Four Weeks to a Squat PR: Week 3

Four Weeks to a Squat PR: Week 3

The adaptability of the Conjugate Method is one of the key reasons it is superior to any other strength training methodology. When working with athletes, predicting how exactly life will go during the next four, eight, or sixteen weeks is difficult. For training to be as efficient as possible, the training methods used must be capable of being manipulated to serve the athlete best each time training takes place. 

At Westside, we have learned over the years how to make simple adjustments to training that significantly impact training outcomes. Whether we need to adjust training volume, intensity, frequency, or exercise selection, the Conjugate Method provides the platform to allow a coach or athlete the ability to put together a day-to-day and weekly training plan that best fits the athlete based on the current life and training circumstances. 

One aspect of our training that many are familiar with is the training waves we use during dynamic effort. However, this is only one case where we can use a wave pattern to optimize training. Over the last two weeks, we have performed a deadlift for a max effort single and a box squat for a max effort triple. This week, we will perform a good morning variation for a max effort set of five reps. 

With the ultimate training goal being a competition-style PR squat, we want to use this four-week training window to ensure that the athlete is provided with every opportunity to achieve this goal. Our first week was the highest intensity we have trained at so far, with the following two weeks providing a bit of relief in main exercise intensity, considering we are increasing the top set rep counts. 

We aim to deliver the athlete to the fourth week of training in a strong and rested state capable of achieving a PR in the competition squat. We trained near or above 100% of our one rep max in week one. In week two, we trained near or slightly over 90%. This week, we will train around 80-85%. If all goes as planned, we will once again train near or above 100% next week, completing the wave.

Compared to a deload, waving max effort training intensity to achieve a PR in four weeks is the more optimal choice for athletes. Instead of wasting a week training at less-than-optimal levels of volume and intensity, we manipulate our exercise selection, volume, and intensity over four weeks, providing the athlete with worthwhile training while still conserving energy. 

Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to training, and no training method delivers a higher level of training efficiency than the Conjugate Method. That said, here is week three of our four-week plan to achieve a PR in the competition-style squat.

Main Exercise

This week, we will perform giant cambered bar good mornings for a max effort top set of five reps. When putting together a four-week training plan to PR on a lower body exercise, the good morning is an excellent exercise selection during week three. Over the years, we have found that the good morning is an exercise that provides tremendous lower-body strength benefits without requiring the typical extended recovery times associated with high-intensity training. 

Typically, it will take our athletes 5-10 days to fully recover from a max-effort squat or deadlift, depending on the variation and overall training volume and intensity. With good mornings, our athletes recover within 3-6 days. 

This is likely due to the reduced range of motion provided by good mornings, making the exercise easier on the body, considering the squat and deadlift require more significant levels of knee and hip flexion. Additionally, we also regulate our good morning training intensity. At Westside, our athletes perform good mornings for 3-5 reps. This keeps training between 80-90%, which also helps to reduce accrued fatigue. 

When performing a giant cambered bar good morning, it is important to ensure the athlete understands optimal good morning execution. While the end product will look different depending on the athlete, there are guidelines all athletes should adhere to when performing this exercise. 

First, we want to ensure the athlete understands the training effect provided by the giant cambered bar. This specialty bar challenges the trunk, back, hips, hamstrings, and quads to reduce the sway of the barbell. When performing good mornings, the giant cambered bar will try to achieve oscillatory motion, so keeping the trunk and hips engaged is vital to remain in control of the barbell.  

Before unracking the barbell, athletes should brace the trunk by adequately expanding the diaphragm and engaging the abdominals. If done correctly, low back flexion should be kept to a minimum while performing good mornings. Next, the athlete will begin the eccentric portion of the good morning, allowing for a slight bend at the knees to reduce the overall strain on the hamstrings. 

Once optimal positioning has been achieved during the eccentric portion of the lift, athletes will lower the barbell to achieve the same torso position and knee flexion they typically experience when performing a conventional deadlift. One strategy that helps to develop a solid good morning technique is to look at the lift as a hands-free deadlift with the barbell on your back. 

When performing a heavy multi-rep top set of good mornings, it is important to remain conscious of your execution throughout the set. As each rep of the five-rep top set is performed, adjust and reestablish your brace before beginning the next rep if necessary. The main concern is reducing lower back flexion. Failure to do so can result in shear force injury to the lower back. 

Some flexion is expected even with perfect execution, but there is a fine line between acceptable and unacceptable flexion. Lazy execution will lead to unacceptable flexion in the lower back.

Here is how an athlete planning on a 600lb top set cambered bar good morning triple would work up when performing this exercise:

Set 1 - 135lbs x 8 reps

Set 2 - 225lbs x 5 reps

Set 4 - 315lbs x 5 reps

Set 5 - 405lbs x 3 reps

Set 6 - 455lbs x 1 rep

Set 7 - 500lbs x 1 rep

Set 8 - 515-525lbs x 5 reps

This week's work-up strategy is similar to the previous weeks, with our goal being to adequately warm up while conserving as much energy for the top set as possible. The top set of max-effort training days is the most effective for absolute strength improvement. Always be sure to warm up in a manner that allows your last set to be your best. 

Accessory Exercises

Considering next week will be the week we attempt to establish a new squat PR, we will regulate this week's accessory exercise training volume accordingly. Similar to how we have created a wave pattern in how we have scheduled our max effort training intensity, we will typically wave our accessory exercise training volume as well. 

This week, our accessory exercise training volume will be at its lowest point of the four-week PR plan, and the exercises selected will be easy to perform and recover from. The ultimate goal is to walk in the gym next week and achieve a new PR squat without any issues caused by lingering fatigue or muscle strains. Next week, once we have completed our squat PR, we can return to the average accessory exercise training volume since the goal has been accomplished. 

Here are the lower body accessory exercises for week three:

Exercise 1 Belt Squat Walk, 3 x 60 steps

Exercise 2 Reverse Hypers, 4 x 15-20 reps

Exercise 3 Standing Abs, 4 x 15-20 reps

Exercise 4 - Forward Sled Pull, eight trips, 20-30 yds per trip, moderate sled weight

As you can see, the accessory exercise volume and intensity have been regulated to ensure that the work performed is meaningful and easy to recover from. This training will positively impact work capacity without causing excess fatigue. 

Manipulation of the Methods

The Conjugate Method provides a coach with incredible freedom and all the tools necessary to create optimal programming for any athlete, no matter the circumstances. The effectiveness of any Conjugate-based program will always depend on the knowledge and creativity possessed by the coach designing the plan.

For our methods to work best, a coach must have a solid understanding of fundamental strength and conditioning training principles and know how to effectively employ the max, dynamic, and repeated effort methods. As long as this knowledge is possessed, I can imagine no training scenario that wouldn't benefit from a Conjugate-based training plan. 

If you are a coach using Conjugate, avoid falling into the trap of thinking you must always do things the same way over and over or follow basic training templates to the letter. The life of an athlete is dynamic; the training plan a coach chooses to use must allow for on-the-fly manipulation to deliver effective and efficient training on a regular basis. 

The level of success athletes can achieve training under a coach using the Conjugate Method depends on the ability of the coach to adapt and apply the method to meet the athlete where they currently are, not where some fixed program expected them to be. Nothing is certain; life changes and training must adapt. All reasonable training goals become possible once you learn how to manipulate the methods. 


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

Burley Hawk

Burley Hawk

Burley Hawk is the Digital Content Manager at Westside Barbell and a Conjugate Method strength coach. Training and studying under Louie Simmons over the past decade, Burley has attained the experience, knowledge and understanding necessary to master the Conjugate Method.

Read more articles by Burley

Search The Blog
Like What You're Reading?

Sign up for our newsletter and get new articles sent straight to your inbox weekly.

Search The Blog
Like What You're Reading?

Sign up for our newsletter and get new articles sent straight to your inbox weekly.