Hevy Coach

Log In

Conjugate Method: Definition, Examples, and Benefits

What is the Conjugate Method?

The conjugate method aims to improve strength, strength-endurance, explosiveness, and work capacity through a rotating schedule consisting of max effort and dynamic days, along with targeted accessory work to address weaknesses. Louie Simmons, the founder of Westside Barbell, is credited with popularizing and adapting the conjugate system for powerlifting.

A Deeper Look at Conjugate Training

Given the nuanced approach of the conjugate method and the fact that it develops multiple characteristics, it works well for a wide range of people, including everyday folks looking to get strong, as well as athletes and sports players. 

Let’s look at the workouts in the original 4-day split:

  • Maximal effort – you have two each week, one for the upper body and one for the legs. The objective is to work up to the heaviest weights possible (1RM) on one compound movement.
  • Dynamic effort – you also have two of these each week. The aim is to target the fast-twitch muscle fibers and develop power. Athletes must use lighter weights (typically no heavier than 60% of 1RM) across multiple sets (up to 12) for low reps (2-5) and move the weight as quickly and as explosively as possible.

Both types of workouts include the repeated effort method, which applies to the accessory work a trainee does after the big lifts. It’s part of each workout, whether a maximal or dynamic effort day. 

According to Burley Hawk, a Westside Barbell and conjugate method strength coach, athletes must consider a few things when selecting accessory work:

  1. Focus of workout: Pick lower-body accessories on lower-body days and upper-body accessories on upper-body days. Certain movements, like the ab roller, can be done in upper- and lower-body workouts.
  2. Muscle weakness: If the trainee has a weaker muscle that limits performance, focus on it more through accessory work.
  3. Exercise order: Arrange movements in the best way to optimize performance and ensure no movement significantly hinders the ability to perform on the next.

Programming accessory work is similar to other programs so long as coaches adhere to the above rules. A typical upper body workout can include movements like the incline dumbbell press, cable fly, bicep curl, and dumbbell shoulder press.

Lower-body accessory work includes good mornings, reverse hyperextensions, and kettlebell swings.

The Exercise Rotation in the Conjugate Method

Unlike other training plans, where athletes stick with the same exercises for months, the conjugate method involves rotating between movements weekly. 

The idea is to keep workouts feeling ‘fresh’ and engaging while allowing trainees to perform at their best without suffering from burnout or becoming overtrained. 

Trainees replace movements every three weeks (also known as the three-week pendulum wave, which you can read more about here) and typically circle back to the same exercises every nine weeks to assess progression.


1. Where does the conjugate method come from?

The conjugate method, as we know it today, was developed by Louie Simmons (the founder of Westside Barbell). He took principles from Soviet and Bulgarian training practices and adapted them into an effective system for powerlifting.

2. Is the conjugate method the best way to build strength?

Conjugate is an effective method for maneuvering around plateaus and keeping workouts dynamic and engaging. However, there are many other effective methods, and it’s impossible to say one is ‘best’ for everyone.

3. How does the conjugate method differ from traditional strength training?

The primary differences are that the conjugate method has maximal and dynamic effort days, and movements are swapped every three weeks to avoid stagnation.

Try Hevy Coach

Easy to use personal trainer software with an amazing client experience.

Related Terms in Specialized Training Techniques Category