January 2012 Expert Interview – Louie Simmonsby John Meadows on January 16, 2012
You’d have to be living on Mars not to know that Louie Simmons is the unrivaled powerlifting and strength guru on planet Earth. For nearly forty years he has been the most creative mind the sport has ever known. Nearly one-hundred percent of all major strength programs are based on concepts and methods that were pioneered, tested and proven by the master himself. From the basic Box Squat to the Conjugate Training Method, Louie has been pouring out his creative brand of sophisticated strength- building like a tsunami at high tide. And the author of four books, thirteen DVD’s and over three-hundred articles doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. In fact, it looks like he just lit the afterburners because the Westside Barbell training concepts will soon be taught in colleges and universities across the country. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t spent a single minute on a college campus.
If you want to know more about Louie and the Westside Barbell training programs, that’s easy. Just go to www.westside-barbell.com, It’s all right there. But when the boys at Mountain Dog wanted to know what Louie thought about muscle building for Bodybuilders, a subject he’s never really talked about before, we had to catch up with him at his Westside gym and pick his brain before he threw us out for blasphemy. You see, Louie really only likes to talk powerlifting and strength training. Single-minded? You bet he is. But gratefully, he turned his weapons-grade laser focus to bodybuilding just long enough for us to come away with a few gems.
MD: You are an icon in the world of powerlifting and strength training concepts. How do you accomplished scientists anywhere?
Louie: Well, years ago when I was training and trying to get stronger, I realized that the Russians and Bulgarians had to be doing something different because they were consistently producing world-class athletes, especially in Olympic weightlifting. I was able to get my hands on some of their strength journals and then had them translated into English. That was an important start because it got me thinking in the right direction. At the time, nobody in America was doing anything like that in the areas of exercise physiology and kinesiology. They were basically in the dark ages compared to now. Today, I have over a hundred text books from the old Soviet Union. It’s kind of interesting that early on I was going to them to learn about strength and now they come to me for new ideas.
MD: Your career can be summed up in two words: change and innovation. How is it that these ideas come to you and then eventually prove to work so well?
Louie: Well, I have a lot of experience in the gym and I have a lot of responsibility to my lifters, too. So when some of my guys did bad in a meet, I wanted to know why and then I wanted to make sure it never happened again. Last year, Westside Barbell broke 13 world records in various powerlifting meets. I don’t know anyone who can say that right now and it all stems from the experimentation with different training ideas that we keep pushing here all the time.
MD: Let’s move to the subject of Bodybuilding. In a perfect world, how do you see bodybuilders training for size, mass and development?
Louie: In their world, you have to have a number of things in place. You gotta have the right mind-set to be big and the right diet working for you. Over the last twenty years there have been tremendous changes in diet which accounts for a lot of the reason why they’re so big today. Of course, there have been advances in pharmaceuticals, too, but training right is what really gets you there. But the bottom line is pretty simple: if you want big muscles, you have to lift big weights. If you look at the top powerlifters in the world today, it doesn’t matter if they’re a 132 pounder or a super-heavy weight, they look pretty much the same: thick and heavily plated with muscle. The guys who come to Westside usually gain about 40 lbs. of muscle in the first two years, and they’re already big to start with.
MD: So, let’s say a bodybuilder is having trouble getting his hamstrings bigger. What would you have him do?
Louie: Right now we’re finding that with a combination of inversion curls, glute-ham raises, reverse hypers and leg curls, in general, and all done at very high repetitions with light weight, we are able to really add mass. Some days we do as many as 200 repetitions for hamstrings using light weight, but the key is hard contractions or what I call ‘dense training.’ That’s why we have a speed day or Dynamic Method, and it’s purpose is a fast-rate-of-force development. But this only works when the guy is lifting very heavy weights anyhow.
MD: What about triceps? How would you train triceps for big-time size and mass?
Louie: Again, the athlete should be using powerlifting as his base or foundation for ultra-mass and size to begin with. Nothing builds true size and power like squats, benches and dead lifts. The whole body benefits and kicks into a high gear metabolism for muscle building. For triceps, he should already be benching and handling pretty big weights. The idea, again, is to become stronger so that he can transition to the lighter weights for more endurance to do longer and more prolonged workouts. Not many people have put the two together, but we have and we’ve had great success.
MD: What about calf development? Any ideas there?
Louie: If calves are a problem, heavy standing and seated calf raises, of course, but then come back and do small, short and intense workouts. Also, train your priority areas first because blood serum testosterone drops off sharply after forty-five minutes into a workout. Sometimes our guys take an hour rest and then do another short and intense workout. I would also have the guy do a lot of sled- dragging wearing a weight vest while staying up on his toes as another exercise to build the calves. My guys average about eight times a week training in the gym and a lot of these workouts are short and intense but very dynamic.
MD: Okay, can we summarize before moving on?
Louie: I think most bodybuilders make their biggest mistake by not learning from or training with the best powerlifters they can find. Some guys are just cut out for bodybuilding genetically. You know, smaller joints and big muscle bellies, and these are the guys who would benefit the most from power-style training because it’s the only way to add the greatest amount of overall mass and size.
MD: You have always been big on the history of strongmen and how strength training has evolved since the late 19th century.
In your view, where do you see things going in the next ten to twenty years?
Louie: Well, if you had asked me that twenty years ago, I never thought we would come as far as we have. The last couple decades have been incredible in what we have learned and developed. My guess is that if they make changes to the human genome and genetically modify muscle structure or function, then there could be some really spectacular advances in strength and training. Real Sci-Fi level stuff.
MD: What was the last book you read?
Louie: “Super Training” by Verk Hoshansky. He’s one of the really smart guys out there who knows what he’s talking about. Science applied exercises are what it’s all about and this guy understands it. We sell a couple of his books on our website. Also, A.S. Privlin has been a big influence in my life. When I introduced science into training, it changed everything, and guys like this helped make it happen.
MD: Over the years, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Louie: (long pause) I think that has changed over time. At first, it was for totaling Elite in five weight classes – no one in powerlifting had ever done that before. Then, I was very proud of the fact that I have seven U.S. patents for some of the unique equipment I have invented. But now, I think it is because the Westside method of training will soon be taught in colleges around the country. But even if I didn’t have any of that, I would still be most proud of the guys that make up Westside Barbell. And that goes for everyone past and present.
MD: One last question and you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to. Who would you spend an hour with if you got the chance: Jay-Z or Mozart?
Louie: Ha! Well, I don’t like Jay-Z and it wouldn’t be Mozart. Give me Public Enemy, any day.
MD: Thanks, Lou.