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Part 2-How to Create a Conjugate (Concurrent) Training System (Method) for Track and Field Athletes

This blog post and video that accompanies it took a little bit of a turn in the middle of shooting. Originally I wanted this to be a video talking about the "standard" template that was used and written about back in the mid to late 2000's. It ended up being a video and blog about what the conjugate method is...and what it is not.

Here's the problem. After posting last week's blog and video, a lot of coaches reached out to me with questions. Many of the coaches in one way or another started giving their doubts about a conjugate program and reasons why it wouldn't work for them at their school.

The reasons were all a little different but all came back to the fact that the coaches did not have the time to do a conjugate program and did not have the equipment to do a conjugate program.

Conjugate programming, like any method out there, is not about the exercises that you choose or the equipment that you use. Truth be told you can do a conjugate program in the most basic of weight rooms and still see fantastic results. Saying conjugate programming is all bands and chains would be like saying Crossfit is all kipping pull ups and Olympic style weightlifting.

Or that bodybuilding is just curls and steroids.

Or that strongmen are just big fat guys that carry heavy things.

Nope, nope, and nope!

Lifters at Westside Barbell deadlift. Athletes at my gym deadlift. Bodybuilders deadlift. Strongmen deadlift. Crossfit athletes deadlift. Athletes in your high school gym deadlift. Moms at early morning boot camps all across the country deadlift. Dads in commercial gyms all around the country deadlift. Does that make everyone who deadlifts a powerlifter just because one of the three events at a powerlifting meet is a deadlift? Nope. Not even close. Just because you do the conjugate method doesn't mean all you do is box squat with bands and chains for a one rep max every day either.

Don't assume certain things just because you've seen a few articles online or watched a YouTube video from 10 years ago you know what the conjugate method is or isn't. The exercises do not make the method.

Check out the video below to find out some of the misconceptions about a conjugate system of training and what the conjugate method is really all about.

In addition to the video above and what the conjugate system is not, there are some things that the conjugate system actually is. Check out a list of things below that makes a conjugate system a conjugate (or concurrent) method of training.

  1. Easily adjusted and tweaked to fit your team and your season.

  2. A system/skeleton/backbone/template that allows you to select exercises to fit the level of the athlete you are working with and exercises that will improve what the athletes needs to work on the most.

  3. Broken up into a 4 day split of heavy weight to build strength, lighter weight to build speed, and medium weight for higher reps to build muscle and size. Not all 4 days need to be done in the weight room!

  4. Max Effort Method - Typically broken up into a lower body day and an upper body day (2 days per week), the max effort method teaches the athlete to strain under load. Intensity, strain, "heavy" or challenging workouts are going to be different for athletes based on their experience and strength. A freshman girl with no weight training experience may find a set of 10 squats with an empty bar challenging where a senior guy who squats over 400 pounds might find a set of 3 with 350 pounds challenging.

  5. Dynamic Effort Method - Also typically broken up into a lower body day and an upper body day (2 days per week), the dynamic effort method teaches athletes to move a light weight very fast. The goal on dynamic effort days is to take a very small percentage of the athletes max effort exercises (whichever exercises you choose) and move the weight as fast and as explosively as possible. This teaches the body to move faster and be more explosive.

  6. Repetition Effort Method - Usually done as assistance and accessory exercises after max effort and dynamic effort days. The exercises that are chosen are specific to the athlete to help the athlete correct weakness in their lifts or in their events. If your athlete has a weak lower back and is prone to lower back fatigue and injury, you might prescribe a 45 degree back extension. Poor posture in the circle? Assign some upper back and shoulder work like face pulls or rear dumbbell flyes. Terrible core strength? Assign more leg raises and standing cable crunches. These exercises are usually higher repetition exercises with (relatively) lighter weight. The goal of the repetition effort method exercises that you choose for your athletes is to correct weakness, increase muscle size, and correct any imbalances.

So here is the plan moving forward trying to stick to the same schedule that I outlined last week:

  • 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.

Thanks for reading the blog and checking out the video. If you have any questions, please let me know. Stay tuned for video 3 next week covering Chad Wesley Smith and Dr. Mike Israetel's video critiquing the Westside Method.

-Coach Matt Ellis

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