Conjugate Raw™

Posted by Tom Barry on

 By: Burley Hawk

The Westside Method, also known as the Conjugate Method, is a program that is often times misunderstood in the raw powerlifting realm. Most write it off as only working for geared lifters, and instead turn to other types of programming that emphasize volume and simplicity in exercise selection.

There are countless ways to write a program that will yield results, but the name of the game is efficiency. This is where a properly programmed and executed Westside style plan surpasses the standard raw programming, efficiency. The main idea behind the Westside Method is identifying and attacking weakness.

Once the weakness is identified, main and accessory exercises are selected to strengthen the lagging muscle group. This is generally where people make mistakes when trying to run a Westside program; they can't properly identify their weaknesses and make poor exercise selections because of it.

Understanding the Basics

What I intend to do is provide you with a basic explanation, and examples of how I put my main exercises together for raw training using Westside principles. My goal is to explain it simply, that way you can immediately apply it to your training. Once you begin to see the results from the program, I encourage you to buy the Westside Book of Methods to understand the what and the why.

The way I program Westside for my raw training is pretty similar to the standard template, however there are some adjustments I have made over the last few years that have allowed me to make great strength gains.  I train max effort lower on Monday, max effort upper on Wednesday, repeated/dynamic effort lower on Friday, and dynamic upper on Saturday.

This schedule ensures your rest periods between training days are in line with the recovery times Lou suggests. Basically the only change made from the typical Westside plan is the use of the repeated effort method in place of the dynamic effort method on Friday. However, in the past I have ran a completely conventional Westside style program and had great results only using the dynamic effort method on squat day.

Max Effort Lower

The way I use my max effort lower days is to focus on training the deadlift and the good morning. Three weeks out of the month I will select a deadlift exercise, and then the fourth week will typically be a good morning variation. I wave my percentages for deadlifts week to week, 90-85-90. The fourth week I perform a good morning exercise between 80-85%.

The days where I use 90% I keep the reps between 1-2,working up to a top set. If I am training to 85% of my max, I work up to a triple. In my experience this approach provides adequate rest week to week, and won't leave you broken or in need of a deload. The table below shows a month's worth of exercises, along with the proper rep schemes and percentages:

Week

1

2

3

4

Exercise

Deficit Deadlifts

Conventional Deadlifts

Block/Mat Deadlifts

Giant Camber Goodmornings

Reps

1-2

3

1-2

3-5

Percentage

90+

85

90+

80-85

 

Max Effort Upper

To train my bench, I employ the max effort method primarily, however I do use the repeated effort method once a month to give my shoulders and elbows a break while also achieving some upper body hypertrophy. This is a trick I learned training at Westside on Sunday mornings with one of the greatest benchers of all time, George Halbert.

I typically throw the repeated effort method day in after my heaviest press week of the month. For instance if I were to take a max effort press against average bands in week two, week three would be a repeated effort method day to give my upper body a break. This is a minor tweak that makes a huge difference recovery wise. The table below shows a month's worth of exercises, and proper percentages:

Week

1

2

3

4

Exercise

Close Grip Bench (paused)

Flat Bench + Average Bands (paused)

Competition Style Bench (paused)

Flat Bench + Chains (paused)

Reps

1-2

1

3-5

1

Percentage

90+

90+

80-85

90+

 

Repeated Effort/Dynamic Effort Lower

This is where I make the biggest change to the standard template, by using a mix of the repeated effort and dynamic effort methods. Each month I dedicate two weeks to squatting weight without bands or chains, and the other two I employ the dynamic effort method using accommodating resistance.

I squat to a box 3 times a month typically. I prefer box squats for two reasons; I believe they yield better strength and speed gains versus conventional squatting, and the box relieves stress in my knees.

I find that I always feel very fresh when I take the box away and free squat, and there is no loss in strength because of the box. People who say box squatting doesn't translate well to raw, or will affect your ability to hit proper depth simply do not understand what they are talking about.

The only way you will have depth issues from box squatting is if you set your box height too high. You always want to squat to a slightly below parallel box, or lower depending on the selected exercises.

On repeated effort method day I work up to a top set, on dynamic effort day I warm up to a working weight, then execute 10-12 working sets. I prefer to use 75% bar weight for my dynamic squat days.  The table below shows a month's worth of exercises, and proper percentages:

Week

1

2

3

4

Exercise

Competition Squat to a low box (no mats)

Speed Squats to normal box (average bands)

Front Squats

Speed Squats to normal box (heavy chains)

Reps

3

2 for 10-12 sets

3

2 for 10-12 sets

Percentage

85-90

75

85-90

75

 

Dynamic Effort Upper

The Westside approach to bench pressing is, in my opinion, the most superior way and it's because of the emphasis Lou puts on speed bench press. I program my speed bench days exactly as Lou prescribes in the Westside Book of Methods.

In my experience, if you are properly executing speed bench your bench will climb drastically. If you are not using the dynamic effort method to train your bench press you are cheating yourself.

To ensure you are executing proper speed, use 3 seconds as the maximum amount of time it should take to complete a set. I always shoot to beat 3 seconds, but if you cannot complete a set in under 3 seconds you need to immediately drop the bar weight. Otherwise, you will be doing pointless presses against light bands.

I also like to use my dynamic effort upper days to train my overhead press immediately following my speed bench. I have noticed my presses are always stronger after doing so. The table below shows a month's worth of exercises, and proper percentages.

Week

1

2

3

4

Workout

Speed Bench + Mini Bands

Speed Bench + Mini Bands

Speed Bench + Mini Bands

Speed Bench + Chains

Reps

3 for 10-12 sets

3 for 8-10 sets

3 for 8-10 sets

3 for 10-12 sets

Percentage

50

55         

60

50

 

The Bigger Picture

What I have provided above is a very basic, simplistic approach to the Westside method that you can implement into your training immediately. You could run the programming I provided above for as long as you wanted, making basic tweaks in exercise selection and percentage adjustments, and make great gains in strength.

Nowadays, online strength coaching personalities like to make training into rocket science, but when you break it all down it is fucking simple. Getting stronger is a lot easier than you think. The advantage of a Westside style program is the level of customization, and personalization it offers.

By constantly identifying and attacking weakness, you are ensuring you are producing the strongest lifter you can using the most efficient means. Your success is 100% dependant on your ability to identify your weakness, and make proper exercise selections.

The biggest variable in the program is the human being using it. As a lifter it is paramount that you begin to learn your body and the basic principles of strength for yourself. Do not depend on an online coach, or anybody else to constantly give you guidance or feedback.

Take responsibility and read the books the online coaches read, attend the seminars they attend. Learn this stuff for yourself, form your own training group, help bring up the group training IQ, and you will find yourself making constant gains in the gym.

The secret to Westside isn't a trick in the program, it is the fact that when you are at Westside Barbell you are training directly under Louie Simmons, along with a host of other knowledgeable people who are constantly watching and identifying your weaknesses.

Considering not everyone will have the opportunity to train under Lou, it is important you have your own knowledgeable crew of lifters willing to help contribute. Teach yourself, teach your group, and you will be surprised at how fast you can get strong.

All of the strongest people I know in the world all have one thing in common; they know their body and they know how to train themselves. Take the time to learn, and you will be strong for a lifetime.

The game is to be told not sold, so if some asshole is trying to get you to paypal some cash for advice, spend the money on a book instead. When it comes to strength training there is more than one way to skin a cat, but as Lou says, Westside Rules.

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