The idea of power transfer is widely used , and has been used for many years. It has been only recently that Louie Simmons has popularized it with the Westside method. Instead of practicing the actual lift to extreme, a series of similar exercises are used to increase the lift by working the same muscle groups. For instance, the bench can be increased by dumbell benches, board presses, or closegrip benches, and in theory, the bench press will rise without even doing regular bench presses. Some lifters now train mostly on power transfer exercises and consistantly switch them. That is the basis of the Westside training system.
How it works is simple. Exercises are used that are similar in many ways to the actual lift. These exercises strengthen the muscles used for the main lift in an indirect manner with the added benefit of working support muscle groups as well. By carefully choosing a variety of exercises, the lift and it’s main muscle groups are worked and all the minor or auxiliary muscles as well. If one mainly trains the major muscle groups, for instance , by only concentrating on the main lift, they usually reach a sticking point or plateau. Now, by working the lift in an indirect manner, using related exercises, a lifter can continue to make progress. This happens because auxiliary muscles become stronger and the main muscle groups are not as over stressed as before. Here’s an example. A seasoned lifter is stuck at a 400 bench and no matter how hard he tries cannot go any farther. The lifter has been using a standard routine. The lifter now concentrates on closegrips., dumbell benches, board presses and inclines. Since the lifter hasn’t really concentrated on those lifts before, they will naturally rise. The lifter may now gain 30-40 lbs on those lifts. Since those lifts all work the muscles involved in bench pressing, some of these gains may transfer over to the bench press. not all the 30-40 lb gain will transfer over, but if the lifter can now do 410-415, he will be happy. Rotation of power transfer exercises is the best way to keep increasing a lift. When the lifter no longer makes good gains in the transfer exercise, they will do a new one. This may happen in as little as two weeks for seasoned lifters. Once again this is the basis of the Westside system.
Squat: The box squat and all it’s forms is the most popular exercise used for power transfer in the squat. Add to this front squats, olympic squats, quarter squats, extra wide or narrow squats, and other variants with bands and chains and you have a lot of good squat exercises. The goodmorning is another great exercise for the squat. Many lifters have added pounds to their squat by doing goodmornings. Leg presses are a good exercise too. If for instance a lifter just concentrated on box squats, good mornings, and leg presses for a period of time, the regular squat will go up, assuming that the lifter was making progress in those three lifts. An advanced lifter would have to actually do very little regular squatting, while a less advanced lifter will have to practice some squatting to keep in practice with that exercise. The lifter will figure out what the weakest part of the squat is and use a power transfer exercise that will affect that area. Since that is the weakest link, the lifter will probably make fast progress in that lift and some of that progress will transfer over to the main lift. Here are just a few examples. A lifter has a problem with the weight feeling too heavy on the back. The power transfer exercises include quarter squats in a rack, high box squats with bands and or bungees, and goodmornings with the weight suspended by chains. Trouble at the bottom may call for leg presses and regular or deep box squats. For those who lean over a bit too much, good mornings, hi bar and front squats will work.
Bench: The bench has very many exercises that can be used for power transfer. Closegrip benches, narrow grip benches, extra wide benches, lockouts, power rack work, board presses, and dumbell benches are just some of the many exercises that will transfer power into the bench. Add bands, bungees of chains, and you will have many more. I’m sure you have heard someone lamenting that their bench hasn’t gone up in months, no matter how hard they work it. Now, by using the power transfer lifts, which will now increase, the bench will go up. Let’s say a lifter has been stuck at a 350 bench for a long time. That lifter had been benching and doing standard assistance exercises. Now the lifter only does enough regular benches for speed and form and now does a lot of board presses, dumbell benches, and closegrips with chains. Now in each one of the three exercises, the lifter is sure to make progress, so in turn the bench will now rise. These are the basic principles behind the Westside program.
Deadlift: The deadlift yields itself the most to power transfer. There have been a lot of good deadlifters who do not actually practice that lift. They will do a variety of good mornings, pulls, rack pulls, stiffleg deadlifts, squats, and more. The actual deadlift is practiced by using light weights for speed for form. The strength for the deadlift comes from the power transfer exercises. The number one exercise is the goodmorning and it’s many varieties. The form of the goodmorning can be made to approximate the deadlift form. Sumo and conventional deadlifts act as power transfer exercises for each other. For many lifters, the deadlift from the floor, as the competitive lift will stick at a certain level, no matter how hard it is worked. Then additional work from the floor will seem to make the lift actually go down. This is the time to shift over to mainly power transfer exercises. By using power transfer exercises, the actual deadlift is worked, but with less risk of burnout.
Specific uses: The power transfer method is used by most advanced lifters and lifters who are either injured or reached a sticking point. Recuperation from one common bench injury, the pec tear, can benefit from this method. The lifter uses a narrower grip in the bench, often with bands, or narrow board presses as a main exercise. That will lessen pressure on the injured area, while still working it. Lifters who have depth problems in the squat find the box squat the number one exercise. Lifters who have a problem with the deadlift are better off using power transfer exercises and practicing the actual lift with only speed work.
Getting the most out of power transfer: Since transferring power into the main lift is the goal, we need to get the most out of the exercises. To do this we need to recruit all the muscle fibers to work properly to achieve the lift without actually having to work the actual lift on a major basis. This is done in two ways. First, a lifter may incorporate at least one heavy set per week (or every other for deadlifting) of the exercise to keep the feel of the weight and technique. The lifter may also do speed work, especially with bands, to practice the blast needed for heavy weights. Doing this well recruit the muscle back for the main lift. This is what many of the top lifters do today.
By: Bob Strauss
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