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Unleash Your Power by Mike Warkentin - CrossFit Journal

Unleash Your Power

By Mike Warkentin

In Powerlifting

January 20, 2010

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Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell has been producing world-class lifters for decades. Mike Warkentin explains how he’ll use CrossFit Powerlifting Certs to shares his proven training methods and teach CrossFitters about strength, speed and explosive power.

At 62, Louie Simmons is revered in the powerlifting community. He’s produced world and national powerlifting champions, and he’s worked with Olympic gold medalists and professional athletes. Simmons himself is one of only a handful of lifters to ever total elite in five different weight classes. He squatted 920 lb. and totaled 2,100 lb. over the age of 50. He’s overcome two broken backs and a multitude of torn tendons and muscles, and he’s patented several powerlifting machines. On Dec. 5, 2009, he competed at 220 lb. and achieved a 730 squat, 455 bench and 670 deadlift, which made him an elite again.

Some might ask what a man essentially focused on three lifts can teach athletes searching for work capacity across broad time and modal domains. The answer is a lot, really.

Simmons is an expert who is happy to share his wisdom, and he had a group of elite CrossFitters buzzing with excitement and looking for ways to incorporate Westside methods into CrossFit training. Admittedly, CrossFit will never produce a 1,000-lb. squat, and powerlifting will probably never produce a sub-three-minute Fran—but that’s no reason to ignore a style of training that’s generated a host of world-class competitors. Simmons is sharing a lifetime of knowledge, and it’s up to CrossFit’s best athletes and trainers to decide how to use that info to produce better athletes.

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30 Comments on “Unleash Your Power”


wrote …

To be honest, I'm a little hesitant to goof with his methods, given that almost all of those big boys including Louie are on steroids.

I have no moral qualms, but I really am curious about how 'regular' athletes do!


wrote …

Anabolic steroids assist in recuperation from the heavy lifting so they can train again sooner. If you're resting properly while not on steroids, you'll be fine. Crossfit is the same way in this regard. You need proper diet and rest to become a stronger athlete. All steroids would do is reduce that rest time, you still have to put in work. Louie and his clients are good because they train hard, not just because some of them use anabolics.

Besides, steroids can only assist in pushing your genetic peak further than where it would be without. Most crossfitters are far from reaching a max lift that they would consider their peak. Writing off what he teaches because he and his athletes use steroids is nonsense. His techniques work. Give the man with years of experience the respect he deserves.


wrote …

How did he break his back, twice, and get torn tendons?


replied to comment from Vincent Christensen

"Give the man with years of experience the respect he deserves". I like that alot. He seems to have real knowledge. Not synthesized "wikipedia" knowledge, but real "dug out of the earth himself" knowledge. That deserves respect.


wrote …

thank you thank you for putting this up. His program has been used in many diffrent gyms and it works, just look at defrancos website he uses this program as the basis of his own and he is very good at training people to be strong and fast. Crossfit has alot to learn from louie


replied to comment from Vincent Christensen

"Anabolic steroids assist in recuperation from the heavy lifting so they can train again sooner. If you're resting properly while not on steroids, you'll be fine." That's the whole point, "resting properly" not on steroids would mean your recovery would be substantially longer than if you were on them, which would change the entire cycle of the workouts, which would change the scope of a 12 week cycle. It changes everything, especially when you see how tight he has his training regemine, by going from 1 or 2 days recovery on a certain lift to twice that long completely changes the program. I don't think Mike was disrespecting him, just saying it would be nice to see how he would train a non-steroid using Crossfit athlete, he obviously knows what he's talking about and he's said in the past that you can't train not on steroids the same as you can on them, so I would be very interested to hear how he would train a non-steroid athlete different because it would great info that I would love to hear.


wrote …

Louie's methods are time tested with both drug free and steroid using athletes. There are literally thousands upon thousands who use his methods and are drug free.


wrote …

Here's the deal, drug free or not, Louie can teach you how to increase your absolute strength. Increasing your absolute strength will improve ALL of your Crossfit performances. Louie recently told me about a study with distance runners. In the study 32% of the runners' training was replaced with heavy resistance training. They increased their absolute strength. Guess what happened to their running times? Yep, they went DOWN. Get the point?


wrote …

Yeah its a little aggravating to see these comments about steroid use. If you honestly think that some of the people that qualified for the games last year didnt juice up your mistaken. I dont care if they tested at the games or not 3 months was plenty of time to hide the use. Did you know that Casey Burgener has trained with Louie? If so I guess you saying coach Burgener alllows his athletes to roid up and by that nation you shouldnt use any of Coach B's teachings either.


wrote …

Enough of the steroid talk already. Everyone is quick to point fingers but won't take the time to learn about Louie and his methods. Take 5 minutes and do a little research and you will find that he trains many drug-free athletes with great success (as Chris has already mentioned).

Read his book (Westside Barbell Book of Methods) and you'll learn how a drug free athlete can use his system.

Thank you CrossFit for adding Louie to the family.


wrote …

I can't wait to learn from this guy. This is great.


wrote …

What was the deal with the puddle of blood?


Mike, hey bro, don't hesitate.

I use Louie's methods at my gym..... been using them since I began training athletes, and our guys are miles ahead of the majority, especially when their athletic skills are high.

Even when I was training wrestlers from my garage, I was getting kids who had losing records one year, to all state the next year, it shocked the hell out of people.

Louie's methods work BIG time, not just his strength methods, but he has some kick ass ideas when it comes to the development of conditioning, work capacity, etc.

Didn't Bruce Lee say , “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”

I believe Coach brought Louie on board for a reason.

Without sounding like an asshole, anyone who is totally dismissing Louie or crying about anabolic steroids and fully dismissing him is NOT being fully open minded to what CrossFit is all about.

I've used Louie's methods for years on my athletes and myself, the results have been awesome, none of use steroids, heck, most of my athletes eat like shit let alone don't use drugs, so, the proof is there.

Louie was 1 of my first mentors, too bad for those who pass by his methods



replied to comment from Zach Even - Esh

thanks Zach....more than helpful



wrote …

What is the process to start an affiliate? I will be setting up a CF gym in a camp in Afghanistan soon. There are a handfull of us who have Lvl 1 certs, and one guy with a Lvl 2 cert.


wrote …

Okay, so if you are a garage or globo-gym crossfitter (i.e. self-directed) who doesn't necessarily want to squat 1000 lbs but wants to get stronger, the recommendation in this article is basically (1) divide your lifts into bench-press related lifts and squat/deadlift-related lifts and (2) do one speed day and one max effort day per week of each group?

I have been kind of playing around with this and am finding some success although four sessions is kind of hard to schedule along with everything else I am trying to do. The speed days make a good warmup for almost anything else you want to do and are very crossfit-friendly. The max effort days are harder to integrate, you can usually do some GPP or more lifting afterwards, but you are definitely going to feel it the next day. I do them whenever the 1-1-1-1-1-1 workout comes up on the mainpage, but so far I can only manage to do one max effort day per week, not two.

Also, what about using oly lifts as your speed day? It occurs to me that high pulls and are probably a good sub for light deadlifts/squats, you really have to explode to get the bar up there. Push jerks seem like a good sub for speed benches. Any thoughts?

I really appreciate everyone who has contributed so far, and Mark, great article, this is really helpful.


replied to comment from Christopher Kamper

Your correct so far. Plus a good thing to add, since you have to switch the core lift on ME days, would be to do clean deads or snatch deads instead of the standard dead or sumo dead. I had thought about using O-lift on speed days but even at a light weight they are still complex movements and the taxing your CNS takes may not be good overall. Not saying its wrong I have thought the exact same thing since they are speed lifts. I plan on adding them to my speed lifts in like a month and if it works and I recover well enough then I will stick with it. If not I will modify it to like the hang or power version of the lifts and see if that helps.


replied to comment from Christopher Kamper

Chris, I would say save the GPP for a non ME day from time to time. Some metcons are fast, so use them as speed days occasionally. I've been doing a conjugate type system for a 4 months with good results and have used both cleans and snatches on speed days. I have only crapped out when doing high volume O-lifts within 72 hours of doing a max effort Back squat/DL. Here is a split that has worked for me so far:
Monday: ME Press/O-Lift
Tuesday: Metcon
Thursday: ME BS/DL
Friday: Metcon
Saturday: Metcon
I treat Metcons as speed days and still do supplemental lifts on ME days. Most metcons I have pulled straight from the mainpage.


wrote …

Michael Miller and Mike Kaseman, thanks so much for responding, I will definitely think about what you said and give it a try.


Jay Ashman wrote …

Here is something for you to digest... whenever you have lifting or sports, you have steroids. Its nothing new and for anyone to dismiss Louie because of steroids is a damn fool and incredibly naive.

Get over it quickly and digest his knowledge and learn from it.

There is more to life than a metcon, guys.


replied to comment from Christopher Kamper

Yes, thanks for comments that help look at the brass tacks. Let's figure out how to use this with crossfit and not get caught up in irrelavant crap.

I took an approach, in drawing up some designs, that looks like it could work. I tried it for a conceptual month(I used post-its and a table). The Idea I had was to combine Louie's splits with CF splits like so:
Lower ME day - CF - Press ME - rest - lower speed - cf - speed press.

I took 6 WODs in a row(following the schedule on the mainsite), put them on Post-its and then arranged them under the day I think they would best fall. I found that it didn't take much tweaking to the mainsite and one could pretty easily get the best of both worlds by just starting a week or two behind mainsite, shifting some things around and following a couple of principles.

For example I took 6 consecutive WODs from mainsite and rearranged them to look like this: Bold workouts are the WODs from mainsite.
ME Lower Day: ME squat or deadlift (supplement with 3rounds 800 m 155 pwr cleans )
CF day: Row 1000 21-15-19 GHD
ME Press: Split Jerk 1-1-1-1-1-1 (supplement if you're a sick bastard)
Rest Day
Speed lower: Lumberjack (perhaps modified so that they are broken up into small repped sets)as supplement or speedy or both.
CF: Run 800 30 hip extensions 5 rounds
Speed press: Jerk 2 x 8 (supplement 15-12-9 one handed thrusters)
In this particular week it worked out that only 2 powerlifting exercises were added to the total amount of work. I did this for 4 different CF periods, and it worked out pretty simply. There were some unique WODs that looked like they wouldn't fit until you switched them out with something from another week. Some Wods that I didn't know what to do with ended up being both ME and supplemental (eg, 1-10-1-20-1-30 days). Cleans made great speed days and if I had a remaining heavy leg WOD I might just alter it to make it speedy, supplemental, or even metabolic. Sometimes I saw just a ton of work and dropped something. In one week I doubled a WOD because one was a great ME and the other was a great supplemental. So that left an open day. So why not take the extra rest?
All this strategery is loads of fun, and has me excited about the combining of the amazing principles that are conjugate training and Crossfit.


wrote …

Does anyone have legitimate numbers to back their claims of "improvement"? I have also incorporated something similar, in that I maintain the CF cycle, but one of the three days is a max effort day on some foundational movement. However, if I max a squat or a deadlift, there is no way I would follow that up with more heavy lifting, especially if I want to see the max effort improvement. It appears that Louie's program is set-up such that the athlete is given adequate time to recover, which is directly proportional to the athlete's performance over time. So I guess my question is, what is the quantity of improvement, and over what length of time did this occur?


wrote …

I wish so badly that we could get past this steriod crap, which is a non-issue, and talk about what an enigma Louie is! 60 years old with a 700# squat??? Freaking amazing.

I read the comments and am embarassed by the nitpickiness by some. What if Louie were to read this? What the heck would he think of imparting his knowledge and then reading how we focus not on his methods, but on some 'alledged' steroid conversation.

I could listen all day long to Louie or Dave Tate and am so grateful for HQ for arranging this and bringing it to us!! Thank you Dave Castro!

Hey Dave Castro or Tony Budding you may need to arrange a video series of some fantastic psychologist to help some of these dudes with their emotional therapy. They way some of these guys are so quick to point the finger, judge and not see the larger picture is amazingly disturbing.


wrote …

This is my experience on merging WSBB and CrossFit methods. One striking similarity between CrossFit and West Side is the constantly varied rotation of exercises. Here is a sample template. I've been playing with both West Side and CrossFit for some time now. The regeneration/off days are critical. Ice bath after Lower/Total Body days will help. Foam rolling hot baths and stretching should be performed on the regeneration days. Try to get at least one massage a month if possible. If you zone you might have to bump up your post work out blocks.

Day 1: DE Upper Body training
Jerks: 6 x 2 @65-75%
Speed Bench: 6 x 3 @55% (Rotate between close, moderate and wide grip)
Horizontal Push
Horizontal Pull
Jump (Box jumps, Double unders, Burbees, Broad Jump, SAQ Ladder, etc)

Day 2: Off/Regeneration

Day 3: ME Lower/Total Body Training
ME exercise: Pick one of the following; BSQ, DL, FSQ, Cleans, OHSQ, Snatch, Box Squat, Sumo DL
Posterior Chain (KB work, SDLHP, Back Ext., GHD, etc.)
Core (KTE, Sit-ups)
Monostructural ( run,C2R,Jump rope, Scwine Airdine)

Day 4: Off/Regeneration

Day 5: ME Upper Body Training
ME Exercise: Pick one; Press, BP, Push Press, Close Grip BP, Push Jerk, Incline BP
Vertical Push
Vertical Pull
Jump (Box jumps, Double unders, Burbees, Broad Jump, SAQ Ladder, etc)

Day 6: DE Squat/Pulls
Snatch: 4 x 1 @ 65-75%
Cleans: 4 x 1 @ 65-75%
Box Squats: 4 x 2 @55%
Unilateral Lower body exercise: Lunges, pistols, single leg RDL, etc.
Core (wind mill, TGU, Loaded Side Planks)

Day 7: Off/Regeneration


wrote …


I really like the way you've blended the variance, but how did you calculate the loading? It seems like the WSBB method is also based off the percentages and gradual increases to hit target goals. Also, do you have any numbers to show what this has done for you or others. I am very interested especially because of the variance in movements in creating the dynamic power lifting bias. I think this would be a great test to compare against the CFSB that was making a splash this last winter and leading up to CFFB launching.

Thanks for compiling and sharing this.


wrote …

Jake #23

respectfully, steroid use definitely is an issue for this discussion, for several reasons. They are illegal, they are often unhealthy and they offer disproportionate gains to users which leads to their banning in most athletic competitions, including Crossfit.

You can choose to ignore the issue but learn from the rest of Louie's approach (and I am trying to do the same) but the questions above are legitimate, particularly the ones about the difference in recovery between anabolic and non anabolic athletes. I played professional sport with clean and anabolic teammates and the speed of their recovery and the resultant additional training capacity, was the biggest advantage I observed for the anabolic guys.

It may well be that the WSBB system works equally well for non steroid and steroid athletes. If so (or if not) I'd like Louie to tell us.

If as AC and Zach above have claimed, (and I am sure it is true), large numbers of Louie's athletes are drug free, then can we hear from Louie about any differences or similarities in their results? Given the huge knowledge and encyclopaedic memory he has, Louie must have some information he can share with us. This can't be the first time in 60 years somebody has asked him.

I also think that this is a legitimate question for Crossfit, an organisation that supports drug free training and tests for steroids at it's Games (including my sectional next month) to ask one of it's highest profile teachers (not sure what the best word is for the relationship between CF and Louie).


wrote …

Luis #24

thanks for sharing that. It looks like a fun and interesting program.

Can you quantify the changes to your fitness during this period in terms of strength and performance in other metcons?

My other question is how taxing it felt on your body - it is a lot of work. My 38 year old body (with knees that feel older) may struggle with that program for long periods, although I'd love to give it a shot

thanks again


wrote …

I’ve competed in Powerlifting, Weightlifting, Judo, BJJ and MMA, and done a few 5K’s as well. My best powerlifting numbers are Squat=345, Bench 245 and Deadlift 425 at a BW of 132lbs. I have fought in Brazil in jungle fight 3 Got my butt kicked but at least I was good enough to make it on the show. As you can see I’m sort of a hybrid athlete. The above template is something I’ve been playing with lately. It is not set in stone. In the past I’ve alternated between Strength/power and fight training. I obviously lost some of the strength do to tons of met-con training. Then I began doing strength before MMA practice. Strength work will not impede MMA practice because it’s mainly a neural stimulus.
That helped me maintain my strength. I basically have a few performance bench marks I went by to measure if was ready for a competition/fight. I know I was in good shape if I could do 3, 5min rounds of sparing rotating a new opponent every minute. Strength wise I tested my lifts about 10 days before an event. I would be able to do a 315 squat, 225 Bench and 405 Deadlift at a body weight of 139lbs.

The loading is classic West Side Barbell Rx. The Dynamic work should focus on the competition lift. I just merged Powerlifting and Weightlifting. I took movements that are similar and train them on the same day.

The stronger you get the harder it gets to recover so notice the upper body and Lowe/Total body split. This will help recovery. Also you can do the program 3 days a week instead of 4 days for more recovery. I tend to use CrossFit as GPP. When I do a WOD, I scale all weightlifting exercises for my body weight. On a scale from 1-10 my intensity is probably a 7-8. CrossFit is a legitimate sport, at the moment I use CrossFit WOD’s as a means not an end. I hope this helps.

For example:
T= Regeneration
F=DE SQ/Pulls
S= Regeneration
T= Regeneration
S= Regeneration


Frank DiMeo wrote …

I am just finishing Louie's book, "Westside Barbell Book of Methods".
We are implementing his methods at CrossFit Gulf Coast.


wrote …

I like the idea of changing how I do my lifts to increase my PR. I am working at increasing my squat and deadlift and I am almost tapped out using linear progression, so now I am excited to use some of his methods to increase it even more.

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