Some things never change, and when it comes to training, we’re grateful for that fact. new systems come and go constantly, with one self-styled guru after another screaming at you on TV that his latest system is way better than the last one he tried to sell you. Yet while we’re constantly in search of new and better ways to gain muscle and strength, there are some systems that need no rewriting—templates that have proven time and again to produce results. Four in particular have never fallen out of style, despite being far older than most of you reading this. they are: the conjugate system, linear periodization, undulating periodization, and 5x5.
In the following pages we’ve provided an overview of each, addressing their pros and cons with the help of M&F advisory board members John Meadows, a bodybuilder and trainer, and Jim Smith, a coach with nearly 20 years of experience as a strength athlete. Which of these systems best suits your goals and experience level? read up and then dive into a classic, regardless of its age. the human body is an adaptation machine, and if a method is brand new to your body, you can bet it’ll produce results.
The Conjugate System
Developed by Soviet sports scientists in the 1960s, the conjugate system seeks to develop multiple strength qualities simultaneously. The most famous example of it Stateside is the Westside Barbell template, a method of powerlifting pioneered by legendary competitor and coach Louie Simmons. This kind of conjugate training is broken into four lifting sessions per week: two upper-body days (bench press–focused) and two lower-body days (focused on the squat and deadlift). The upper and lower days are further split into max-effort and dynamic sessions. Max effort means working up to a one- to three-rep max, while dynamic means moving submaximal loads as fast as possible, often with bands and chains (accommodating resistance). Accessory lifts address weaknesses. For example, bodybuilding rep ranges should be used for a guy lacking size.
Who It’s For: Intermediate to advanced lifters.
Pros: It’s brutally effective. This system has produced some of the strongest lifters alive.
Cons: Bands and chains are hard to come by in commercial gyms. Workouts can be dangerous (since you’re working up to maxes) and difficult to recover from.
This system doesn’t just produce big lifts, but big muscles, too. “To me,
bodybuilders are really missing the boat on accommodating resistance,” Meadows says. “It’s a great way to build size, not just strength. You get maximum contractile tension. That’s a huge stimulus.”
Conjugate System Sample Template
by Westside certified trainer Jordan Syatt
Max-Effort Lower Body
WEEK 1: Low Box Squat;work up to 1RM
WEEK 2: Rack Pull fromlow pin; work up to 1RM
WEEK 3: High BoxSquat; work up to 1RM
Max-Effort Upper Body
WEEK 1: Two-board Bench Press; work up to 1RM
WEEK 2: Close-grip Bench Press; work up to 1RM
WEEK 3: Floor Press; work up to 1RM
Dynamic-Effort Lower Body
WEEK 1: Low Box Squat; 12x2 at 75% 1RM
WEEK 2: Low Box Squat; 12x2 at 80% 1RM
WEEK 3: Low Box Squat; 10x2 at 85% 1RM
Dynamic-Effort Upper Body
WEEK 1: Close-grip Bench Press; 9x3 at 50% 1RM
WEEK 2: Close-grip Bench Press; 9x3 at 50% 1RM
WEEK 3: Close-grip Bench Press; 9x3 at 50% 1RM