Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What "works"?

So the last few days there has been a pretty big debate about speed work and Westside barbell and all of the facets surrounding training systems and whether or not certain principles have "merit" in terms of improving strength.  

I love it.  I really do.  It's good stuff.  I really love it because it's an argument between a lot of legit strong people, and not a bunch of 3 plate squatting redditors or open forum assbags.  Though I'm sure that's going on in those places as well.  

Rather than get into this debate about speed work and such. (because there are plenty enough people in it already) I am going to write the following about it all, and about every training "system" or methodology in general.  

Eventually, a training method has to bear fruit in terms of its claims.  It has to "work".  The problem is, what does "work" mean?  

Let me state that "work" to me means that when something is applied over and over again, the end result is success.  Either every time, or the great majority of the time.   For example, while lots of dietary gurus and nutritional experts argue that "a calorie isn't a calorie" and all that fucking nonsense, Weigh Watchers has been helping people lose for decades through simple calorie counting.  

I can hear all of the nutritional gurus groaning about this, and I don't give a flying fuck.  Just yesterday I overhead a conversation between two guys where one of them complimented the other on all the weight he had lost.

"110 pounds I've lost." the one guy said.  "All just following weight watchers."  

It's a pretty simple system.  And it "works".  

If you eat less, you'll lose weight.  This has been proven over and over and over and over and over.......and over and over.........and over and over.  I don't care about your god damn scientific paper and studies.  It works.  You take some food away from a fat body, and that fat body shrinks.  Yes, there are times when a person has something wrong with them physiologically that may not respond to that, however for the great majority of people, simply counting calories works.  I mean, for the love of God, even Dorian Yates stated that he counted calories, and all he had to do was dial his calorie intake down to 4400 or so from 5600 and he'd start getting into contest shape.  Yes, it's that simple.

Training isn't a lot different.  Not a whole lot of things have really changed involving the barbell in the last 60 years.  You can dig up lots of old manuals from a long time ago that have programs that look just like "scientific" programming of today.  To quote the "lunk" in the Planet Fitness commercial, it really comes back to picking things up and putting them down.  

There's not a whole lot to learn in terms of getting strong. There really isn't.  You eventually have to do more reps, do more work, or put more weight on the bar.  In the grand scheme of all that is the training holy grail, those things can't be ignored.  They matter.  

If you can squat 315x5 and go to 315x10 you got stronger.  

If you go from 315x5 to 335x5 you got stronger.  

If you go from squatting 315 for 2 sets of 5, to being able to squat 315x5x5 you got stronger.  

All of these things work.  "Work".  Work meaning, your goal was to get stronger, so you did.  

Some may say that's too primitive or basic, but that's all lifting really is.  Yes, we have fun finding new ways to find that means to an end, however if you were stuck on an island with only a barbell, a squat rack, a surplus of food and were told you'd be rescued once you had gained 50 pounds of lean muscle (granted that you are not already very advanced) you could get it done, could you not?  Sure you could.  You would figure it out.  

Do you know what you'd eventually figure out?  You'd figure out what WORKS.  

More than likely, you'd figure out what "works" are the principles listed above.  The two main ingredients involved in all of those methods or principles are very simple as well.

Time, and effort.  

I preach a lot about there not being short cuts or special routines.  Yes, a gram of tren and test a week will certainly speed up that "time" part, however the effort part still has to exist.  The same principles apply.  This is what "works" over and over again.  

So as I noted before, eventually a training protocol has to bear fruit to what it claims.  It has to show that it has been applied to meet certain results, and that the results were optimal.  Namely, the people following the methodology got bigger, stronger, faster, whatever.  This is how training "works".  Essentially the proof is in the pudding.  Anecdotal evidence will often trump scientific data if the "science" runs counter to what the real life results say.  

When I was doing lots of 100 rep sets of curls, I read debates on how 100 rep sets wouldn't work for size and that it was "broscience" and all sorts of horseshit.  Well, my arms grew and my elbows stopped hurting.  For the most part, every person that started doing them religiously found the same thing happened to them.  Though I'm sure some forum nerd would cite that some "scientific" text/notebook/study/greek tablet says that it doesn't work.  I don't care.  What I care about is finding out what will yield me results.  Lab geeks be damned.  

So back to this discussion, and this will be my only word about it.  

What "works"?  

Well apparently Louie Simmons said  “In my opinion people who don’t wear gear have no opinion. Lifters who break records with gear and then train without are always stronger.”

Listen, if you're going to come at people hard like that, then don't expect everyone to respond in kind.  To my knowledge, there isn't a single raw record held by anyone who trains strictly in the WSB manner.  The rebuttal to that would be that either "they use modified WSB" (so it's not WSB at all), or that WSB doesn't care about raw.  Well duh.  Apparently Louie doesn't even think that a Stan Efferding or a Kirk Karwoski is even worthy of having an opinion.  Nevermind that there is zero evidence that he has anyone training under him that could out total either guys best raw numbers in their respective weight classes.

Here's the deal then.  If WSB WORKED for raw lifters then eventually raw lifters would gravitate towards it because as noted, the proof shows up in the pudding.  Yet all of the elite raw lifters I know, train pretty similarly.  They manage their cycles, peak, and vary their intensity and volume.  Again, all shit that has been done for decades and has been PROVEN to "work".  

If you're going to run off at the mouth about geared lifters being stronger, or a methodology being better, then you'd better have some god damn proof of that.  You'd better show that a certain method "works" better.  Again, "works" means that the result is the same the great majority of the time, and that your guys best other guys using your methods.  

I personally think the WSB method is the preferred method for most geared lifters because it "works" in that regard.  It produces big geared numbers.  However it does not "work" for raw training.  Let me also emphasize that just because you "know this one guy..." doesn't mean shit.  Go back and read what I wrote about what "works" means.  

I don't care about "this one guy..." or about a study or a lab geek that squats three wheels that disagrees with me.  I care about what strong people say "works", and "works" over and over again.  This is really what the majority of you who want to get strong raw should care about as well.  

I will leave the mental masturbation to the forum trolls and loudmouths who post under pseudonyms.  It's what they do best.  


  1. ... "and not a bunch of 3 plate squatting redditors or open forum assbags."

    No comment either which way, but shitting on the people who buy your products is an odd choice to make.

    1. I don't shit on anyone that buys my stuff.

      I shit on people that feel as though they are experts in these things when their time, experience, and level of abilities are far below the people they so often are critical of.

      As I noted at the bottom, spend time listening to strong people and what they all have in common rather than debating furiously about it. There are plenty of good people on reddit and other forums, but when I see over and over again "too long, didn't read it all, but he's an idiot" then my opinion might be heavily swayed to the negative.

    2. Orwell, no offence taken to what you said. However you should stand corrected for the below statement you made

      "No comment either which way, but shitting on the people who buy your products is an odd choice to make"

      Where in this entire post do you see Paul "shitting" on people who buy his product. I see this post is more of an anectodal opinion (or facts) that comes from experience.

      Remember, if you think you are "shittable", then you would be shitted upon!

      As usual, a Good article Paul. I say good not bcos you are shitting over people or whatever, but bcos you write this out of experience from Working your ass off the gym , unlike some folks who (in your own lingo) mentally masturbate (over a keyboard).

  2. I really wish I could remember who the hell said it so I can attribute the quote, but, "there were no fat people at Auschwitz."
    And fully agreed about the training, too.

  3. Oh is this in response to the Mike Tuchscherer article? Dude is a boss. One of my favorite lifters.

    "If you eat less, you'll lose weight. This has been proven over and over and over and over and over.......and over and over.........and over and over. I don't care about your god damn scientific paper and studies."

    This is actually a case where the science backs it up hard and the bros miss out. Any tightly controlled study they do, stuff like meal frequency and carbs vs. fat go out the window. It's all about the calories. In terms of fat loss/muscle retention, it appears you just need to meet certain protein and fat targets and the rest comes down to personal preference.

  4. I'm curious as to how this is going to play out. My first reaction to Louie's comment was ' I wonder what Stan Efferding would have to say about this?'. Chad Wesley Smith I think put it best- All the WSB boys need to do is start showing up to RAW meets and prove em wrong...

  5. Would be an interesting experiment to hold two meets where guys who use gear compete against raw lifters in a raw meet, then do the opposite and get raw guys in gear and compete against the geared guys in a geared meet.

  6. I like Louie. I do. But more for his longevity and the love of lifting that he has retained even at his age than his training methods, which do work for the type of lifting his guys participate in.

    However, I find it kind of odd that even though he quotes many Russian sources and refers to all the Russian literature from which he got his knowledge, not many Russian powerlifters train in the fashion he espouses.

  7. I originally saw the article and a response article from links that Wendler put up in his Facebook Feed yesterday. Both were interesting reads. Both coming from opposite sides of the RPE 9 all the time views. Both were from raw lifters. Neither said Westside worked for Raw lifters.

    But at the end of the day, when I tried to apply Dave Tate's "So you think you can..." series for geared lifting to my raw lifts, it didn't work out so well. When I fixed stuff with Wendler's tips, and a whole lot more with your tips, the squat, bench, and deadlift just kind of came together.

    As you said, use what "Works".

  8. Interesting to see how AJ Roberts gets on in his comeback meet, I believe it is @242 RAW.

    Not knocking Stan Efferding's amazing 2300+ total, my personal thoughts are that there should be 2 distinct records, walked out and via monolift. To me it doesn't seem fair to compare it like for like.

    1. I agree. The walkout should always be part of the squat. JMO. Not knocking Stan. He's awesome. But I always wonder what he could dunk without the mono.

    2. Serious question- does squatting in a Monolift make that big of a difference? Never squatted in one that's why I'm asking

    3. I think it can. For a guy like Efferding there's no way he can get that wide if he has to walk it out. I also think at heavier weights it takes some out of you to walk it out.

    4. Gotcha. Thats what I thought just wanted to be sure.

    5. If you look at Stan in this video, he has issues getting balanced with his wide stance, now imagine having to walk that out and getting it set up in the optimal position, ain't gonna happen, especially as Paul mentions with his stance. Not to mention re-racking it.

      As an experiment a while back, we set up a "ghetto" version of a monolift, basically set the safety pins of power rack at rack height, unrack the bar and your training partners pull out the safety pins - no walk out necessary. After 3 weeks of training and getting used to it, we were all hitting PRs or hitting the heaviest squats we had done in a while. It's like the difference of doing a max bench without the handout but more profound.

      Anyways back to the subject, assuming Louis Simmons wasn't misquoted or had it taken out of context, what he said was unbelievably arrogant, disrespectful and dismissive. I am hoping he was misquoted or maybe he was trolling?

      Like a lot of people here, when I started out and the internet was in its infancy, I started following WSB principles. Quite funny when I look back on it now, I was promoting this style of training whilst my mate's were doing the standard flex magazine stuff, they got their benches to the mid 300's, I was struggling with 285.

      Ha, ha, alarm bells should have gone off when I read "you should row the bar to your chest", as far as I can remember these articles made no reference to wearing a bench shirt.

      Good on Chad Smith and Mike T on putting this out there and getting people to think, the internet has come a long way since the early 2000's

  9. I think so many people, myself include, could benefit by adding an internet time restriction to their protocol. About once a year I add something retarded to my training just because I saw it on some stupid site without ever thinking of the why or how to properly implement it. Usually takes me a couple of weeks to get unfucked and then i purposely dont look at training sites for a while to get my head back on straight

  10. Replies
    1. It was a good start for me. Eventually you start stalling a lot and you feel run down all the time. That's when its time to switch to something with a slower progression that you can recover from better. I made it into 3 plate squat territory with that program within about 3-4 months (I started with just the bar).

      It works for the folks its designed for: beginners.

  11. Hey! I am a 3 plate squatter, 372 is my best squat. But I don't care enough about how other people train to be critical about it. I defo don't argue with people on forums about what works and what doesn't. I try to improve myself. Your basebuilding was very helpful to me by the way.

  12. westside barbell f******g sucked for me, i tried it in college for football, maxing out on a floor press, then a board press, then the next week a pin press for triples, box squats, good mornings, rack deadlifts, six weeks later i test my maxes and nothing or it got lower by like 10 lbs. too bad i didint know its for GEARED lifters. fml during those times when you have a season around the corner you cant afford to waste time like that.

  13. I think Louie trained raw and in a conventional style for many years and suffered some nasty injuries through exceeding 90+% too often on the 3 lifts,my understanding of his predicament is that he's got so much wear and tear on his body,he would fall apart if he tried to train in that style again.Hence his need for supportive gear and less stressful ways to train (box squats,safety bar squats,conjugate method etc etc).
    My suspicion is that most of us,if we lift for the length of time Louie has will either have to use gear/modified training systems to help us train or just accept that after a certain age,we are simply not going to get any stronger.
    However,for a young injury free, aspiring lifter i would always suggest to them to use a training protocol Paul suggests,using straight bar weight and to build a massive raw base.

  14. Paul, what do you think about running the strong-15 short cycle for squat on Monday and something like 3x8 squat on friday to grease the groove and induce hypertrophy?

    1. I think I've talked about this before and what you do is split the squats and pause squats into 2 separate days.

    2. I was thinking about that too. Thanks.

  15. I lift raw and train conjugate, sue me. I make modest gains as a borderline intermediate trainee and I'm happy with them. When I stop making gains I'll try something else. Powerlifters and coaches need to let their results speak for them, and let the record holders issue their own challenges. If they're all happy holding a single fed's record, let them. Super disappointed in the community this week. So much ugly.

    1. No one needs to sue you. Train in the manner that you enjoy!

      The main thing that needs to happen here, is debate. And there is nothing wrong with healthy debate. I personally think that Laura Sweatt and the whole WSB response should be looked at as a disappointment. If they are open to having their system challenged then don't say "these people have agendas" blah blah blah.

      Take the challenge. Put some raw lifters on the platform. Show that the system has merit in gear AND raw. That's really what i was getting at with this article.

  16. Paul,

    damn good post!

    Far too many times, i have people asking me what they should do as if they are in a panic to get big n strong in a deadline of 8 weeks. That's when I tell them, "stop----first of all, it's going to take time and plenty of hard work. If you think you're going to be jacked like (insert name here) in several weeks, you're going to be majorly disappointed." And on cue, they always ask "well, what should I do in my workout? Which are better? Dumbbell curls or barbell curls? High reps or Low reps? Does 5x5 really work? Can i bench 315 in 3 months?" That's when I tell them, "damn near anything will work as long as you progress. Pick out several basic lifts/exercises and your favorite rep/set scheme---and stick with it. I cannot stress this enough. If you progress week in and week out, you're on the right track. If you're still making solid gains several months down the road, you found what works for your body. If not, change it up. The important thing is to enjoy what you do, progress in whatever you do, and find what works for you.Just follow the two golden rules of lifting weights: More reps or more weight."

    They get bummed out when I tell them this! When they realize their dreams of gracing Men's Fitness's cover will not happen in several weeks, they ...piss and whine. But its the straight up truth. Time and effort, more reps or sets (or both) with a chosen weight, or more weight. Why do people get confused with this? How is it any different from looking at a traffic light? Green-Go, Yellow-Yield, Red-Stop. OR Green-More Reps. Yellow-More Sets. Red-More weight. Is it the best example in the world, no. But it paints the simplicity of it. Instead they are changing the rules, constantly fking with rep/set schemes, searching for the magic 'secret' out there in the World Wide Web instead of confining themselves to their own personal island (their power rack) and just....squat away. Mind your own business and get better. Find what works.

  17. It's interesting that you're slamming lab geeks and science in this article, because whenever someone brings up the much proven CNS/strength connection, you shit all over that how? By referencing doctors...LOL.

    1. There is no CNS/strength connection. not the way you speak of it.

    2. Also, you're a fucking troll douche. Be happy I allowed your comment to get through.

  18. I wonder if Louie's comments could be interpreted as the lifter who wears gear then takes it off is always stronger than if he had not worn gear.

    Meaning, the same lifter who gets strong using gear and takes it off is stronger than he would have been had he never used the gear.

    It's too bad Louie is such a gear whore, because it would be great to have that mind working on raw strength.

  19. Lonnie - that sounds great when you write it and say it, but... just because it is spoken does not make it true. Geared lifting, especially multi-ply lifting is so different than raw lifting. Your sticking points change when you add or take away gear. In some instances, they disappear altogether. If you are weak off the chest and spend all your time doing board presses, rev band presses, shirted benching, you will never, ever get better off your chest. I've always been a geared lifter since I started in this sport way back in 1996. I am just now toying with raw lifting. It's painful, period. I have had to relearn how to bench and squat.