CrossFit Strength Training

By Louie Simmons

In Olympic Lifts, Powerlifting

February 01, 2011

PDF Article

Louie Simmons explains the finer points of the training principles he employs at the legendary Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio.

While experts like Tudor O. Bompa, Y.V. Verkhoshansky and others call for a yearly or multi-year plan, they were concentrating on the training for an Olympic competition, which occurs every four years. Westside speed-strength cycles, or waves, are integrated throughout the yearly plan as absolute strength building on max-effort day, hypertrophy work, and on the dynamic day for speed strength, using the repetition method on small exercises. There are countless sports but only three methods of strength training, as mentioned above.

Westside breaks training into three-week waves. After three weeks, you will not gain strength or speed using the same method. The goal of training is adaptation, but just at the time adaptation occurs, a poor training result can interfere with training. This is known as accommodation, a biology law that states a decrease in training effects will occur.

To eliminate accommodation, the three-week pendulum wave must be used. The percentages of a one-rep max and the volume must change. Major exercises must rotate. Squat, bench, clean, snatch and jerk exercises must change. Accommodating resistance methods must change, meaning using chains, bands and lightened methods. Inside those methods, the amount of accommodating resistance must also change. This means more or less chains, more or less bands, or more or less weight reduced in the bottom by the lightened method. When squatting and benching, you can change the stance and grip, respectively.

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29 Comments on “CrossFit Strength Training”


wrote …

There is so much information in this article that I will have to read it again. Thanks!


wrote …

No kidding Pat. The only reason I haven't started in on Westside is I feel I do not fully comprehend it!!


wrote …

Best strength article I've seen yet!


wrote …

What would be optimal if one needs fit in Met-Con and/or MMA training in to this template?


wrote …

Chains and bands on Olympic lifts? Am I reading this right?


wrote …

Great strength article!! Can't wait to implement this into my programming.


wrote …

Thank you LOUIE.
Awesome insight from a master.
Will put this to good work.


wrote …

I really enjoy all of these articles, but I find myself at a loss trying to figure out how to incorporate them into my Crossfit training. Has anyone implemented these techniques in their Crossfit training and what exactly did it look like? I'd love to see like a week of this laid out. I feel like I can't quite visualize how this should look.


wrote …

There is a Matt Chan video that has him describing how he uses westside programming into crossfit. Seems like I have seen a PDF on it as well.


wrote …

Why is he box jumping off of foam?


replied to comment from Caleb Click

Look around in the journal here. There are at least three different articles on incorporating Westside into CrossFit. Matt Chan as mentioned, Chris Mason, and Tom Seryak.


wrote …

Yes, Louie uses accomodating resistance for O-lifts.


wrote …

I'm playing with a six week strength cycle w/ Westside principles and a little from the Matt Chan video. Monday:DE upper body (8 sets of 3 reps w/ 1 minute rest btwn sets), Wednesday: ME total body, Friday DE lower body (12 sets of 2 reps w/ 1 minute of rest btwn sets). I went with 65/70/75 percents for the dynamic effort days. I'm following the 3 week accomodating factor principle and switched exercises after the 3rd week. The first 3 weeks were DE bench press and front squat (no bands or chains). ME attempts were week 1: power clean and jerk, week 2: thruster, week 3: and push press and wide stance box squat(which I chose to do because I'm gonna use them for the 4-6 weeks dynamic effort exercises). Weeks 4-6 DE will be push press and wide stance box squat w/ the same percentages and set/rep scheme as above). The ME will be week 4 retest of power clean and jerk, week 5 retest of thruster, and week 6 retest of bench press and front squat.

Just something I figured I'd play with. I'm starting the fourth week of the cycle and will retest on the pc&j tomorrow. I'm still doing crossfit wods 5 of the 7 days in the week, typically taking 2 days off during the week. I try to choose wods that provide a compliment to the dynamic effort.


wrote …

Any critiques or input would be welcomed. Thanks!


wrote …

Cool article! The tables were really helpful.



wrote …

Thanks guys! Those really helped.


wrote …

nice brian... good luck.
hope the retests turn out great! as im sure they will!


wrote …

I enjoyed this article but there is one thing I haven't heard Louie Simmons talk about yet, which is how the results using his methods measure up, in terms of the 10 fitness skills, or in terms of the increased work capacity over broad modalities and time scales? If I could clone myself and exist in two parallel universes, and have one "me" take up the Westside Barbell training and the other "me" continue doing mainsite WODs, how would the two measure up after a year? I think the Westside Barbell "me" would be stronger for sure, but would he also have less metcon fitness or muscular endurance than the CF "me"? Which would be better at 100-yard sprints? Which would be less fatigued after a day of setting fence posts?


replied to comment from N Selemon

because it's harder than jumping off the floor. I'm guessing you have to use some of the smaller muscles to stabilize a bit more. Also, because it is a different way of doing the exercise, your body will react differently to a new stimulus than an old stimulus.


wrote …

I also am still a little puzzled by how it all works. It would be really great to see about 12-16 weeks of actual programming for some athletes over at westside to help visualize how the cycles work.


wrote …

Shouldn't there be 9-item list for squatting on max effort days? (as there is for Bench, Pulling, Cleaning/Snatching) Or do I misunderstand the scheme? Thanks for your input.


replied to comment from Nicholas Hendricks

I may be wrong, but I don't think he programs long term and is why you don't see a long term program example. Each week builds on the previous and the chosen lifts depend on the weaknesses of the individual. Dynamic effort is based on the three week wave of box squats with or without chains or bands. Max effort lifts change each week.

CrossFit does not provide a set in stone training routine and neither does Westside. They are founded on principles that when applied to your training provide great results. CrossFit's principle: Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Westside's principle: Constantly varied powerful movements performed at high intensity. CrossFit seeks to improve ten different measures of fitness and variance in time and modal domains achieve this. Westside seeks to improve absolute strength and has found that variance in max lifts and speed work with accommodating resistance achieves their goal.

How do you apply this to CrossFit? If strength is your weakness, then give it a shot. Add a max effort lift (upper and/or lower) to your workout routine. For dynamic effort you have a couple options. 1) Utilize weighted CrossFit WODs as the dynamic effort element of your Westside training. 2) Use Westside dynamic effort workouts that are separate from your CrossFit WODs. Be mindful of adequate recovery and avoid overtraining.

I am currently experimenting with a six week framework. I am on week five of my first time through it and so far I have seen good results. I have put 20# on my 1 rep back squat and 15# on my 5 rep standing press. My 1 rep deadlift has become my new 5 rep deadlift. I expected to see good results my first time through (previously taking it slow because of a nagging back issue) and hope my second time through continues to provide the same gains.



wrote …

Just curious, has table 2 and 4 been misprinted? Weeks 1-3, 4-6, and 7-9 are all the same. One three week group even has you use the same weight, percentage and band/chain weight but less reps on the 3rd week of the wave.
I thought you want to be doing a little extra in some way every week, not do the same thing for 3 weeks and then make the change for the next 3?


replied to comment from Dean Rodgers

Dean, I'm guessing that this allows for the extra volume that you would be experiencing during the 3rd week of DE speed squats. The weight from the squats would be higher, as would the overall volume, so maybe cutting back allows for better recovery?


replied to comment from Erich Anderson

Moving off the foam (squatting or jumping) helps to take some of the stretch shortening cycle out of the impact means the tendons can't prestretch and load as well, and you have to accomplish the same work using more muscle and less connective tissue elasticity.

Try testing your vertical jump off of grass, and then testing your vertical jump off of pavement. Your jump off pavement should be predictably higher. The downswing of your arms loads the tendons and you get a lot of upward force out of this motion. This force is largely dissipated when you are pressing off of something squishy that absorbs it (grass).

You get more bounce out of a tennis ball playing on synthetic hard court rather than grass...same principle applies.


wrote …

I would like the article to add a chart for the proper use of Anabolic Steroids. Louie freely admits using them for over thirty five years.

We disqualified a team at the games last year after testing positive, yet we hold Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell up as an example to follow. I don't get it?


wrote …

The efficacy of Louie's training program is not dependent on the use of steroids, it is dependent on the use of math, physics, physiology, and common sense.


replied to comment from Mike Hazboun

The efficacy of his training was not in question, yes, following his routine may be effective. The point is the hypocrisy of disqualifying athletes at the games, and then repeatedly touting the results Louie Simons produces with the open use of steroids. Regardless of the efficacy, math, physics and physiology, common sense dictates that Louie would not be squatting 920# without the use of steroids. From what little I know of the man, I believe he would agree.

Is the message to juice up during the year, then clean up for the games? I am a bit disappointed that CrossFit seems to be selling out its higher ideals. Is it better to squat a thousand pounds aided by illegal drugs, or to squat five hundred naturally? My vote will always be for the latter.


replied to comment from Rob Emmerson

I would agree with Rob, what are we trying to encourage here, these are age old concepts that clearly dont easily mesh with previous CF methodology(hence the confusion)and for good reason. If this scratches an itch for meat heads out there, then ok, go ahead and do steroids, just call it what it is though, and dont go to the games.

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