Sunday, December 30, 2007

Conjugate Training

Chuck Volgepohl just pulled 836

This could be the most important principle that comes out of the WSB model. Some point to the Russians and Bulgarians as only using the basic lifts to improve their lifts and total but what many don't see is that many, if not most, who use the competition lifts only are built to do those lifts.Pavel refers to these guys as built like 'nesting dolls'.

Nesting dolls are a Russian toy that has one wood carved doll that fits exactly over the other. They come in different sizes(weight classes) but their proportions are exactly the same.Check out the Russian power or Olympic lifters and see what he means. Of course there are exceptions but most of these teams are picked specifically for bodytypes as these have been shown to be able to handle the training. Same with gymnastics.

If you have great natural levers for a specific lift you can gain very well by just using those lifts and cycling the loads.WSB was designed not for the natural gainer, but for those average persons who need a method for progressing once progress has stopped. Louie has very nicely answered the question: " how do you get stronger in a lift once you can't get stronger just by doing the lift itself?".The answer( at least one of them) is the conjugate method.
There are many ways to use this and many different applications.I still use this principle to this day although I no longer powerlift by making sure to work on all the aspects that I need to maintain structural integrity similtaneously.
Another great example of this is strongman training.Strongmen train a huge variety of unique lifts , for either very high loads (max efforts) or high reps to failure.they can ignore the classic powerlifts for a long time and come back and make great progress without actually working the specific lift itself.
My friend Pro Strongman Rob Muelenberg had the exact same experience.After training strongman for 8 months with NO specific power squatting he put on a suit and with no wraps squatted a PR 925 in a meet, up from 815!Now, of course, this is an advanced technque and beginners should steer clear of this until the specific motor pattern of the classic lift itself is laid down correctly. But even beginners can greatly benefit from a correct weak point analysis of their lifts and proper use of the conjugate method. Every one has weak and strong parts of a lift right from the start.Same with mobility/flexibility.If your weak point in the squat is your ability to get depth then you dont need more strength you need flexibility.
Chek's training order of progression is: flexibility, stability, strength, endurance, power. Of course if one is missing one aspect of this list entirely than that should be focused on specifically until one is qualified to work on the next level. But once basic levels are achieved they must be maintained and developed according to need and natural levels. For instance I don't have to worry much about maintaining strength as I have more than I need from my years of training so heavy and hard. I can slack off strength training per se for many moons and get it back quite quickly.
I can't, however, do the same thing with my mobility,stability and flexibility. So those have to not only stay in the mix all the time, they have to stay at the top of the list.Same with muscles. People LOVE to train their strong points and hate to train what's weak but that is exactly how one proceeds if not making progress is the goal. Natural strengths will require very little work. Weak points need to be hammered continually in order to come up at all, much less fast. And weak areas are the first to fall off once training diminishes or reduces in intensity.
For example, I have hardly done any upper body training in the last three years; mainly swings and snatches for my(much) weaker lower body. And yet, just after a month or so of upper body training with the clubs,my upper body is growing like a weed!If I took three years off lower body training I would hate to even guess how long it would take to get some strength and size back in my lower half!
The difference is if one is truly training to improve or just to get a good workout and do what is already strong in.
When one reaches their limit in a classic lift, be in a squat, or a press or a snatch, there is always one( at least)major muscle group that is holding you back. When you fail to stand up from a limit squat it is not the SQUAT that has failed but rather a specific muscle(s).Usually the lower back/abs. Same with a bench.It's not the bench that fails but weak lats or triceps or shoulders. And, as Louie loves to say, the muscle makes the groove. So if you push your bench press back to the rack instead of straight up it's pretty much a guarantee that your shoulders are stronger than your triceps.SO that means WAY more tricep training as well as working with lighter weights and closer grips to develop what's weak.Train what's weak and you become stronger.Train what's strong and stay where you are. Unless you are a super natural, then this isn't for you.
Here's two great articles on conjugate training. Must reads.
Conjugate training part one
Conjugate method part two


Petr said...

Very good read ! Thanks for it. I couldn't help but I noticed that conjugate method, as I understand it (with constant change of different attributes, exercises etc.), reminds me..well.. CrossFit (I don't understand westside methods so well but similarity is there). Always changing yet focused and only pseudo-random.

Mark Reifkind said...

you're welcome pete but I dont agree actually. crossfit is very random( as per wod) and weaknesses arent specifically attended to in a prioritized sense.with conjugate training strength take a back seat while weaknesses get priority.crossfit seems to try to develop all the key qualities that they attribute to gret fitness similtaneously but if you try to work everything equally hard then the weak points won't get enough stimulation or ,probably, recovery.

Kenneth Jay said...

well put Rif... :-)

Petr said...

Riff I certainly don't want compare and argue. You are much more knowledge about subject than I'm.

But be sure that randomness in CrossFit is not that random (there is a pattern) and also, after some time, you have to (you should) tweak WOD's posted on the web or create your own as sooner or later you realize that need to work more on strength or on some other aspect of fitness because posted WOD are well not focused on yourself :o) and weaknesses of your own body.

But then again those were only ideas flowing thought my mind after reading your article. Improving in something without directly working on it.

Happy New Year.

Mark Reifkind said...

I know what you are getting at pete but crossfit is very different in many ways from conjugate training from a wsb perspective.
the point is that it is impossible to similtaneously improve multiple strength or endurance qualities as recovery levels are so limited.
I'm sure one could tweak crossfit to accomplish that I just didnt think that kind of specialization was part of their philosophy.
Have a happy new year!

Mark Reifkind said...

and I do hear what you are saying about improving abilities without directly training them. I bet crossfit does get a lot of that carryover.

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks kenneth.
ps I aint gonna even think about 80 sets of snatches. no way no how.that's crazy,lol.even for me.

Chris said...

That was a really well written and thought provoking post Rif. Thanks for all your writings (and the DVD) in the past year. I've learned a lot and enjoyed the process!

All the best to you and your family for 2008!


Mark Reifkind said...

thanks chris. I really like the blog format as it allows me to get across many different ideas and thoughts so easily. glad you are getting something from them.happy new year and thanks for commenting. it is appreciated.

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