Workout Tips

Classic Muscle Strength Programs Reviewed

We review four of the most influential and enduring muscle and strength programs that never fail to 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.

The Breakdown

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.

The Takeaway

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

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