Old School Versus New School

Create: 10/16/2006 - 07:41
Power and Bulk takes a look at whether old school powerlifting training still has a place alongside today's newer school thinking. One poster makes an interesting observation that new school training is more appropriate to today's more advanced gear whereas old school training still works well for unequipped lifters.

Guys like Ricky Dale Crain, Kirk Karwoski and Ed Coan are from the old school. Is there anything we can learn from them program wise? I mean Coan's program is very old school-periodised-no real special exercises. Do the major lifts once a week, leg curls, calf raises as accessory movements. So what gives? I mean the Westside method is so different it's unreal however these guys apply stuff that Simmons says is outdated.


If your body fits the program, go for it.

Hey, news flash, simmons isn't God.

What you learn from those guys is that it's not what you do, it's how you do it.

If you take the modern gear away are the results better now?

I think it was Shaf that said that these guys were built so well for the power lifts that they could do the full movement and still progress, most of us need to work on our weaknesses more.

I might be off base but from the training trends I see, it looks as though the Westside type training methods are very good at building your ability to strengthen weak points of equipped lifts. In other words the less equipment a lifter uses, the more he tends to use a traditional, "train the lift by doing the lift" type of routine, and the more equipment is used, the more it becomes advantageous to use assistance based/conjugate type approaches. This is just from looking at the training of different lifters; it seems like guys who lift in unequipped tend to use the actual lifts much more with a few assistance exercises thrown in depending on the lifter. The thing that is interesting to me personally is WHY is it like this? Why do equipped lifters benefit from conjugate method yet unequipped lifters seem overall to prefer using the basic lifts to get stronger? I wonder if maybe the reason is because the equipped lifts themselves (squat in full gear, bench with shirt on) are not the best strength building exercises, whereas the raw lifts done without gear are in fact good strength building exercises, but not the same type of strength that is effective for the equipped lifts (the equipped bench requiring such a focus on lockout strength, the equipped squat requiring a lot of hamstring/butt strength and so forth), necessitating a focus on assistance lifts building those particular portions.

I think it's mainly mechanics and how they change with gear. when you have a shirt boosting the bar off your chest, you don't need full range strength, you need midrange and lockout. so you do exercises that target those areas. and board press/floor press is arguably more useful for that. not that it cna't help a raw lifter with his lockout. you might also note tat for all the claims of the WSBB/conjugate faithful about how great the method is, raw results are stagnant. all of that amazing strength technology doesn't seem to be adding up to much in terms of actual strength levels. a cynic might aruge that improvements in competition results are more from learning the gear/better gear than any real increases in strength levels

Oh yeah, the metal militia guys seem to be doing pretty well geared using competition movements (in gear) most of the time. Many ways to skin a cat basically.

mentioned this already on this board, fairly recently). Some people like/thrive on the variation, some don't. Some like things to be more set in stone, some don't.

To some degree, Steve has it right. These guys were born to lift, and the naturally stronger you are the better just the basic shit pulls you through. Coan could out-total most guys here RAWDAWG, 165 pounds, and at 16 years old. Did something like 500-350-550. Within two years he was already among the strongest in his weightclass in the world. Lionstrike is another example. He built an 800 pound deadlift by maxing out in the deadlift once a week. Why make things more complicated than they need be? People who are less gifted may spin their wheels on the real basic stuff after a while.

We do the main lifts in and out of gear and we are getting good results with this. We also do lots of accessory movements. Big Iron does the 3 main lifts heavy. They are one of if not the top gym in the country. Its all very basic. We all know what Coan has done, he did basic stuff and it worked awesome for him. He would prolly do well with any type of program, wicked strong person. Everyone needs to find what works for them and run with it. It is gonna be different for everyone.

I don't think the ME movements used by Westside are really that different than the traditional squat, bench, and deadlift. AFAIK, The main movements used by Westside are: Squat - box squat, free squat Good Morning - normal, chain suspended Bench Press - board press, pin press Deadlift - sumo & conventional deadlifts They add in a lot of variety by modifying the strength curves on these movements using bands & chains, which makes it so the strength curve more closely resembles that of a geared lift. They also use some special bars--safety squat bar, buffalo bar, cambered bar, etc. The purpose of the special bars ranges from safety (buffalo bar is easier on the shoulders than a straight bar when squatting) to technique improvement (safety squat bar helps you to stay more upright when squatting). Take the main movements I listed above, then take all the permutations you can get by mixing in bands, chains, and special bars, and you have a boatload of different ME exercises. But in some sense, they don't deviate from "the basics" all that much. Whether you use straight weight, bands & chains, or special bars & equipment, a squat is still a squat. The strength curve will be different, but the mechanics and technique shouldn't differ too much. So yeah, Westside figured out lots of good ways to emulate geared lifts by adding in contrast and modifying the strength curves of the basic movements. They also have loads of accessory and supplemental movements that target specific muscle and technical weaknesses. The old school guys didn't need the fancy contrast used by Westside because the gear back in the day was far less extreme.


Submitted by tim gill (not verified) on
i used the traditional method of squat,bench,deadlift once a week for years and got ok results.i switched to westside methods about a year ago and have had the the best success ever added about 100 pounds to my squat and deadlift and 60 to my bench and thats unequipped i think its great whether you use equipment or not ,plus it gives your program tons of variety.

Submitted by Tractor (not verified) on
Yes, Westside stuff is great. In response to a comment above from another forum, Bench shirts do not "boost" the weight off your chest. That speed has to come from your muscles. Now granted, a shirted lift uses different muscles than a raw lift will, but you still need more than just lockout strength and mid range strength. What you need is speed strength. Speed to be able to make your muscles react quickly enough so that you can release the speed that the shirt gives you. Its just not as simple as saying the shirt takes care of all the work, just hold on to the weight, otherwise there would be no competition within the weight classes. Why else would my buddy who is in a lower weight class than me bench more than I do? Because he's faster. Yes you still need to work on lockout strength sometimes, but mostly its speed. Thats just my opinion though. I liked the comment also about different things will work for different people, very true

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
You can not compare genetic freaks that would have made gains on any program to everyone. I mean look at the name you use as an example Ricky Dale Crain, Kirk Kawasaki and Ed Coan these guy's are legends in the sport. They would be great in any era on any program

Submitted by Mike B (not verified) on
I used westside training for two years. I did everything exactly the way westside reccomends. At first I made very good gains on all 3 lifts. After about a year my deadlift began to stall and my squat and bench made only moderate gains. When I started college this year I totally scrapped the westside training and did a more old school approach benching twice a week, squatting once, pulling once, and adding in a shoulder day. The gains I have made have been great. My squat has gone from 540 to over 600, my bench from 385 to over 400, and my deadlift from 690 to around 750 all raw. On the other hand my buddy i trained with in high school switched over to the same type of training im doing and has made no gains in 7 weeks. Different things work for different people. The main thing is hard work and finding what suits your needs.

Submitted by tim gill (not verified) on
just find what works and hammer away at it.i think Jim Wendler said it best "lift heavy weights,eat,rest and repeat when necesary".Just work hard and be smart about it.

Submitted by Thom (not verified) on
I think that all these comments shows one thing. If you keep up a routine for a long period of time you wont see that gains. West side and Mr. Simmons attacks the weak links in your body. That is why you see big gains. Take the recent article in powerlifting usa about the sled dragging. Also think about this. Can you get into a swimming pool right now and swim 3 miles with perfect form??? Why not??? Because you dont work those muscles in the same way. Changing your routines will get you the big gains. I say if you see big gains keep doing it till you peak and then change it up. My self ive added 65lbs to my bench in 8 weeks using a work out routine made by keneth Lain aka the mighty texan. So yes do old school then mix with new. We will never be able to say do this and that is all.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Exactly my sentiments above. There is no magic strength template. The simple truth of the matter is when you switch things up now and again your body will make new gains off it and then you will eventually plateau and need to change it up again. We get stale because of many different factors. I personally like a combo of Westside, progressive overload, and the BFS set rep scheme from Biggerfasterstronger.com But I also like to train my core lifts once every 9 days for max recovery being a master lifter.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Many people seem to see these things in black or white- to most it's either band use or no band use. People fail to consider that there are degrees of band use. Yes, using incredibly high band tensions is going to mimic the strength curve of supportive equipment, but there is a difference between squatting with three blues each side and squatting with just an average each side. The other thing people need to remember is that the strength curve of the equipped lifts is just a more extreme version of the strength curve of the raw lifts. Even without a shirt, you will still be weaker off your chest than a high rack lockout.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Its pretty difficult to do Westside stuff without actually going there and getting the advice from Lou himself. If you try it and don't get results, more than likely you're doing it wrong

Submitted by Big Mike (not verified) on
All this stuff about "just switch stuff up" is not entirely accurate. Yes, switch stuff up, but when you say that, people do it without an underlying philosophy. They do Westside for two months, then an old school periodized program for two months. That's a terrible way to train. Not to mention if you get beyond a low-level intermediate lifter, simply "switching it up" won't do squat. There has to be some intelligent design to your programs. The problem with training is that people cannot / will not develop their own training philosophy that is grounded in reality. People do Westside like it's a cookie cutter routine and it's ineffective. Westside (at least how Louie writes about it) is NOT a training philosophy! It's a template. A template will only get you to low-level intermediate qualification. A training philosophy is more of a way to think about training. A training philosophy will work whether it is applied to raw powerlifting, geared powerlifting, strongman, discus, etc, etc. Understand HOW things work, then you won't cry anymore about which programs do or don't work. You won't worry about which routine you'll "switch it up" with next. And you'll begin worrying about how your training in this block should differ from your training of the last block, but only so far as particulars. The philosophy never changes.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
haha so you think that Westside will only get you low level intermediate results? The facts speak for themselves, how many world records do Westsiders hold? Something in the range of 10 I think.

Submitted by Big Mike (not verified) on
Seriously, yes it will only get you to low level intermediate. But then again, so do almost every powerlifting program in existance. The level of training to become "elite" in Powerlifting is nowhere close to what it is to be "elite" in a more developed sport like Track or Olympic Lifting. I think the typical thought process applied to powerlifting training is abysmal and, yes, I think if you do the "Westside" as it is written in Louie's articles, you will only reach low level intermediate status. I don't think that any powerlifter is truely "elite" in terms of absolute strength development. The training process is just not refined enough for powerlifters to get close to their potential.

Submitted by Big Mike (not verified) on
Brian Siders is getting closer than anybody. He's got a big total and he's doing it in more limited gear and without AAS. And he's not doing "westside". He has a training philosophy.