The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

Its no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

By: Nick Tumminello Added: January 6th, 2014
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  1. #1
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    A brief explanation of the efficacy of Westside conjugate variety

    Why does Westside conjugate variety work? What are its primary benefits?

    Conjugate variety as defined in the Westside template calls for the use of multiple exercises which are either variations of, or totally unique from the classic lifts of the back squat, bench press, and the deadlift. The efficacy of the system is based upon multiple factors. First, the use and rotation of multiple variations of the classic lifts permits the building of the involved musculature while simultaneously mitigating overuse syndrome in the joints and connective tissues. Next, using many different exercises helps to automatically address relative weaknesses. For example, if ones weakness in the back squat is due to a squat specific mid or lower back weakness and all one does is squat over and over the same weakness will remain a relative weakness and ultimately be a limiting factor in how much the lifter can increase their squat. Each variation of a classic lift will place a unique stress on the main involved musculature and thus automatically target relative weaknesses by heavily stressing them with some degree of frequency. So, in the squat example, if a good morning variation were included in ones rotation the mid and lower back would be heavily targeted by the good morning exercise thus strengthening them and helping to eliminate them as a relative weakness in the back squat. Finally, when consistently training at or near 100% intensity as is called for with maximum effort (ME) days in the template, the rotation of exercises for said ME work each week helps to preclude neural stagnation or overtraining. It does so by virtue of the fact that even small variations in movement patterns stress the nervous system in unique ways.

    Conjugate variety is a key to long term development of great strength and power. If you want to learn more about the Westside strength training system go to www.westside-barbell.com and check out their books and DVDs. You can also check out their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/westsidebarbell?fref=ts.


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  3. #2
    Dr. Subtotal
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    Chris,

    Came into powerlifting through conjugate and have always loved it.

    Do you feel though that a lifter should meet the demands of the variations of his sport with a certain degree of specificity toward peaking? For instance, if Westside was to do a USPA raw meet (walked out squat, no knee wraps, strict depth), do you feel that Circa Max would still be regulated by the box squa or would it involve a taper of high intensity free squatting with little accomodating resistance? I know Amy W. has done meets like Raw Unity with great success, but was just wondering if you feel that peaking/tapering could be improved through any means.
    Last edited by BloodandThunder; 11-08-2012 at 07:25 AM.
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  4. #3
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BloodandThunder View Post
    Chris,

    Came into powerlifting through conjugate and have always loved it.

    Do you feel though that a lifter should meet the demands of the variations of his sport with a certain degree of specificity toward peaking? For instance, if Westside was to do a USPA raw meet (walked out squat, no knee wraps, strict depth), do you feel that Circa Max would still be regulated by the box squa or would it involve a taper of high intensity free squatting with little accomodating resistance? I know Amy W. has done meets like Raw Unity with great success, but was just wondering if you feel that peaking/tapering could be improved through any means.
    The only real difference I recommend for a raw lifter is the inclusion of a free squat in their ME rotation. In terms of circa-max cycles I would do that with a free squat for a raw lifter, yes. My guess is Louie would not just so you know what the actual master of Westside would do.

    One other thing about circa-max, I would reserve that for an advanced lifter only.


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  5. #4
    Dr. Subtotal
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    The only real difference I recommend for a raw lifter is the inclusion of a free squat in their ME rotation. In terms of circa-max cycles I would do that with a free squat for a raw lifter, yes. My guess is Louie would not just so you know what the actual master of Westside would do.

    One other thing about circa-max, I would reserve that for an advanced lifter only.
    Yep, agreed on that point.

    It would be cool if Hoff ever did a raw meet, just for the experiment. I imagine Hoff has the ability long term to break Jon Coles 2364 in wraps at 308, a record that's been around for 40 years, just that he'd have to train for it (although multi is his game). He's gone 1168-959-845 at 275 and hit a 1200S, 965B at 308.
    Last edited by BloodandThunder; 11-08-2012 at 09:35 AM.
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  6. #5
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    I disagree, to some extent. I understand what you say about the variety of lifts targeting relative weaknesses, but explain this to me. If I fall forward in the squat and choose the SSB Squat to address this weakness, then 1 session every 4-6 weeks WILL correct that weakness? This is absolutely not the case. There is no better way to target relative weakness than to hit it over and over and over again. You cannot argue that 1 session with the SSB will correct my weakness of falling forward in the squat.

    As for overuse issues... A SSB Squat pattern in the lower body is not different than the squat pattern. The knees bend, the hips go back - it's exactly the same. Overuse injuries are going to occur no matter what method you use because of the nature of the limited movements in powerlifting.

    Although Westside produces some great lifters, they were already great before they got there. It's Louie Simmons' coaching, expectations and the atmosphere, more than anything, that produces the great numbers.

  7. #6
    Dr. Subtotal
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    That's a great point on ME Rotation Rhodes and one of the chief criticisms you read about.

    I'd imagine though that it would be the incorporation of targeted supplementals and assistance for volume in parallel with that ME rotation that would produce the desired result, in addition to extra workouts devoted to things like Banded thoracic extensions and upper back work. A rotation of bars during DE squats to could also be incorporated to more specifically target that weakness in a more lift specific way.

    One issue that people that decide to run Conjugate is the what the demands of the type of meet you are doing (multi, single, raw), variations (monolift/walkout, quick weighin, short weighin, etc) vs the degree of frequency and lift specificity that's necessary to elicit those results. If a lifter is doing a raw, walked out meet and their free squat technique is subpar, then doing an entire rotation of DE box squats with very little ME/SE free squatting won't fix their problem.
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  8. #7
    Powerlifter/Strongman J L S's Avatar
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    This could turn into a very very good read if some of the top lifters on this board started inputting their thoughts, and some good debates were thrown back and forth. Like where its headed already. Why not get as much info out there as possible for free, when so many people mis understand the principles and bash on the whole system.
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  9. #8
    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BloodandThunder View Post

    One issue that people that decide to run Conjugate is the what the demands of the type of meet you are doing (multi, single, raw), variations (monolift/walkout, quick weighin, short weighin, etc) vs the degree of frequency and lift specificity that's necessary to elicit those results. If a lifter is doing a raw, walked out meet and their free squat technique is subpar, then doing an entire rotation of DE box squats with very little ME/SE free squatting won't fix their problem.
    I think this is the biggest issue. Not that I don't love Westside Conjugate, which IS NOT true conjugate but again a concurrent/complex-parallel training system, but it's deciding WHAT exercises to rotate in that is the biggest weakness. Haphazardly rotating ME exercises with little real thought does nothing to benefit the lifter- assessing specific weaknesses and prescribing the CORRECT variants to specifically address the issue is not a thing most lifters can do on their own.

    No reason not to do it, but certainly one reason why the majority of trainees may not benefit as much from the program as they could. Most guys MAY be better served in simply squatting more that rotating in exercises of marginal benefit.
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  10. #9
    Senior Member RichMcGuire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BloodandThunder View Post
    I'd imagine though that it would be the incorporation of targeted supplementals and assistance for volume in parallel with that ME rotation that would produce the desired result, in addition to extra workouts devoted to things like Banded thoracic extensions and upper back work.
    Since most powerlifting programs include these supplemental weak point assistance work anyways, is it really a valid criticism to say that rotation of different ME lifts is the answer to otherwise always having a relative weakness? To me, it only seems like a valid point if you literally just squatted and did nothing else.
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  11. #10
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    You need to train with a group. You need someone to watch you lift that can identify your weaknesses. You need a powerlifting gym with the right equipment. If you lack any of those, then it's not going to be that effective. If you have those things, then the results speak for themselves.
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  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarcusWild View Post
    You need to train with a group. You need someone to watch you lift that can identify your weaknesses. You need a powerlifting gym with the right equipment. If you lack any of those, then it's not going to be that effective. If you have those things, then the results speak for themselves.
    Why does the above only apply to Westside? Wouldn't any program need these to be 100% effective?

    Westside programs can be done with just a barbell, a box (you can get a cheap onea t a hardware store) and a set of bands. Yeah the other stuff makes it more fun.
    ME lower variety--high bar squat, low bar squat, wide squat, front squat, Zercher, deadlift, sumo deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Good Mornings, then add box and band variants.

    ME upper variety--bench press, close grip bench press, pause bench, board presses (ok I guess you have to buy some 2x4's), overhead press, push press, floor press. If in a non-pl gym, incline press, add dumbell variants, multiply by bands.

    There are plenty of exercises that can be done without reverse hypers, GHR's and belt squats.

    Wouldn't any program benefit from identification of weaknesses? So if I can't figure out my weaknesses, I should just squat 3x5 and hope things get better?

    If after a while you are doing a program and get stuck, you need to change something. So if you've been stuck with your squat for a year, just squatting might not fix it. I think most understand this to some point, Westside just does it proactively instead of reactively.

  13. #12
    Moderator joey54's Avatar
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    Here's a dumb question. Most who train in this style do so in groups. Wouldn't each person be doing their own individual ME lifts suited towards their specific weaknesses? It would be rare to have 3-5 guys who all have the exact same weaknesses in each lift and even more so they would all be on the same rotation, no?


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  14. #13
    Senior Member RichMcGuire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex.V View Post
    but it's deciding WHAT exercises to rotate in that is the biggest weakness. Haphazardly rotating ME exercises with little real thought does nothing to benefit the lifter- assessing specific weaknesses and prescribing the CORRECT variants to specifically address the issue is not a thing most lifters can do on their own.

    No reason not to do it, but certainly one reason why the majority of trainees may not benefit as much from the program as they could. Most guys MAY be better served in simply squatting more that rotating in exercises of marginal benefit.
    Just adding some thought to an interesting thread, but, how hard do you really think it is to figure out where youre weak at? With a benchpress example, it seems pretty easy to me to figure out where/why you miss the lift.
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  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by joey54 View Post
    Here's a dumb question. Most who train in this style do so in groups. Wouldn't each person be doing their own individual ME lifts suited towards their specific weaknesses? It would be rare to have 3-5 guys who all have the exact same weaknesses in each lift and even more so they would all be on the same rotation, no?
    Hopefully Travis or Chris will step in, but I think most guys in a group will work a few ME exercises together and the assistance work is where things will differ more to address weaknesses and other accessory/GPP work.

  16. #15
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    Yeah, you probably at least need to train with a group for most programs. It's even more important when you max twice a week.

    We let the person closest to a meet pick ME movements. Although, we have enough people and space there's usually 2-3 options. Plus, it's easy to vary it for each lifter.

    Squat: you can vary stance, box vs no box, and remove/add chain
    Bench: you can easily vary grip, boards, and add/remove chain
    Deadlift: you can easily add/remove a deficit and add/remove chain

    We make our best gains when people train as a group. I think the edge from competing against each other is more beneficial than doing a slightly better exercise alone. I almost always do another barbell movement afterwards. I make sure that's focused on improving specific weaknesses.
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  17. #16
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    One thing I'm beginning to accept is that westside does not work for IPF squatters. The walk-out and single-ply/raw gear are against the basics, monolift, wide stance and multi-ply gear. That's just what I've noticed with myself and the guys I train with. Bench and deads are fine but squats need different approach.

  18. #17
    Dr. Subtotal
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ripe1 View Post
    One thing I'm beginning to accept is that westside does not work for IPF squatters. The walk-out and single-ply/raw gear are against the basics, monolift, wide stance and multi-ply gear. That's just what I've noticed with myself and the guys I train with. Bench and deads are fine but squats need different approach.
    See my above point. You need to setup your training to meet the demands of IPF meets. Westside (the model of "Conjugate" that Westside uses and writes about) is mostly tailored for multiply meets. But conjugate as a system can absolutely work for IPF\USAPL style squatters.
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  19. #18
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BloodandThunder View Post
    Yep, agreed on that point.

    It would be cool if Hoff ever did a raw meet, just for the experiment. I imagine Hoff has the ability long term to break Jon Coles 2364 in wraps at 308, a record that's been around for 40 years, just that he'd have to train for it (although multi is his game). He's gone 1168-959-845 at 275 and hit a 1200S, 965B at 308.
    Hoff is definitely retard strong. He is VERY strong raw right now.


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  20. #19
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RhodeHouse View Post
    I disagree, to some extent. I understand what you say about the variety of lifts targeting relative weaknesses, but explain this to me. If I fall forward in the squat and choose the SSB Squat to address this weakness, then 1 session every 4-6 weeks WILL correct that weakness? This is absolutely not the case. There is no better way to target relative weakness than to hit it over and over and over again. You cannot argue that 1 session with the SSB will correct my weakness of falling forward in the squat.

    As for overuse issues... A SSB Squat pattern in the lower body is not different than the squat pattern. The knees bend, the hips go back - it's exactly the same. Overuse injuries are going to occur no matter what method you use because of the nature of the limited movements in powerlifting.

    Although Westside produces some great lifters, they were already great before they got there. It's Louie Simmons' coaching, expectations and the atmosphere, more than anything, that produces the great numbers.
    You point about what happens when people go to Westside is not accurate. You are right that lifters are very good before they get there, but that is often after years and years of training. Louie then takes them and adds hudreds of lbs to their totals in relatively short order. You can think what you want, but to add hundreds of lbs to elite totals time after time is something very unique and powerful.


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  21. #20
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex.V View Post
    I think this is the biggest issue. Not that I don't love Westside Conjugate, which IS NOT true conjugate but again a concurrent/complex-parallel training system, but it's deciding WHAT exercises to rotate in that is the biggest weakness. Haphazardly rotating ME exercises with little real thought does nothing to benefit the lifter- assessing specific weaknesses and prescribing the CORRECT variants to specifically address the issue is not a thing most lifters can do on their own.

    No reason not to do it, but certainly one reason why the majority of trainees may not benefit as much from the program as they could. Most guys MAY be better served in simply squatting more that rotating in exercises of marginal benefit.
    What the best lifters do is find the 4 primary variations that work for them and rotate them. It isn't haphazard.


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  22. #21
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joey54 View Post
    Here's a dumb question. Most who train in this style do so in groups. Wouldn't each person be doing their own individual ME lifts suited towards their specific weaknesses? It would be rare to have 3-5 guys who all have the exact same weaknesses in each lift and even more so they would all be on the same rotation, no?
    That is a good question, but the answer is human nature. There are leaders and followers in every group. In addition, the primary benefit of the rotation is to allow the trainee to go 100% week after week without overtraining.


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  23. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ripe1 View Post
    One thing I'm beginning to accept is that westside does not work for IPF squatters. The walk-out and single-ply/raw gear are against the basics, monolift, wide stance and multi-ply gear. That's just what I've noticed with myself and the guys I train with. Bench and deads are fine but squats need different approach.
    Well, if that were true then guys like Stan Efferding would not be crazy strong. He uses primarily Westside techniques for his powerlifting work. Robert Wilkerson also uses Westside techniques and I am pretty sure he has the higher raw squat on record... He can walk weights out or use the mono.

    How about Amy from Westside setting raw records?

    Westside lifters primarily only use briefs when training. They don't use knee wraps very often unlike most IPF lifters who will use them most sessions, no? Briefs and a tight pair of wraps offer similar assistance in terms of weight added to the bar from what I have seen.


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  24. #23
    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    What the best lifters do is find the 4 primary variations that work for them and rotate them. It isn't haphazard.
    My point was in regards to the majority of trainees, not the best lifters.
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  25. #24
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    I don't buy the not for IPF argument. I've seen it work for everyone from raw female powerlifters to multi ply men. I will say learning it is a bigger time investment than most programs, but it's worth it.

    I'd argue the way the Russians train won't work for most people. They start with people that are already the most genetically gifted and "supplement" the hell out of them. Unless you have the same genetics and "supplements", the you'll burnout in their programs.

    Most people get good at powerlifting through time, persistent, and hard work. That takes a smart training approach, since they aren't genetic freaks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ripe1 View Post
    One thing I'm beginning to accept is that westside does not work for IPF squatters. The walk-out and single-ply/raw gear are against the basics, monolift, wide stance and multi-ply gear. That's just what I've noticed with myself and the guys I train with. Bench and deads are fine but squats need different approach.
    That makes no sense. There's not a "special" training program for multi-ply vs. single-ply. It's all the same now, anyways. Any decent powerlifting program will work wether you're raw, rare, single or multi-ply. If you think differently, you might want to take a look at yourself. it's not the program.

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