Basic Conjugate Training Advice I
The Conjugate Method is the most comprehensive strength training approach a coach or athlete can use to improve sports performance. Unlike conventional approaches to exercise periodization, the Conjugate Method employs multiple strength training methods simultaneously to gain size, strength, and speed.
What makes the Conjugate Method superior is the elimination of training blocks solely dedicated to developing one specific strength or athletic ability. When you devote specific blocks of time throughout the year to only focus on one strength per block, you inevitably create a "peaks and valleys" type situation as far as strengths and abilities go.
When we abandon training other special strengths to focus on one strength alone, we inevitably experience detraining in the strengths and skills we fail to use during the current phase. This means that if you go from focusing solely on absolute strength development to concentrating on hypertrophy, you will gain muscle at the price of losing absolute strength.
The Conjugate Method accounts for all necessary types of training every week. This means an athlete is constantly becoming bigger, stronger, and faster without worrying about experiencing a loss of strength or skill, considering all involved strengths and skills are developed regularly. This leads to highly trained athletes able to display significant amounts of strength and speed while possessing the durability to withstand the demands of their sport.
However, for these benefits to be had, it is vital to understand the basics of executing a Conjugate Method program. Here are a few pieces of advice to help you avoid common mistakes when beginning to train using the Conjugate Method:
Rushing Your Workout
This is one of the most common issues we see with individuals new to our training methods. If you have read our books or listened to our podcasts, you will know that we generally recommend keeping training times under an hour and a half, preferably around an hour if possible. However, this does not apply to beginners and will always depend on the circumstances.
For instance, if you are a lifter new to the Conjugate Method, you will be using many new exercises and training tools that are likely unfamiliar to you. This means you will need additional time during your workouts to learn to perform the movement or use the training tools to ensure you are completing the training safely and effectively. We do not recommend cutting yourself short on time and cheating yourself out of valuable practice to stick to a timeline.
Take the time necessary to learn the movements and give yourself time to recover between sets. If you are new to the Conjugate Method, the training may be a bit more demanding than usual. Be smart and take the time necessary to learn the movements and execute each exercise correctly.
Using Too Many Variations
As you begin to learn the methods, you will realize there are what seems to be endless exercise variations to choose from for your max and dynamic effort training. This can sometimes lead a beginner to believe that constant variation matters most in successful Conjugate Method training. However, this is not the case.
Beginners benefit from the fact that they can gain strength and size from basic training stimuli. If you are new to barbell training, lifting weights alone is enough stimulus to cause positive training adaptations. So, wait to run through your Rolodex of workouts and attach bands and chains to every specialty bar you can find. Instead, choose basic variations, get the most out of them, and add as little variation as possible to continue making gains.
This not only ensures you are developing skills in the basic exercises and motor patterns, but it also means that you are getting the most out of each exercise and setting yourself up to have many options to choose from as you continue to gain strength and adjust your programming.
Don't make the mistake of thinking more variation means more strength. For a beginner, too much variation can be one of the quickest ways to become lost in your programming. Any training data you've collected becomes challenging to correlate or understand if you're constantly performing a new random variation weekly.
Training can sometimes be madness, but there must always be a method to the madness.
Improperly Scheduled Training
The training schedule is one of the most critical aspects of successful Conjugate Method training. This is important because, without adequate recovery between training days, we risk the training becoming less than optimal due to issues with recovery and output during exercise. Or, at worst, the athlete becomes overly fatigued and experiences an injury.
If you are just starting with the Conjugate Method, stick to the recommended four training days per week. This will guarantee you the opportunity to adjust appropriately to the training and ensure you have adequate energy to complete each training day.
Adding extra training days to focus on lagging muscle groups or GPP is not recommended for athletes new to the Conjugate Method. As someone new to Conjugate, you likely have yet to experience the level of volume and intensity featured in a typical training program. Give your body time to adjust to the new stimulus and recovery demands of a basic Conjugate training schedule first.
Keep it Simple
Starting a Conjugate Method-based program for the first time can be challenging. There is a lot to learn and understand for a coach or athlete to build a beneficial and effective Conjugate training program. This is why we encourage those new to our methods to take things slow and keep the programming simple as you begin Conjugate-style training.
Almost everything is different about our programming style; the scheduling of training days, how we organize our training days, to the exercises we select for each training day, you will have many new things to adapt to and learn. Rushing through your training, programming every exercise variation under the sun, and following a poorly scheduled plan will almost certainly result in failure.
Keep it simple, allow yourself some time to learn, and stick to the basics to develop foundational strengths and skills. You have the rest of your life to train, don't use up all of your programming options in a few months. Get the most out of each exercise and training day, and only begin modifying when you must to continue making gains.
Check out our website for more information regarding Conjugate Method training and programming.
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.