With the movement of functional fitness, many athletes are now interested in increasing their core lifts (squat, press, and deadlift) while still improving their overall body composition. In most in cases, a byproduct of being strong is looking strong, but there are actually some things we can do ensure that were are maximizing our time in the gym. Moreover, there are measures we can take to ensure we avoid injury and overtraining, while continuously making progress with our benchmark lifts and body composition.

Overall, the emphasis needs to be shifted to improving lagging muscle groups, as we are only as strong as our weakest link. Having a plan that balances the use of maximal and sub-maximal lifting is imperative to incur gains across the board, while still developing the well-rounded athleticism that is useful in everyday life.

Here’s what you need to know:

There will be four lifting sessions a week. The bulk of these sessions with consist of accessory work to improve agonist muscle groups. Volume will be managed in terms of our core lifts, where there is an emphasis on either maximal lifting or lifting for maximal velocity (bar speed).

This system is derived from Louie Simmons’ infamous Conjugate System; a system which not only produces improvements in maximal strength, but we’ll also be able to address individual limiting factors that are instrumental to our longterm health.

It was once believed that if you wanted to get stronger, you should only focus on maximal strength for a given amount of time; conversely, if you wanted to get leaner, you should only be focused on hypertrophy work.

I’m going to tell you that “block-style” periodization has many drawbacks. One drawback stems from neglecting other areas of our fitness. We may move forward with one aspect of our fitness, but we subsequently take two steps backwards with all other areas of our fitness. This is what we want to avoid, especially if our goal is long-term, sustained progress.

You should have at least two years of experience before attempting this plan, and be proficient with all core lifts. 

The Template 

Day 1: Max Effort Lower Session

  1. Choose 1 Core movement ie. Squat or Pull and work up to a heavy triple in 5-6 sets. Then perform 3 singles, building to a 1-Rep max. Take full recovery of 3-4 minutes between heavy sets. 
  2. Special Exercise #1: Choose 1 Movement geared at building a primary mover from #1 ie. Hip, hamstring, quad, glute driven movement. Perform 4 sets of 5-6 reps with moderate to heavy loading. Rest 90s-2:00 between sets. 
  3. Superset 2 Single Joint Movements of antagonist muscle groups, ie. hip/quad, quad/hamstring, glute/quad, quad/lats ect. Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps per movement resting 60s between each movement. 
  4. Perform 1 movement directed at the core for 4 sets of 10-20 reps. This can be in form anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion, anti-extension. ect. 
  5. Band Tendon Work: Accumulate 100 reps of banded leg curls, banded pull-throughs, or banded glute hip thrust.

Day 2: GPP Focus/Recovery

1) 8-10 Rounds of:
Sledwork ie. Pull or push with a moderate weight x 40-60 yards. Rest 60s. 

2) 4-6 Rounds of:
Loaded Carry ie. Farmer carry, single arm farmer carry, unilateral carry x 40 yards. Rest 60s. 

Day 3: Max Effort Upper Session

  1. Choose 1 Core movement ie. Press variation, bench press variation, or pull-up variation and work up to a heavy triple in 5-6 sets. Then perform 3 singles, building to a 1-Rep max. Take full recovery of 3-4 minutes between heavy sets. 
  2. Special Exercise #1: Choose 1 Movement geared at building a primary mover from #1 ie. Tricep or upper-back, or shoulder. Perform 4 sets of 5-6 reps with moderate to heavy loading. Rest 90s-2:00 between sets. 
  3. Superset 2 Single Joint Movements of antagonist muscle groups, ie. back/tricep, bicep/tricep, shoulder/bicep. Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps per movement resting 60s between each movement. 
  4. Perform 1 movement directed at the core for 4 sets of 10-20 reps. This can be in form anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion, anti-extension. ect. 
  5. Band Tendon Work: Accumulate 100 reps of banded facepulls, banded pushdowns, banded pulldowns 

Day 4: Active Recovery

Perform 30-40 minutes of low-intensity work ie. Walk on incline on treadmill, bike, stairmaster, or light jog. Heart-rate should NOT exceed 150 BPM. 

Day 5: Dynamic Effort Lower (Submaximal Speed-work) 

  1. Perform a Squatting variation for 10 x 2 @50-60% of 1RM or a load that allows you to move efficiently/as fast as possible with short bouts of rest. Perform a set every 60s. 
  2. Perform a Pulling Variation for 8-10 x 1 @60-70 of 1RM or load that allows you to move efficiently/as fast as possible with short bouts of rest. Perform a set every 45s. 
  3. Superset 2 Single Joint Movements of antagonist muscle groups, ie. hip/quad, quad/hamstring, glute/quad, quad/lats ect. Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps per movement resting 60s between each movement. 
  4. Perform 1 movement directed at the core for 4 sets of 10-20 reps. This can be in form anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion, anti-extension. ect. 
  5. Band Tendon Work: Accumulate 100 reps of banded leg curls, banded pull-throughs, or banded glute hip thrust.

*Perform different variations for your special exercise work than you performed on Day 1.

Day 6: Dynamic Effort Upper (Submaximal Speed Work) 

  1. Perform a Bench Press variation and perform 9-12 sets of 3 reps, every 45s with 40-50% of your 1RM or a load that allows you to move as fast as possible on each set. Use 3 different grips through your 9-12 sets. 
  2. Special Exercise #1: Choose 1 Movement geared at building a primary mover from #1 ie. Tricep or upper-back, or shoulder. Perform 4 sets of 5-6 reps with moderate to heavy loading. Rest 90s-2:00 between sets. 
  3. Superset 2 Single Joint Movements of antagonist muscle groups, ie. back/tricep, bicep/tricep, shoulder/bicep. Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps per movement resting 60s between each movement. 
  4. Perform 1 movement directed at the core for 4 sets of 10-20 reps. This can be in form anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion, anti-extension. ect. 
  5. Band Tendon Work: Accumulate 100 reps of banded facepulls, banded pushdowns, banded pulldowns 

*Perform different variations for your special exercise work than you performed on Day 3.

Day 7: OFF or Active Recovery comparable to Day 4. 

Other Considerations

  • Rotate Max Effort Variations weekly and retest every 12 weeks.
  • Rotate special exercises bi-weekly
  • Perform Dynamic Effort exercises for 3-weeks than rotate your variations. Percentages increase only by 5% each week for lower-body work and stay the same for upper-body work for all 3 weeks.
  • Don’t neglect “active recovery” days. Aerobic work is imperative for facilitating recovery so don’t worry about losing your gains with some light jogging or walking.

Overall, looking like a badass and being able to perform like a badass is where it’s at. Luckily, the two go hand-in-hand, and we can strategically improve both qualities concurrently. You’d be hard pressed to find someone with a big bench press that doesn’t have massive triceps, or someone with a big deadlift that doesn’t have impressive hamstrings.

Additionally, this training is fun and engaging! You’re less likely to get bored because of the rotation of work. More importantly, you’re less likely to sustain an injury or hit a plateau because you are constantly rotating your work to prevent accommodation.

 

Looking for a program like this one?
Check out Conjugate Size + Strength!