Health & Wellness Blog

Programming During the Open

The Conjugate Method Influence

Whilst the CrossFit open is on we have decided the best approach to keep our athletes injury free, maintain or increase strength and manage the met con so you’re “fresh” come Saturday for the Open WOD each week, is for our programming to have a Conjugate Method influence (tailored to CrossFit)


Here’s Why

The Conjugate Method was developed by world renowned strength coach, “the Godfather” of powerlifting and founder of Westside Barbell, Louie Simmons. Westside Barbell has turned out the strongest athletes the world has ever seen.

The Conjugate Method focuses primarily upon strength development but also places much importance and emphasis on form perfection and force/power development- something which a lot of  programs can overlook.

The Conjugate Method is based around a basic 4 day schedule. It focuses on three main abilities: Maximum Effort (think heavy), Dynamic Effort and Explosiveness (maximum velocity). These three abilities work together to develop a staggering functional strength.

By training your Dynamic Effort and Explosiveness means that speed is developed alongside strength. As weights get heavier, the force of gravity has a greater effect and the weights move more slowly. So, to lift big, you need to be FAST.

Another benefit of the Conjugate system is that 80% of the program volume is made up by the ACCESSORY exercises. These accessory exercises train the muscles which support the main lifts (bench, deadlift, squat). Strengthening the muscles that support the primary movers in the main lifts actually helps you get stronger at the main lifts.

Perhaps the most revolutionary concept of the Conjugate Method is that a different variation of the squat, deadlift and press is trained each week. Doing the EXACT same movement, heavily loaded, is likely to induce Central Nervous System (CNS) fatigue and lead to diminishing returns in the gym. Changing the stimulation provided, even slightly (i.e. front squat as an alternative to the back squat) is very effective at staving off CNS fatigue so you can experience optimal gains.

Tailoring to Conjugate to CrossFit 

CrossFit brought to our attention the importance of working on all of the 10 General Physical Skills in order to achieve an overall fitness. It stresses the importance of variation as a tool to keep the body guessing and to force it to adapt in many different ways. For the most part this is great, but some coaches take the ‘Constantly Varied’ mantra to another level- randomly picking WODs out of thin air for their athletes and failing to periodise their strength training. Ultimately, this leads to training plateaus, overtraining and injury.

CrossFit is also famous for popularising METABOLIC CONDITIONING workouts. Trainees really enjoy this kind of training- it feels you leaving absolutely flogged and it just doesn’t compare in terms of intensity to any other kind of workout you can do. It’s important the metcon component is managed and not over done. Don’t get me wrong- this produces phenomenal results in the short term- but training at such a high intensity so often just ends up frying people’s adrenals, causing their glands to secrete excess cortisol. This, in the long term, does nothing more than leave them stressed, tired and injured.

When it comes to advanced metabolic conditioning, less is truly more- this is the philosophy which underpins the conditioning element of our AZ method of sustainable balanced fitness. Particularly while the Open is on we want you fresh for Saturday mornings when we give the Open WOD a crack each week.

As always our programming has an intelligently structured strength program design whilst also providing constantly changing stimulus (constantly varied) to the body through exercise variations and the incorporation of metabolic conditioning workouts to deliver an optimal level of all round fitness encompassing the 10 General Physical Skills.

Our belief is improving strength should always be the priority, in doing so will provide you with the greatest opportunity to improve every other component of fitness.

Program Outline

 4-day schedule

Day 1: Dynamic Effort Press (DEP)

Day 2: Max Effort Squat (MES)
Day 3: Max Effort Press (MEP)

Day 4: Dynamic Effort Squat/Deadlift (DES)

This will be the foundation for 4 days throughout the week, as always 6 days will be programmed.

This format increases speed – As weights get heavier, they get slower due to gravity. You need to be fast to be strong.

Another reason this method involves speed is to perfect technique, you perfect technique over multiple sets with a lighter weight.

The program incorporates a lot of accessory work, this is because if you do too much volume on the big 3 lifts the weakest link in the chain will fail, often the lower back.

For this reason 80% of the program volume is focused on the accessory exercises and the press, squat and deadlift makes up the remaining 20%. This prevents you from getting injured and ensuring adequate recovery to maximize results.

It is important to use a variety of movements from the table of exercises for each lift. If you use just one exercise you’ll eventually master it and won’t improve.

Changing the exercises keeps the body guessing requiring it to adapt, this is the key to achieving significant results. You must switch up the exercises to avoid the law of accommodation.

This concept of variation is where the Conjugate System often confuses people. It is an important piece of the program to understand though to avoid the law of accommodation it is absolutely crucial to constantly vary the stimulus being placed upon the body. This is why there is a different variation to the squat, deadlift and press each week without overloading the central nervous system

By focusing on perfecting your form, then working on your weaknesses so you don’t get hurt, allows you to bring out your strengths to reach your full potential.

Conjugate Format

Max Effort Squat (MES): One day per week is dedicated to Maximal Effort training for the Squat. On this day you will perform a Squat variation and work up to a 1-5 repetition maximum (1-5 RM). Always have at least 3 warm up sets before your working set. After you have successfully completed your working set you then complete a set at 80% for AMRAP

Max Effort Press (MEP): One day per week is dedicated to Maximal Effort training for the Press. On this day you will perform a press variation and work up to a 1-5 repetition maximum (1-5 RM). Always have at least 3 warm up sets before your working set. After you have successfully completed your working set you then complete a set at 60%-80% AMRAP

Note: Traditional Conjugate Method is Max effort bench (MEB). Due to being a modified version of the conjugate method more specific to CF we will be doing any sort of press variation.

Dynamic Effort Squat/Deadlift (DES): One day per week is dedicated to Dynamic Effort training for the squat and deadlift. You will perform a squat variation followed by a deadlift variation. The weight is in range of 50-60% for 10-15 sets of 3 reps with as much force as possible.

Dynamic Effort Press: One day per week is dedicated to Dynamic Effort training for the Press. The weight is in range of 50-60% for 10-15 sets of 3 reps with as much force as possible.

Accessory Work: Following completion of the Main Move the focus is on improving your common weaknesses through the use of specific exercises.

Again to be more specific to CrossFit some days throughout the phase our accessory work will be skill development in gymnastics and weightlifting.

Accessory exercises will be programmed, what we’d love to see as coaches is see you implement some accessory work where time permits before or after class to strengthen your individual weaknesses with accessory exercises specific to you. The best way to establish your weaknesses is find what you least enjoy and challenges you most and more than likely it will be your weakness.

The accessory exercises not to be avoided are the ones targeting the glutes, hamstrings, lower back erectors and abdominals.

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 you to incorporate more variations into your training while simultaneously targeting specific weak-points.

For the more experienced athletes we will be using these methods throughout the phase.

 As Always Remember Technique is King

Our focus is to have flawless technique all the time, technique must be impeccable before we implement the intensity.

Our sole focus is not on quantity, this leads to a sacrifice in the quality of the movement.


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