Can’t We All Just Get Along? Our Strength Programs Are Not Very Different

Written By: Kevin Cann

I was having a conversation with some of my co-workers, teammates, and training partners at Total Performance Sports last week. All of my training partners are multi-ply powerlifters that follow some type of Westside Barbell program.

If you have not heard of Westside Barbell, a simple Google search will show a lot. There is even a documentary titled “Westside vs the World” coming to theaters. This gym is home to some of the strongest men and women to ever step foot onto a platform. Even with this success, they still have enough haters out there that they feel they need to a title a documentary “Westside vs the World.”

I am a raw powerlifter that is coached by Boris Sheiko. Boris Sheiko is known for his success as a powerlifting coach in Russia, accumulating over 40 gold medals in the sport. His programs are well known for the high total amounts of volume in the competition lifts and competition lift variations.

One of the coaches was describing the differences in our training styles as being “totally opposites” of one another. At the surface it would seem that this is true, but when you dive a little deeper, each training method has a lot of similarities. This can be said about any successful training program.

The big word that gets thrown around out there is periodization. There are three “big” types of periodization that are often discussed in personal training and exercise science textbooks. These three are linear, daily undulated periodization (DUP), and conjugate.

Linear periodization is increasing intensity and/or volume of a specific exercise from week to week. Exercise selection would not change. An example would be if we squat on Monday, bench on Wednesday, and Deadlift on Friday. Week 1 we perform 3 sets of 5 at 80% of 1RM for all three lifts. Week 2 we would either increase the sets, reps, or the training intensity.

This would be difficult to follow over the long haul as fatigue will accumulate quickly, as well as the risk of injury due to adaptive resistance to training the same movement patterns day in and day out. This is why early specialization in sports is fought so hard against by those coaches in the field. If we constantly perform the same patterns over and over we are more prone to overuse injuries within those patterns. I have never seen a true linear program because it is near impossible to do.

DUP attempts to address the issue of not being able to continuously increase volume and intensity by alternating higher volume and lower volume days, or higher intensity and lower intensity days. This is important to utilize if you train each lift more than one time per week. Attempting to progress in a linear fashion from day to day would be extremely difficult, even for a beginner.

A conjugate program, like a linear program, does not exist on its own without other elements. This would be constantly changing exercise selection to continuously provide new stressors to the body. However, if we ever repeated the same exercise twice we would need to use the same intensity, sets, and reps for it not to possess the other programming elements. Westside is often referred to as a conjugate program.

In a typical Westside program there is a max effort lower day, max effort upper, dynamic effort lower, and dynamic effort upper. Max effort days you work up to a max single with the variation being used that day and dynamic effort is referred to…

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