WSBB Blog: Volume, Intensity, and The Conjugate Method

WSBB Education
Fri Sep 17, 2021

Tags: Max Effort, Conjugate System, Deadlift


The proper balancing of volume and intensity is important for any training method, especially the Conjugate Method. Frequently, people will ask us what is a true max effort lift, or how we regulate the volume and intensity of our accessory work. To ensure you are getting the most out of each training day, it is critical that you understand how to properly regulate your volume and intensity, monitor recovery times, and make adjustments when necessary.

Successful Conjugate Method programming breaks down to three simple things at the macrolevel; Exercise selection, intensity regulation, and volume regulation. If these three key issues are properly addressed, you will have success with your programming and make gains in muscle mass and strength. If mishandled, you will be wasting time at best, or getting hurt at worst. Below, we will discuss how we go about regulating volume and intensity at Westside Barbell.

Max Effort Training

On max effort training days, the goal at Westside Barbell is simple: lift the heaviest weight you can that given day. The important part for you to read is “that given day”. You will not always be prepared to lift a PR lift that day, however the goal is to always lift the heaviest weight you can. The reason is simple, we want to recruit as many motor units as possible to influence gains in absolute strength. When training at or below 80% hypertrophy becomes the training focus, while on max effort day we want intensity levels at 90%or above to influence a gain in limit strength. This does not mean we expect a PR lift weekly, as our critics have suggested, it simply means we lift the heaviest weight we can that day based on our physical state that given day.

A good way to know training is moving in the right direction is one to two PR max effort lifts per month. Overall max effort main exercise volume will always be low when compared to your dynamic effort main exercises, this relief in volume is necessary to ensure you are able to lift the heaviest weight you can that day. 

Dynamic Effort Training

Dynamic effort training is where the bulk of your main exercise volume will be performed during the week. Our dynamic effort days are commonly referred to as speed days, but they also feature a tremendous amount of overall volume. Instead of working up to max effort single rep sets lifting the heaviest weight we can, we perform sets using reps schemes such as 5 x 5, 12 x2, 10 x 2, and 8 x 2. Dynamic effort lower intensity follows a 70-75-80% or a 75-80-85% three week wave, with 25-33% of that weight being accommodating resistance. The 5 x 5 three week wave is used for lifters needing more hypertrophy, conditioning, and time under tension. 12 x 2,10 x 2, and 8 x 2 are useful for lifters who have established a great deal of muscle mass, are properly conditioned, and possess high levels of limit strength. These rep schemes allow the advanced lifter to focus on developing high levels of speed strength, while still getting a good amount of overall volume without the taxation of added reps.

Accessory Exercises

Another indicator of gains in strength made is the ability to perform your accessory exercises with higher levels of volume and intensity. On max effort days, our accessory training volume will sometimes be slightly reduced if a max effort lift was particularly taxing. However, our overall weekly volume would still be met by adding some volume to our dynamic effort accessory day. A good rule of thumb for max effort accessory days is two to four accessory exercises, with one accessory exercise being performed at moderate volume and higher intensity, and the rest being performed at high volume with moderate intensity. This creates balance as far as training focus goes, allowing for the simultaneous development of limit strength and muscle mass. As training progresses, your goal should be to continuously add weight to your accessory exercises. You always want to perform ME accessory exercises using the heaviest weight possible, while still completing all sets and reps safely.
Dynamic effort accessory training will be more akin to a bodybuilding style of training. An average DE accessory day will feature four to six exercises, with rep schemes remaining above eight with some sets as high as one hundred reps. Obviously, the set and rep scheme should match the appropriate exercises. For instance, four sets of eight to twelve reps with barbell rows would work nicely, while a few eighty rep sets of barbell rows would be both useless and damaging. For the higher rep work, we use exercises such as band extensions, or light dumbbell work. A good accessory plan would include four movements focusing on identified weaknesses, using as many multi-joint movements as possible. After, one or two exercises using bands or light dumbbell work would be implemented to focus on improving blood flow and tissue quality within the muscle group of focus. DE accessory work should be low to moderate intensity, with higher levels of overall volume compared to your ME training days.

Without a Plan, You Plan to Fail

The success of your Conjugate programming depends heavily upon your ability to meet and regulate the proper amounts of volume and intensity on both your max effort and dynamic effort training days. Failure to do so will ultimately end up in program failure, leading some to become disillusioned with the Conjugate Method. We can assure you, properly written Conjugate Method programming will always result in increased amounts of limit strength, speed strength, strength speed, and muscle mass. For more information regarding the use of the Conjugate Method visit our blog at For access to our official Westside Barbell Conjugate programming visit and check out the wide variety of powerlifting and sport specific programming we currently feature. Remember, your ability to improve depends greatly on the quality of your programming. Train hard, but most importantly, train smart.