WSBB Blog: How to Program Max Effort Lower
When designing a Conjugate Method program, you must know how to properly organize each training day to get the most out of your programming on a week-to-week basis. This means that you are programming each training day to address the type of strength being trained directly.
Programming an effective max effort lower training day can seem simple in theory; all you need to do is work up to a max effort single. While it is true that you do need to work up to a max effort single, designing an effective max effort lower training day is not that simple. As crucial as your max effort main exercise is, your accessory exercises are just as important. Knowing how to select accessory exercises and what volume and intensity range to train them in will ultimately dictate the level of success you attain with your programming.
The Main Exercise
Every Conjugate Method training day will include the use of the main exercise. These exercises are always multi-joint movements designed to include and train as many muscle groups as possible. With max effort lower, we are choosing exercises that focus on lower body muscle groups. At Westside Barbell, we use the "big 3" max effort lower exercises; squats, deadlifts, and good mornings.
Through squats, deadlifts, and good mornings we can focus on and train both the anterior and posterior strength chains of the lower body most efficiently. Our typical monthly rotation of exercises will include:
- A squat week one.
- A deadlift week two.
- Good morning on week three.
- Returning to squats on week four.
As the training months continue, we will begin using variations of these three exercises to avoid accommodation. This means we switch out the barbell used, add in accommodating resistance, or alter the range of motion.
This does not mean you should go crazy with new exercise variations. We recommend using one or two variations of each exercise every three to six months. This makes tracking PRs easier, considering the same variations will be used for a longer duration of time. If you constantly create new variations, you will not have the data necessary to compare PR lifts and track progress. Use the basic exercises, create one or two variations that target your weaknesses, and stick with these exercises for a specific duration of time.
For an athlete to improve their lifts, the athlete must address specific weaknesses. This is what we use accessory exercises for when creating a Conjugate Method program. By adequately selecting exercises that target weaknesses directly, you can eliminate these weaknesses quickly and get back on the path to lifting PR weights.
Max effort lower accessory exercises will focus on specific weaknesses in the lower body posterior and anterior strength chain muscles. Have an issue with hamstring strength? You'll in extra RDLs and GHR's. Have a problem with quad strength? Time for more front squats and lunges in your accessory work. Selecting accessory exercises is easy once the weakness is identified; the difficult part is identifying the weakness. However, once you have correctly identified weaknesses and programmed for them accordingly, you will be on the fast track to new PR lifts.
Max effort lower training days are great days to get in extra GPP work as well. At Westside, we will typically pull a sled or walk the wheelbarrow at the end of our training session. Not only does this work as GPP focused training, but it is also a great way to cool down the lower body after an intense training session.
This is a basic overview to give you an idea of what an appropriately designed max effort lower training day should include. For more programming information visit the Westside Barbell blog, or the Conjugate Club to sign up for our monthly programming service.
Supertraining; by Dr. Mel Siff
Science and Practice of Strength Training; by Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky and Dr. William Kraemer
Westside Barbell Book of Methods; by Louie Simmons
Westside Barbell Squat & Deadlift Manual; by Louie Simmons