Q: What do you think of the conjugate method of training, does it carry over
well to athleticism in sports or is it more suited for powerlifters?
Yes, I like the conjugate periodization method for any purpose but there has been a lot of confusion as to what conjugate periodization is so I need to clarify that. Chances are what you think is conjugate really isn't conjugate. A lot of people think it's one of the following:
A: A periodization setup where you switch exercises every 2-3 weeks.
B: A periodization setup where you train all the necessary strength qualities at the same time without getting away from any of them. For example, you'd train maximum strength, reactive strength, explosive strength, and endurance with equal volumes during the same training week so as to address every quality.
Ok, now let's talk about what conjugate periodization REALLY is.
There are essentially two main systems of organising long term training:
A: The concurrent system
B: The conjugate sequence system.
The concurrent system involves the simultaneous training of several motor abilities, such as strength, speed and endurance, over the same period of time, with the intention of producing multi faceted developments in fitness. Sound familiar?? Although research has corroborated the effectiveness of this system, the subjects used in these studies were generally conducted on athletes of lower qualification. While the negatives of the concurrent system are not apparent with less advanced athletes, they become very noticeable with elite athletes. It produces only average results in higher level athletes simply because when you try to train everything at the same time you limit the amount that you can focus on any given quality. Advanced athletes need more focus on a given quality in order to improve that quality, thus, when they try to do everything at the same time it doesn't work as well.
To evoke a more powerful training effect in advanced athletes it is necessary to use intense phases with a singular focus in an order that produces a sum greater then it's parts. This is precisely the purpose of the conjugate sequence system.
The conjugate sequence system involves successively introducing into the training program separate, specific phases, each of which has a progressively stronger training effect, and sequencing them in a way that creates favorable conditions to grasp a greater cumulative effect of all the training loads.
The conjugate sequence is characterized by a concentrated focus on developing individual specific motor abilities (strength, speed, strength endurance etc.), each of which is confined largely to a given period and sequencing them in such a way that each phase builds off the next producing a sum greater then it's parts.
Research has shown clearly that training using a specific system of different means and methods produces a significantly greater effect than the separate random use of different training methods. This advantage is also achieved even with a smaller volume of work.
So each phase builds off the next and because of the concentration used, each phase has delayed effects, which carry over into the next phase. To give you an example, for someone in a speed dominant sport the sequence of phases would look something like this:
Gpp (4-6 weeks---->Strength-(4-12 weeks)---->explosive strength (4-12 weeks) (shock/plyometric/speed)---->competitive
Gpp builds a base of basic fitness by using a higher volume of low intensity work. This leads into a strength phase which uses a high volume of strength loading. This leads into a shock phase where strength is further intensified and explosive strength, plyometric capacity, and speed are developed to a much greater extent. During this phase the total amount of work is lower but the intensity is higher. Not only will the body be adapting positively to the shock loading itself, but it will also be supercompensating positively from the previous phase of high volume strength work. So you get the long term delayed effect of the previous strength work therefore you're getting stronger, faster, and more explosive at the same time.
It should be noted that reversing the order of the training sequence will not often produce the same "summation" of training effects. Therefore if you focus on explosive strength followed by strength it's likely you'll reach a quicker stagnation at an earlier plateau then otherwise.
It's also worth noting that some phases can be lengthened, that's just a general outline. Simple enough!
Now does that mean that when you're "focusing" on one quality that you totally avoid the other qualities?? No! It just means that those other qualities would be addressed at a much lower volume and intensity. If you were a speed athlete and you were in the strength phase, then your speed workouts might consist of performing low intensity technical drills. If you were in a speed phase your strength work might consist of lifting done as infrequently as once or twice per week consisting of 3 x 3 at 80-85% for a few movements.
Now that's conjugate periodization!
Q: Great article you just posted Kelly.
In general terms, if someone trains as consistently as they should, and barring injury, and have average abilities to adapt to the training (not freakish) what would be a rational expectation for how a person would progress through the various stages timewise?
IE how long would a person NORMALLY be a beginner..Phase 2, Phase 3 etc. Again, just normal ranges is all I'm interested in understanding here. I know that indiv. differences are numerous and no one will follow an exact path. But if someone was a beginner for 3 years I'm sure you'd say that was too long, etc.
I actually thought about it before I even posted the article but there are so many different ways of explaining it that I would've ended up taking up another 5 pages. First off, there rarely is a clear cut separation between phases, I'm really just making observations.
I'd actually go into a bit more detail and divide the beginner stage up into "A" beginner and "B" beginner. The A beginner is the guy who needs to be able to comlete 50 pushups, run an 8 minute mile, complete 5 dips, 1 pullup, 50 bodyweight squats, hold their bodyweight in a bridge position for a minute, complete 20 single leg split squats under control, and basically just gain some proficiency working with their body. If it takes more then 6 months to complete most of those tasks then I'd be worried.
From here they'd move into the B beginner where they start to lift more weights at a general frequency of 3 x per week. Until they meet the minimal strength standards I've set then I still consider them a beginner. That would be squat and deadlift 1.5 x bw, do 5 pullups, bench 1 x bodyweight and also practice in plenty of basic movement efficiency progressions. Movement efficiency is not something I can describe but it's just an observation that the athlete is moving well.
Once the minimal strength and movement efficiency standards are set a person is an intermediate. The time it takes to achieve all of the beginning standards will vary depending on the natural abilities of the athlete. Some 13 yr olds will already be there the very first day where it might take as long as a couple of years from others. Regardless, from here on out there will always ben an alternation of frequency, intensity, volume, focus etc. You see, a beginner or low level intermediate will be able to make progress in everything initially.
They'll progress in work capacity, frequency, intensity and everything else.
But eventually they'll hit a point where something's gotta give. From
that point on in order to progress he's gotta cycle through the last 3
phases---intensity, work capacity, maintenance etc. You no longer can try to do everything at the same
time cause there's too much overall volume on the body. Once a person hits the intermediate stage it shouldn't take them more then a few years to get to high intermediate stage.
The separation between intermediate, advanced intermediate, adavanced, and in elite is mainly just an observation of the magnitude of performance above baseline that a person is operating at and their work capacity. Yet from the intermediate stage on there will always be alternation of volumes so one never just operates in say "high intermediate" mode or "advanced" mode.
In general you build work capacity through increased volume and frequency. You intensify through reduced volume at a higher intensity. The reason many intermediates don't progress to high intermediate stage is because they try to do too much all the time, thus they're never able to really intensify their performance. And there are a lot of people at the high intermediate stage in various sports who don't progress because they don't build work capacity. Let me give you an example of each:
I was reading a workout written up by the trainer of a popular pro basketball player, who's in his late 20's, talking about the harcore workouts and all of the work that he does. He was doing a weight training workout that would impress powerlifters, a speed training workout that would impress sprinters, and a conditioning protocol that would impress an endurance specialist - all at the same time during his offseason. Now, from observation, it's doubtful if this particular athlete is any more athletic now then he was at the age of 21. Therefore the majority of all this work is just a bunch of junk volume. If the goal is to maintain his attributes it's getting the job done, but since the guy was naturally as athletic as he is now there's no need for it. If the goal is to make him a quicker, faster, more explosive athlete it's not getting the
If you wanted to make him faster, quicker, more athletic etc. you'd have to
cut back on all the bullshit high volumes of conditioning and nonspecific work. That would allow his adaptational reserves to be applied towards "intensifying" the focus of the training and boost up his athletic attributes. Then, after you'd increased the absolutes,
you then reintroduce the volumes and the other attributes he'd need so that you'd stabilize the gains and
increase the work capacity of the absolutes. Then you maintain those during the season. Another season passes
and during the next offseason you repeat the process only this time you
won't have to lower the overall volume quite as much but you're repeating
the same general process. As the work capacity
increases one can handle higher and higher volumes while still intensifying. Eventually you reach a point where you're able to intensify through a volume of work that used to be what you'd call high volume.
Ok, now on the other end you have those who chronically follow the HIT training philosophy who might be very strong and may have impressive lifting poundages but might only be training a lift once every 7-10 days. What are they supposed to do once they get stuck?? Cut down to lifting once per month? The way for these people to progress is to up the volume and frequency for a while and then pull back. When they did they'd find they have more adaptional reserves so that they can progress. This fits right in line with conjugate training.
I hope that makes some sense.
Q: In your article on quickness vs. sports explosiveness, are you saying that the rate of force development in a sporting task is determined by the speed of impulse sent from the cns to the muscles and that the magnitude of recruitment is determined by the intensity of the signal? Does emotional arousal level affect both of these or just the intensity of the signal? Also,when addressing speed deficiency in an athlete, isn't it the voluntary intent and effort to be as explosive as possible and accelerate against a resistance that produces gains in rate of force ability? If so, can one develop their max strength, hypertrophy, and rate of force all simultaneously with heavier loads as long as they are concentrating on acceleration through all movement ranges and not just moving the weight from point A to point B regardless of time? Also on the ssc. Can you do plyometric squats and improve high jumps and vice versa?
The neural signals are very important but so is the muscular sensitivity to those signals. Over time the mind to muscle connection becomes more sensitive and works with greater harmony, therefore it'll take less "juice" to accomplish the same task. So, it's not just a matter of neural output it's also a matter of taking advantage of that output.
With emotional arousal it affects both the speed and magnitude of the neural impulse and an emotional state can increase both up to 5 times above normal. Powerlifters love to make fun of these things, but do a search for Dan Johns tap tester and download it. It allows you to record how fast you can tap your space bar. Set it for 2 or 3 seconds and see how fast you can go. What you'll find is the more jacked up and excited you are the faster you can go.
As for rate of force development, it exists at all speeds and contraction times. Even during an isometric contraction, where no movement takes place, you gotta go from no force to full force and that's RFD. So RFD doesn't just take place at high speeds although that's normally what people think of. There is evidence that lifting heavy weights with the intention to move fast improves the RFD across the board, even with light weights and bodyweight, however, I believe what mainly happens is people gain strength and thus can move the lighter load around easier and faster, if that makes sense. Getting stronger means that you'll be able to move a given load easier and with more force. Yes, it is true that people can increase strength, hypertrophy, power, speed etc. as long as they just focus on lifting explosively. However, once a person reaches a certain level of development they'll need to get more specific.
For the most part, RFD and reactivity are specific to the speed of contraction. As for reactivity, transfer is largely specific to the inherent time of the amortization phase (time from down to up). For example, at the reversal point of a squat or bench press you can pause for 3-4 seconds and still be able to use plenty of reactive force. But, at the reversal point of a high jump you got .15 seconds. When sprinting at full speed you got .100 seconds. Therefore you don't get much "reactive training" carryover from a heavy plyometric squat into a maximal speed sprint and vice versa. That doesn't mean the heavy squat won't help your sprint times, it's just not gonna do it by improving your specific plyometric ability. Stretch shortening cycle training is specific to the speed of contraction.
Hope that helps.