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Westside has always used the conjugate method. I realized I could only squat, bench, or deadlift so much by doing only those three lifts. I was using several pin levels, different box heights, and many forms of benching such as board pressing and floor pressing in the early 1970s. I found out early on that after 3 weeks of doing the same lift I regressed. That’s how the 3-week pendulum wave became a constant fixture at Westside.
Westside max effort day is designed with the best of three systems. The Bulgarian max effort day is distinguished by lifting as heavy a weight as possible on that day. Their max effort day may not be the most ever lifted, but rather the heaviest weight possible on that day. They would concentrate on just a few lifts after mastering technique in the classical lifts. They were, remember, model athletes, built for their sport.
The former Soviet Union claims to have invented the conjugate method at a club known as the Dynamo Club. They had 70 highly ranked lifters and used 25 to 40 special exercises to complement the Olympic lifts. A study of this system showed that only one lifter was satisfied and the rest wanted more exercises to choose from. Many times they would do the heavy effort method. This means weight over 90% but not an ultimate record. This develops a higher total volume but less than 100% intensity. They would push the number of classic lifts near contest time and decrease special exercises.
Westside’s conjugate method follows the Bulgarian system of maxing out on each max effort day. We want a new all-time record, not even 90% or 97½%, but something we have never done. Like the Soviet system, we use a multitude of special exercise during the weekly or monthly plan. Each week we use different exercises to max out on. We can train at 100%+ each week, year in and year out. Do you want to lift 1% under your best or 1% over your best? I feel this is superior to all other systems. It trains a lifter mentally, psychologically, and physically. In our training we are used to breaking new records each week, making it easy at contest time.
Here are some examples of max effort workouts for the squat and deadlift.
1. Light front squat for warm up; rack pulls with one pin for max single; 3 to 6 sets of glute/ham raises; 3 to 6 sets of low pulley 8 to 12 reps; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine; 8 to 12 reps of abs while standing up, as heavy as possible.
2. 6 trips of sled pulls 60 yards with 2 to 4 45-pound plates; Safety Squat bar to max single on 12-inch high box; 3 sets of pull-through, high reps; 3 to 6 sets of chest-supported rows; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine, 8 to 12 reps; 3 to 6 sets of abs lying on a 6-inch roller.
3. 3 sets of hanging leg raises as warm up; rack pulls with 350 pounds of band tension for max single; 3 to 6 sets of heavy shrugs, dumbbell or barbell; 3 to 6 sets of heavy Reverse Hyper machine; sled pulls, 8 trips of 60 yards with moderate weight; 3 sets of straight-leg sit-ups.
4. Concentric good morning max 3 reps; 6 to 8 sets of belt squats heavy; 6 to 8 sets of dumbbell row; 3 sets of 45-degree back raise; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hypers; 3 to 6 sets of leg lifts with ankle weights.
5. Box deadlift on 4-inch box max single; front squat, work up to 6-rep max; pull-through 4 sets; Ukrainian deadlifts 2 sets of 20 reps; low-pulley rows 3 to 6 sets heavy; 6 to 8 reps of 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine, heavy; straight-leg sit-ups with weights.
6. 14-inch cambered bar off of a low foam box, 10 sets heavy; 4 to 6 45-pound plates sled pulls 60 yards; 4 sets of chest-supported rows heavy; 3 to 6 sets Reverse Hyper machine heavy; 6-inch foam roller sit-ups heavy.
7. Max deadlift on floor with 280 pounds of band tension; 3 to 6 sets of belt squat heavy; barbell rows, 4 sets of 6 reps heavy; 4 to 6 sets of low-pulley rows heavy; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine heavy; 3 to 6 sets of heavy straight leg sit-ups.
8. Zercher lift off of the floor to max single; 6 sets of sled pulls 4 to 6 45-pound plates; 3 sets of heavy dumbbell shrugs; 3 to 6 sets of chest-supported rows heavy; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine heavy; 3 to 6 sets of hanging leg raise with weight; walk ½ mile with 10-pound ankle weight and 50-pound weight vest.
9. Safety squat bar with 300 to 450 pounds of band tension max single; 45-degree hyper for 6 sets heavy for 6 reps; 3 to 6 sets of low-pulley rows heavy; 3 to 6 sets of dumbbell rows heavy high reps; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine heavy; 3 to 6 sets of straight-leg sit-ups heavy; walk with wheel barrow heavy for ½ mile.
10. Floor deadlifts plus 370 pounds of band tension for a max single; 2 sets of 20 reps Ukrainian deadlift; 6 sets for 60 yards sled pulls using 5 45-pound plates; 6 sets of dumbbell rows heavy 8 to 10 reps; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine heavy; 3 to 6 sets of 6-inch foam roller sit-ups heavy; 1 mile walk with 10-pound ankle weights.
11. Low box squat on foam; 14-inch cambered bar to max; speed pulls 60% plus 220 pounds of band tension 8 singles; 45-degree back raise; 3 to 6 sets heavy plyo swing; 5 sets of 6 reps jumps; barbell rows 6 sets heavy; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine heavy; hanging leg raises with weight for 6 sets.
12. Buffalo bar and good mornings for 5 sets of 5/8-inch chains to max 3 reps; 3 to 6 sets of glute/ham raises; 6 trips of sled pulls 60 yards; 5 45-pound plates dumbbells shrugs 3 to 6 sets of 10 reps; straight leg sit-ups 6 to 10 reps.
13. Rack pulls with plates 6 inches off floor max; low-pulley rows 3 to 6 sets heavy; wheel barrow walk heavy 10 trips for 60 yards; Reverse Hyper machine 3 to 6 sets heavy; 6-inch foam roller sit-ups heavy.
14. Box deadlift on 4-inch box max single; chest-supported rows 3 to 6 sets; 3 sets of Ukrainian deadlift 20 heavy reps; 3 to 6 sets of glute/ham raise heavy; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine heavy; 3 to 6 sets of hanging leg raises touching toes to bar.
15. Heavy sled pulls 4 to 6 45-pound plates for 10 trips; front squat light for 6 sets on low box; low-pulley rows for 6 sets heavy; 3 to 6 sets of Reverse Hyper machine heavy; straight-leg sit-ups for 6 sets heavy.
These workouts can be arranged in any way you want. After the core exercise is done for a max single the selection of small exercises can also be mix and matched any way you want. The most advanced lifters should do 2 max effort and 1 squat workout or 1 squat and 2 max effort workouts. Remember that you have to back down on the fourth day. Friday is squat day, and max effort day is on Monday. Every 72 hours a high-volume or high-intensity workout can be done on either the bench training or the squat/deadlift training day.
During the bench max effort day the volume must change from large to small, from dynamic effort on Sunday to max effort on Wednesday. A 500 bench lifter would do about 200 pounds plus mini bands for 10 sets. This is 6,000 pounds with low intensity or low percentage.
On max effort day, if you have a 500 floor press, you start at only 70% to calculate the weights. A lesser percent won’t contribute to max strength. A workout would look like this:
Warm up to 315 for reps. Now add:
505×1 (personal record)
This is 2665 pounds.
The Olympic lifting rule of 60% is that one workout should be 60% volume of the most recent workout for the same muscle groups. In powerlifting the rule is 30% give or take 5%. Why? Powerlifting commonly jumps 50 or 90 pounds per set. Olympic lifters jump 11 or 22 pounds per set. This rule of 30 is true for benching or squatting workouts.
Let’s look at some max effort workouts for the bench.
1. Rack lockouts to max single; 2 sets of moderate dumbbell press flat; 6 to 8 sets of dumbbell triceps extension roll backs; 6 to 8 sets of chest-supported rows; 8 sets side and rear delt raise; hammer curl 3 to 4 sets.
2. Floor press plus 200 pounds of chain, singles; 5 sets of low-pulley rows; 3 sets of dumbbell power cleans for 20 reps; 6 to 8 sets rear and side delts; hammer curls.
3. Incline press to max single; light weight for 15 reps close and wide; dumbbell rows 6 to 8 reps sets heavy; face pulls high reps 2 sets; 6 sets straight bar triceps extension; hammer curls.
4. 2-board press raw max single; 3 to 6 sets of dumbbell extensions with elbows out to side; 6 sets of lat pull-downs; dumbbell power cleans for 20 reps for 2 sets; hammer curls.
5. Max bench with mini-bands; J.M. press 4 to 6 sets for 3 to 5 reps; 2 sets of dumbbell incline; low-pulley rows 4 to 8 sets heavy; rear and side delt raises; hammer curls.
6. Decline press to max single; incline dumbbell press for 5 sets heavy; dumbbell roll back extensions 8 sets of 8 reps; lat pull-downs for 6 sets; face pulls for 4 sets; hammer curls.
7. 2-board light band press max; drop down with close grip for max 5 reps; 2 sets of seated press 10 to 15 reps; elbows out dumbbell extensions; 6 sets of push downs; 6 sets of 15 reps of dumbbell power cleans; 2 sets of 15 reps hammer curls.
8. Foam press to max single; 6 sets of dumbbell flat bench 10 to 15 reps; low-pulley rows 6 sets; dumbbell rows 6 sets; superset dumbbell roll back with light push-down; hammer curls.
9. Floor press with monster minis to max; kettlebell press 6 sets of 10 to 15 rep max; dumbbell extensions with elbows out 8 sets of 8 reps; barbell rows 6 sets of wide grip; hammer curls.
10. Pick a dumbbell 100, 125, or 150 pounds for a 3 set max rep, no less than 10 reps per set; lat pull-downs 8 sets; face pull 3 sets dumbbell power clean; 2 sets of 15 reps hammer curls.
11. Future band press to max single; 2 sets of decline press with close grip and light weight for 20 reps; upright rows for 6 sets; hammer curls.
12. 4-board press to max 3 reps; J.M. press, work up to max 3 reps; superset with light push-downs 15 reps; dumbbell power cleans 2 sets of 15 reps; low-pulley rows for 6 sets heavy; hammer curls.
Three other max effort workouts will be with a bench shirt. Use a shirt about every 3 or 4 weeks. Last shirt workout is 3 weeks away from meet day. This comes to 15 max effort workouts to rotate in any system you want. You must after time make your own programs. No two people are totally alike, so some workouts will work better for one lifter than they do for another.
All the exercises I have discussed are similar to the classical lifts–squat, bench press, and deadlift–and will contribute to success in the contest lifts.
The Westside system makes it possible to lift a max each week all year long. I know of no other system that can do this. The Monday and Wednesday max effort days make one very strong. The speed days of Friday and Sunday make one very explosive, and all workouts with high volume make one very big through special exercises. This also helps you to perfect form by shoring up your weaknesses. What more can you ask for?