The Basic Template Breakdown

The Basic Template Breakdown

The Westside Barbell basic training template represents the base level of Conjugate Method training. While there may be many ways to design a Conjugate training plan, the basic template is the starting point where all individuals should begin when learning our training methods. By gaining a solid understanding of the basic template and its associated programming strategies, coaches and athletes will become capable of writing proper Conjugate Method programming

At Westside, we have used the basic template for many years. While the day-to-day programming changes, the training schedule remains the same. Decades of success and world records prove the basic template's effectiveness. The basic template provides the perfect balance of training and recovery time, allowing athletes to improve strength and conditioning while avoiding issues with excessive fatigue.  

When followed to the letter, the basic template ensures athletes achieve the correct amount of exposure to training intensity, volume, and frequency every week. As a coach or athlete new to Conjugate, this template helps to ensure individuals avoid pitfalls and mistakes, considering the template provides plenty of rest and recovery time. Below, we will review the basic template training schedule and discuss how to program each training day.  

Monday: Max Effort Lower

Every Monday, we will perform a max effort lower exercise. As we know, the goal when training max effort is to perform a top set at intensity levels of 90% or above for 1-3 repetitions. This ensures we achieve the goal of max effort training to recruit large to largest motor units. Doing so improves absolute strength, allowing athletes to lift heavier weights more efficiently. 

At Westside, we typically follow a three-week ME lower exercise rotation that includes the squat, deadlift, and good morning. This may change depending on the athlete, but it provides a good starting point for all athletes. Not only will we perform the basic squat, deadlift, and good morning, but we will also create exercise variations using these exercises to deliver specific results based on each athlete's needs. 

An important aspect of max effort training that all athletes must understand is the intent of the training day. Many believe that each max effort day, we throw caution to the wind and do whatever it takes to achieve an all-time PR lift. This is not the case. Proper max effort training calls for an athlete to lift the heaviest weight they can for that specific training day. If we break an all-time PR, that's great; if not, so be it. 

Considering all-time PRs are typically only broken when an athlete is in competition condition, we primarily strive to hit current training cycle PRs when performing max effort lifts. Then, as time passes and the same variations pop back up in the programming, we track progress by striving to beat our most recent top-set weight. If the top set weight used during commonly used variations consistently improves, we know our programming is on point and training is on track. 

If an athlete cannot beat previous top set weights for more than two max effort sessions, we know our current approach must be reevaluated. In this case, we will often replace the next max effort session with a top set of 5 reps, which provides a bit of a deload from high-intensity training. Typically, this adjustment will get training back on track. If it fails to do so, then we need to evaluate the athlete's discipline and recovery habits. 

Our accessory work will focus on developing the muscle groups involved in the squat, deadlift, and good morning. While we often use accessory exercises to address identified weaknesses, it is important to understand we consistently train all muscle groups. If we were to focus solely on weaknesses during accessory work, we would ultimately create additional weaknesses due to neglecting the other muscle groups involved. 

Here is an example of a basic max effort lower training day:

Main Exercise

SSB Squat - work up to a top-set single

Accessory Exercises

Romanian Deadlift - 4 x 5-8 reps

Goblet Squat - 3 x 10-12 reps

Inverse Curl - 4 x AMRAP

Reverse Hyper - 4 x 15-20

GHR Sit-Up - 5 x 15-20

Wednesday: Max Effort Upper

After max effort lower, and a day of rest, we will then perform max effort upper. This training day adheres to the same scientific training principles as max effort lower, applied to the upper body. This training day aims to improve the absolute strength of the upper torso, leading to improved bench press strength. 

Similar to how we rotate exercises during max effort lower, we will also rotate exercises during our max effort upper training. This exercise rotation will typically include the competition bench press, close grip bench press, incline bench press, and floor press. The guidelines for achieving PR lifts and tracking progress will be the same protocol used during max effort lower. 

We will add further variation to our pressing exercises by using specialty bars and accommodating resistance, just like we do with our max effort lower programming. Our accessory exercise programming will follow the same strategy applied during max effort lower accessory exercise programming.

Here is an example of a basic max effort upper training day:

Main Exercise

Bench Press vs. 100lb Chain - work up to a top-set single

Accessory Exercises

Dumbbell Bench Press - 4 x 10-12

Barbell Row - 4 x 8-10

Rolling Dumbbell Triceps Extension - 4 x 10-12

Hammer Curl - 4 x 10-12 

Tricep Cable Pressdown - 3 x 12-15

Standing Lateral Raise - 3 x 12-15

Friday: Dynamic Effort Lower

Once we have worked through the two max effort training days of the training week, we move on to dynamic effort training. Dynamic effort lower training aims to improve the rate of force development in both the squat and deadlift. A simple way to understand the relationship between max and dynamic effort work is to think of max effort work as building the engine and dynamic effort work as building the transmission. 

Our max effort work improves our absolute strength, allowing an athlete to achieve improved max force output. Dynamic effort work improves the rate of force development, allowing an athlete to achieve top-level force output in a rapid fashion. Just as it makes no sense to have a race engine with a stock transmission, it makes no sense to possess a high level of absolute strength without improving an athlete's rate of force development. 

During our lower body training day, we utilize both the box squat and the speed deadlift to improve the lower body rate of force development. The box squat introduces two training effects that lead to an improved rate of force development: static overcome by dynamic and relaxed overcome by dynamic. 

By manipulating the transition phase of the squat, an athlete improves their explosive power, leading to an improved lower body rate of force development. When performing both the box squat and speed deadlift, athletes will also utilize accommodating resistance.

Accommodating resistance forces an athlete to accelerate throughout the lift, allowing them to sustain high levels of force output during the squat and deadlift. If you want to become as explosive an athlete as possible, utilizing accommodating resistance during your dynamic effort training is critical. 

Our dynamic effort training will be programmed using training waves. This means over the course of a three week wave we will escalate the intensity while slightly lowering the training volume. Once the three-week wave is complete, we will revert back to our week one volume and intensity prescription, and typically change out the specialty barbell and type of accommodating resistance used (band or chain). 

For our squat training, we will follow a 12 x 2 / 10 x 2 / 8 x 2 wave or a 5 x 5 / 5 x 5 / 6 x 2 wave. For our deadlift training, we will either follow a 10 x 1 / 8 x 1 / 6 x 1 wave or a 6 x 2 / 5 x 2 / 4 x 2 wave. As for intensity, we will typically follow a 75 / 80 / 85% wave, with 25% of the training weight being made up of accommodating resistance each week. 

We often alternate between set and rep schemes for each training wave, but the deciding factor is what the athlete can tolerate, depending on the current state of recovery and the amount of fatigue accrued from wave to wave. As for training intensity, we can lower each week's intensity by 5-10% if barbell velocity begins to be less than optimal. Ideally, we want to achieve a mean velocity of .8m/s when performing all dynamic effort lifts. 

Here is an example of a basic dynamic effort lower training day:

Main Exercise 

Bow Bar Squat - 12 x 2 @50% + 25% accommodating resistance (week one)

Speed Deadlift - 6 x 2 @50% + 25% accommodating resistance (week one)

Accessory Exercises 

Belt Squat - 4 x 10-12

KB Swing - 3 x 15

Reverse Hyper - 4 x 15-20

Standing Abs - 4 x 15-20

Sled Pull - 10 trips, 20-30 yds per trip, moderate to heavy loaded sled 

Saturday: Dynamic Effort Upper

Our final training day of the week is dynamic effort upper. Just as dynamic effort lower seeks to improve the rate of force development in relation to the lower body, dynamic effort upper aims to enhance the rate of force development in relation to the upper body. This allows an athlete to be as explosive off the chest as possible when performing the bench press. 

Dynamic effort upper training is also programmed using training waves, albeit with a different volume prescription. At Westside, we will perform 9 x 3 for all three weeks of our dynamic effort upper training. As for training wave intensity, we will follow the same intensity guidelines applied to dynamic effort lower training. 

When performing dynamic effort upper training, focusing on controlling the barbell is important. Of course, exerting proper control over the barbell should always be a priority during training, but we want to ensure we are strict during dynamic effort upper to protect the pecs and shoulders. One poorly executed rep can result in a pec or shoulder injury, so it is vital to avoid laziness when performing dynamic effort lifts. 

Here is an example of a basic dynamic effort upper training day:

Main Exercise 

Close Grip Bench Press vs. Minibands - 9 x 3 @50% + 25% accommodating resistance

Accessory Exercises

Incline Dumbbell Press - 3 x 10-12

Williams Extension - 4 x 10-12 

Chest-Supported Row - 4 x 10-12

Dumbbell Bicep Curl - 3 x 12-15

Lat Pulldown - 3 x 10-12

Face Pulls - 3 x 12-15

Rest and Recovery

The most important days of the week are when we focus on rest and recovery. Without adequate rest and recovery, our training quality will suffer, and the rate of improvement will be limited. Too often, individuals talk themselves into believing four training days are not nearly enough and add extra training to the mix to scratch a mental itch. 

It is important to note that if an athlete executes each training day properly, rest days will be welcomed. If you do not feel like you have trained hard enough after a four-day training week, consider that you may not be executing at your highest level during scheduled training days. At Westside, we look forward to our rest days, considering our training days are executed with proper intent and aggression. 

One of the most critical factors of any training program is the sustainability of the training. If an athlete has to constantly limit training or deload, progress will suffer, and time will be wasted. Over the years, Westside Barbell has proven that four training days are plenty to make remarkable gains in strength and conditioning, provided each training day is executed correctly. 

Avoid tricking yourself into believing you are not doing enough or do not need a rest day. No matter how genetically gifted an athlete may be, rest is essential to the overall training plan. If training is to remain productive and sustainable, athletes must adhere to scheduled rest and recovery periods. 

During our rest days, we focus on getting great sleep, achieving adequate levels of hydration, and eating a surplus of calories. Training quality is sure to be on point when rest days are properly taken advantage of. An athlete who rests properly will see consistent gains in strength and sports performance. Conversely, athletes who neglect rest will eventually crash out in their training. 

Nobody is too badass or too gifted of an athlete to avoid rest. If you want to become as strong and well-conditioned as possible, get your rest in each training week. 


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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