Basic Conjugate Training Advice II

Basic Conjugate Training Advice II

The Conjugate Method allows an athlete to rapidly enhance strength, speed, muscle mass, and athletic ability. At Westside, we have successfully utilized max, dynamic, and repeated effort method-focused training with our athletes for many years. The combination of training methods and intelligent regulation of exercise intensity, volume, and frequency allows the athlete to improve in a stair-step manner, unlike the "peaks and valleys" manner experienced when following a linear plan. 

Instead of focusing on only one strength or athletic trait, we simultaneously focus on multiple strengths and athletic characteristics. By doing this, we avoid detraining and provide the athlete with gains in strength and ability that can be sustained and transferred to sport. We don't want athletes that are strong sometimes, fast other times, and injured most of the time. We want athletes that show up on gameday at their strongest, fastest, and fittest. 

The benefits associated with the Conjugate Method are substantial. As you study, apply, and learn more about our methods, you will realize that there are countless ways you can design a Conjugate program to improve athletic performance, no matter the sport or the gym setup. Instead of a linear path, the Conjugate Method provides a coach with an operating system that can easily be programmed to deliver specific training effects to the athletes being trained. 

However, there are a few things a coach must keep in mind when implementing a Conjugate Method program. Here is some advice that will improve the quality of your training:

Warming Up 

Make no mistake; a proper warm-up is integral to a successful training day. For an athlete to be capable of training at the volume and intensity levels we typically train, the athlete must be sure to warm up properly before performing the training day's working sets. However, what constitutes a proper warm-up is a great debate nowadays. 

Many social media influencers will lead you to believe that you must perform an extended warm-up before beginning your main exercise of the day. While a proper warm-up is important, some of these routines are overkill and sap the energy of the athlete as opposed to warming them up for the meaningful portion of the training day. 

Our rule of thumb is to warm up only as much as we need to, and then we will move on to warming up and working up on the barbell. For instance, on a lower body training day, we may perform three sets of fifteen to twenty reps on the Reverse Hyper, then follow up with two sets of fifteen reps of kettlebell swings. From there, we would move on to the main barbell exercise of the day. 

Do not allow your warm-up to drain your energy levels and lower the quality of your main exercise training. Do what you need to do to feel prepared, and once you feel ready, move on to the main exercise without hesitation. Get rid of the idea you have to perform a mandatory warm-up ritual before you can train. Some days you might not need much of a warm-up; other days, you might need a few additional warm-up sets to get ready. Adjust your warm-up protocol accordingly. 

Mystery Band and Chain Weight

One of the easiest ways to mess up your Conjugate Method training is by training with mystery band and chain weights. Too often, coaches and athletes depend on charts to assign weights to the bands. However, these charts are misleading, considering your band setup is unlikely the same as the control setup, meaning your band tension could be more or less tension than the chart indicates. 

To be sure you are training with the correct band tension, we recommend using a luggage or fish and game scale to find the actual band tension being used. Most of these scales can measure up to 200 lbs, with some capable of measuring over 500 lbs. You can find one of these scales on Amazon or at any outdoor gear and equipment store. 

Measuring chains is even simpler. If you have a scale at the gym, you will take a bucket and weigh it on the scale. Once you know what the bucket weighs, add the chain you want to weigh to the bucket, subtract the weight of the bucket from the new weight, and you will then be able to measure the weight of each chain individually. 

If you need help remembering what each chain weighs, place tape on one of the links and write the appropriate weight on each chain.

Another aspect of ensuring your chain training weight is accurate is properly connecting your chains to the bar. This means that nearly all chain links are lifted off the ground when the lifter is at lockout, with only a link and a half to two links making contact with the ground. If you allow more links to touch the ground, you will unload the chain weight from the barbell. Remember, just because 200lbs of chain is attached to the barbell doesn't mean 200lbs of resistance is being applied to the barbell. 

Success using accommodating resistance all comes down to the proper measurement and setup of the bands and chains. 

Mismanaged GPP Training

As an athlete, GPP training is vital to improving your overall fitness level. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to feature a GPP-focused exercise or two during each training day. For instance, on a lower body training day, we may go with sled drags or yoke walks, while on an upper body training day, we may go with sled triceps extension or farmer's walks. 

However, if GPP training is not adequately regulated, it can cause issues with recovery and day-to-day energy levels. GPP is intended to supplement the overall training day, not be the sole focus. If we wanted to focus on our cardiovascular development, we would dedicate a specific training day to that goal. The idea behind GPP training is not to become a marathon winner; it is to gradually raise the athlete's fitness level over time without interfering with other significant developments in strength and athleticism. 

Unless you are an athlete focused on strength sports, there is a good chance your sports practice already provides you with a significant amount of cardiovascular-focused training that will enhance your overall cardiovascular tolerance and output. If we pile on more intense levels of cardiovascular exercise instead of sticking to a basic GPP plan, we only risk burnout or injury. 

Just as we want to avoid mismanaging intensity or volume during our barbell training, we also want to avoid overdoing cardiovascular or GPP training. Barbell training needs to play its part, sports practice needs to play its part, and GPP training needs to play its part for an athlete to properly develop their skills and abilities to reach the next level of performance. GPP training should work up a sweat, but you should be able to walk away from it without needing an oxygen tank.

Avoid Mistakes and Pitfalls

The Conjugate Method can be confusing to the uninitiated. Learning to program using multiple training methods simultaneously to achieve specific training goals will take time and experience. However, once you have the basics figured out, you will be capable of designing and coaching Conjugate-based training plans to deliver specific training results to any athlete for any sport. 

The biggest trick to avoiding frustration when using a Conjugate Method training program is to constantly read and gain an understanding of the basic ideas and intent associated with each training day. Things are always a bit less frustrating when you have some idea of what is going on instead of being completely blind to the processes in motion. Not only will you know what is going on the more you educate yourself, but you will also begin to understand why it is happening. 

Fortunately, our website features countless educational options for coaches and athletes to improve their understanding of the Conjugate Method and the Westside Barbell training philosophy. We encourage all our followers to study the methods regularly, and we intend to provide constant streams of informative content via the WSBB blog and social media. 

Understand the theory and master the application. 


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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