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Dan Kim
11-14-2012, 09:36 AM
hey guys, I'm new to the forums and I wanted to ask about conjugate crossfit. I've heard great things about it and I want to give it a try. does anyone know where to find a copy besides the crossfit journal? or does anyone recommend any other strength programs? I've been crossfiting for about 6 months now and want to do strength training twice a week.

any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
thanks :clap:

ThomasG
11-14-2012, 09:53 AM
Chris Mason the owner of this board wrote that article. Maybe he will share it with us?

chris mason
11-15-2012, 05:15 PM
I'll put it up here soon.

RFabsik
11-17-2012, 11:10 PM
Chris has been giving a lot of help/advice on the CF Board. I would say the trend for most, unless your strength numbers are really high, is to focus on a base strength program typically 3-4 days a week, which would work well with a conjuagate/Westside program. Then to that do 2-3 metcons a week. Typically picking shorter metcons most of the time.

2 reasons for this balance: It takes longer to build strength then metcon capacity (seems like a lot of the games competitors will really amp up their metcon work in the last couple months before competition). Second, most CFer's can still benefit from strength to make all other CF stuff easier.

Now the way you blend the metcons and strength depends on you and your life schedule. If you can only train 3 days a week, then do strength work followed by metcons. If you have more time, you might do metcons on off days. Then down the road if you want to do a metcon focus, you can pull back on your strength assistance work (while keeping the core elements the same--say Max Effort and Dynamic Effort if you are doing Westside).

chris mason
11-18-2012, 08:14 PM
Conjugate CrossFit
by Chris Mason

My introduction to CrossFit was at Louie Simmons’ first powerlifting certification. In all honesty the CrossFitters very much surprised me and were not what I had expected. My idea of CrossFit prior to getting involved was that CrossFitters were akin to distance runners, i.e. small individuals with great endurance. Suffice it to say that after the first cert my opinion was very much changed. I discovered the true efficacy of the program and what amazing overall athletes it helped to forge.

The powerlifting certifications also served to illustrate to me that most CrossFitters, even those at a high level competitively, were in my opinion relatively lacking in absolute strength. No, I did not think them weak, quite to the contrary, they were much stronger than I had anticipated, but compared to their development in other physical aspects such as strength endurance, endurance, flexibility, and mobility their absolute strength was relatively poor.

It is an immutable fact that an increase in absolute strength for any CrossFitter would make them a better CrossFitter assuming said strength is not accompanied by a big increase in total body weight (nor a detraining effect of their endurance or strength endurance). Louie Simmons’ Westside system of strength training is for my money the most effective strength building system ever developed. With that said, CrossFit is its own modality with specific goals (in their own words, “Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”). It is not realistic to expect a CrossFit practitioner to adopt the Westside system wholly and fully as they would by definition no longer be a CrossFitter. So, the trick, and one that I have given careful consideration to literally since that first certification, is how to incorporate some of Louie’s principles into a CrossFit based program.

To be clear, the ideas presented in this article are therefore not Westside. Westside is a unique system developed by Louie Simmons and one that he does not believe in altering or bastardizing in any way. The training methods and techniques presented herein are therefore snippets of the total Westside system which I am borrowing in order to help CrossFit practitioners continue to build their CrossFit abilities while simultaneously increasing their absolute strength and thus further augmenting their CrossFit performance.

Conjugate System & ME Work

One of the cornerstones of Westside is the conjugate system. Those who know of the conjugate system most commonly understand it to be a system which utilizes a frequent rotation of exercises (or variations of said exercises via changing bars, stance, hand placement, range of motion, use of varying accommodating resistance devices and so on) in order to preclude neural overtraining and work on weaknesses. They are correct, but that is only part of the story. The conjugate system also creates a chaotic form of periodization. The periodization is one of volume. The use of different exercises to work the same body parts forces a variation in total training volume primarily by virtue of the fact that different exercises dictate different loads be used in training. What one can back squat is very different that what one can front squat and so on, thus performing both movements for a similar number of sets will result in a varied amount of total training volume.

Another Westside staple is the maximum effort (ME) day. ME training involves a progressive warm-up to a maximum single repetition attempt (1RM). ME work combined with conjugate variety is, in my opinion, what makes the Westside system unrivaled in its ability to build absolute strength. It allows Westside practitioners to train at a 100% intensity level virtually year round. No other system allows for this frequency of heavy training, and if all other factors are equal, the individual who trains heavy the most often will develop the most strength.

Overtraining

I have seen other articles and posts online where individuals have attempted to incorporate the entire Westside protocol into their CrossFit regimen. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. Both training disciplines are extremely physically and mentally taxing. An attempt to do both in their entirety is a surefire recipe for overtraining.
Overtraining of the nervous and skeletal muscular systems is highly correlated to both training intensity (defined as a percentage of one’s 1RM) and total training volume. Increased training intensity requires decreased volume lest neural overtraining occur. High volume training, even at a low to moderate intensity level, can lead to skeletal muscular overtraining in relatively short order. The majority of CrossFit training falls into the low to moderate intensity range while a significant percentage of Westside training is of a very high intensity variety. The combination of both programs in their entirety would therefore quickly lead to stagnation at best, and both neural and muscular overtraining and subsequent regression in development at worst.

Exclusion of DE Work

Those familiar with Westside have likely also heard the term dynamic effort (DE). This facet of the Westside program is also known as speed work. DE days use relatively light loads (typically 50-60% intensity) moved for 2-3 repetitions as quickly as possible. The primary goal of ME training is to teach the nervous system how to be more explosive.

Per Louie Simmons the advent of the DE day was due to the inability of most trainees to tolerate two ME days (two upper and two lower) per week. The DE days were thus initially incorporated as a less intense training session, or to say it another way, as a type of active recovery. While a less intense session, the DE days are still considered by Louie to directly aid strength training via their ability to build explosive power which he feels translates directly to one repetition max (1RM) lifts. This point is where my opinion definitely varies from Louie’s (at least with respect to my understanding of his stance on the matter). I feel the primary value of DE days for strength trainees is the aforementioned active recovery that aids both the muscular and nervous systems and that the speed work translates very minimally to absolute strength expression beyond those benefits. This line of thinking combined with the need for economy of total training volume was the main reason I decided not to incorporate DE days into my hybrid system. Additionally, it was, and still is my feeling that most CrossFit met-cons can serve a very similar function to DE days in the way they support ME strength training with the added benefit of building one’s general conditioning.

The System

Ok, so we are finally to the system. How does that principle go? Keep it simple stupid (K.I.S.S.)? The basic template of my hybrid system is very simple. Two ME days (one upper and one lower) are performed each week. They are to be separated by 72 hours. Three additional days per week are set aside for more or less standard CrossFit met-cons. The only caveat on the met-cons is that those which involve lower repetitions or heavier loads are avoided during the program.

The ME days include assistance work. This assistance work incorporates isolation exercises. While isolation movements are normally eschewed in the CrossFit world they are absolutely necessary for optimizing maximal strength. This is due to a couple of factors. First, the very nature of compound movements, the physics involved, individual anatomy, and individual physiology dictate that for every individual certain muscles will be the limiting factor(s) for demonstrable strength. In other words, for example, your unique anatomy and physiology may be such that your triceps are the limiting factor when you attempt a 1RM press. Without specific triceps work you will never realize your true pressing potential. Along similar lines, isolation exercises also allow for a greater overload of the targeted muscle(s).

The primary exercise by upper or lower session for ME days will be rotated every 4th week. This is another major variance from the standard Westside system. The reasoning behind this change is simply one of adaptation to the target audience. There is no CrossFitter alive who has developed his or her strength to such a level that weekly variation of ME exercises is required. In fact, weekly rotations would be excessive in my opinion and not allow for the neural adaptations of increased efficiency at recruiting motor units and optimizing firing sequences. These adaptations result in the ability to place greater stress on the skeletal muscular system thus making a given exercise more effective. With that said, after 3 weeks the possibility of overtraining from performing the same movement at 100% intensity becomes very real even for less developed (in absolute strength) athletes, thus the switch on the 4th week.
Assistance exercises will be varied, but not in the same regimented fashion due to the fact they are performed at much lower intensity levels (repetition ranges from 8-20+).
Below you will find a specific 9 week exercise template for the ME days. This is supplied for those who will not create their own program. There is also a listing of several exercises from which to choose for both primary and assistance work and I encourage everyone reading this article to take the basic template and use the exercise list to create their own unique program. This will allow you to address your individual weaknesses. Only then will you reap the full benefits of the template.

This article will not discuss the CrossFit met-con days beyond the aforementioned caveat that they do not include heavy, low repetition movements and a word of caution to keep the total volume reasonable. In other words, choose your WODs carefully and train them with great intensity of effort, but do not do work above and beyond them.

Exercises

The exercises listed below are those that can be performed at most CrossFit boxes (with the possible exception of those done with dumbbells – kettlebells can be substituted in some cases).

Primary Exercises

Upper:
Standing strict press
Push press
Bench press
Incline press
Floor press
Board presses
Press from pins

Lower:
Free squat
Box squat
Front squat
Good morning
Deadlift from floor
Rack deadlift
Deficit deadlift
Zercher deadlift

All of the above exercises have multiple variations via the use of different bars, hand placements, rack positions (as in performing partials), the addition of bands and or chains, and possible substitution with dumbbells. There are an incredible number of variations which are really only limited by the imagination of the trainee.

Assistance Exercises

Assistance work sets should be taken to, or very near to (perhaps 1-2 reps short) concentric failure.

Upper:
Dumbbell press
Weighted dips
JM press
Tate press
Skull crusher
Triceps pressdown (with machine or band)
Dumbbell triceps rollback
Bent over row (elbows held in line with shoulders and barbell pulled very high on chest)
Dumbbell row
Barbell t-bar row
Face pulls
Upright row

Lower:
Glute-ham raise
Glute bridge
Hamstring curl (with bands)
Hyperextension
Stiff-legged deadlift
Standing hypers with band over neck
Sled work
Reverse hyper

I will leave ab exercises to the discretion of the trainee. There are a myriad of them. Pick one per ME session.

Template Routine (with exercises)

The sets listed below for assistance work are ‘working sets’. These sets may be preceded by 2-3 warm-up sets if required.

Upper (weeks 1-3):

Standing Strict Press (ME exercise)
Seated Dumbbell Press: 2 x 15 reps
JM Press: 2 x 10
Triceps Pressdown (you can use a band for these – choke it up enough to make 10 reps very hard): 2 x 10
Barbell Row (row to nipple level keeping elbows perpendicular to your body – this will work the upper back very effectively): 2 x 10
Ab work of your choice: 2 x 15-20 reps

Lower (weeks 1-3):

Squat (ME exercise)
Glute-Ham Raise: 2 x as many as possible
Glute Bridge (off bench): 1 x 20
Ab work of your choice: 2 x 15-20
Heavy Sled Pull: 3 rounds of pulling for roughly 100 feet. Allow 1 minute between rounds. Be sure the sled weight is heavy, but not ridiculously so. Try to increase the load 10 lbs per session.


Upper (weeks 4-6):

Incline Bench Press (ME exercise)
Flat Dumbbell Press: 2 x 15
Dumbbell Tate Press: 2 x 10
Dumbbell Rollbacks: 2 x 10
Single Arm Dumbbell Row: 2 x 10
Ab work of your choice: 2 x 15-20

Lower (weeks 4-6):

Box Squat (with strong bands) (ME exercise)
Deficit Deadlifts (off a 4” or so box): work up to a heavy set of 5
Ab work of choice: 2 x 15-20
Heavy Sled Work: same as above

Upper (weeks 7-10):

Bench Press (ME exercise)
Incline Dumbbell Press: 2 x 15
Close Grip Bench Press (hands just outside the smooth portion of the bar): 2 x 10
Triceps Pressdown: 2 x 10
Curl-Grip Barbell Row: 2 x 10
Ab work of your choice: 2 x 15-20

Lower (weeks 7-10):

Squat (with strong bands) (ME exercise)
Olympic Squat (narrow stance as deep as possible): 1 x 15 – Be sure to control the movement all the way up and down.
Reverse Hyper: 3 x 10
Ab work of your choice: 2 x 15-20

Conclusion

This general template and system should be used by every CrossFit practitioner who wants to get the most out of their training at least once per year. Absolute strength is a component of fitness that should not be relegated to also-ran status in anyone’s overall fitness regimen. It will aid you now, and with continued work it will help to improve your quality of life even into your later years.

Give this program a go, you won’t regret it. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them when this is published in the journal, or on the CrossFit forums.

chris mason
11-18-2012, 08:16 PM
One note. I have changed my thoughts on DE training since this article and I would say my position is now totally in-line with Louie's. With that said, for this program I would still exclude it.

Dan Kim
11-23-2012, 07:53 AM
RFabsik - thanks for your input. I think you are correct and i need to work on a basic strength training
program and do some metcons on off days or something...

Chris- thanks for the article!! always informative

Yamar
11-23-2012, 08:40 PM
Excellent stuff!

You say that CF would be done on 3 days that you aren't doing ME lifting.

Where I struggle with this is recovery. If for instance I do a ME lower day that pretty much limits my options on what I can do the next 2 days in terms of a metcon. I mean double unders or box jumps are fine. Wall balls or high rep thrusters are not.

chris mason
11-23-2012, 10:29 PM
Excellent stuff!

You say that CF would be done on 3 days that you aren't doing ME lifting.

Where I struggle with this is recovery. If for instance I do a ME lower day that pretty much limits my options on what I can do the next 2 days in terms of a metcon. I mean double unders or box jumps are fine. Wall balls or high rep thrusters are not.

Really? Why is that?

Paulo_Santos
11-24-2012, 05:45 AM
Excellent stuff!

You say that CF would be done on 3 days that you aren't doing ME lifting.

Where I struggle with this is recovery. If for instance I do a ME lower day that pretty much limits my options on what I can do the next 2 days in terms of a metcon. I mean double unders or box jumps are fine. Wall balls or high rep thrusters are not.

You just have to plan ahead and pick your MetCons carefully. I regularly do a Metcon after my ME Lower and DE Lower days and I do very well. I've even done thrusters, wall balls, airsquats, and even front and rear squats.

Yamar
11-24-2012, 07:02 AM
Really? Why is that?

Well, I have a hard time doing it in the context of an affiliate facility. They don't program their metcons considering that you might be doing ME lifts like the day prior or the next day. I think you can agree that doing high pre DL's the day before or after ME squat probably isn't a good idea.

BUT, a powerlifting gym in my area just opened up a crossfit section. Outside of the standard class setting they are going to allow you to use that equiptment. I am actually so pumped I am going to sigh up with this gym today.

Does anyone have an example or a gym that programs this type of CF?

Paulo_Santos
11-24-2012, 10:32 AM
Well, I have a hard time doing it in the context of an affiliate facility. They don't program their metcons considering that you might be doing ME lifts like the day prior or the next day. I think you can agree that doing high pre DL's the day before or after ME squat probably isn't a good idea.

BUT, a powerlifting gym in my area just opened up a crossfit section. Outside of the standard class setting they are going to allow you to use that equiptment. I am actually so pumped I am going to sigh up with this gym today.

Does anyone have an example or a gym that programs this type of CF?

I do. Look at my sig.

Yamar
11-24-2012, 01:39 PM
I do. Look at my sig.


Thanks! I like this a lot.

What are your thoughts on NOT doing the DE days as Chris suggest?

WHat I am thinking is:
ME upper (OHP) + assistance
ME lower (Deadlift) + assistance
Metcon
off
ME upper (Bench Press) + assistance
ME lower (Squat) + assistance
Metcon
Off

Now that I just joined this new gym they have a crossfit area that can be used when a class is not using it so I can be creative with my own metcons. Thoughts?

Paulo_Santos
11-24-2012, 02:22 PM
Thanks! I like this a lot.

What are your thoughts on NOT doing the DE days as Chris suggest?

WHat I am thinking is:
ME upper (OHP) + assistance
ME lower (Deadlift) + assistance
Metcon
off
ME upper (Bench Press) + assistance
ME lower (Squat) + assistance
Metcon
Off

Now that I just joined this new gym they have a crossfit area that can be used when a class is not using it so I can be creative with my own metcons. Thoughts?

I wouldn't do 4 ME days in a week. You need the break. DE Days are actually a lot of fun.

I would do this:
Day 1: ME upper + assistance
Day 2: DE lower + assistance
Day 3: Metcon
Day 4: off
Day 5: DE upper + assistance
Day 6: ME lower + assistance
Day 7: Metcon
Day 8: Off

With the assistance, you can change it up based on your needs/goals. If you are just looking to add strength, then do assistance that is geared for that. If you are trying to bulk up, then do a hyperathy based assistance. That is what I am doing right now because I want to add some size.

Since you have a new gym that you are going to, learn to plan ahead with the Metcon so it doesn't interfere with the assistance. Example:
If you are doing Squats in your metcon on day 3, then do lunges or step ups in your assistance on Day 2. I like to do squats in my assistance or the metcon, so I make sure I do them in either one. I also like to do pullups and an overhead movement once in the 3 day period, so I do them in the assistance or the metcon.

Yamar
11-25-2012, 09:08 AM
I wouldn't do 4 ME days in a week. You need the break. DE Days are actually a lot of fun.

I would do this:
Day 1: ME upper + assistance
Day 2: DE lower + assistance
Day 3: Metcon
Day 4: off
Day 5: DE upper + assistance
Day 6: ME lower + assistance
Day 7: Metcon
Day 8: Off

With the assistance, you can change it up based on your needs/goals. If you are just looking to add strength, then do assistance that is geared for that. If you are trying to bulk up, then do a hyperathy based assistance. That is what I am doing right now because I want to add some size.

Since you have a new gym that you are going to, learn to plan ahead with the Metcon so it doesn't interfere with the assistance. Example:
If you are doing Squats in your metcon on day 3, then do lunges or step ups in your assistance on Day 2. I like to do squats in my assistance or the metcon, so I make sure I do them in either one. I also like to do pullups and an overhead movement once in the 3 day period, so I do them in the assistance or the metcon.

I like this. Where do you set up a deload? After 4 weeks?

Paulo_Santos
11-25-2012, 10:30 AM
I like this. Where do you set up a deload? After 4 weeks?

I don't plan any deload weeks. Just play it by feel. That's the beauty of Westside compared to other programs.

chris mason
12-02-2012, 07:41 PM
Great article Chris! I do something similar in that I use 5/3/1 for my strength biased and accessory work and use crossfit met cons for conditioning. I like the program you laid out and will give it a shot. For clarity, an example week could be as follows maybe?

ME - upper
Metcon
Metcon
Rest
ME - lower
Metcon
Rest...repeat.

Not being familiar with the fine points of Westside, what would an example ME day (sets/reps) look like for the main lift? Also, if I want to incorporate BP, squat, DL, and Shoulder press as max effort movements would I just do two each week and thus train each only once every two weeks?

Thanks!

That layout would be fine.

I think your question about using given ME exercises indicates a lack of understanding of the program. Can you clarify what you mean when asking about the bench press, squat, deadlift, and shoulder press?

If you were using the back squat as your ME exercise and your previous best training 1RM was 300 lbs I would suggest the following:

135 x 5
185 x 5
225 x 3
265 x 3
285 x 1
295 x 1
305 x 1RM
Done.

ljosaitis
12-04-2012, 06:00 PM
Good article. I've been training at a cf gym for a couple months now and my only comment would be that some of the upper exercises may or may not be as applicable (or maybe that's just because I come from powerlifting). For instance, floor press translates poorly to either of the olympic lifts and is relatively stressful on the elbow ligaments. I love floor presses, especially with chains, but it's an example of an exercise that has less carryover aside from (overall strength conditioning) to much of what we regularly see as crossfit WODs.

chris mason
12-05-2012, 10:20 PM
Leon, I would argue your point. Carryover is actually a highly misunderstood term. You are right, the actual movement pattern of the floor press is very different than an overhead press, but that really isn't the point. The point is to build absolute strength, or more accurately strength capacity in the involved musculature and then to take that capacity and translate it to the sport specific movement of the overhead press by practicing the overhead press. The floor press builds strength in the shoulders and triceps which are most certainly involved in the overhead press. The hypertrophy of the contractile myofibrils in the shoulders and triceps stimulated by performing the floor press can be translated to increased overhead press strength (assuming an overall program conducive to said goal).

ljosaitis
12-07-2012, 03:57 PM
I'm totally with you. I guess the reason I mentioned anything is in the world of crossfit you have to be proficient at so many complicated movements that for ME movements I seem to have to prioritize what most translates to "required" lifts.

All that aside, can you expound on your change of thought about DE lifting? I constantly struggle with what exactly my objectives are and for which movements so any insight is appreciated.

chris mason
12-07-2012, 11:28 PM
I'm totally with you. I guess the reason I mentioned anything is in the world of crossfit you have to be proficient at so many complicated movements that for ME movements I seem to have to prioritize what most translates to "required" lifts.

All that aside, can you expound on your change of thought about DE lifting? I constantly struggle with what exactly my objectives are and for which movements so any insight is appreciated.

Well, I have always done DE work, but for CFers who were more focused on CF conditioning and still wanted to use some Westside techniques I created a program which did more WODs and eliminated the DE work. I now recommend a full Westside template combined with 2 WODs per week if strength is a focus.

I also came to the realization that DE work is actually strength speed as opposed to true speed strength, thus I see how it has a greater carryover to ME work than I had initially thought.

ThomasG
01-30-2014, 10:47 AM
Good article but its lacking oly lifts in the programming.

chris mason
02-02-2014, 07:50 PM
Good article but its lacking oly lifts in the programming.

Yep, by design. The program is designed to increase absolute strength as efficiently as possible. The strict O-lifts do not meet the criteria. A CFer can certainly include some technique work if they desired to.

ELmx479
02-09-2014, 11:56 AM
This is a good read. I've always known about the Westside style of training but never gave it a try. I like the idea of sticking around a 5RM or 5x5 like in the Texas Method which I'm running now for a few months while only doing 1-2 short conditioning wod's a week.