That is a LONG title. Sorry about that.
If you've ever heard the joke "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!" you can apply it to the next few blog posts.
Today we are going to start devouring the conjugate method of training. And we are going to do so by taking very small bites. There is a lot to cover!
The conjugate method was really made famous by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell. The Westside Method as it is called, was first introduced to me at a National Throws Coaches Association meeting in Columbus, Ohio back in 2006. I had read a few things about Louie and Westside before this NTCA clinic and was extremely intrigued when I heard he was going to be speaking there. At the social that night after he spoke, I had the opportunity to sit around a table in the lobby of the Columbus Marriott with Louie, some of his lifters, and a few throws coaches to pick his brain and talk the conjugate system (and drink a few beers).
In fact, you can see video from that clinic (and the back of my head) in all of the videos by Toronto Barbell on YouTube. That's my 26 year old big Irish head covering the Marriott sign on the podium:
That Sunday after the clinic, we had the opportunity to go to Westside Barbell and get a "tour" of the facility by Louie and see what some of his Sunday morning crew was doing. It was eye opening, to say the least. Many of the other coaches who went were floored by what they were seeing. Others, as I soon discovered after we left, were extremely confused/perplexed/unsure/skeptical if that style of training would be good for throwers.
Remember, this was back in the day when functional movements were king, rubber bands with handles were all the rage, and because the glide started by balancing on one foot than all of your exercises in the weight room should be done balancing on one foot (I exaggerate, but those of us who were around "way back then" will remember what it was like). Something like a box squat out of a monolift with bands and a really wide stance looked nothing like a glide or a hammer turn, so that meant some coaches thought it was pointless.
Fast forward 11 years an a lot has changed. Westside Barbell and the (more generalized) conjugate system of training is a lot more well known. I am no longer working for the track and field company that was the major sponsor of the NTCA events. I now own my own garage gym training athletes full time, have coached some very successful throwers, and I have been developing a conjugate system for athletes (not the Westside Method, there is a difference). For the past 3+ years I have been testing it on myself, my trainers, and my top level college and high school throwers with fantastic results.
Today starts the journey of explaining to you how I have been able to take my own conjugate method of training, adapt it to off-season and in-season training for higher level college and high school athletes, and how you can use the same principles and methods to start using the conjugate method with your throwers.
Here we go. Grab a notebook and a pen. Take some notes. Hold on tight. This is going to be a bumpy ride.
Here are your steps. Watch the video above first, then start reading below. Below is a basic schedule and structure of what I am going to try and tackle over the next few weeks.
Next week, video 2 will be covering what makes a conjugate system a conjugate system. The ins and outs of max effort training, dynamic training, repetition effort, and dividing your athletes into (approximately) 3 groups so you aren't writing a custom conjugate program for every athlete you coach!
Videos 3, 4, and 5 (and maybe even 6...please help me!) will start going over Chad Wesley Smith and Dr. Mike Israetel's Critique of Westside YouTube video, taking the positives and negatives of the Westide Method they lay out in their video based on their book, explaining where I absolutely agree and (rarely) disagree with them, and how I was able to take these negatives about the Westside Method for raw powerlifters and filter them down into positives for throwers.
The last video (I hope) will then go into how to use a conjugate system for your athletes at your school, how to use it for your in-season training, and how to use it for your athletes as an off-season training method as well.
Again, how do you eat an elephant?
Stay tuned to see if I lose my mind. Hopefully I come out of this unscathed.
-Coach Matt Ellis