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The Magic of Conjugate Training

Ladies and gentlemen this is hardcore powerlifting legend Louie Simmons:

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And this is yogi (my word, not hers) Tracy Sousa:

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What do these two have in common? Incredible results via the magic of conjugate programming. Allow me to explain…

Louie Simmons developed a strength and condition system known commonly as the Westside Method which he based on his research into the Russian Conjugate Training System and accompanying sports science. With this methodology he’s developed and trained numerous world record holding powerlifters, world champions in a variety of sports, Olympians and more professional athletes than I can count.

The underlying idea of the Russian Conjugate System and the Westside Method which it inspired is relatively simple. Both of these incredibly effective training protocols are centered on the theory that you can train multiple physical systems within the same training cycle or training program and not only improve these different systems at the same time but increase them faster than you could training them in isolation because of the synergistic effects of the multiple aspects of the program.

Let me break that down a little bit more if this is your first time being introduced to these ideas:

Conventional training protocols will have a “strength” phase, a “speed” phase and a “bodybuilding” phase where you spend time focusing on one of these aspects and then try to maintain those results as you shift your focus to the next and so on.

Within the Westside Method you’ll have aspects of your training that focus on each of these aspects within the overall training cycle as well as the same training week - sometimes even the same training session. This allows you to continually push each aspect forward without the down time of putting them on the back burner and as I said before, this has the ability to accelerate your results due to the synergy of the training stress and how your body responds to it. This allows the athletes and powerlifters at Westside to get stronger, more explosive and more muscular year round as opposed to during certain periods in their training where they’re focused on each.

So how does this relate to Tracy?

Tracy has, intuitively, come to her own conjugate training mix. Her training cycles include a variety of different stressors including things like muay thai, weight lifting, spinning, calisthenics and, of course, yoga. This mix has allowed her to develop a variety of attributes, simultaneously, and (due to the synergistic effects I keep mentioning) achieve results in areas she’s not specifically focused on. Like what you might ask? Trace recently started running and set out her first day to run for 30 minutes on a local track.

How did she do her first day running for 30 minutes, EVER?

She ended up running just over 5.5km.

5.5km

Now for those of you that run 5.5km in 30 minutes isn’t going to blow you away but for someone’s first time out that’s a huge feat!

Clearly she didn’t develop the capacity to do this through running so… what happened?

Very simply, the results of a conjugate program happened. Westside Barbell might use the conjugate plan to create the biggest, strongest people they can and Tracy might use it to create the most well rounded fitness she can but regardless of their aim the principles remain. So, how can you apply this to your own training? The key(s) are two-fold, the first thing you need to keep in mind is that not only can you train for multiple things at once but by doing so, when you do it correctly, you can actually achieve each faster than if you just focused on one. The second thing is that for a conjugate program to be effective you’ve got to nail down the essential, best, bang for your buck movements and exercises and make sure those are what you’re spending your time on. Westside does this by identifying their weaknesses and making sure their program is built around tackling them as directly as possible. Tracy, as a yogi, does this by listening to her body and paying attention to what she feels she needs. Whatever way you happen to approach it is going to be up to you but whether you decide to model yourself off of the Westside way or the Yogi way the conjugate system results speak for themselves. ,

Craig Bongelli