Starting Conjugate: Training Advice III
The Conjugate Method can be complex for the uninitiated coach or athlete. Unlike phase training, where training blocks are dedicated to the development of one single strength or athletic trait, the Conjugate Method aims to develop multiple strengths and athletic characteristics simultaneously. This results in efficiently training athletes unaffected by detraining or accommodation.
Successful Conjugate-based training depends on the coach or athlete's understanding of strength training theory and the application of strength training methods. While those new to our methods may only notice the bands, chains, specialty bars, and exercise variations initially, they soon discover everything we do has a purpose. The end goal is consistently delivering the most optimal programming possible.
At Westside, we have accrued many years of training experience using the Conjugate Method to train athletes from all sports. During these years, we have found numerous ways to manipulate the methods to target all relevant special strengths and to manage frequency and fatigue to ensure training remains effective.
Here's some advice to help further optimize your training.
Take Accessory Training Seriously
On each training day, athletes will perform the main exercise of the day. This will be immediately followed up by accessory exercise training, where the repeated effort method comes into play. This training aims to target specific muscular weakness while also increasing muscle mass and improving overall physical composition. To become a better athlete, you must perform each part of the training day with deliberate intent.
Selecting the correct weight for each set is vital when performing accessory exercises. This ensures that all completed sets are effective and improve strength or physical composition. Failure to properly select the correct training loads for accessory exercises will leave an athlete with unaddressed weakness and increase the possibility of injury.
Selecting accessory exercise weights is simple; use a weight that challenges an athlete as much as possible while allowing all sets and reps to be completed with proper form.
Do not sabotage yourself by failing to take your accessory exercise training seriously. Failure to properly train the muscle groups involved in each lift will lead to stagnated progress and potential injury. For an athlete to become as strong and athletic as possible, max effort, dynamic effort, and repeated effort training must be performed with specific intent. This means no training days taken off and no laziness during training.
Simple Variations First, Complex Variations Later
A common mistake those unfamiliar with our training style make is thinking our training is dependent on the use of bands, chains, specialty bars, and advanced exercise variations. One reason for this misunderstanding is that these individuals see our most advanced athletes training and believe they must train similarly. When selecting exercise variations when you're new to Conjugate, less is always more.
Our athletes use variations designed to meet their specific training needs at that particular time in training. This in no way means what you may see one of our athletes doing will be the best exercise or exercise setup for you. The Conjugate Method works best when the exercises and variations are chosen to target a strength or skill weakness specifically.
If you are new to Conjugate training, you should start at the foundation of each exercise variation. For example, a beginner wouldn't need to start with close grip bench press versus bands. The wise choice would be to develop the close grip bench press as much as possible over 8-12 weeks, then add the band tension.
Choosing to jump right into advanced movements can be a recipe for disaster. Start simple, add further variation as needed, and aim to gain as much from each exercise as possible. Being able to benefit from the simplest exercises is a huge advantage for beginners, so use this to your advantage and avoid prematurely escalating exercise difficulty.
Stick to the Schedule
Our training template calls for a four-day per week training schedule. At Westside, we train max effort lower on Monday, max effort upper on Wednesday, dynamic effort lower on Friday, and dynamic effort upper on Saturday. Aside from this training, nothing else is done throughout the training week besides focusing on recovering for the next training week. This ensures athletes remain healthy and workouts remain productive and unaffected by excessive fatigue.
Many athletes new to our training initially believe four training days isn't enough and insist on adding additional training days. If you are new to our training methods, this can be a disastrous move. Conjugate training uses training methods that require an athlete to train at specific intensities, velocities, and volume levels for training to be most effective.
For this to be possible, athletes must maintain consistent recovery times between each workout. Adding extra training days will disrupt this recovery and potentially lead to issues with excess fatigue for beginner or intermediate-level athletes. Can a high-level athlete potentially add in an additional training day? Sure. Should an athlete just starting to use the Conjugate Method start by adding extra training days? Absolutely not.
Make Recovery a Priority
Conjugate-based training is demanding. Our training methods deliver the best results as long as the athlete is capable of meeting the intensity, volume, and frequency demands that come along with the training. To ensure training remains productive, an athlete must prioritize their recovery and maximize the time between workouts to recover as much as possible for the next training day.
The amount of success an athlete has with any training method will almost always depend on efficiently recovering between workouts, and the Conjugate Method is no different. Fortunately, recovering between workouts is a reasonably simple process; all it takes is discipline. Athletes must maintain a proper sleep schedule while consuming enough calories and remaining hydrated.
For those new to Conjugate, focusing on maximizing your recovery between training days is one of the best decisions you can make to improve the efficiency of your training. It's simple; if you cannot train with the proper intent due to fatigue, you render the training day less effective or potentially useless. If you want to become as strong as possible, you must be capable of training at optimal volume, intensity, and frequency levels. For this to be possible, workout-to-workout recovery must remain a priority.
Keep it Simple
You can significantly improve your strength and conditioning as an athlete new to the Conjugate Method. However, your ability to cash in on that opportunity will depend on how well you follow the basic rules and parameters of Conjugate-based training. Adherence to the basic rules and guidelines of Conjugate training helps prevent mistakes and ensures training is consistently effective.
There is a lot to learn when using the Conjugate Method. The best approach when using our methods is the crawl-walk-run approach. First, keep the training simple and focus on learning as much as possible. As you accrue more training time and experience, escalate the training as needed.
Don't rush in and start using variations you've seen work for an athlete who squats 1000lbs when you're currently squatting 500lbs. With strength training, you must walk your path; it does no good to attempt to walk someone else's path.
Keep your training as simple as possible, add to it when necessary, and get the most out of the basic movements and variations. Aside from that, maintain a proper training schedule and focus on optimal recovery between training days. If you can do those things well, you will have a great future using the Conjugate Method to improve strength, conditioning, and athletic performance.
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