Sunday, July 9, 2017

How I run the Concurrent (Westside) Training System and Why

Over the last four months I have seen more progress on my lifts than in the last few years (Getting married, running a store, and working two jobs for awhile had an affect on that as well) by running my version of the conjugate program. I've been following a lot of the principles that I've learned over the last eight or so years, and it's been paying off rather well. First we'll explain the principles of the method, and then I'll dive in to how I have applied it for awesome gains! (If you're just looking for a program, hop to the end)

The Conjugate Training system works off of some principles that I'll list out for you:
  • Train multiple factors concurrently (together).
  • You have to train heavy to get stronger.
  • You have to train for Rate of Force Development (Acceleration) to move more weight more quickly.
  • You have to have volume to add mass so that you can use that added mass to move more weight.
  • You need to have great work capacity to put all of that together to make gains.
  • You have to rotate exercises so that you do not get stale or burn out.

Training Heavy
To get stronger you have to move heavy weight. Pure and simple, there's no way around that. When we're talking about heavy weight, we are talking at least 90% of your maximum. You need to get at least a certain amount of volume in the 90% range. This is called Max Effort lifts. You have max effort lifts that you use to strengthen the competition lifts. This means that if you're a powerlifter your max effort lifts revolve around Deadlifts, Squats, and Bench Presses. We're going to be going over the best of the max effort lifts for the powerlifting lifts in more detail in future articles, so stay tuned.

  • Work up to 90%+
  • Do 4-8 reps in this range
  • Rotate between 4-8 lifts, using up to 3 weeks per variation

Builder Lifts
Your max effort lifts are followed by builder lifts, that are also done heavy, but not quite as heavy and are done for slightly more volume. These lifts are very close to your max effort lifts, or could be suitable for max effort lifts. These are movements that you know will help improve your Max Effort lifts. You do these for three to five sets of three to five reps, depending on your work capacity and how you choose to apply volume

Training Rate of Force Devolopment (Dynamic Effort Training)
Your ability to move the bar quickly affects the amount of energy necessary to complete the lift. The faster you accelerate the bar, the further you can move your sticking point, meaning that if you accelerate the bar quickly enough you can move the part where the bar slows and you have to struggle. If you move the bar slowly, you will consequently have to struggle under the bar for longer, causing you use more energy, and to have more time for something to go wrong. Training ROFD is done between 40-60% of your max, and can, but doesn't necessarily have to have accommodating resistance. The advantage of accommodating resistance being that you will accelerate through the entire lift, rather than slowing down while approaching lockout. This is usually done using 8-9 sets of 3 or 12 sets of 2. This is also a very good way to get volume at a lower percentage of your maximum.

  • 40-60% range, start lower and ensure that you are using max acceleration on every single rep.
  • 12x2 or 8-9x3
  • Rotate between 4-8 lifts, using up to 3 weeks per variation
Repetition Method (Adding Mass)
At some point in your training you'll hit the spot where you've maxed out ROFD and you've maxed your nervous system function and you'll have to change another factor to continue to improve. This is where the Repetition Method comes in. You train volume for adding mass, which give you more of a ceiling for strength. This is done by doing 3-5 sets of 8-12 with movements that will build muscle around the areas that will strengthen your lift. This can be done by specifically targeting weak points, but for most out there, you'll need to add mass everywhere. 
  • 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps for 1-3 muscle groups that will improve your max effort lifts.
  • Target weak points if you have glaring weak points, if not then add mass everywhere.
  • Feel the muscles working, this is about adding mass, not about training movements.
  • Use these movements until they become stale, but these don't need to be rotated nearly as often.
If you want to train hard, and get the most out of your training you have to build up the capacity to put in work. I have harped on this more than once in the past and I will probably continue to do so for many years to come. You can't walk if you can't crawl, and you can't run if you can't walk. The same goes for your training volume. You aren't going to use a sufficient amount of training volume if you're out of shape and you don't have any work capacity. The best way to improve your week capacity is through pushing or pulling the sled, complexes, carries or a combination. The reason for the sled work and carries is because they improve your work capacity, but they don't tax your recovery all that much because they lack the eccentric portion of the movement. Hitting the sled on days you don't do main work can do wonders for improving your ability to train. The same can be said of complexes, but for a different reason: they aren't taxing on recovery because they don't use enough weight to cause a lot of systemic stress.
  • Make use of "extra" workouts for conditioning.
  • HIIT training with sleds and complexes are great for this.
  • Carries are also great for this.
  • Gradually increase volume so that you can get acclimated to higher work loads.

Farmer's Carries

Rotating Exercises
If you do the same movement for awhile then two things happen: you burn out, or you get stale and stop improving. Due to this, it's important to rotate your main movements. If you're a relative beginner then rotating less often is ok, but if you're more advanced rotate lifts every 1-3 weeks.

  • Rotate every 1-3 weeks to avoid staleness
  • Avoid seeing the same movement for at least 8-12 weeks.
  • Try to switch movements the week that the movement would go stale.
Putting it Into a Program
So here's the fun part: making the program. This is the template I have been using to great effect. It has 4 days per week and has two max effort days and two dynamic effort days that are staggered as upper and lower or Bench and Squat/Deadlift, depending on what your Max effort lifts are. This leaves room for 1-2 "Extra" days in between for work capacity training.

Day 1 Max Effort Bench

  • Max Effort Bench Varation up to 90%+ single, drop down to a triple.
  • Builder exercise for 3-5x3-5
  • Repetition Upper Back 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Chest work 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Biceps 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Triceps 3-5x8-12
A quick note on repetition work: I like to start at 3 sets and add a set per week until I can no longer do so, then switch to new movements and back at 3 sets. This allows for accumulation of a lot of volume and a built in volume deload.

Day 2 Dynamic Effort Squat/Deadlift
  • Dynamic effort Squat Variation 40-60% for 6-12 sets of 3
  • Dynamic effort Deadlift Variation 40-60% for 6-12 sets of 2
  • Repetition Quadriceps work 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Single Leg Work 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Calf Work 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Ab Work 3-5x8-12
A quick note on Dynamic effort work: I like to use a variation for both squats and deadlifts for lower body, this allows for more volume in regards to both lifts, which for the deadlift is especially important because it's hard to train the deadlift heavy and with requisite frequency. With the upper body, which you'll see, I use both a bench press and an overhead press variation because it's built in shoulder training, and because I find that bench pressing is almost always helped by overhead pressing. This isn't necessary however, so you can most certainly remove it if that doesn't fit with your goals.

Day 3 Dynamic Effort Bench
  • Dynamic effort Bench Variation 40-60% for 8-9 sets of 3 (You can also use plyometric variations of push ups, if you'd like)
  • Dynamic effort Overhead Press Variation 6-12 sets of 3
  • Repetition Horizontal Upper Back Work 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Vertical Upper Back Work 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Biceps Work 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Triceps Work 3-5x8-12
Day 4 Max Effort Squats/Deadlifts 
  • Max Effort Squat/Deadlift Variation up to 90%+, drop down to a triple
  • Builder Deadlift/Squat variation 3-5x3-5 
  • Repetition Hip Dominant Hamstrings 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Knee Dominant Hamstrings 3-5x8-12
  • Repetition Abs 3-5x8-12
In Closing
In the next few weeks we'll be going over some of the best max effort, dynamic effort, and repetition effort movements for each of the lifts. Let us know in the comments if you'd like for us to go over Overhead Pressing variants!

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