WSBB Blog: Setting Yourself Up For Success

Burley Hawk
Mon Jan 31, 2022

WSBB Blog: Setting Yourself Up For Success

Beginning a high-intensity training program can prove difficult for the unprepared athlete. Many people either have very little experience training at a high level or lack the physical capacity needed to execute high-intensity workouts without risking injury. We frequently receive a common question: how should someone prepare to run a complete Conjugate Method training program?

The answer is simple; you must build a base level of strength and physical ability to allow yourself the opportunity to get the most out of your training. To begin a higher intensity training program, you must first build a base using an introductory style program. This approach is valuable for a few reasons; you'll build strength and physical durability, allowing you to get the most out of your training. You will also increase coordination leading to improvement in your execution of the lifts.

An introductory program is important because the body can only improve special strengths while training in specific intensity ranges. Muscle strength and performance are tied to the recruitment of motor units (MUs), so an athlete must have the physical capacity to recruit the proper MUs responsible for causing adaptations in physical strength and ability.

The question then becomes, how should a coach program for an athlete looking to begin or return to high-intensity barbell training? Below, I will go over the basics of building an introductory Conjugate Method style training program.

Main Exercises

The center of any training day is the main exercise. For advanced athletes, coaches will pick these lifts based on the athlete's need at that time in their training cycle. For a beginner, you need to implement the basics to see what they take to and struggle with. This approach will familiarize a beginner with the typical movements they will use. It will also provide the coach with feedback regarding initial weaknesses, which can be physical or mental.

It is recommended to start out using the basics; squat, bench, deadlift, goodmornings. As far as specialty bars or accommodating resistance goes, it would be best if you started the first half (4-8 weeks) of the program using only regular bars aside from the cambered bar for goodmornings, and little to no band tension. It is essential to teach the beginner lifter how to execute the movements properly before adding additional problems like bands or specialty bars to figure out.

Once a beginner has displayed proper technique and movement skills, you can begin adding in accommodating resistance and exercise variations utilizing specialty barbells. Typically, it will take a beginner 6-8 weeks to adjust to the training and develop the strength and skills necessary to train with bands and specialty bars. The first few months of training can be chaotic for beginners, so a coach must improve the basics before adding complex training concepts.

Once bands and specialty bars have been introduced, it is recommended to start with minibands and light bands first. This will familiarize the athlete with the tension and effect band training places on the body while also allowing the coach to see how the athlete performs and recovers after a max or dynamic effort lift with bands attached to the barbell.

Specialty bars with accommodating resistance can make for some intense training sessions. A coach should refrain from introducing this type of training until the second half of the beginner's program will afford them the initial time needed to build up physical capacity and improve recovery times between training sessions.

During the beginner's program, it is recommended to either save all-out max effort work for the second half of the program (week 6-8) or wait to implement it until the athlete displays the physical capabilities required to perform an actual max effort lift safely. Beginners should stick to three to five rep max sets for their initial max effort training days.

Accessory Exercises

Putting together accessory exercises for beginners is relatively simple. They need the basic lifts, nothing too advanced. This means exercises like dumbbell press, tricep extensions, curls, shoulder flys, leg press, hack squats, RDLs, hamstring curls, and the like. A broadly written plan featuring the basics will work best for a beginner.

As the initial training plan progresses, the coach will notice where an athlete lacks strength specifically. At that time, the coach can begin to tailor the accessory program to address the issues that have been identified directly. The overall goal of accessory programming for beginners is to provide the necessary levels of hypertrophy required to cause growth in muscle size while improving strength endurance.

Accessory exercise rep ranges will depend on the exercise. For lifts like accessory squatting or RDLs, you can perform five to eight repetitions, while lifts directly targeting smaller muscle groups such as hamstrings, quads, triceps, or biceps will use rep ranges of ten to fifteen each set. It is recommended to start with three to four sets of each exercise.

General Physical Preparation

The silent contributor to performance improvement, GPP training is vital for beginners. Fortunately, the implementation of GPP training is simple. For beginners, pulling or pushing a sled for ten to fifteen trips at distances of twenty to fifty yards works best. As far as sled weight goes, athletes should load the sled with the maximum weight the athlete can pull while properly completing all trips at the prescribed distance.

Putting It All Together

The introductory program should be eight to sixteen weeks in length, depending on the athlete's experience level. The program should include the use of max-effort rep ranges of three to five reps, with accessory exercises using rep ranges of five to fifteen depending on the muscle groups involved. Coaches should include a GPP training plan to allow beginners to build and improve their general fitness, allowing them to keep up with escalating training demands.

Remember, keep the initial program simple, but make the work meaningful. A beginner needs to develop the proper strengths and skills before they are capable of maximizing their yields from an advanced training program.

Work Sourced:

The Westside Barbell Book of Methods; by Louie Simmons

Supertraining; by Mel C. Siff and Yuri Verkhoshansky

Science and Practice of Strength Training; by Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky and William J. Kraemer

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