talking more about WORKING BASE. It’s up to you, or your coach, to adapt it according to your goals. The only benchmark for estimating the effectiveness of your program is your progress. For that, keep test exercises (sprints, squats, pull-ups, bench press, jumps, rowing…). What you want as long as they are an indicator of progress towards your goals.
This program can also be modified to integrate sprint and conditioning work. To learn more, I refer you to reading Westside for Skinny Bastard Part 3.
Finally, be careful: for a beginner athlete (having never done bodybuilding, or not for a long time), this program must be preceded by a cycle of “anatomical adaptation**” to prepare the joints for maximum strength and plyometric work.
*Bilateral strength deficit: this is the difference in strength between two limbs. To calculate the bilateral strength deficit, here is a simple formula proposed by P. Prévost and D. Reiss after a maximum strength test on each of the limbs (upper or lower): [(membre le plus fort en kg – membre le plus
faible en kg) / membre le plus fort en kg] x 100. The strength deficit should be less than 20% (the closer to zero the better).
** Anatomical adaptation: this is how TO Bompa designates the cycle at the beginning of general physical preparation (PPG) based on sessions with exercises without violent accelerations, most often organized in circuit training.