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Conjugate Training Program for Strength

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  1. #1
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    Conjugate Training Program for Strength






    The last few articles I've written for my blog have dealt with periodization and different ways to vary your training towards reaching a particular goal. For this article I was planning on explaining another form of periodization called “Conjugate” training, which in essence relies on combining different forms of training (or “biometers”) together – i.e. conjugating them.

    Where most other training methods gradually progress between the different biometers (hypertrophy, endurance, power, maximal strength, lactate threshold, conditioning...) conjugate training combines two or more of these disciplines into the same training cycle, or even the same training session!

    The logic behind this is simple – as you train one biometer at the expense of all the others, only that one biometer is going to improve while the others degrade. For the average gym rat this might not be a huge problem, but for an athlete or sports person who needs to have a good grounding in all these things or even switches between them during their event or sport it's not such a good way to train.

    Now I said I was planning on explaining conjugate periodization but I thought the best way to illustrate how this whole thing works would be to detail a program I recently completed with the goal of increasing my maximal strength on a few big lifts (Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Pullups). Hopefully this will show you what this form of training can do for you!


    The Basics of Strength
    Before we get onto the program itself, I'd better explain a little of the logic behind it's design. It occurred to me through reading articles in various journals, books, and websites (and this isn't my idea by any means!) that strength is comprised of three distinct components that would go on to form the basis of my program.


    Maximal Effort – This is your body's ability to recruit the largest possible number of muscle fibres in concert in order to bring about a single powerful contraction. More muscle fibres means more force potential which will move a greater load.

    Muscle Size (Hypertrophy) – The ability to contract a huge number of muscle fibres is obviously important to strength, so what if we increase the size of those fibres and the muscle itself? Bingo – more force production! The larger the cross sectional area, the more force you could potentially generate so long as your neural system is efficient enough to use it.

    Power – Power is defined as force over time. In terms of weight lifting, a powerful or “explosive” lift means your muscles generate force through a sudden quick contraction. For example, power cleans and jump squats are power movements as you contract your muscles suddenly and explosively in order to propel the weight through the range of motion in a manner you wouldn't otherwise be able to accomplish (dont believe me? Try cleaning slowly – it aint happening).


    So how do these three things relate to eachother and to increasing strength? Well, if you want to make a cake you wouldn't leave out the flour, or the icing, so if you want to build strength why would you leave out a critical component?

    The ability to generate maximal, momentary force using a greater amount of muscle will result in a larger load being moved. If you increase your muscle size, and then teach your body to efficiently use all the new muscle, and you are able to contract all that muscle in an instant – your overall strength will have increased. Its that simple.


    The Program
    The program itself lasted for eight weeks before a layoff of a week, and was comprised of three workouts a week. Depending on how I felt I managed to workout on consecutive days, but sometimes I left three days in between workouts. Judge how your body is responding, and adjust the frequency or volume accordingly.

    Each of the three workouts focused on a different biometer (Maximal Strength, Hypertrophy, Power) with each workout being of a very different structure to the others. Cardiovascular (low-moderate intensity), grip, and core work was performed at least two days a week on workout days, or at least once a week on a non-workout day.

    The two week training split was structured thusly:


    Hypertrophy (Lower Body Push + Upper Body Pull)

    Power (Fullbody)

    Maximal
    Strength (Lower Body Pull + Upper Body Push)


    Hypertrophy (Lower Body Pull + Upper Body Push)

    Power (Fullbody)

    Maximal
    Strength (Lower Body Push + Upper Body Pull)


    Hypertrophy
    The goal of the hypertrophy sessions was to increase muscular size through a substantial training volume, with a relatively low intensity so as not to interfere with the maximal strength workouts. In order to achieve this many sets of moderately low reps were performed at sub-maximal loads, as well as accessory work:

    x2 Compound Movements = 10x5 @ 75% 1RM
    x2 Isolation Movements = 1x12 @ 65% 1RM, 1x6 @ 80% 1RM


    Power
    The goal of the power day was to recruit as much skeletal muscle per rep as possible to train explosive power, speed, and maximum velocity. Olympic, plyometric, or kettlebell movements were performed over many sets with very low reps in order to ensure power output could be maintained throughout the session. Weight/load isn't important here:

    x2 Olympic/Plyometric/Kettlebell Movements = 6-12x1-3 @ Moderate Load


    Maximal Strength
    The goal of the maximal strength day was to drastically increase the training load in order to reach near-maximal intensity on large compound movements. Few sets were performed with low reps in order to keep intensity high and reduce the probability of injury. A focus was made on longer rest intervals to allow full recovery between sets:

    x4 Compound Movements = 3x3 @ 90% 1RM


    Variations + Tips
    In terms of accessory work (Cardiovascular, Grip, Core/Abs) I found Farmer's Walks fit in really well on the Power Day, as did intense circuit training.

    Core work I usually performed on the Maximal Strength Day, as it was already very warmed up from the heavy compound lifting.

    The accessory isolation work on the Hypertrophy day usually took the form of Shrugs (to help with heavy Deadlifting) and Curls (to strengthen the bicep tendons...again, heavy Deadlifting!).

    Once every few weeks, if you are feeling up to it, instead of performing 3x3 for all four movements on the Maximal Strength day choose one movement and work up to a new 1RM attempt with comprehensive warmup sets, and perform 2x3 on the other three movements at a reduced intensity (80-85%).

    Do not do this very often, as 1RM attempts are very stressful on your muscles, connective tissue, and nervous system and it's easy to overtrain. Train smart! In an eight week cycle you could test on week two, then test on week seven to gauge improvement on a lift or two. If one of your lifts has improved, chances are the others have aswell.


    Conclusion
    As you can see from the training plan, each day is completely different and I promise you that each session will make you an entirely different flavour of exhausted! Because you are training separate biometers each day, there is less “fatigue-crossover” between workouts than if you took a more traditional approach. Not only that, but this program stays very mentally fresh and each workout is a new and exciting challenge – put simply, its fun.

    It won't be easy but I saw fantastic strength gains, as have half a dozen other people who have adapted these principles to their own programming. I'd love to hear from anybody who completes the training, whether you saw results or not. This is one of the best programs I've ever tried, so if I can make it better for other people as well as myself then everybody wins!

    Train safe and I hope you enjoy it!

    -Gaz

    Strength, Dedication, Ambition: Conjugate Training Program for Strength
    http://www.getlifting.info

    Disclaimer: All health, fitness, diet, nutrition, anabolic steroid & supplement information posted here is intended for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice from a medical doctor. We do not condone the use of anabolic steroids (AAS), all information about AAS is for educational and entertainment purposes only. If you choose to use AAS it's your responsibility to know the laws of the country that you live in. Consult your physician or health care professional before performing any of the exercises, or following any diet, nutrition or supplement advice described on this website.

  2. #2
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    10x5? How long are the rests? And you have to do that twice in a day along with 2 other isolations? Sounds like a long hypertrophy day.
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    Rests are about 1:00, the weight is 75% 1rm so you should be able to get 10 reps with it usually.

    Its a lot of sets but you can blast through a session in about an hour. 10 mins for warmup, 30 mins for the 10x5 stuff, 10 mins for isolations, 10 mins stretching at the end. Roughly anyways, lol.
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    Gaz!

    MUAH! You're wonderful for doing this. I've been meaning to parse my way through conjugate for ages (too lazy) and you've now given me the "for dummies" version.

    Thanks!
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  5. #5
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    The semantics of all this stuff is annoying because it gets messed up depending on who you read.

    That is more of an example of daily undulating periodization. And not that it isn't bad - I use similar stuff a lot when I write. But, the conjugate method can be different depending on who you speak to. Louie's Simmons did it one day for westside BB, but it was not done in the true sense that someone like Verkhoshansky did (and Siff wrote about).

    Changing biomotor qualities between days can be okay up to a point. There comes a time when having a focus for each phase of training is critical and this is when you have to decide how much of one quality to emphasize and how little of another one to keep in the program - that is how the conjugate sequence would work. Focus on one thing and retain everything else. Rather than focus on everythign simultaneously (like the undulating approach you listed up there).

    The set up would be specific to the individual and what the goals are though.

    patrick
    Optimum Sports Performance

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    Quote Originally Posted by P-funk View Post
    The semantics of all this stuff is annoying because it gets messed up depending on who you read.

    That is more of an example of daily undulating periodization. And not that it isn't bad - I use similar stuff a lot when I write. But, the conjugate method can be different depending on who you speak to. Louie's Simmons did it one day for westside BB, but it was not done in the true sense that someone like Verkhoshansky did (and Siff wrote about).

    Changing biomotor qualities between days can be okay up to a point. There comes a time when having a focus for each phase of training is critical and this is when you have to decide how much of one quality to emphasize and how little of another one to keep in the program - that is how the conjugate sequence would work. Focus on one thing and retain everything else. Rather than focus on everythign simultaneously (like the undulating approach you listed up there).

    The set up would be specific to the individual and what the goals are though.

    patrick
    Would you say this is more undulating then? I know what you mean about that, i've read a lot of stuff about it and people seem to label certain things conjugate that are really different from eachother. I can definitely see a conjugated aspect and an undulating aspect to this program, haha.

    I thought it was similar to Westside in the power/strength/accessory biometer splitting, and i always thought that was a form of conjugated.

    How would you set up a more phase-oriented program with this? Like, how would you retain two of those three biometers and emphasise the one you want to focus on?
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Built View Post
    Gaz!

    MUAH! You're wonderful for doing this. I've been meaning to parse my way through conjugate for ages (too lazy) and you've now given me the "for dummies" version.

    Thanks!
    No problem! Glad i could help
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazhole View Post
    Would you say this is more undulating then? I know what you mean about that, i've read a lot of stuff about it and people seem to label certain things conjugate that are really different from eachother. I can definitely see a conjugated aspect and an undulating aspect to this program, haha.

    I thought it was similar to Westside in the power/strength/accessory biometer splitting, and i always thought that was a form of conjugated.

    How would you set up a more phase-oriented program with this? Like, how would you retain two of those three biometers and emphasise the one you want to focus on?
    That is a great question. I am currently writing up a blog article (probably be out next week) on understanding a theme.

    Basically, I have been writing programs for years for various levels of athletes and I have tried all the types of things you can think of - undulating (daily, weekly, bi-weekly), conjugate, westside, linear, 5x5, etc...You name it (just check out the program templates page on my site...lol).

    Anyway, the gist of the article is about understanding the theme. This is the best way I can explain how I write programs now.

    We have two these to think about:

    1) What is the theme of this training cylce (cycle can be anywhere from 2-weeks to 8 or 10-weeks in length)

    2) What is the theme of the day (what do I want to achieve that day)

    You can keep the same ideas you have above with regard to program design, you just need to modulate volume depending on what you want to get in each phase of training and depending on the theme of the day. For example, if the idea is to create max strength in a certain phase, then I would emphasize that to a great extent than the other qualities. If it is power that you want, then that would take a front seat with regard to training volume in comparrison to everything else.

    So, lets look at an example. Lets say for the first 6-weeks of training the goal is to develop work capacity and/or hypertrophy. We may choose to train 4 days a week - upper/lower - and have a small volume of strength and power work (first exercise of each training day either strength or power, but low volume) and then the rest of the training that day is moderate work - 6+ rep range.

    After that 6-weeks, we have accumulated some fitness (and fatigue) and it is time to try and get some strength. So, we go on a 6 week strength phase where we are lifting maybe 3-days a week (lower volume than the 4-day a week program, which is needed since the intensity will be higher). A template in that phase may look something like:

    Mon - low volume upper power/ Lower strength/low volume lower repetitive effort work
    Wed - low volume lower power/ Upper Strength/low volume upper repetitive effort work
    Fri - low volume total body strength work

    After that 6-week phase, we are now ready to try and develop our power to the most capacity and we may choose to use total body days with more plyos or olympic lifts, or we may try and use some complexes where a strength exercise is followed by a power exercise in super set fashion. This phase would be realitively short due to its high intensity and due to us trying to "peak" - so it may last 3 weeks.

    Most people aren't into getting into a power phase, so a simple idea would be to just modulate every 4-6 weeks between:

    - Upper/lower trainign with a higher emphasis on moderate reps
    - Total body training (three days a week) with a higher emphasis on lower reps and strength

    Patrick
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  9. #9
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    Undulating, is nice.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by P-funk View Post
    Awesomeness
    That makes a hell of a lot more sense now, really looking forward to that article! Thats a far more intuitive approach to this rather than focusing on everything at once.

    So what would you class as low volume for power work, taking that first phase as an example? Seeing as power work is naturally a low rep range anyways, would something like 3-4 sets of 1-2 reps be about right or too much?

    Strength work is easy to judge, but power not so much, lol.

    Thanks Patrick!
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  11. #11
    Patrick
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazhole View Post
    That makes a hell of a lot more sense now, really looking forward to that article! Thats a far more intuitive approach to this rather than focusing on everything at once.

    So what would you class as low volume for power work, taking that first phase as an example? Seeing as power work is naturally a low rep range anyways, would something like 3-4 sets of 1-2 reps be about right or too much?

    Strength work is easy to judge, but power not so much, lol.

    Thanks Patrick!
    Great question....

    This is going to definitely be specific to the individual and what they are trying to get from the training.

    If we are just talking about just lifting, 3-5 sets x 1-3 reps is fine for lifts and 3-4 sets x 5-10 reps is okay for plyos or med ball stuff. So, I may choose one exercise to do this on in the first phase - IE, jump squat and stick the landing (3x6), plyo push up (3x6), hang clean (5x2). I'd do a power exercise on 2 of the days (like a dynamic effort type of thing). When you move to the next phase, where you want to focus on power, I would have a few power exercises on each lifting day (training at higher volume) and a low volume a strength work. An example may be:

    1) Jump squat
    2) Hang Power Snatch
    3) Back squat (3x3)

    If it is an athlete, we may have more sprinting activities, speed, agility, and quickness stuff, or skill work in this phase at a higher volume, than in previous phases where the goal was to improve strength.

    Hope that makes sense.

    patrick
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    Quote Originally Posted by P-funk View Post
    Great question....
    Great answer, thankyou

    I really enjoyed doing a lot of power work over the summer, but i didn't work it into the program very well. I think i understand how to do that better now!
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  13. #13
    Patrick
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazhole View Post
    Great answer, thankyou

    I really enjoyed doing a lot of power work over the summer, but i didn't work it into the program very well. I think i understand how to do that better now!
    It is best to try and keep things simple. Most of these things apply more to athletes than they do to bodybuilders or the average joe in the gym, as they have many qualities to address, as well as technical work for their desired sport.

    In addition, most people are not advanced enough to really worry about this stuff in their training.

    Anyway, here is the article if you are still interested:

    The Training Theme — Patrick Ward, MS CSCS LMT


    patrick
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    Great article, Patrick!

    Different way of approaching program design than im used to, but thats definitely not a bad thing, looks really useful. Will have to implement this.
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    A few questions re your conjugate posting?






    Hypertrophy (Lower Body Push + Upper Body Pull)

    Power (Fullbody)

    Maximal
    Strength (Lower Body Pull + Upper Body Push)


    Hypertrophy (Lower Body Pull + Upper Body Push)

    Power (Fullbody)

    Maximal
    Strength (Lower Body Push + Upper Body Pull)


    Hypertrophy
    x2 Compound Movements = 10x5 @ 75% 1RM
    x2 Isolation Movements = 1x12 @ 65% 1RM, 1x6 @ 80% 1RM


    Maximal Strength
    x4 Compound Movements = 3x3 @ 90% 1RM

    Hi,
    Firstly Great routine and thankyou for taking the time to prepare - have a few questions for you?

    1. Can you please detail an example of the x2 compounds and x2 Iso's and how they are used in a workout and how they work togethor with Upper push and pull, lower push pull...its unclear how this works - perhaps a sample of a typical Hypertrophy day.

    2. On your MS day what is an example of your 4 compound exercises

    Regards

    IM

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