Applying the Conjugate Method

Applying the Conjugate Method

The continuous improvement of absolute strength, explosive power, work capacity, and physical conditioning is vital to an athlete's success. In the modern sports landscape, athletes seek the most effective training methods to gain an advantage. The proper training method can be the difference maker leading to a scholarship offer, a contract offer, or a championship.

We want to choose the most effective and efficient training method when training any athlete. This means that the training method addresses the critical aspects of athletic performance and does so in a manner that maximizes the use of available training time to ensure consistent improvements in athletic performance are made. With this in mind, it is easy to see why no training method is comparable to the Conjugate Method.

Westside Barbell has successfully trained strength and conventional sports athletes using the Conjugate Method for many years. The use of the Conjugate Method has led to success in raw and geared powerlifting, strongman, CrossFit, football, basketball, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, track and field, mixed martial arts, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and judo. Today, the methods continue to be used to train athletes at Westside Barbell successfully.

The Conjugate Method is the premier method because it leaves no strength untrained. We can develop a training plan to deliver specific results efficiently using the max, dynamic, and repeated effort methods. Instead of being limited by training phases or limited exercise selections, we use all methods and training tools available to improve athletic performance.

Below, we will review some basic ideas and strategies to consider when working with strength and conventional sports athletes.

The Basic Template

In the world of the Conjugate Method, the basic template is the starting point where all programs begin. This template represents the basic Westside Barbell training schedule and utilizes the max and dynamic effort methods throughout the week. The training week consists of four total training days, two max, and two dynamic effort workouts.

Here is an overview of the basic template training schedule:

Monday - Max Effort Lower

Wednesday - Max Effort Upper

Friday - Dynamic Effort Lower

Saturday - Dynamic Effort Upper

When training max effort, the training approach is rather simplistic. We aim to lift the heaviest weight we can on that training day. This will lead to improvements in absolute strength, which we know requires an athlete to lift 1-3 repetitions at 90%+ intensity. However, dynamic effort training is a bit more involved.

We use wave training at Westside to organize our dynamic effort training days. This means that we will raise the training intensity over three weeks while lowering the training volume. Once the current three-week wave is complete, we will adjust the exercise selection and move on to the next three-week wave.

Unlike max effort, where the goal is to lift the heaviest weight, our dynamic effort training utilizes percentage training to ensure the training intensity and volume are appropriately matched. This means the selected training weight allows all prescribed sets and reps to be performed with proper form and velocity. This is vital to ensure dynamic effort training is as productive as possible.

Athletes will utilize the repeated effort method each training day. The repeated effort method comes into play during accessory exercise training after each training day's max or dynamic effort main exercise. We can also use the repeated effort method during a main exercise instead of a max or dynamic effort exercise, which we will discuss later.

We recommend beginning with the basic template for those new to the Conjugate Method. This will allow you to gain an understanding of the theory and application of the max, dynamic, and repeated effort methods. Additionally, the basic template is scheduled to allow for optimal recovery between training days, which eliminates the need for a new coach to be capable of estimating recovery status on a training day-to-training day basis.

Just like a tradesman must learn the fundamentals of a trade before moving on to more advanced techniques, a coach new to Conjugate must establish a sound understanding of the basic template. Once the basic template is mastered, a coach will have the correct perspective to go forward and create advanced Conjugate Method training plans.

Conjugate for Strength Sports

By now, it should be no secret that the Conjugate Method works for any strength sport. Whether the focus is raw powerlifting, geared powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, strongman, or CrossFit, we can create a Conjugate Method program to deliver tremendous gains in strength and performance. Unfortunately, there is still debate online regarding using Conjugate for strength sports.

Whether this debate still exists due to ignorance or the need for content, there is no need to debate further. The Conjugate Method has a consistent history of creating some of the strongest athletes in the world. Looking at raw powerlifting today, you will see numerous high-level individuals using training methods or tools developed or popularized by Westside Barbell.

These individuals may not want to admit it, but they now realize the need for Conjugate-style training to continue making gains in strength. Linear-based programs work for beginners, but as athletes advance, they discover new training stimuli are necessary to bring about improvement. That's when you see the specialty bars, accommodating resistance, and special exercises show up in their training videos.

The Conjugate Method and basic template were tailor-made for strength sports. Strength athletes can often follow the basic template for many years and make significant gains. However, one change that can help raw powerlifters is the adjustment of dynamic effort lower training wave percentages.

Here are the basic dynamic effort lower training waves for a geared powerlifter:


Week 1 - 12 x 2 @75% (50% bar weight + 25% AR)

Week 2 - 10 x 2 @80% (55% bar weight + 25% AR)

Week 3 - 8 x 2 @85% (60% bar weight + 25% AR)


Week 1 - 8 x 2 @75% (50% bar weight + 25% AR)

Week 2 - 6 x 2 @80% (55% bar weight + 25% AR)

Week 3 - 4 x 2 @85% (60% bar weight + 25% AR)

Here is an example of the training waves adjusted for a raw powerlifter:


Week 1 - 12 x 2 @65-70% (45-50% bar weight + 20% AR)

Week 2 - 10 x 2 @70-75% (50-55% bar weight + 20% AR)

Week 3 - 8 x 2 @75-80% (55-60% bar weight + 20% AR)


Week 1 - 8 x 2 @65-70% (45-50% bar weight + 20% AR)

Week 2 - 6 x 2 @70-75% (50-55% bar weight + 20% AR)

Week 3 - 4 x 2 @75-80% (55-60% bar weight + 20% AR)

As you can see, all we do to adjust for a raw powerlifter is lower the accommodating resistance weight to a consistent 20% instead of 25% and lower the bar weight by 5%. If barbell velocity were still suboptimal following the 5% reduction in bar weight, we would reduce the bar weight by another 5%, making for a 10% total bar weight reduction.

Whether an athlete is focused on raw or geared powerlifting, the Conjugate Method can easily be adjusted to deliver significant gains in strength and performance. Lou was a highly successful raw and geared powerlifter, and our training methods have been developed to improve the strength and performance of any powerlifter, regardless of specific discipline.

Conjugate for Conventional Sports

The Conjugate Method is the premier training method for strength athletes and the best training method to improve sports performance for conventional sports athletes. Over the years, many coaches and athletes have made the trip to Westside Barbell to learn how to apply the Conjugate Method successfully and improve sports performance. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple process.

Many coaches get wrapped up in the idea that exercises must be "sport-specific." Instead of focusing on improving specific strengths, these coaches falsely believe that exercises must mimic sports movements or situations as closely as possible to provide maximal transfer to sport. However, as we know, this is not the case.

If an athlete seeks to improve their sports performance, they must improve their strength and conditioning. Improving conditioning is a rather easy problem to solve, but improving strength is more intricate. A coach must identify the special strengths most involved in the sport they are preparing for and program accordingly.

Once these strengths have been identified, a comprehensive plan can be created to ensure training is as effective and efficient as possible. This is where the basic template can begin to need adjusting, considering the schedule of a conventional sports athlete. Unlike a strength athlete, where strength training is sports practice, conventional sports athletes must balance strength training with sports practice.

This means that it is often necessary for the repeated effort method to begin replacing max or dynamic effort exercises depending on the athlete's current state of recovery and upcoming practice or competition. Another change we often make is transitioning to a three-day training week.

Here are a few ways we go about scheduling training when running a three-day training plan:

Max and Dynamic Effort Only

Week A

Day 1 - Dynamic Effort Lower

Day 2 - Max Effort Upper

Day 3 - Dynamic Effort Lower

Week B

Day 1 - Max Effort Lower

Day 2 - Dynamic Effort Upper

Day 3 - Dynamic Effort Lower

ABAB training pattern. Athletes will take 48-72 hours of rest between each training day.

Repeated Effort Included

Week A

Day 1 - Dynamic Effort Lower

Day 2 - Max Effort Upper

Day 3 - Repeated Effort Lower

Week B

Day 1 - Max Effort Lower

Day 2 - Repeated Effort Upper

Day 3 - Dynamic Effort Lower

Week C

Day 1 - Repeated Effort Lower

Day 2 - Dynamic Effort Upper

Day 3 - Max Effort Lower

ABCABC training pattern. Athletes will take 48-72 hours of rest between each training day.

Additionally, we often use the raw powerlifting dynamic effort lower training guidelines when programming dynamic effort lower for conventional sports athletes. This helps to keep fatigue regulated and training waves productive.

You may notice that upper-body training is programmed less frequently than lower body. The primary reason is to avoid any issues with pain or overuse injuries in the shoulders. However, as needed, upper-body accessory exercise can be added during lower-body accessory exercise training. For instance, if an athlete is dealing with weak triceps, we can add extra triceps training to one of the lower body training days.

Aside from sports strictly dedicated to running, athletic endeavors place a lot of stress and strain on the shoulders. Additionally, many sports skills, such as swinging a golf club, throwing a punch, or shooting a basket, depend on healthy shoulders. We do not want to increase shoulder fatigue or disrupt skill mechanics due to excessive bench pressing.

So, while only one training day may be dedicated to main exercise pressing, we can address upper body weaknesses by performing additional upper body accessory exercises during our lower body training sessions if necessary.

The Mind is the Only Limitation

The programming ideas and strategies discussed above only begin to scratch the surface regarding what is possible when designing a Conjugate Method training program for strength or conventional sports athletes. Too often, individuals try to categorize the Conjugate Method as a "powerlifting training method," not realizing the Conjugate Method is a strength and conditioning training method that can be used in countless ways to improve sports performance.

When thinking of the Conjugate Method, think of it as an operating system. As we use this operating system, we must abide by specific rules and parameters. However, much of what is possible depends on the ability of the individual programming within the operating system. While we use the max, dynamic, and repeated effort methods, how these methods are used to deliver training stimuli can differ depending on the situation.

The Conjugate Method can be as simple or as complex as necessary. The only limitation to Conjugate Method programming is the coach or athlete using the method. If they do not understand the science and principles behind the training methods, then their training will reflect this. Often, when you hear content creators or influencers discussing Conjugate's limitations, they are simply revealing their level of understanding.

The Conjugate Method has successfully trained raw powerlifters, geared powerlifters, and athletes. There is no ground Lou did not cover with these methods, so be wary of any individual saying the methods are limited in application or pretending to discover "new" approaches to the Conjugate Method. These individuals create confusion to produce content.

Whether you are interested in Conjugate for raw powerlifting, athletic training, or base building, we have you covered. If you need Conjugate-based exercise programming, check out the Conjugate Club, which features a variety of sport-specific Conjugate-based training plans.



Simmons, L. (2007). Westside Barbell Book of Methods. Westside Barbell.

Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. C. (2009). Supertraining. Verkhoshansky.

Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics

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