Conjugate Method Powerlifting
First, let me say that I am not an expert on the conjugate method. With all due respect, this way of strength training is well-known by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. My reason for writing this article is to reflect and share some of the insights into what I have learned from applying the conjugate method for my powerlifting training 16 weeks ago.
I have always been intrigued to learn more about how the best in the world train. So, I reached out to a member named Burley Hawk that had posted about conjugate training programs for sale, and I decided that now is the perfect time to learn and see what it’s all about. Then, I took it a step further and purchased the ‘Book of Methods by Louie Simmons’ along with a few other manuals and DVD’s.
My understanding of conjugate training is that it’s a complex method of building up several areas of strength, speed, conditioning, and muscle mass at the same time. By rotating exercises that benefit your competition lifts, you’re able to consistently train at optimum intensities all year long without stagnated or regressed progress.
The key is to never become adapted to your training, you hardly ever are doing the same exact main strength training movement more than 1 week in a row. This allows you to max out on a different lift each week, and it’s designed to build your weaknesses while making your strengths stronger. Optimal training volume is calculated for the main lifts based off of Prilepin’s Chart.
Max Effort Method
On this training day you will select a lift and go for a new personal record; that takes maximum effort to complete. You typically will select a variation of the main lift you’re trying to improve. Every week you will change this lift to avoid accommodation. When you train the same lift at 90% and above for more than 3-weeks you can fry your central nervous system(CNS) to the point of reversing your progress. By doing a different max effort movement each week you can train maximally all year round.
The question you should ask yourself is, do you want to be strong at only one lift or do you want to be strong and prepared for any lift. Through max effort training you will learn to build-up all areas of your lifts through accessory exercises, kind of like bodybuilding. ‘You are only as strong as your weakest link’.
Dynamic Effort Method
On this training day the purpose is to produce speed through mechanically disadvantaged positions. So, basically what this means is that in the start/ beginning of the concentric phase of the movement the load is going to be lighter allowing you to produce speed into heavier loads with the goal of becoming more explosive/ faster to eliminate sticking points.
Furthermore, this allows you to get stronger sub-maximally in multiple areas of the lift through learning how to accelerate through the hardest part of the lift. By producing enough force you will blast through the most disadvantaged spot in the lift.
The dynamic effort method runs in 3-week waves using accommodating resistance(bands, chains) most of the time. Using accommodating resistance helps to build great stretch reflex abilities and also causes you to produce more force until the completion of the lift.
This is roughly 80% of your training. After your main lifts on max effort/ dynamic effort days you will do a bunch of complimentary exercises with higher volume to strengthen your weakest areas of the main lift to get bigger, stronger, and faster.
This is the bread and butter of the program. The idea is that you can’t get better at a lift by only doing that lift; you need to build the muscles that will allow you to become stronger so that you can improve and progress on that lift. Having proper technique on your main lifts are great, but it’s just as important to get stronger so that you can use that technique on maximal loads.
When you overdo the volume on the main lifts what can end up happening is that you can create bad lifting habits and reinforce poor form resulting in possible injury. So, it is better to attack your weak areas with accessory exercises that will reinforce the muscle groups responsible for keeping you in the most optimal position during max lifts and also being able to help you recover from getting out of a bad position during the lift if necessary.
General Physical Preparedness(GPP)
This is a fancy term for being in good enough condition to perform what is required to progress. Building your work capacity is key to getting through your training in a reasonable amount of time. You should not have to take extended rest periods to go from set-to-set or one exercise to the other.
Also, this will help you to recover faster allowing you to get in higher dense quality training from your workouts. These extra workouts generally will proceed the following main lifting day and be a fast-moving light workout lasting under 20 min. You do not want to over do these small workouts. Typical exercises for this include: sled pulls, kettlebells, weighted walks, jumps, banded work, and recovery stuff like: swimming, massage, sauna, etc.
Never Adapt to Your Training!
You need to keep the body guessing by finding different ways to train optimally to improve your absolute strength. If you keep doing the same thing in training all the time, you are possible holding yourself back from greater all-around progress. When you become adapted to your training by doing the same exercises over-and-over for the same sets/ reps/ loads it can negatively affect your potential.
I’m not claiming to know it all and there is still a lot for me to learn. I believe you should never stop learning if you want to be the best you can at something, and that’s what I intend to do. In my opinion the conjugate system is the best way to improve all aspects of athleticism for strength sports and alike.
Over the last 16-weeks I have improved each of my lifts(squat, bench, deadlift) max by at least 5-10lbs. That may not seem like a lot, but if this cycle repeats as I plan it to, I will be making strength gains on my main lifts 3-4 times a year. This could be anywhere from 15-20 lbs per lift yearly. Gaining strength is a process and the best way to gain strength requires having a solid plan to help understand what’s required. This comes from learning and experience.
In closing, there is a ton more of critical information on the conjugate method. This was a very general overview of the structure of this methodology. The conjugate method applies all of the recognized training principles making it an effective training program for anyone from novice to elite.
If you’re interested to learn more I recommend you pick up a copy of the ‘Book of Methods by Louie Simmons’, it’s the real deal and is full of great information to get you stronger. Although, the conjugate method is most known for powerlifting, it can be applied to all sports training and tactical fields.
Check out these other great books to further your knowledge:
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.
Don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent squat.-Louie Simmons
References: Book of Methods by Louie Simmons