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Part 3-How to Create a Conjugate (Concurrent) Training System (Method) for Track and Field Athletes

Today starts the journey diving into the Critique of Westside video that was done by Chad Wesley Smith and Dr. Mike Israetel. This video came out about a year and a half ago. Essentially, this video (and the series of videos that followed it) takes a book written by Chad, Dr. Mike, and Dr. James Hoffman called the Scientific Principles of Strength Training and uses that book to critique some more famous training methods and programs out there.

Now, I really like this video. I know a lot of people probably think I would hate it because it says a few negative things about Westside's conjugate method but I agree with a lot of what is said.

In fact, when I decided to start training exclusively with the conjugate method about 3.5 years ago, I turned to the typical/usual/classic Westside conjugate template that was written about heavily in the mid to late 2000's. I explain this in the video below.

I quickly realized that the Westside method was helping me improve areas where I was already strong. As an athlete my whole life, 8 years of throwing shot put and discus, and 8 years of post collegiate training in commercial gyms following the typical hypertrophy bro-splits (even though I knew better) I was already very strong at the lockout of my lifts. The top part of the squat, the top part of the bench, and the top part of the deadlift. Things like box squats, board presses, floor presses, pin presses, rack pulls, block deadlifts, and bands and chains (on max effort days) just weren't helping me where I needed it the most.

I needed the most help in the hole during the squat, off the chest in the bench press, and off the floor with the deadlift. So I started researching more about the "more general" conjugate method (not the Westside method) and if it was a good to substitute things that were better for me and get rid of the classics like box squats, board presses, and rack pulls.

As it turns out, it was. And this is exactly, for the most part, what Chad and Dr. Mike are saying in this video.

In fact, on more than one occasion, they both say that you can adjust the Westside system to be a conjugate system that works for raw powerlifting, but getting rid of the classics would cease to make it Westside anymore. I 100% agree.

This is why when I tell people how I train I tell them I train using a conjugate method. Not the Westside method. Most of the time that's what they assume anyway and I have to explain it.

And that, I think, I ultimately what I want the purpose of this project to be. There are a lot of misconceptions out there that conjugate = Westside. Westside is the most famous and well known conjugate method out there. However, not all conjugate methods are Westside. Jeep is the most famous 4 wheel drive vehicle out there (I'm biased) but not all 4 wheel drive vehicles are Jeeps. I'd love for track and field coaches out there to understand the conjugate method better and not assume that when someone talks about conjugate that they automatically mean Westside.

Check out the video below where I explain the "typical" Westside conjugate method (the method Chad and Dr. Mike critique in their video) and discuss the first of their scientific principles, the principle of specificity.

Here are some big takeaways from the video when discussing specificity:

  1. What throwers/jumpers/sprinters do in the weight room is in no way specific to what we do in the circles, on the runways, and on the track. Not even close.

  2. The weight room is meant to get track athletes strong in a very general way. Building the base of strength that can be applied to more specific exercises that help our specific events.

  3. Regarding specificity, what the Westside method (and all good conjugate methods) does well is get the athlete using heavy weights, learning to strain, working very hard, and pushing themselves.

  4. For beginner and intermediate athletes, heavy max effort workouts could be bodyweight movements like push ups, light dumbbell and kettlebell exercises like goblet squats, or even working up into the 10-15 rep range. Heavy weight, stress, and working hard is all relative to the athlete.

  5. When selecting weight room exercises, use exercises that have the athlete working in a full range of motion with real weights. Box squats are a great teaching tool as long as the box is below parallel.

  6. Don't bother with accommodating resistance on max effort days. Younger athletes need practice with the barbell and real weights.

  7. Squats should be with a standard, athletic squat stance. This emphasizes the quads more when compared to a wide stance, hamstring and hip dominant high/parallel box squat.

  8. Using full range of motion on the bench press, adding in pause presses (pausing at the chest), adding dumbbell movements like incline dumbbell presses, and throwing in overhead presses will emphasize more chest and shoulder strength.

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

  • The next 3 videos will go over the other 7 scientific principles of strength that Chad, Dr. Mike, and Dr. James Hoffman wrote about in their book. .

  • The last video 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 4 next week covering the principle of overload, the principle of fatigue management, and the principle of SRA (stimulus, recovery, and adaptation).

-Coach Matt Ellis

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