The conjugate training method is a weightlifting program that’s primarily designed to build strength. It’s sometimes referred to as the Westside-Barbell Conjugate Method or Westside’s Conjugate Method.
This advanced approach for athletes, bodybuilders, and weight lifters was developed by Louie Simmons, the owner of Westside Barbell Gym in Columbus, Ohio.
It helps build strength with a varied and individualized routine. Aside from building strength, it also aims to enhance muscular endurance and improve your weaker areas.
To fully maximize these benefits, you must consistently follow the correct structure of the training sessions. Read on to learn how to do the conjugate method, how it works, and what its main benefits are.
The conjugate method is a powerlifting training system that consists of variations on these exercises:
You do four training sessions each week, consisting of the following types of sessions:
- maximum effort upper body
- maximum effort lower body
- dynamic effort upper body
- dynamic effort lower body
This method also includes accessory exercises geared toward building strength in your weak areas.
These variations help keep boredom from creeping in and help you learn to challenge yourself in different ways.
Vary your exercise routines
The structure of the conjugate method helps people who want to build muscle and strength by utilizing a varied routine that emphasizes maximal strength and explosive training.
Changing up exercises allows you to constantly challenge yourself and work your body in different ways.
To vary your exercises, you can also use:
- specialty bars
Identify and work on weaknesses
The conjugate method also allows you to identify and work on building strength in your weaker areas.
This allows you to move past your limitations so you can constantly improve your fitness ability.
In addition to enhancing strength and muscle growth, the variations of the conjugate method also help develop:
Good for high blood pressure
The conjugate method may also be beneficial for people with high blood pressure.
When you do the conjugate method, you repeat the same movement patterns in slightly different ways.
It involves doing variations of the squat, deadlift, and bench press. This is paired with accessory training that’s geared toward highlighting and improving upon your weaker areas, as well as addressing injuries.
The workouts consist of maximum effort and dynamic effort sessions for your upper and lower body. You continually change up the variations of the main lift and accessory lifts, which prevents you from plateauing.
You can vary the main exercise by changing the width of your grip or stance. You can add different bands and chains to the bar for accommodating resistance.
To allow for recovery, wait 72 hours between maximum and dynamic effort sessions. All workouts will include four to six exercises.
Let’s take a closer look at what these workouts entail.
Maximal effort method
Each week, you’ll have two sessions of maximal effort. These workouts use maximum loads and resistance to build high-threshold fast-twitch muscle fibers.
To do a maximal effort workout:
- Begin with a bench press, squat, or deadlift variation as your main lift. This will make up 20 percent of your workout.
- The remainder of your workout will consist of accessory training for volume. These exercises will support the muscles used in the main lift.
- The goal is to reach a 1- to 3-repetition maximum. Make sure you’re able to do the lifts without a spotter and using proper form.
Keep in mind that your accessory training will depend upon your individual needs. These moves will help you to improve your overall strength and become proficient in your weaker areas.
Once you’ve moved on from a main move variation, don’t repeat it for 4 to 6 weeks. Here are some accessory exercises you can do for a maximum of 3 weeks.
Max effort bench press
- incline bench press
- chest supported T-bar row
- tricep skull crusher
- bicep hammer curl
Max effort squat
- partial box squat
- reverse hyper
- barbell rollout
- banded pull-through
- glute hamstring raise
Max effort deadlift
- snatch-grip deadlift
- stiff-leg deadlift
- leg extension
- lat pulldown
- single-leg Romanian deadlift
Dynamic effort method
Each week, you’ll have two dynamic effort sessions that activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers to build explosive power.
You’ll use maximum force for a submaximal weight, which allows your body to recruit motor units and fire muscles.
Each session, you can raise the percentage by 5 to 10 percent to get to a new max. You’ll do the exercises as quickly as possible while still using good form.
Do the main move variation for 3 consecutive weeks. Each week, you can increase the volume.
Dynamic effort bench press
- close-grip bench press
- dumbbell hammer curl
- dumbbell floor press
- bicep curl
- standing overhead press
Dynamic effort squat
- box squat
- dumbbell Romanian deadlift
- weighted straight-leg raise
- belt squat
- ab rollout
Dynamic effort deadlift
- block deadlift
- Romanian deadlift
- rack pull
- reverse hyper
- leg curl
The conjugate training technique offers many benefits in terms of strength, which is the main goal of the program.
It’s not designed for fat loss or to boost health or fitness ability, though you may still experience some of these benefits. Gaining strength is the main aim of the training system.
Research from a 2017 study points to the effectiveness of a maximum and dynamic effort training program in improving squat press performance.
In this small study, people who did this type of training for 8 weeks showed significant improvement to their one-repetition maximum squat, compared with people who followed their normal workout routine.
The conjugate method is a good option for athletes and coaches who want to create an individual program to target their exact requirements.
Focus on your needs
Changing up the exercises and choosing your accessory work helps strengthen your specific areas of weakness.
This can be much more effective than following a prescriptive program that doesn’t accommodate individual differences.
To get the most out of the conjugate method, try to observe the following diet and lifestyle guidelines.
To meet your fitness goals, follow a healthy eating plan that ensures you get enough calories. This may mean eating more frequently.
Fill your plate with foods containing healthy:
Choose foods that build muscular strength. Here are some foods to include:
- chicken breast
- pork tenderloin
- ground beef
- cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- fresh or dried fruit
- seeds, nuts, and nut butters
- fresh or steamed vegetables
Avoid foods that are:
In addition to following a nutritious diet and being consistent with your workouts, it’s important to follow a healthy lifestyle.
While you may be tempted to push yourself to your limits, it’s important to listen to your body and take a step back if you experience pain, fatigue, or any type of illness.
- Give yourself plenty of downtime so you can relax and rest.
- Make sure you’re sleeping 7 to 9 hours per night, if possible.
- Avoid overtraining, which can cause you to feel run down and may even lead to burnout.
- Give yourself time to do activities you enjoy, whether they’re physical, mental, or creative.
- Reduce stress levels with self-massage, guided meditation, or any activity that allows you to feel at ease.
The conjugate method is a good option for bodybuilders, athletes, and weightlifters who want to build strength, endurance, and muscle.
The variations in this workout plan allow for endless options to keep your practice fresh and exciting.
By working your body in different ways and making your weaker areas a priority, you’ll address your limitations and improve your performance.
Stay focused on your goals and consistent in your approach as you work to constantly challenge yourself.
If you experience any severe or long-lasting pain after doing the conjugate method, reach out to your doctor.