Benching With Louie: Part 1

By Louie Simmons

In Powerlifting, Videos

June 04, 2010

Video Article

Louie Simmons can make you strong, but how he does it can be a bit of a mystery to some. Louie, however, doesn’t keep any secrets and shares his techniques with the CrossFit community at Powerlifting Certs.

One of the most integral parts of understanding the Westside Barbell method is knowing that velocity is critical. While Simmons and crew work toward new PRs by lifting max weights on some days, they also use weights just over 50 percent of their 1RM to emphasize speed on other days.

Bands and chains are employed to provide additional resistance and change the dynamics of the lift, and Simmons will use all sorts of variations to add pounds to a standard competition bench press: wide grips, narrow grips, cambered bars, football bars, a floor press or two … .

In this three-part interview, Simmons shares a number of his strength-building nuggets as they relate to speed on the bench press. Grab a pen and paper to take some notes and maybe knock a few seconds off your next Linda.

Part 1: Lower weight, faster reps. How to set up speed work with bands and chains on sub-maximal days. 8min 30sec

Additional reading: The Holy Trinity of Strength Training by Bill Starr, published May 27, 2009.

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35 Comments on “Benching With Louie: Part 1”


wrote …

Classic Louie! "Strong is Strong." I have to agree with him on the accessory work. I've been doing triceps exercises at the end of my workouts (I know, I know, worthless exercises...) and have seen my bench press, overheard press, and push press leap as a result. Keep this great information coming, along with more global warming articles!


wrote …

I love Louie but honestly he talks so fast and switches topics so suddenly that most of the time I have no idea what he's talking about.


replied to comment from Nicholas Carcerano

First off, I love the video. I enjoy most of the CrossFit content and have recently enjoyed the addition of Louie's expertise. I specifically enjoyed the "Violent Agreement" series. I love watching these professionals critique, comment, and debate their sport.

I am 36 years old and was a high school athlete (ended there). I have been infatuated with CrossFit ever since I came across it 3 years ago. I have been training on my own (garage) and have seen gains that I would never have imagined through some of my earlier training. I reflect on this all the time. Nothing has really changed other than: I use CrossFit methods instead of traditional body building method and I am older (wiser). So, is it the method? Is it my diet? Is it the thoughtfulness and care that I approach my training with now (lord knows I threw around weight with no respect to the mechanics/movement when I was younger)? One thing is certain, I am stronger and healthier now then I was as a young athlete (wrestler, age 16-22) regardless of the amount of training I did then.

So as for the video, when I listen to Louie talk about training, I get excited. I don't know about you guys, but something about it gets me pumped. Some of his methods remind me of the body building methods I used to use, however, he has injected all sorts of twists and turns that challenge a trainee. Some of these aspects are things that I came to learn through trial and error, for example, constant variation of movement (hand position, tempo, etc.). What do you guys think about Louie's power lifting methods? Any of you experience drastic changes in light of some of the new information presented on the CrossFit website?

As an amateur that is interested in programming (I work out on my lunch hour). I am interested in how some of you have incorporated some of Louie's programming along side the mainsite WOD's. I am also interested in how you incorporate skill work (power lifting & O'lifting) with the mainsite WOD's.


- G8torPaul


wrote …

Who is the ugly guy next to him?



wrote …

I'm with Jordan Derksen. I really like Louie, but I can't get a clear understanding. I'd like to see the workout or cycle he's describing written out.


wrote …

I love Louie's little side stories. I could listen all day. Once you learn how the conjugate system works it seems so simple and almost like it should have been the obvious way to get really really strong. That is what is so genius about it.
Like he says you don't move your core lifts up just by doing the core lifts, you have to work your weaknesses. Everyone loves to hate on the bodybuilding world but it just makes good sense that a muscle with a greater cross-sectional area has more potential to be strong when combined with the right neurological training (think Jason Khalipa or Matt Kroczaleski). Got a weak bench and shoulder press? Pack on some tris and watch them go up.
Also I have to say that speed bench is super fun. First off adding it lets me bench twice a week (once for speed work and once for max effort day) and I LOVE to bench. And second it is a fantastic way to hone your technique and learn what it means to explode with a weight.


wrote …

Is Louie wearing a medical braclet? I wonder what for...


Zach Even - Esh wrote …

Damn Dude, I LOVE these Louie Videos, gets me fired up as much as it did years ago when I would chat w/Louie on the phone about training wrestlers and football players.

I have ALL my athletes crank triceps work, and yes, many CrossFitters would think it's crazy BUT, we can only have these kids do so many push ups and pull ups

We attack the arms HARD because I know that attacking ANYTHING WEAK will help them on the BIG lifts such as bench, military press, push ups and pull ups

It's not odd for our athletes to hit 100 reps of band pushdowns and extensions.

Time to get STRONGER, Louie always reminds me that I am weak!!!



wrote …

Louie...please finish a thought, then move on to the next one.


wrote …

its like he's speaking another language... not sure what I learned about the bench, have to watch it again a few times.


Dane Thomas wrote …

Typical Louie, dumping wheelbarrow loads of information faster than I can shovel them into place...


wrote …

Love this!


wrote …

Louie at his best! BB's @ an elephants ass!! Well Done! Thanks so much!


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Louie's stuff has definitely impacted our training!
Great video!


wrote …

"big ain't strong, strong is strong"
" you can't throw BB's at an elephants ass"

man I love this guy. for those who don't understand Louie, buy his book of methods and purchase some of his training DVD's. You will be glad you did. I understand and apply all these methods to our training at our Affiliate, and the results have been amazing.

I know he gets to rambling, but listen to what he is saying. The man knows every lift done by hundreds of athletes, at what event it took place, the year of the event, the bodyweight of the athlete, the time frame for his athletes to improve their lifts by implicating special exercises, how other training methods from around the globe have improved their athletes, and he is offering this information up to us!

The trip to his club is a must. To walk in there and see those guys moving all that weight firsthand is worth the trip. I don't know if the Seminars will go on the road ( I hope not), but for those of you serious about getting strong and taking your training to the next level, you need to take a trip to Ohio. All of his athletes know the system inside and out, and are very willing to help you out with any questions you have. They remind me of the CF Community in that regard.


wrote …

ok bench press.. for a powerlifter bench press is one of the three things you have to do to compete. why would anyone else want to do it apart from you do it lying down and it's easy?


wrote …

If you are saying bench press is easy, you've never put serious weight on the bar. Try putting 300+ pounds on there and tell me its easy. Even Rip said the value of the bench press is being forced to lift a large amout of weight with the upper body. Yeah its easy, if you go body weight or below....


wrote …

Duncan, your statement oozes of ignorance and bravado. The answer to your question is that lying on a bench and pressing allows for you to overload and strengthen the muscles involved in pressing to a significantly greater degree than you can do without it. In addition, it develops the pectorals to a much greater degree than a standing press.

If you can overcome your ego, you just might want to work on your bench and then watch your standing press begin to go up...


wrote …

For anyone saying they don't understand Louie, be specific and I can probably clarify it.


wrote …

Louie has so much info to give its incredible!! I cannot wait for the rest of this series. I have read the Westside Method book probably twice, and really can't believe how "simple" some stuff is and don't know why I couldn't see it before.


replied to comment from Chris Mason

Hi Chris

thanks for the feedback. don't have any objection to anyone using bench press as an assistance exercise for the press. but unless you're a powerlifter then that's all it is. like louie says you should change your assistance exercises because you stall out on them so do a different one. my main problem with bench press is that it's not safe to do on your own and you need a spotter. If you don't need a spotter then you're training too light. Also I think if you put bench press into programmes then the guys get too obsessed with it. Like louie says you dont bench press with your pectorals. That's bodybuilding. You bench press with your arms. I don't put it in any programmes for my guys but I give them some basic instruction on technique and show them how to spot if they want to do it with a partner in their own time. one of the most over-used exercises i'd say.




wrote …

1) Duncan I bet if you increased your bench, your press, push press and jerk would go up as a factor due to increased stimulus and increased strength of the same muslces used in all those exercises. Not to mention if you benched properly you could hardly call benching easy because your lying down. Every single muslce in your entire body contracts to keep you stable, and increase your power via the kinetic chain and keep the bar traveling in the most efficient path. To simply say bench is easy because you are lying down oozes not only ignorance but tells me you've never benched properly.

2) I have done the westside program, I have done starting strength, I have done Jim Wendler's 5-3-1 as well as Rip's Texas Method. What I've found with Louie's program is that 1 its designed for people who are at the cusp of their genetic potential and need a very large amount of stimulus to progress and 2 that the people it is designed for (800+ squaters) are generally taking performance enhancing drugs and thus are recovering at a much more rapid rate than the average Joe. I find that despite constantly changing exercises in both the dynamic and max effort methods it is very easy to over train the CNS and consequently you may suffer some sort of injury or performance may plateau. Certainly with a calorie depleated diet such as the zone diet, consistent progress with westside over any significant period of time would be near impossible. Perhaps a more realistic approach to westside programing would be with a deload week every 3-4 weeks to allow the body and CNS to recover similar to the one in 5-3-1 or in Eric Cressy's Maximum Strength program. Just my thoughts on the subject. Anyone who has actually done westside for more than 8 weeks feel free to refute my statements regarding overtraining in average people I would like to hear how you did it. For interests sake, I followed the basic westside template for 12 weeks eating roughly 5-6000calories a day.


wrote …


Just because a certain exercise is not tested in most Crossfit WODs does not mean that it is useless. That is an annoying stance, and you should really get over that. A shocking truth, I know. Like Chris said, it is another way--an excellent one at that--to build immense upper body strength. If you are not interested in getting strong, then I guess we can end the conversation there. I imagine Rob Orlando has done his fair share of bench press. It also doesn't make much sense that you think that because spotters are needed for safety at high weights makes it an inherently useless exercise. If you want to do some heavy bench, then probably best to have a spotter. If you don't have a spotter, then just get a little more creative. I'm not saying that the bench is better than the overhead press, but it is different and is effective in building strength in the horizontal plane instead of just the vertical plane. I think if you work both, you will find they complement each other very well.

I love that the Journal is putting out these great articles of Louie, and the rest of the Westside guys are excellent in the tips they share. Keep these coming!


wrote …

Jonathan, when you tried the Westside protocol was that all you were doing, or were you still doing CF training along with it?

Duncan, here's a bet:

I bet I can strict press with a reverse grip more than you can strict press with a normal grip. I almost NEVER do any standing pressing and even more rarely with a reverse grip. Want to take the challenge?

Now, ego crap aside, if I can out-press you without ever practicing the movement, what do you think might be going on? How did I build my strength?

When you answer that question you will understand the value of a bench press, or incline press to the person who wishes to excel at the overhead press.


wrote …

Okay, I've been patient. Where are parts 2 and 3 already!!!!!


replied to comment from Chris Mason

No I was not doing crossfit. I have been off crossfit in preparation for some powerlifting meets since november. I do the occasional crossfit wod, or i push the prowler for conditioning usually once a week. I have also encountered this not only in myself, but clients whom I have perscribed westside to, and also in friends who also compete in powerlifting. Perhaps I have approached it improperly but I varied max effort exercises weekly and my speed work every 4 weeks. I used 1 exercise for back, one exercise for shoulders and one exercise for triceps for 3 sets of 8-12 reps on upper body days for accessory work. On lower body days, I did a hamstring exercise, and a unilateral quad dominant exercise and occasionally some lower back work also in the same rep range. I varied accessory work every other week. I believe the over training occurs with consistantly working above 90% of 1RM for 3-5 sets every week, twice a week. This is a tremendous amount of strain on the CNS which is difficult to recover from if you are not an elite level lifter. I enjoyed westside, and it helped my lifting technique tremendously, but i found that towards the end I was very beat up. I have had much more lifting success especially in bench pressing using 5-3-1 which does not use anything more than 85% of your 1rm for max reps. This may also be a personal, but it seems like more than coincidence to me if it has happened to most people I know who have done westside. It generally tends to occur around the 8-9 week mark perhaps a little later depending on how much you are eating.


Daniel Schmieding wrote …

You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger CrossFit junkie than me. I've been following this site and its methods since early 2002, own and train at an affiliate or two, and believe CrossFit is changing things forever.

That being said, there seems to be a ridiculous bias against Bench Press in some of the newer CrossFit followers. This likely stems from three assumptions:

1) Bench Press, outside of Power Lifting, is too mainstream, and therefore inherently anti-CrossFit.

2) Bench Press rarely shows up in WODs on

3) Bench Press is often deemed "less functional" or non-functional by this community.

All 3 points are silly.

1) Bench Press is no more mainstream than sprinting or jump roping. If your concern is coming off like a body builder, please utilize Power Lifting methods the same way you have likely adopted Oly Lifting methods.

2) Bench Press used to be very, very common on Please go back to 2001-2002 archives ("Old Site"), and browse through the dates. Bench Press had a clear place among the Clean, Press, and Squat. Glassman assuredly loves the lift.

3) I suppose Curls aren't functional, either? I like to make fun of them along with the rest of the "underground" fitness universe, but both exercises mimic positions and movements commonly found in life.

CrossFitters: you are cool. You're just not cooler than Bench Press.


replied to comment from Daniel Schmieding


Bench has some flaws, but overall it's still great. And it's mentioned on the site and journal probably more often than in recent workouts. The biggest problem with implementation of it in a high intensity workout is the inability to safely drop the bar on your own.

Doing a met con, especially a heavy metcon with the bench press requires either a spotter or too much rest (longer rest so you can ensure you hit the lift). It's not like an overhead press or clean or DL where you can just drop the bar. Back squat has a similar can drop a back squat if you need to, but then you'll have to get it back on the rack to continue the next rep. It makes front squats or overhead squats much easier to implement because you can pick them up from the ground.

If I remember correctly, Bill Starr likes the overhead press better because it is more challenging and functional (standing more apt to real life than lying on your back), but he never says that bench press is bad. You can bench more weight, which has obvious benefits, similar to that of a heavy back squat compared to a heavy front squat.

You can make a pretty good argument that curls are not functional....that doesn't mean useless for getting big biceps, but functional generally refers to real life application or 'compound' movements that involve many joints.


While I'd love to picture a 70-year old woman power cleaning her groceries into her car, I'm certain it more closely resembles a curl. As does lifting a child up to your face, or holding something at chest height. It'd be great if everything fit in the rack position, but it doesn't.

Better or worse is beside the point. You should practice both the Press and the Bench Press if they are both functional. Should I only pick one between Run, Jump Rope or Lunge? I'm certain some are "more" functional than others.

I agree, Bench Press is not a convenient movement to fail on. This is undoubtably the reason it is rarely seen on .COM anymore, as the site's WODs have been simplified to exclude movements that people may not have easy access to in everyday life.


wrote …

A) Bench Press is fun. You could do it for this reason alone.

B) 1 rep max bench showed up in at least one sectional that I am aware of (British Columbia - part of the CrossFit Football total)

C) Look at OPT's training for CrossFit gamers. You will see that bench shows up there regularly. A lot of people follow his programming and that means a lot of CrossFitters are benching on a regular basis.

D) For the purposes of metcons CrossFit may focus on functional movements that move large loads long distances quickly but that does not mean that it excludes any movement that does not meet that criteria from being part of your total fitness package (think turkish getups)

E)Let's not have an argument whether bench is CrossFit or not. It most definitely is. So that just leaves one question: How much ya bench?

F)A note on bicep curls (the butt of many fitness jokes): While moving to a new house last fall I did the entire thing with just one friend (both of us wanting to see how our CrossFitting bodies would hold up). It took us two days of work (moving a house full of stuff, not an apartment full). At the end of it you know what was most sore? My biceps. It was a rare occassion where I could actually lift something with nice straight arms like a deadlift. Most of the time my arms were in a 90 degree bend holding a box in front of me or in some awkward position bringing a couch or whatever down and up stairs trying not to put holes in the wall. What would be the perfect exercise to mimic this real work functional capacity? Probably 21's! :) What are you gonna do when your kid says "Show me your muscles"...flex your spinal erectors?


wrote …

All I asked was why would anyone want to do it apart from you do it lying down and its easy. You do it lying down. No controversy there (well, except it's a kind of strange way to lie down - not very relaxing). And it's easy! Is there really a debate about whether it's easy? About 5 minutes of explaining the technique and most people have it looking about right. Yes you can make any movement "hard" by applying a heavy resistance. But essentially it's an easy movement even including all the stuff about arching your back, pushing with your feet, bar path etc. All pretty simple. At the opposite end of the difficulty scale is snatch. About 5 years later and you're beginning to get the hang of it..


wrote …

If this is your criteria, then many exercises can be construed as "easy", even the snatch. Do the snatch with a piece of pvc, and its a piece of cake. Add the weight of just a 45 lb bar, and it gets alot harder real quick. Same can be said of squat, press, clean, and deadlift - all natural movements, all easier with less resistence, harder with more. So other than making people angry, what's the point of the first post?


replied to comment from Jonathan Bailey

I'm by no means an expert on Westside methods, but have been using them since I went to the seminar.
Louie was pretty adamant about doing no more than 3 sets at or above 90% and I got the impression 2 was better. That may be where your cns fatigue was coming from.
I actually feel less beat up than normal when I'm following Louie's advice.
Kurtis (even thought it says Laurie)


replied to comment from Chris Mason

Still confused as to what an actual speed bench press routing would actually look like. # of sets, # of reps, rest between each and complementary exercises.

Also, do you think a routine like this would work for the pulling muscle groups as well, like lats?



replied to comment from Glenn Hyzak

The guy is 62 years old, smartass!

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