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by on Sep 26, 2011 in Athletic Performance, Training, Westside Barbell | 113 comments

The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method: A Users Guide

 

A Brief Disclaimer

 

Before I begin it’s important for me to clarify what I aim to accomplish through writing this article:

 

In writing this article I solely aim to provide a reliable source of information which outlines how to use The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method.

 

This article will not be devoted to explaining the science or methodology behind Conjugated Periodization. I will not discuss other forms of periodization (i.e. linear/non-linear, undulating, etc.), nor will I give my opinion on any of these periodization models as an “effective” or “ineffective” means of training. If you’re looking for a description of why this method works or how it compares to other methods of training I suggest you stop reading here.

 

This article is exclusively meant to be used as a guide/resource for those intending to learn how to make use of The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method. Period.

 

As I am sure many of you know, Westside’s methods are anything but common knowledge. While some professionals have tried (and failed) to create mock-Westside templates, the reality is very few people have even the most basic understanding of Louie’s system never mind fully comprehend it. Therefore, each and every one of you should be asking yourselves, “What qualifies Jordan as a knowledgeable resource in regard to Westside’s training methods and why should I trust him?”

 

Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked, trained, interned, and competed under Louie. I have taken The Westside-Barbell Certification and am currently Westside Barbell Certified. While I in no way, shape, or form claim to be a leading expert on Louie’s methods (seeing as I consider Louie to be the only expert) I do have an extremely good understanding of his methodology and how to use it.

 

Finally, I’d note this article is significantly longer than any of my previous work. This article is not meant to be read once with immediate comprehension as I fully expect my readers will need to read, re-read, and read this article again in order to understand all of the material provided.

 

Now that I’ve gotten my disclaimer out of the way, here is The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method: A Users Guide.

 

What Is Westside-Barbell?

 

For those of you who don’t know, Westside Barbell is the strongest gym in the world.

 

It’s difficult for me to express the significance of this in one line so allow me to reiterate while using italics (we all know italics emphasize importance):

 

Westside Barbell is the strongest gym… in the world!!!!

 

To give you a better understanding of how strong Westside really is, here are some concrete numbers to work with.

 

Westside is currently home to:

  •  33 men who have bench pressed 700+lbs
  •  8 men who have bench pressed 800+lbs
  •  2 men who have bench pressed 900+lbs
  •  17 men who have squatted 1000+lbs
  •  6 men who have squatted 1100+lbs
  •  18 men who have deadlifted 800+lbs
  •  and 13 men totaling 2500+lbs, 7 men totaling 2600+lbs, 2 men totaling 2700+lbs and 2 men totaling 2800+lbs

 

So, yea…they’re pretty damn strong.

 

Louie Simmons, the founder and owner of Westside, is the driving force behind the gyms’ success. Louie himself is 1 of only 5 lifters in history to total Elite in 5 different weight classes and the only person over 50 years old to squat 920lbs, bench press 600lbs, and deadlift 722lbs.

 

To say that Louie is a freak of nature would be an understatement.

 

While Louie has, and continues, to make innumerable contributions to the strength industry, perhaps his greatest achievement to date is his creation of The Westside-Barbell Conjugate System and the subsequent world-wide attention that has been given to understanding the benefits of Conjugated Periodization.

 

Those who have researched and investigated Louie’s methods are likely aware that he makes available numerous articles and products specifically geared towards explaining The Westside system. In spite of his efforts it seems the majority of people are absolutely clueless on how to correctly and efficiently implement his methods into their training. As a result, I figured I’d do my best to outline a “simple” and straightforward guide designed specifically to instruct the masses on how to properly use The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method.

 

The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method

 

It’s important to understand the Westside system is, first and foremost, designed to develop strength. It was not created for optimal fat loss or to improve general health. Plain and simple: Westside trains for strength. If this doesn’t fall in line with your goals/area(s) of interest this may not be the optimal training system for you.

 

Frequency + Methods

 

The Westside System adheres to a 4-day per week training schedule and uses an upper/lower split. More specifically, as Westside is a powerlifting gym the upper/lower split can be more suitably defined as a Squat and Deadlift/Bench Press split.

 

Westside’s training schedule can be further broken down into two distinct categories based on two of the three principal methods of training: The Maximal Effort Method and The Dynamic Effort Method.

 

The Maximal Effort Method is defined as “lifting a maximal load against maximal resistance,” and “should be used to bring forth the greatest strength increments,” (Zatsiorksy). Westside devotes 2 training sessions per week to focus on Maximal Effort Training: One Max Effort session for the Squat/Deadlift and another Max Effort session for the Bench Press.

 

Max Effort Squat/Deadlift: One day per week is dedicated to Maximal Effort training for the Squat and/or Deadlift. On this day the trainee must choose either a Squat OR a Deadlift variation and work up to a 1-3 repetition maximum (1-3 RM). I’d note the use of a Good Morning variation is also acceptable but almost exclusively in the form of a 3RM. This is known as the “Main Move” and must be the first exercise of the day.

 

Max Effort Bench Press: One day per week is dedicated to Maximal Effort training for the Bench Press. On this day the trainee will choose a variation of the Bench Press and work up to a 1-3RM. This is known as the “Main Move” and must be the first exercise of the day.

 

Max Effort Accessory Work: Following completion of the Main Move the trainee must focus on improving her/his individual weaknesses through the use of special exercises. No two people will have the exact same accessory work as each and every person requires specific and individualized programming to improve her/his specific limitations. As such, set and repetition schemes are highly variable and entirely dependent on the situation. The absolute best advice I can provide you with is: Find what you suck at and do it over and over again; once you’ve perfected it, find another weakness and repeat the process again. To quote Louie directly, “Do it until it hurts too much.”

 

Max Effort Day Guidelines:

 

 

1) Frequency: 1 session per week for Squat/Deadlift and Bench Press respectively

 

2) Main Move:

  • Work up to a 1-3RM in a Squat OR Deadlift OR Good Morning variation for lower body days and a Bench Press variation for upper body days.
  • Take as much rest as you need between attempts (3-5 minutes should be plenty)
  • Do NOT psych yourself up before a max lift; be as calm as possible. There is a huge difference between a training max (TM) and a contest max (CM). Save the craziness for competition.

 

3) Variations: The concept of variation is where much of the confusion stems in regard to Westside’s Conjugate Method. Without going into excruciating detail, in order to prevent a lifter from adapting or suffering from The Law of Accomodation it is absolutely essential to constantly vary the stimulus being placed upon the body. Therefore, in order to utilize The Maximal Effort Method as often as possible without overloading the central nervous system (CNS) and/or causing adaptation to ones training, you must choose a different variation of the squat or deadlift and bench press every single week.

 

The most important things to keep in mind when choosing variations are:

  • Variations can be slight and should closely resemble the move you are attempting to replicate. A variation can be as simple as changing the width of your grip/stance or reducing/increasing the movements’ range of motion (ROM).
  • A variation should not be repeated for at least 4-6 weeks. Sometimes I won’t repeat a variation for almost a year! When you finally do repeat a variation be sure to attempt a new 1-3RM personal record (PR). However, DO NOT get impatient and try to break your previous record by a substantial amount of weight. Remember, a 5lb PR is still a PR! Make small/appropriate jumps to ensure your continued success.
  • Anything and everything works! Many people spend entirely too much time trying to come up with the “perfect variation.” Believe me when I tell you that’s a waste of time and effort. Choose a variation which you haven’t done for a while (at least 4-6 weeks) and hit a 1-3RM. As long as you’re handling maximal weight you’re getting the job done.

 

4)      Accessory Work: As I said, it’s impossible to give precise directions for accessory work as each and every person has different restrictions, needs, and goals. For example, one person may need to gain mass (in which case they would program higher repetition/volume work into their training) whereas someone else may be need to lose weight while maintaining strength (in which case they would lower the volume and increase the intensity). However, in spite of the vast differences between individuals I do have some standard guidelines to follow:

 

  • Max Effort Squat/Deadlift Accessory Work:  Following the main move be sure to incorporate exercises for each of these muscle groups: Glutes, Hamstrings, Low Back (Erectors), Lats, Traps, and Abs.
  • Max Effort Bench Press Accessory Work: Following the main move be sure to incorporate exercises for each of these muscle groups: Triceps, Upper Back, Lats, Shoulders (Anterior/Medial/Posterior), Traps, and Abs.
  •  Specific movements should be used for a maximum of 1-3 weeks. For example, if I decide to perform weighted dips as my first accessory move following Bench Press I would progress on weighted dips for a 1-3 week period and then switch to another movement.
  •  Attack your accessory work as hard and heavy as possible. You should aim to get stronger in all of your accessory exercises just as you aim to get stronger with your main moves.
  • Find exercises you suck at and do them until you’ve perfected it. You suck at it for a reason, likely because you’re weak. Build up your weaknesses and watch your strength skyrocket.


 

 

The Dynamic Effort Method is defined as “Lifting (throwing) a nonmaximal load with the highest attainable speed,” (Zatsiorsky). Westside dedicates 2 training sessions per week to focus on Dynamic Effort training: One Dynamic Effort session for the Squat/Deadlift and one Dynamic Effort session for the Bench Press.

 

Dynamic Effort Squat:  One day per week is devoted to Dynamic Effort Squat training and it runs on a 3-week pendulum wave. The trainee must choose any type of Box Squat variation and perform 10-12 sets of 2 repetitions at 40-60% 1RM for geared lifters or 70-85% for non-geared/raw lifters. The trainee will use this same variation for 3 weeks in a row while slightly increasing the weight each successive week. This is known as the “Main Move” and must be the first exercise of the day.

 

Dynamic Effort Deadlift: Dynamic Effort Deadlift training can run on the same 3-week pendulum wave as Dynamic Effort Squats or it can be changed every week. The trainee must choose any type of Deadlift variation and perform 6-10 sets of 1-3 repetitions using 60-85% 1RM. This move always comes *after* Dynamic Effort Squats

 

Dynamic Effort Bench Press: One day per week is devoted to Dynamic Effort Bench Press training and it runs on a 3-week pendulum wave. The trainee must choose any type of Bench Press variation and perform roughly 9 sets of 3 repetitions at 50% 1RM. The trainee will use this variation for 3 weeks in a row while maintaining the same weight on the bar. This is known as the “Main Move” and must be the first exercise of the day.

 

Dynamic Effort Accessory Work: Dynamic Effort Accessory Work is largely the same as Maximal Effort Accessory Work with the only major difference being Dynamic Effort days tend to be higher volume/lower intensity than Maximal Effort days. The trainee still must focus on improving her/his individual weaknesses through the use of special exercises and must constantly aim to improve her/his accessory work. Additionally, the same muscle groups trained on Maximal Effort days must be trained on Dynamic Effort days.

 

 

Dynamic Effort Day Guidelines:

 

 

1) Frequency: 1 session per week for the Squat/Deadlift and Bench Press respectively

 

2)      Main Move

  •  Perform each and every repetition as fast and explosively as possible
  •   Take :30 – :60 seconds (maximum) between sets
  •  Perform the prescribed number of sets/reps at the appropriate percentage of your 1RM:

Dynamic Effort Squat:

  1.      Geared Lifters: 10-12 sets of 2 reps at 40-60% 1RM
  2.      Raw Lifters: 10-12 sets of 2 reps at 70-85% 1RM

Dynamic Effort Deadlift:

  1.   All Lifters: 6-10 sets of 1-3 reps at 60-85% 1RM

Dynamic Effort Bench:

  1.  All Lifters: 9 x 3 repetitions at 50% 1RM

 

  •  Use the same variation for 3 weeks in a row while simultaneously increasing the weight in each successive week. When 3 weeks have been completed choose a different variation and cycle back down to the appropriate starting percentage of your 1RM

 

3)      Variations: The variation guidelines are more or less exactly the same for Dynamic Effort as they are for Maximal Effort. However, I suggest you use the following information to help you make educated decisions.

 

Squat:

  •   Choose any variation but always squat onto a box!
  •   Use a wide stance and low/parallel box to build up the hips
  •   Use a close stance and low box to build up the low back
  •   Use a slightly above parallel box to help with the “normal” sticking point


Deadlift:

  •   Choose any variation
  •   Use a sumo stance to build up the hips
  •   Use a conventional stance to build up the low back/erectors

 

Bench Press:

  •   Choose any variation
  •   Use a close grip to build up the triceps

 

4)      Accessory Work: As I said before, the accessory work for Dynamic Effort and Maximal Effort is more or less exactly the same. Target the appropriate muscle groups (listed below) but focus on your individual weaknesses. Find movements you suck at and do them until you’re proficient.

 

  •  Dynamic Effort Squat/Deadlift Accessory Work:  Following the main move be sure to incorporate exercises for each of these muscle groups: Glutes, Hamstrings, Low Back (Erectors), Lats, Traps, and Abs.
  •  Dynamic Effort Bench Press Accessory Work: Following the main move be sure to incorporate exercises for each of these muscle groups: Triceps, Upper Back, Lats, Shoulders (Front/Medial/Rear), Traps, and Abs.
  •  Perform specific accessory movements for a maximum of 3 weeks and then switch to a different move.

 

Battling Accommodation through Accommodating Resistance

 

The use of accommodating resistance such as bands, chains, weight releasers, and different specialty bars is one of the key components to Westside’s success. Using these varying tools as added resistance allows one to incorporate more variations into their training while simultaneously targeting specific weak-points. Unfortunately, explaining how to use/set up these forms of accommodating resistance is well beyond the scope of this article.  Since the majority of you have insufficient means to use bands, chains, weight releasers, or specialty bars (i.e. don’t train at a powerlifting gym), in addition to the fact that this article is already atrociously long, I’ve made the executive decision to stress the importance of accommodating resistance but exclude explicit directions on how to use them. You can be sure a future article will cover this topic in detail.

 

As a result of my guilty conscience for skimping on this section I’ve decided to include this video of Dave Tate from Elite Fitness Systems demonstrating how to use bands. Additionally, while I understand the majority of gyms don’t supply this type of equipment, a good set of bands are not only relatively cheap but are a fantastic investment. Therefore, I’m also going to provide you with this link to Westside’s store which sells numerous bands of varying strengths.

 

If you want to experience the full benefit of The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method I highly recommend you invest in a set of bands as the carryover to improved performance is honestly astounding.

 

A 6-Week Sample

I understand this system is extraordinarily complicated and I’ve thrown a ton of information at you. In an attempt to make the programming aspect somewhat easier I have created this 6-week sample program outlining the Main Move variation on Max Effort and Dynamic Effort days respectively. Below the 6-week program I have provided you with several examples of which type of accessory exercises are commonly used at Westside. Keep in mind these are only some of the hundreds upon hundreds of exercises. As long as you remember anything can work then you will truly begin to understand the Westside program.

 

 

Week Monday: Max Effort Squat/Deadlift Wednesday: Max Effort Bench Friday: Dynamic Effort Squat/Deadlift Saturday: Dynamic Effort Bench
1 1) Close-Stance Below Parallel Box Squat. Work up to a 1RM 1) 2-Board Bench Press. Work up to a 1RM 1) Wide Stance Below Parallel Box Squat: 12 x 2 @ 75% 1RM 1) Close Grip Bench Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM
2 1) Rack Pull from Pin 1. Work up to a 1RM 1) Close-Grip Bench Press. Work up to a 1RM 1) Wide Stance Below Parallel Box Squat: 12 x 2 @ 80% 1RM 1) Close Grip Bench Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM
3 1) Wide Stance Above Parallel Box Squat. Work up to a 1RM 1) Floor Press. Work up to a 1RM 1) Wide Stance Below Parallel Box Squat:10 x 2 @ 85% 1RM 1) Close Grip Bench Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM
1 1) Good Morning Variation. Work up to a 3RM 1) DBell Bench Press. Work up to a 3RM 1) Conventional Stance Parallel Box Squat vs. Bands: 12 x 2 @ 75% 1RM 1) Floor Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM
2 1) Sumo Deficit Pull from a 2” Mat. Work up to a 1RM 1) 1-Board Bench Press. Work up to a 1RM 1) Conventional Stance Parallel Box Squat vs. Bands: 12 x 2 @ 80% 1RM 1) Floor Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM
3 1) Zercher Squat. Work up to a 1RM 1) Rack Press. Work up to a 1RM 1) Conventional Stance Parallel Box Squat vs. Bands: 12 x 2 @ 85% 1RM 1) Floor Press: 9 x 3 @ 50% 1RM

 

Sample Accessory Work Movements

Squat/Deadlift Days Bench Press Days
All Good Morning Variations DBell Press Variations(incline/flat/standing)
45 Degree Back Extension/Reverse Hyperextension Pushup Variations (close grip, clap pushups)
Cable Pull Through Variations Tricep Specific Movements (extensions/press downs)
Glute Ham Raise/Hamstring Curl Variations All Rowing Movements (cable/d-bell/barbell)
Sled/Prowler Pulling/Pushing Lat Specific Movements (lat pull down/chins)
Lat Specific Movements (lat pull down/chins) Shoulder Specific Movements (rear delt/front/side raises)


Wrapping Up

 

Rather than conclude with a clever anecdote or inspirational statement, I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to end this article other than with a quote by Louie Simmons, himself, regarding The Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method. So, without further adieu, here is a clear and concise bit by the man who created perhaps the most effective multi-year strength training system in history:

 

“When lifters repeatedly use the same simple method of training to raise their strength level, they will eventually stall. Like the scholar who must utilize many sources of information to achieve a higher level of knowledge, the lifter must incorporate new and more difficult exercises to raise their standards. Many have the theory that to squat, bench, or deadlift more, you simply have to do the three lifts. If it were that simple no one would need special exercises, machines, or systems of training. But we know this is not true.”

-Louie Simmons

 

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  • http://www.lift-heavy.com Bojan | Lift-Heavy.com

    You absolutely killed it with this post man. AWESOME work. If it wasn’t 6 am here I’d def be running to the gym right now. ;)

    • Jordan

      Thanks, Bojan! I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

      • Spencer

        How long should we run the cycle until we test our maxes on all the lifts again?

        • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

          If you’re competing just wait until your next competition. If you aren’t competing I’d wait a minimum of 12 weeks before re-testing true max’s.

          -J

          • Spencer

            I’m assuming there is no deloading in the conjugate method?

          • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

            No planned de-loads – you go by how you feel. If you aren’t feeling well then stick to lighter weight/higher repetition accessory work. No maxing and nothing too intense. 3RM’s are often used in place of 1RM’s following extremely heavy sessions as well.

          • Jordan

            What do you think about using the slingshot for ME bench?

          • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

            You could definitely use it as a ME variation

          • Christy Mack

            Do you work up to a max after DE? If you do, are you supposed to do it every time? Also on DE days you just have to do your assistance lifts with more reps correct? So like 3 by 10 for pull-ups on ME day and 2 by 15 for DE day?

            Thanks Jordan!

          • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

            Christy,

            No you don’t work up to a max after DE.

            In regard to assistance work, DE days are generally higher volume/lower intensity so instead of 3 x 8 for pull-ups you’d do 4 x 10 or something else along those lines.

            -J

          • Tim

            I was trying to do DE squat today and my max squat ATG is 405 so I took 70% as I’m a raw lifter which would be 285 and used a box and put light bands on but it felt way too heavy. Did i set it up properly? For bench also I would use like 50% and put on mini bands. These are the bands I got from EliteFts

          • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

            it’s impossible to say w/o seeing you actually Squat. Often times the weight will feel too heavy even if, in reality, it’s moving fast enough. Use the percentages as a guideline – they aren’t definitive laws. if you are moving too slowly/quickly then decrease/increase the weight accordingly.

          • Tim

            Whenever I see westside do DE squat it seems pretty slow compared to their DE bench days, so I guess I am doing it all right. I can definitely go faster though. I thought I was supposed to find a weight that I can lift as fast as possible?

          • Johnny

            Hey Jordan I was wondering if it’s okay if I do ME days back to back on Monday and Tuesday then DE back to back on Friday and Saturday.

          • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

            Yea that’s totally fine

          • Martin J UK

            your Box SQ 1RM will be lower than your ATG SQ 1RM by about 50 pounds/22.5kg. so if u ATG SQ 180Kg then u Box SQ about 167.5Kg.

          • Martin J UK

            *sorry 157.5Kg not 167.5Kg
            180Kg – 22.5Kg = 157.5Kg
            So 70% of 157.5Kg = 110.25Kg
            using 285 pounds / 129Kg is around 80-85% of Box SQ that’s why it felt heavy/slow

          • Martin J UK

            the above post refers to lifters with no bands.
            if u are using bands then u would use 50%.
            no bands = 70%,75%,80%, (85%)
            bands = 50%, 55%, 60%

          • Martin J UK

            once your parallel Box SQ 1RM goes up so should your ATG SQ
            Box SQ 1RM = 170Kg
            ATG SQ = 170Kg+22.5Kg which so give u a ATG SQ of 192.5Kg

          • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

            Martin,

            I’m not sure where you got that conversion but it’s inaccurate. I’ve seen numerous lifters with a higher box squat compared to their ATG Squat. It all depends on the individual and specifically their training.

            -J

          • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

            No you do not work up to a Max after DE. You only work up to a Max on Max Effort Days.

            DE Days are higher volume so, yes, you tend to use higher repetitions

  • http://www.cricketleeds.blog.co.uk brian wardle

    Nice stuff jordan. keep up the good work. I have been using the conjugate system for some time now, first for my powerlifting preparations and now for sports performance. I agree that this method can be so useful in circles other than PL.
    cheers bud

    spk soon

    • Jordan

      Thanks, Brian!

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

      Keep it up with your training!

      -J

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  • rico machado

    I am really impressed with the detail and accuracy in this piece.
    I am a student of Westside methods and what really appeals to me is that you are westside certified,and that you have trained there.That is my next goal.You motivate me bro’!!!

    • Jordan

      Thank you, Rico. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      If you need anything or have any questions feel free to contact me at any time.

      -J

  • Ali

    I have been running Wendlers 5/3/1 for a short while now, was doing well in the beginning but I have stalled a bit. I’m thinking of switching the main lifts into variations like the conjugate method every two weeks while staying with the set/rep parameters wendler has designed. I tried a one week deload like wendler proposed and the next cycle I felt weaker, it could be that my CNS is burned out but do you think I could follow 5/3/1 and a westside hybrid and make sufficient progress? My apologies for any inconvenience and thanks for all the help. Great article and God bless, hoping you break some crazy PR’s soon!

    • Jordan

      Ali,
      No inconvenience whatsoever. Thanks for the response.

      In regard to your question:
      I think your best bet would be sticking to the guidelines outlined above. Could you make progress doing other things? Yup. But I outlined how to use the WSBB Conjugate Method, not 5/3/1, for a reason.

      People tend to fall in the trap of wanting to create hybrids and specialized training programs all the time.

      At that point I wonder, “why fix something if it isn’t broken?”

      -J

      • Ali

        Thanks for the prompt response and you’re absolutely rite, I was just suggesting some tweaks and if you thought it would be fine, seeing that 5/3/1 and conjugate are very similar, both based on breaking PR’s except 5/3/1 utilizes deloads followed by a new cycle of the same lifts. I like 5/3/1 cuz of the easy to follow set/rep parameters, and I like how conjugate method allows one to lift with the highest loads without getting burned out just by cycling in variations. I think what I meant to ask you is more related to how I should approach the final set. in 5/3/1, for instance to break a 3rm you would do 3 warmup sets of 3-5 reps then working sets 70%x3,80%x3, then 90%x3+. Would a general warm up sequence like 50%x5,60%x3,70%x2, then singles as necessary up to the RM for the lift suffice instead? Do you think it’s necessary to do multiple sets of a %1rm then test 1rm later like week 1- 70% for multiple sets of 5, next week multiple sets with 80%, and so on? Lastly how long can you run this method for? I think I read Louie Simmons saying that westsiders trained like this year round, regardless of whether or not they were prepping for competition. I apologize for asking so many questions haha, I’ve been stuck in some nasty plateaus and been going crazy to break them lol.Thanks again and take care.

        • Jordan

          Ali,

          My pleasure. I’m glad to offer some advice.

          To be honest, 5/3/1 and Westside’s Conjugate are not similar. They are two very different training methodologies.

          Again, I think you’d be better off sticking with one or the other. It should come as no surprise that I’d recommend WSBBs Conjugate as I have huge bias.

          You can run WSBBs Conjugate forever. If you’re doing it properly then you’ll never be repeating the same workout. Always changing :)

          I encourage you to read through the guide provided above, as well as my Guide to Accessory Work [http://bit.ly/trq3Jg] in order to create the best program for you.

          I hope this helps.

          -J

  • Jordan B

    Fantastic article! I had many questions regarding the conjugate method and you cleared them up, however one remains…

    When in the frame of this method should you actually perform the main lifts (squat, deads, and bench) as you would for competition and not variations of them?

    Again, great article! Thanks for the effort that went into this.

  • Jordan B

    Was not sure if the first comment went through. I’m sorry. :

    First of all, excellent article! I had many questions concerning the conjugate method and you cleared them up well, however, I still have one…

    When during this program would you actually perform the main lifts (squat, deads, and bench) as you would for competition rather than a variation of those lifts?!
    I only see variations of the Squat or Deadlift and Bench, not the actual core lifts being performed. It makes a lot of sense to train a variation of the lift for a few weeks as the program has outlined, but shouldn’t there be a week where you would perform the actual lift as opposed to a variation, or do you reserve the main lift ONLY for competition at the completion of one of the 3 week cycles? This is the only area I am still confused on.

    Again, great article. I look forward to your reply!
    -JB

    • Jordan

      Thanks, JB. Glad you enjoyed it.

      To answer your question, at Westside they always reserve the competition lift for competition. There may be times when they do the competition lift for skill work (such as when they use the bench shirt) but other than that they never do the competition lifts during training.

      Hope this helps. If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to ask.

      -J

      • Jordan B

        Thanks for the reply!
        Few other things…

        On Max Effort Days: When you say “work up to 1-3RM” what is involved in the work up to that point in terms of intensity, volume, and percentage of 1RM?

        On Dynamic Effort Days: How do you determine which percentage of 1RM (or Prilepin’s) to use for any of the lifts; accessory, main or compound?

        And do these percentages increase at random according to what you want to accomplish or is there a more linear progression for them?
        Ex. Week 1 is 50%
        Week 2 is 55-60%
        Week 3 is 65-70%
        Then the new week 1 begin a little higher than the previous week 1 or put it right back to 55% again?

        Sorry for the many questions. Thanks again

        -JB

        • Jordan

          1) Max Effort Workups: Generally speaking, you should work up to a point where you will take roughly 2-3 lifts at/above 90%.

          For ex:
          90% x 1
          5lb PR x 1
          Maybe another x 1

          2) Dynamic Effort Percents: The specific percents (50/55/60%) are for the main move. The assistance work is done more by feel. But remember, DE is high volume/low to mod intensity and ME is low volume/high intensity. This is very important!

          For percents use 50, 55, & 60% based off of your competition max. After 3 weeks you cycle back down to 50%. Assuming you’re competing on a regular basis you will be able to re-test your max at various intervals throughout the year and make appropriate changes to your percentages.

          Hope this helps. If you need any clarification let me know.

          -J

  • Jay

    Great article, thanks. I was contemplating a switch to this method today and you helped convince me as well as gave me the proper guidelines to follow. One of the best and most informative write ups on westside ever (other than straight from Louie of course!)

    • Jordan

      Thanks, Jay. Glad you enjoyed it.

      If you have any questions feel free to contact me at any time. Good luck and have fun :)

      -J

  • Ryan

    Awesome article really helped me gain a firm grasp on the philosophy behind Louie Simmons’ Conjugate method. What I have a question about is that recent studies are showing that muscle adapts more quickly to the rep ranges for exercises rather than on the exercises themselves. Do you feel this inhibits some of the benefits of this method of training, or do you think the use of variations of rep ranges during the accessory workouts will help accommodate for the possible inhibition due to the lack of rep ranges?

    • Jordan

      Glad you enjoyed it, Ryan.

      First, would you mind linking me to these studies? I’d be very interested in reading the full articles.

      Second, to answer your question, no I do not think this would inhibit the benefits of Westside’s system. As you noted, the constant variation of volume/intensity during the accessory work is more than enough stimulus to keep an individual from adapting.

      I like your thought process a lot. I hope this helped.

      -J (and send me those studies!)

      • Kaelan

        Great article, it’s the most clear description of the conjugate method I’ve ever read! Two questions: 1. What exactly is a pendulum wave? 2. Regarding the max effort exercise variations, is it important to switch off between squat-focused and deadlift-focused variations every week or does it not really matter?
        Thanks so much,
        Kaelan

        • Jordan

          Thanks, Kaelan – glad you enjoyed it!

          1) Louie explains the Pendulum Wave here: http://bit.ly/KIlDA4 and I wrote an article about it here: http://bit.ly/KIlv3t
          2) It’s highly individual. Some lifters almost exclusively do Squat variations, others almost exclusively do DL variations, and others practice more of a 50/50 split. You just need to practice and go through some trial/error to find what benefits you most. There’s no right or wrong here.

          Hope this helps!

          -J

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  • Samuel Clark

    I’ve been following the Texas Method and Bill Starr’s methods for awhile. I was looking at Westside for awhile.

    How do you factor in deloads for this style of training?

    Do you differentiate between and intermediate or an advanced trainee?

    Since your lifts change from week to week how do you measure progress to know if you are doing enough volume/doing too much (overtraining)?

    • Jordan

      Deloads: Work up to a 3RM instead of a 1RM and/or reduce the total volume/intensity of the training day. Most individuals find they don’t need entire de-load weeks, rather every 4th week they do well by taking a “light” day on the day devoted to ME training.

      Intermediate vs. Advanced: The major difference is in regard to cycling accessory work. Intermediate lifters will cycle accessory movements every 2-3 weeks and advanced lifters will cycle accessory movements every 1-2 weeks.

      Measuring Progress: Keep track of your ME 1RM records. Whenever you repeat a ME movement be sure to try and break your previous record. If you do not break it then your training may be off.

      Additionally, the accessory work is what truly gets you stronger. Progress from week to week with your accessory work (via more weight/more reps/both) and you know things are going well. If you aren’t progressing and/or breaking records then you may be doing too much/not enough.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.

      -J

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  • Seb

    Hey jordan great work! Very well explained – clarified a lot of things for me.
    Though I have a question. Do you think one could apply the system to other movements, like a powerclean or push press?
    thanks for letting me know.

    Again terrific job with that article,
    cheers seb

    • Jordan

      Absolutely, Sebastian!

      In fact, Louie based this method off of an Olympic Lifting regimen. The major difference you would make while using the O-Lifts would be using a higher percentage of your 1RM during Dynamic Effort day. Generally, rather than using 40-60% as with the Powerlifts, an O-lifter would use somewhere between 60-80% for the C&J and Powersnatch.

      For an in-depth article by Louie discussing how to incorporate the O-lifts I highly recommend you read this article http://bit.ly/Jx5mfF

      Hope this helps,

      -J

      • Seb

        Thanks again Jordan. One last thing I couldn’t figure out yet is when I want to do a dynamic Pushpress-day. Do I want to use the same regime I would use on a dynamic Bench-day ( 9 sets of 3) rather than 10-12 sets of doubles?
        Hope I’m not confusing you :)
        Keep up the great work!

        • Jordan

          For the Push Press I would stick with ~9×3 and see how that works. If it’s too much then go to doubles but I think the 9 x 3 will work fine.

          -J

  • http://rippedbody.jp Andy Morgan

    Superb write-up. Very informative. I’ll give this a try after the summer when I can afford to lose the “everabs”.

    • Jordan

      Haha thanks, Andy! Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification.

      -J

  • JR

    Wow this is what I have been looking for as far as Westside goes. I just have a few questions:

    -Someone brought up the Push-Press/Overhead Press. Would this be a good accessory exercise for the bench?

    -Would you ever do a ME squat AND deadlift on the same day? Or would you keep it to one week doing the ME squat and the next deadlift? What about DE squat AND deadlift on the same day?

    -Does everyone cycle the DE lifts in 3 week waves? I’ve heard of lifters doing a different one every DE day and I didn’t know if this was a variation not endorsed by Louie

    -I’d heard before that you’re supposed to work up to a 1 RM, then back off and do 3 reps at 90% of that. Is this true or just another non-Louie endorsed hybrid people around the interwebs make up?

    • Jordan

      1) Push-Press/OH Press is definitely a great accessory move for the Bench Press.
      2) No. There is only 1 ME movement per day. Either Squat OR Deadlift. For DE you do 10-12 x 2 DE Box Squats followed by 6-10 x 1-3 DE Deadlifts. In short, on DE day you do both movements.
      3) DE variations are cycled in 3-week waves. Really the only major exception that I can think of is during Strength-Speed cycles or Circa-Max where they go in 2-week waves but that’s an entirely separate topic. In short: DE variations run in 3-week waves.
      4) That’s another non-Louie endorsed hybrid. Sometimes you might see people doing that at Westside but it is absolutely not obligatory nor is it extremely common. In the main just work up to a 1RM and then move on to your accessory work.

      -J

  • JR

    Also any thoughts on the Jim Wendler/Dave Tate Standard Template? It seems to suggest that you should perform regular bench for DE effort days at all times and only two box squat variations for DE squats.
    I like the variety of what you present much better.

    • Jordan

      Dave and Jim are [obviously] both smart guys but I presented here what I learned from Louie at Westside. In short, I provided what I think is best: Louie’s methods.

      -J

  • charlie

    Thank you. By far the best explanation of the Westside Barbell system on the internet hands down. I was curious about some of the accessory work. In the template provided there is very little mention of working calves and biceps. Is this intentional or are these muscle groups not considered essential for the mail lifts. I understand that the biceps get work in with the chin ups and such and the calves get work doing some of the leg exercises but are these muscle groups not considered essential to building the big lifts? I have read the accessory work article as well but decided to post my question on this thread to catch a broader audience. Thank you.

  • charlie

    Thanks again.

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  • chewy

    Thanks for the post. I feel like im understanding something wrong but it seems like it says to work lats/back as accessory work each day you work out. if that is the case doesnt it seem like working the back 4 days a week is a lot. Maybe im just reading it wrong. thanks….chewy

    • Jordan

      Chewy,

      Pretty much every training day involves back/lat work. It’s not always high intensity but there is always something whether it’s heavy rows, lighter lat pull downs, rear delt raises, etc, etc, etc.

      You’d be surprised how much your body can handle.

      -J

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  • Greg Barkans

    I’m sure someone else has already posted this – but I’m going to try and say it straight and to the point:

    -Louie suggests (ESPECIALLY FOR DRUG-FREE LIFTERS) to work your way to 8-10 workouts a week. These “extra” workouts occur on in-between days and as second workouts on Monday and Friday. They are 20-30 minutes and much lower intensity. They involve GPP work and Prehab work for the most part.

    IF you’re a regular gym-goer –> this means do lat and ab and hip work and some rotator cuff work.

    • Jordan

      Good stuff, Greg. Thanks for clearing that up

      -J

  • http://www.facebook.com/josh.mcguire.9 Josh McGuire

    5 weeks in on conjugate method….bench pr 400 35lb increase / squat pr 500 35lb increase….haven’t tested deadlift but thanks for this article and making it simple to follow

    • Jordan

      Congrat’s Josh, awesome work!!!

      I’m glad I could help out. Keep it up, man.

      -J

  • Andre

    Great post sir. Can we fit in regular deadlifts and squats on some max effort days as well or does it always have to be a variation of a squat and deadlift? If we can, how often do you suggest to do that? Thank you, sir.

    • Jordan

      During my time at Westside I never saw anyone perform a competition Squat and/or Deadlift – it was always some form of a variation.

      That being said, if you aren’t regularly competing and are simply looking to get stronger you could incorporate the competition lifts as one of your variations. If that is the case then you should treat them as such and cycle them throughout your training just as you would with all other variations.

      -J

  • Angus

    Brilliantly explained Jordan!
    I have a few questions with regard to the use of this program for sports outside of powerlifting.

    I’m a track cyclist (sprinter) that requires a massive amount of power. Obviously building strength and power in the gym is one key aspect to this development, but on top of gym work 4 track sessions a week on the bike are also incorporated. Currently the notion in track cycling is 2-4 gym sessions a week with variations on strength, power, and plyometric work. Typically a gym session in the morning followed by a cycling session in the afternoon 3-4 days a week. Most of the time, less than maximal weight is used (5RM) most likely because it takes time to recover from anything more intense than that, and will probably hamper your cycling ability and recovering ability. My question for you is, because using this method requires going close to a 1RM or 90% 1RM and above for 3 lifts, is the reason because it takes a whole week to recover from such load on the CNS? Secondly, would this load on the CNS hamper my cycling ability and recovery process considering I would have to train 3 other days following ME day on a Monday?
    Thanks for you time, and once again, grateful for explaining this method so well!

    • Jordan

      Angus,

      I apologize for the late reply!

      In regard to your 1st question: There are many reasons why Westside works up to a 1RM only 1x/week. Certainly, the affect on the CNS is a primary concern, but definitely not the only one.

      In regard to your second question: I can’t say for certain as to whether or not this would hamper your cycling ability as it’s likely very individual. That being said, if you planned your training cycle appropriately you could absolutely lift at/near 90%+ 1RM 1x/week and still improve your cycling times. My best advice would be to try it and see how your body responds. Run a 6-9 week cycle, track your strength, energy levels, cycling times, etc and see what the result is – from there you can make an educated decision as to how you should progress with your programming.

      I’m sorry for the vague answers but I hope this helped. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      -J

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  • Matt Theo

    Jordan, thank you for writing this article and putting it in simple terms. I totally understand the system now thanks to you. I have only one question if you don’t mind: How many accessory exercises, reps & sets per muscle group should we be doing?

    Thanks very much
    Regards
    Theo

    • Jordan

      Hey Matt,

      I covered that topic in my article The Westside Barbell Conjugate Method: A Guide to Accessory Work (http://bit.ly/trq3Jg).

      It’s important to note, however, that specific exercises, sets/reps, and schemes are largely dependent on the individual and their weaknesses.

      Give the article I linked to a read and let me know if you have any more lingering questions.

      -J

  • Ray

    Great article! I do have a quick questions tho; on the max effort days how long should the rest periods be for the accessory work?

    • Jordan

      Ray,

      To be honest it’s relatively arbitrary. Personally I like to keep them between 2-5 minutes depending on the movement, how I’m feeling, etc.

      Hope this helps,

      -J

  • RJ

    Great job!!!! Made every very clear!!!! Thank you

    • http://www.syattfitness.com Jordan Syatt

      Thanks RJ. Glad you enjoyed it.

      -J

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  • Ryan

    Hey it says for dynamic effort squat for raw lifters to use 70-85% o 1RM I can’t shift the wight fast enough I have a 200 kg raw squat so the minimum weight would be 70% 140 kg Louie says on a video the bar must travel at .7-.9 metres per second I can’t shift 140 that fast I could shift 100 tho around that speed so if u can clear this up well appreciated

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Ryan,
      Reduce the weight until you’re moving fast enough.
      -J

  • Ty

    I might be repeating a question here re: Max Effort days, but just to confirm….
    what you you consider to be the minimum & maximum number of sets involved in working up to a 1RM? I ask in relation to wondering how much you would “up” the weight with each set…

    • Ty

      Sorry, just found your other article on Building Up to a 1RM… which probably answers everything!!!

  • BEN

    hi Jordan. Great articles, helping me a lot. i have one question with regards to DE bench. what is the best way to schedule some progression? bar weight is supposed to stay the same for 3 weeks, does band tension stay the same or can this be raised? on the next wave if i wanted to stick to bench to work on technique, would i up the weights say 5% and so forth and keep going in a similar fashion wave by wave as long as the bar is moving fast!!??? thanks in advance. ben

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Ben,

      1) Band tension and bar weight stays the same each week of the 3-week wave

      2) All DE Bench moves should closely resemble the Bench Press and therefore be used to improve technique. You can up the weight if you’d like but it must continue to move fast. And remember, increasing bar weight doesn’t count as changing the variation

  • Alex

    Jordan thank you for the article. Very concise. I have questions regarding your accomodating resistance. I am unable to work out at a facility that provides chains and bands are very limited. Are there ways to achieve this with other materials?

    very respectfully,
    Alex

    • alex

      apologies didn’t read the latter part.

  • James

    I’ve followed this by DAVE TATE. What should i do after completion? I dont understand week 9? http://violentheropowerlifting.com/component/content/article/225-powerlifting-westside-barbell-powerlifting-training-program.htm

  • Ludvig

    I’ve always changed between 2 reps and 5 reps and three sets every week for the deadlift, squat and bench press. I always save one rep in the set. So when I do 2 reps it’s of course max effort, but when I do 5 it’s under 90% of max so is it the repition method?
    When I do this I won’t regress and have never done because I don’t do max efooort every week. So my second question is: This method has given me good results in two years I’ve increased 220 lb on my bench press and in one year 150 lb on my squat and deadlift. Can I keep doing this but add a main move variation that will train my weakness after my main move (like floor press for middle section in bench press) and rotate the reps the same as my main move?

  • jeremy

    Great explanation. Would anything in your template change for a raw lifter. I have read multiple arguments as to why raw lifters shouldn’t box squat or worry with accomodating resustance.

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      I noted the differences in Dynamic Effort Squat %’s for Geared/Raw lifters which you should take a look at. Other than that pretty much everything stays the same. Accommodating resistance can and should be used by all lifters.

      I will say that – in my opinion – raw lifters should incorporate both box and free squats. They are both valid options and provide unique benefits. While geared lifters should focus on box squats raw lifters can get away with more of an even split between the two.

      -J

    • Jeremy

      Thanks for the response. I tried a westside template years age with minor results, but it was mostly my own fault from lack of knowledge. I’m excited and want to give it another shot.

  • Ollie

    Great post mate, very clear, detailed and well written. Thanks

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Thanks, Ollie!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jdelong Joshua DeLong

    I think there is a typo on Dynamic Effort Squat. It says above that geared lifters should use 50% of their max and non-geared should use 80% of their max. Shouldn’t these two be swapped? If these were swapped, a geared lifter at 80% is seeing about 50 to 60% load while a non-geared lifter would then see about 50 to 60% load; otherwise a geared lifter would only be seeing about 30% load.

    The only possibility here is if Louie is talking about if your 1 rep max was set using gear and you are doing your dynamic workout as raw then you could use 50% of your max then so you would be seeing about 80% of your raw one rep max.

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      There is no typo. Geared lifters train at ~50-60% 1RM and raw lifters train at ~70-85%1RM.

      • Jason Struck

        I suspect any lifter, raw or geared, that is lifting over 60% on his ‘dynamic effort’ work is moving pretty slowly, and not really gaining the intended benefits of the day.

        • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

          You’d be surprised. It totally depends on the lifter. Some move 70 or 80% like speed work and others move 50% like it’s near maximal.

          It all depends on the individual.

  • Mike

    No one ever mentions the “Repetition Method” that I know Louie has talked about in additional to DE and ME work. How would this integrate? Or is it a synonym for DE or ME or only for accessorize work?

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      The Repetition Method is more geared towards the accessory work. That’s where you tend to use lighter weight/higher repetitions for GPP/hypertrophy/recovery/pre-hab/etc

  • Seleti

    This looks like it can be an effective bodybuilding program as well considering the accessory work. From what I’ve noticed, the biggest bodybuilders are usually the strongest.

    • Seleti

      Have you ever heard of Doggcrapp Training? I was thinking of incorporating the Westside Program into it. Sorry for rambling. I was just wondering what anybody’s input would be.

      • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

        If you’re going to incorporate Doggcrapp you’d just stick with the main moves of Westside’s programming and then use Doggcrapp for accessory work.

        • Seleti

          Thank you for the quicc reply!

  • Noel

    Can someone who is primarily training for football power, not necessarily maximal strength benefit from this? Can you give an example please? And how do you know how to spot your weakness without a coach?

    Thank you

    • Tama

      Louie trains many football players using his system. With the conjugate system, everything is being worked out, so you will be developing explosive power as well.

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Yes they can benefit using this method. Louie discusses this extensively in various articles. Football players would generally use a bit higher repetitions to promote muscle hypertrophy as well as lengthen the time of each set in order to mimic their sport. So, for example, they might do Prowler Pushes as accessory work, each set lasting about 7 seconds (which is the average length of a football play)

  • Tama

    Would you happen to know the title of the article where Louie lays out the Conjugate Method? Or is it several articles that I would have to go through? I’d like to read the minute details and research that he has found.

    Thank you

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      It’s in a bunch of articles. The best resource is his Book of Methods which you can purchase on his site.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.fudge.5 Gary Fudge

    Hi I’m 50 and together with my young training partners, we’re preparing for our first comp on 28th July in Glasgow. We live on Orkney off the north coast of Scotland.
    Personally, at 105kg, I’m looking to hit anything over 200kg each for my squat and deadlift.
    Lower back is a weak point as well as hams so looking at good mornings and lunges as my extra exercises.
    My main question is, how long should we look at following this type of routine, when preparing for a comp i.e 5 weeks out, similar to Sheiko comp prep.
    Thanks for your time in this matter. :)

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      You can follow this template up until 1 week out from the competition. Westside (and I) use it year round.

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  • david hayes

    I’m in my forties I have just started going to the gym this year. My Chiropractor is completely against squats and deadlifts from his professional perspective. I tried dead lifts for the one and only time, keeping it conservative, I pulled my back out. My lower back is my ‘weak area’. Should I ever attempt these exercises again, or can you suggest alternatives that would do the same work for a MAX effort. I currently use Bench Bridge with a DB weight, and walking lunge holding DBs

    • david hayes2

      this is just too lol

  • Marcus

    Just wanted to say great article, had questions but was answered through other post. I actually have Louie’s book, “Vault” but as a condensed version it was very well written.

  • Brian

    Thanks for the great info…2 question please.

    On ME Bench days…. apx how many sets should you being doing to work up to a 1RM? I am a low 400s bencher raw only wrist wraps. Been stuck there for a long time (I’m 36, 5’9″, 194#) After working up to a 1RM should I drop down back to say 315 and do a few sets of reps? 315 seems to be a good working weight for me. Ive done it for 12-15 reps but for some reason can’t blow past this rut of 420-30 I’ve been in for almost a year.

    Thanks so much

  • Dozerbeatz

    From this Article, “I’ve made the executive decision to stress the importance of
    accommodating resistance but exclude explicit directions on how to use
    them. You can be sure a future article will cover this topic in detail.”. Question: Was an article on accommodating resistance ever written?

  • Jake West

    Great read mate, I’ve been playing around other

  • Frank

    Will this program help someone focused on increasing vertical jump for basketball? And also at a bw of 185 with 1rm squat 255 bench 210 is there a certain benchmark for strength that needs to be met before beginning this program?

    • http://syattfitness.com/ Jordan Syatt

      Frank,

      Yes, this could help improve vertical jump if utilized correctly.

      No definitive strength bench marks. More concerned with making sure you’re using proper technique on all lifts.

  • Greg

    Hey, great looking template&. What should I use for my 1rm? For example week 1 max effort squat is narrow stance then dynamic is wide stance. Should I use my actual squat max oir the dynamic day or use the max obtained on the week 1 max effort squat?

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  • Questioner Man

    Do I deadlift AND squat on Max Effort Lower Body? or do I just deadlift on one day and squat next week?

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  • jake

    if this was purely for someone trying to increase their speed and strength (athleticism) what accessory exercises would one choose?