Intent and Execution

Intent and Execution

The level of success an athlete can achieve with their strength training program depends on a few factors. First, a training program must be appropriately structured; this calls for exercises to be organized correctly with set and rep schemes relevant to the strengths being trained. Additionally, exercise selection must be relevant to the athlete. This means the exercises build the strengths and skills necessary for the athlete to succeed in their sport.

However, one aspect of training that can be easily overlooked is intent and execution. No matter how well-designed a training plan is, a lack of intent and poor execution of the movements and plan are surefire ways to render what would have been a great training plan completely worthless. Too often, athletes are quick to change training methods or add a new movement instead of evaluating the level of effort displayed in their current plan. 

Similar to conventional sports, where a lack of mental and physical discipline leads to failure, barbell training requires an athlete to maintain the ability to remain mentally focused and physically disciplined whenever training occurs. Given the demands the Conjugate Method places on an athlete, athletes must approach all training days with the right intent and technical execution. 

Below, we will discuss both intent and execution and offer insight into simple ways to significantly improve the quality of any strength training plan. 

Training with Intent

When we speak on intent in relation to barbell training, we are referring to the mental effort an athlete puts into their workout. The Conjugate Method uses three training methods to bring about important training effects and outcomes: the max effort, dynamic effort, and repeated effort methods. Each of these methods requires specific intent and output from the athlete for optimal gains in strength and performance. 

For instance, during a max effort workout, an athlete must have the proper mental focus and attitude to achieve optimal gains in absolute strength. Considering the goal of max effort training is to lift 1-3 reps at 90%+, an athlete cannot just go through the motions and expect successful max effort training days. 

Then, we have the dynamic effort method, which may require the most significant amount of intent and mental focus. With dynamic effort training, we have specific velocity goals requiring an athlete to focus and be explosive. On top of that, we are also dealing with elevated training volume, which increases the overall level of fatigue as the workout progresses. 

Suppose an athlete trains dynamic effort with lackluster intent. In that case, there is no doubt that barbell velocity will decrease asset progress, and much of the training will be rendered less effective due to a lack of effort on the part of the athlete. At that point, dynamic effort training turns into repeated effort using a cluster set format. 

If an athlete wants to reap the reward of an improved rate of force development, their focus and intent must be dialed in during training. 

Repeated effort also requires an athlete to remain focused and train with the correct intent. When following a Conjugate-based training plan, most repeated effort occurs during the training day's accessory exercise portion. During this training, athletes must train with focus and intent, ensuring that the selected accessory exercise working weights are optimal. 

At Westside, we achieve this by using the heaviest accessory training weights we can utilize while still being able to complete all prescribed sets and reps with proper form. This effective strategy allows fatigue to be the limiting factor ultimately determining accessory exercise working weights. 

Always remember that your effort will always dictate your success when it comes to barbell training. When training becomes stagnant, evaluate your output from a physical and mental standpoint first. If you know you can do no more than you already do, assess your training plan. Otherwise, get your mind right and watch your training improve. 

The Importance of Proper Execution

Equally important, the level of execution an athlete displays or is capable of displaying during their training plays a significant role in the overall success of a training program. While intent focuses more on the aggressive side of the mentality game, execution deals with the level of control and competency an athlete displays while training. 

With barbell training, it is of the utmost importance that an athlete develops the skills necessary to complete all common training movements to standard regularly. Additionally, athletes should display the ability to maintain form and proper execution while experiencing different fatigue and stress levels. The mental side of execution requires athletes to think through the movement and move accordingly, no matter the situation. 

Too often, we see athletes who can execute during lighter weights or lower volume sets, but when the intensity or volume is elevated, all movement skills go out of the window. This is often due to panic or lack of confidence under strain or stress. Instead of relaxing and going through the mental steps of optimal execution, some athletes panic and allow their form to fall apart. 

It should be the goal of all coaches and athletes to acclimate themselves to training at a variety of intensity and volume levels and become confident and comfortable in all circumstances. Proper execution always begins in the mind, and the outcomes are much more optimal if the mind is calm. An excited or panicked mind can lead to breakdowns in execution and potential injury

With the Conjugate Method, many of the commonly selected exercises are very dependent on execution to be maximally effective. Movements such as box squats, rolling dumbbell tricep extensions, rack pulls, JM presses, and Inverse Curls all have some degree of nuance in their execution and require an athlete to execute in a specific manner. 

If an athlete becomes mentally lazy and goes through the motions, the effectiveness of each movement will be limited. If you want to make training safer and more effective, become a master of movement execution. 

The Mind Controls the Machine

As an athlete, your mental strength and discipline will determine your success in both training and sports competitions. When in the gym, it is essential always to remain mindful of your level of physical output and the discipline of your execution during each exercise. By doing so, you will improve the effectiveness of your training. 

No matter what is going on in your life, when you're in the gym, it is time to get the work done that must be done for your performance to improve. 

If you are a serious athlete, there is no compromise regarding this process. You cannot let fatigue or a lousy day throw your mentality off and negatively affect your workouts. Time is a precious resource, so all time spent training must be spent training optimally. 

While life and sports can have uncontrollable outcomes, one thing every athlete has control over is their mind. If used correctly, the mind is an athlete's most powerful tool. In the gym, an athlete with the correct mindset can execute all movements with optimal intent and execution, reaping the full benefits of each exercise and workout completed.

If your training or sports performance declines, always evaluate your mental state and focus first. Ask yourself if you are doing all you can mentally to hold yourself responsible and display the discipline necessary to reach the next level of success. 

Are you performing each rep with proper intent and form, or are you just getting the sets over? Are you doing the things outside of the gym that are necessary for optimal recovery to take place? Are you bought into the process or just doing this because you feel you have to? 

Optimal training intent and movement execution all begin in the mind. Control the mind, control the machine. 


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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