This post will cover a few cons and pros from my experience of using the Westside template and principles. This post is based on training females not men and are raw, drug free with very limited if any athletic backgrounds. I also want to state that using a Westside/Conjugate style of training isn’t Westside. Actually training in Westside and following a template are quite different.
Over the last 2 years I have incorporated the Westside/Conjugate system in within our gym and a large volume of women. It has delivered great results bringing us more National Irish Female Champions than any other gym in the country as well as multiple national male champions.
Pro’s For Westside
Box Squat – Women tend to have wider hips than men which leaves them slightly more vulnerable when it comes to squatting heavy. The box squat a brilliant exercise for developing hip strength and building big raw squats and deadlifts especially with the sumo style.
The nature of the box squat teaches you to sit back and load the hips more to oppose to breaking at the knees, shooting them forward and loading the quads.
Breaking at the hips is usually a more effective way of squatting especially for females and their tendency to have knee tracking issues and hip issues. Breaking at the hips and loading them will generally mean less valgus knee angle, patella tracking issues, knee and hip pain. It will also be easier to hit depth.
I prefer to add front squats and high bar squats for quad dominant squats which would involve the lifter sitting straight down rather than sitting back or breaking forward with the knees.
Maxing Out & Going Heavy!
I’ve said this in previous articles but I feel most women need to feel a heavy weight on their back or in their hands regularly! Obviously the more experience any lifter gets the less this will apply to them, but for best part I find that most women tend to psychologically let the heavy weights get the better of them!
Using a Westside template allows females to perform heavy triples and singles reps consistently. This builds confidence as well as maximal strength.
The Westside Template allows you to program a great deal of accessory exercises. This is great for female lifters as I have found they can recover quicker a lot better than men after the main movement or exercise. This means that I can program slightly more accessory work to bring up lagging areas.
I would normally add an extra squat variation on my lower days or a single leg variation. I have found our ladies can do 3-4 squat variations in one session twice a week as well as hip dominant exercises such as good mornings, stiff legs and block pulls. This wouldn’t be possible with most of our guys due to recovering and a time element due to them taking longer to warm up.
Cons of Westside
The Westside template typically doesn’t involve too much pulling and when it is added in it’s not that frequent. I know a lot of lifters perform speed work, but for me this isn’t enough for your typical lady lifter!
Westside builds their deadlifts via good mornings, box squats and lots of accessory work. I can see how this translates for elite equipped lifters and a lot of male lifters. I’m usually smoked if I pull from the ground more than a couple of weeks in a row where I could good morning heavy 1-2 times a week and be fine.
The squat and deadlift are the bread and butter for most female lifters! Females will get the most bang for their buck from these lifts. I think females need to pull heavy a lot more regular as it is one of the few lifts they can really move some heavy weight and create a strength stimulus.
One thing that I have also noticed at meets is females (and males) with very poor technique pulling heavy weight! Some of these girls shouldn’t even be walking away after some of the pulls. Despite some of these lifts being poor technically compared to our lifters they are still moving more weight. This can only be down to the fact they pull often and heavy. Imagine good technique and regular deadlifting!
Obviously just lugging weights off the ground will only get you so far, but I now believe that just performing technique via speed work isn’t enough and females.
That being said one of our smallest lifters is pound for pound one the best lifters in the country and doesn’t pull too often. So there is individual cases where this doesn’t apply!
Women tend to handle more frequency better than men. I know I said above that they also need to max out or lift heavy weekly but I also believe they can handle that alongside more frequency. Females tend to respond well with squatting and benching maximally once a week and then squatting and benching submaximal 2-3 times a week alongside it. These lifts don’t have to be raw but could be if you wanted.
Benching & Bands
Apart from one female lifter I haven’t really seen much of an improvement using bands. The males on the other hand have seen great jumps in their benches but it mainly irritates the females shoulders due to the over speed eccentric phase. Chains on the other hand are a little friendlier.
Recently I Have dropped the band and chain work with the bench pressing and am going for more volume/frequency approach whilst also including a lot more chest work. We spent a lot of time also targeting the triceps but I think because women tend to have small amounts of muscle mass upstairs compared to downstairs they need to focus on all the big 3 pressing muscles and not just 1 or 2.
ABS Powerlifitng & IrishPF National Head Coach