Starting Conjugate: ME Lower Walkthrough

Starting Conjugate: ME Lower Walkthrough

The Conjugate Method features four training days per week dedicated to specific upper and lower body strengths. At Westside, our first training day of the week is max effort lower. Max effort lower is a training day that uses variations of the squat, deadlift, and good morning to improve absolute strength.

To improve absolute strength, we must train these movements at the appropriate level of intensity. An athlete must train above 90%, preferably near 100%, or a PR lift to achieve maximal motor unit activation for absolute strength to improve. At these intensity levels, force production will increase as well as bone and tissue density.

This leads to athletes capable of generating high levels of force, all while remaining injury-free thanks to improvements in durability and resiliency provided by max effort training. It doesn't matter what sport you're preparing for; training at max effort intensities can provide valuable benefits that athletes cannot duplicate any other way.

However, for an athlete to benefit from max effort training, they must understand the proper execution of a max effort lower training day. Ultimately, the ability of the coach and athlete to properly select and organize movements, all while properly controlling volume, intensity, and frequency, will decide how successful your programming proves to be.

Here is how we program a typical max effort lower training day at Westside Barbell:

Main Exercise

Once our warm-up is complete, we will begin our main exercise of the day. Some athletes may opt to skip a warm-up routine and use the main exercise as a means of warming up. On a max effort lower day, we will choose either a squat, deadlift or good morning variation to perform. At Westside, we squat one week, perform good mornings the next, and deadlift the following week.

Regarding squats, we like to include as much free squatting on max effort lower day as possible. We do this to ensure we build stability and control in the free squat, considering the box squat volume accomplished during dynamic effort lower. If we squat with a box or against bands too often, we risk relying on these tools, which leads to a loss of skill in the competition-style squat.

Deadlifts will be performed competition-style, from a deficit, or elevated using blocks or mats. We will also occasionally throw in some rack pulls, but we will most commonly use rack pulls as a lower body primary accessory exercise. If we include rack pulls as a max effort movement, we will pull a max effort deadlift from pin 3, which places the bar at the lower shin.

Good morning variations include the bow bar, SSB, and the giant cambered bar. Unlike squats and deadlifts, we typically perform max effort good mornings for a top set of three or five reps. We do this to keep the intensity regulated by the rep range and prevent a misguided jump in weight leading to a disastrous max effort single. However, our more experienced lifters have and will perform heavy max effort good mornings for single reps.

Here is an example of a four-week max effort lower main exercise rotation:

Week 1 - Bow Bar Squat, work up to a top set single.

Week 2 - Giant Cambered Bar Good Mornings, work up to a top set of three reps.

Week 3 - 2" Deficit Deadlift, work up to a top set single.

Week 4 - SSB Squat, work up to a top set single.

As you can see, most of our training will be performed at max effort intensity, while the good mornings are performed for a top set of three reps.

Accessory Training

The way you go about programming your accessory exercises will play a tremendous role in the amount of success you have with your training plan. Progress will inevitably stall without properly selected and programmed accessory exercises due to unaddressed weaknesses or lagging muscle groups.

Accessory training provides the hypertrophy needed to continue building muscle, intending to develop weak or lagging muscle groups while improving overall body composition. At Westside, we perform 3-5 accessory exercises for each training day. This provides us with ideal volume levels and will lead to continued success in the squat, bench, and deadlift.

As a beginner, you don't need tricks or excessively modified movements. Most of the accessory exercises we perform would be commonly associated with old-school bodybuilding, although we might add some additional aspects to the movement, such as a specialty bar or accommodating resistance. Either way, the foundational movements we perform are typical old-school bodybuilding movements.

Here is an example of an accessory exercise routine you would expect to see performed at Westside Barbell during a max effort lower training day:

Exercise 1 - Romanian Deadlifts, 4 x 5-8

Exercise 2 - SSB Good Mornings, 3 x 10

Exercise 3 - Inverse Curls, 4 x AMRAP

Exercise 4 - KB Swings, 3 x 15

Exercise 5 - Standing Abs, 4 x 20-25

As you can see, this plan features an adequate amount of volume to ensure the athlete builds the muscle groups that play essential roles in completing sports tasks.

Accessory exercise intensity should match the rep range, with the athlete aiming to perform each exercise using the heaviest weight they can while completing all prescribed sets and reps with proper form.

General Physical Preparation

To end our max effort lower training day, we will throw in some GPP-focused training. General physical preparation, or GPP, is used to improve the overall baseline fitness of the athlete. At Westside, we like to include GPP exercises at the end of our training days. This ensures we are properly conditioned and have the endurance needed to train at the levels we need to reach the next level of performance.

GPP exercises may seem simplistic and boring; however, these exercises play an integral role in training and will ultimately lead to a more physically fit athlete. At Westside, we will typically perform a variation of a sled drag or push, weighted carry, or yoke carry for GPP on max effort lower training days.

Here are a few examples of lower body GPP workouts used on max effort lower training days:

Sled Drags - 12-15 trips, 30 yards per trip. Or, one trip for max distance.

Farmer's Walk - 15 trips, 30 yards per trip.

Wheelbarrow Walk - 10 trips, 40 yards per trip

Yoke Carries - 12 trips, 20 yards per trip.

At the end of each lower body training day, you will choose one of these exercises to perform. 

When deciding the weights to work with during your GPP training, we follow the same rules as we did with the accessory exercises. We will perform each exercise using the heaviest weight we can while safely performing all trips at full distance. Refrain from getting out of control during weighted carries or sled pulls.

Keep It Simple

At first, the Conjugate Method can seem confusing to many. However, once the basic approach is laid out in simple terms, most find the methods somewhat understandable and are capable of properly executing their training. You can only mess up your Conjugate programming by overcomplicating things and leading yourself down the wrong path.

As a beginner, you benefit tremendously from the basic movements. Start with simple, common movements you can manipulate and create variations of as you move along in your training. Many have seen complicated and specific exercise variation setups when we train, assuming this represents a typical Conjugate-style exercise.

The truth is many of the exercise variations performed at Westside Barbell are basic movements that have been manipulated and altered to deliver specific training effects to advanced-level lifters. Before these lifters reached an advanced level, they began with the basic variations of the squat, bench, and deadlift.

The first year or two of training should feature basic variations with some slight adjustments as weaknesses become apparent. However, keep the adjustments as minimal as possible, and get as much out of each movement and variation as possible. Keep it simple, keep it sensible, and keep your training effective.


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.

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