Today I'm outlining a three-day conjugate split we use at the JAC. We're a small private barbell club in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, with elite raw lifters in seven divisions. Several of our lifters are very busy business professionals and travel a good distance to train with the crew. Because of this, we've compressed the training into three days for the whole crew to train together on the main lifts. After a good amount of trial and error, this is the approach that we've found to work the best.

Day 1: SBD Day (Squat, Bench, Deadlift)  

SBD Day varies from your typical conjugate program the most. We place this day on Sunday because most of our lifters don't work their regular job on this day. Therefore, rest and nutrition are on point for a very demanding session. This day separates the men from the boys (and the women from the girls). It also serves as max effort (ME) lower, and a rotation of ME upper with repetition effort (RE) upper in the lower rep ranges (doubles and triples). 

RECENT: 10-Week Intermediate Deadlift Program

On the weeks that we use a heavy squat or good morning movement, we don't deadlift. Instead, we focus on box jumps, weighted carries, or sled drags after the upper work is done. We squat light on the weeks we do a ME deadlift movement, typically using the belt squat or a pause squat variation. The lower work is followed by ME or RE upper in the lower rep ranges (5's or less, typically 3's and 2's).

We also rotate from a full range movement to a partial range of motion week to week, or alternatively from a bench press movement to an overhead movement—allowing for more recovery time for the pecs and shoulders. As I said previously, and I can't stress this enough, this is a big and demanding day. As such, we do very little to no accessory work. Typically Reverse Hypers® with lighter weight and higher volume are placed at the end as restorative work or nothing at all.

A sample of this day would look something like this:

Day 1: SBD

  • SS Yoke Bar Against Strong Bands: Work up to a new record single
  • Fat Bar Bench Against Three Sets of Chain: Work up to a heavy triple record
  • Box Jumps with Weight Vest: 40 total jumps
  • Reverse Hyper®: 35% of squat max for 4 sets of 25 reps

The following week could be something like this:

Day 1: SBD

  • Belt Squat: 3 sets of 5 at 65%
  • Rack Pull Against Doubled Mini Bands: Work up to a new record single
  • Swiss Bar 3-Board Press: Work up to a new record single
  • Reverse Hyper®: 50% of squat max for 4 sets of 15-20 reps

As you can see, the volume on this day is quite low overall. We warm up, take big jumps up to record weights, and call it a day. We don't get crazy here but rather try to stick to the plan and hit small five-pound or ten-pound PRs every time we come back to a movement. We've found that keeping six or less movements in the rotation allows us to break records regularly and continually progress. The whole session should be 90 minutes or less, and you NEED 72 hours between this session and any other hard training. We feel like the demand of these sessions has made our conditioning for meets excellent. When it comes time to deadlift, our lifters are very fresh, while many of our competitors are drenched in sweat and breathing heavily.  

We also do a big JAC team dinner after these sessions. For those of us on strict diets, this serves as our "cheat meal" so we can make sure to get in a ton of calories for recovery from the strenuous session. This is also a team-building exercise that brings everyone together and reinforces the team mentality—another article in and of itself.

One more thing that deserves mention is that we often deload one or two of the three movements done on this day every fourth week. This is auto-regulated on the fly most of the time. We have lifters from 23 years old to 70+ years old. We all do the same main movements, so some auto-regulation needs to occur as the younger guys can recover a lot better than the older guys. One of our favorite things to do here is a competition-style free squat up to a moderate single (85% or so) followed by a bench or overhead variation and no third movement except for the possibility of the previously mentioned Reverse Hypers®.

This is how a deload would look:

Day 1: SBD Deload

  • Competition Squat: Work up to 85% for a single.
  • Overhead Pin Press: Work up to a new record single.
  • Reverse Hyper®: 35% of squat max for 4 sets of 25 reps.

Day 2: Dynamic Lower

The dynamic lower day is pretty standard to the classic conjugate template, but we have made some minor adjustments for raw lifting. The biggest adjustment is that we will often belt squat in place of box squatting with a barbell. The belt squats are still done in a DE fashion with a classic pendulum wave. 

When we stick with the classic box squat, we wave from a low box on Week 1, a parallel box on Week 2, and a free squat on Week 3, so everyone gets some training specificity. We've found this to build confidence in lifters and keep them from getting too good at box squatting. 

We have noticed that raw lifters will often get better at box squatting than free squatting. This should never happen. The box squat is a tool to build the competition squat and should always be harder than a free squat. Keeping some free squatting in the program has virtually assured that this happens.

Another difference is that we will sometimes lower the squat volume to accommodate more DE or RE (typically fives here) deadlifting. So instead of 24-25 total reps of squat and six to eight speed pulls, we will do something like 15-16 total reps on speed squat with 15 working reps on a deadlift variation.

These variations are done in the 65%-75% range in a pendulum wave. The percentage is that of the max on the given movement. The max is established on the ME SBD day in a previous cycle. The decrease in squat volume and increase in deadlift volume assures that you're doing roughly 30-35 total lifts in the 65%-85% range.

The movement stays the same for a three-week cycle, then rotates to a different movement for the following three weeks. We often place a deload week with no deadlifts on Week 4, then resume with the new movement on Week 5. Too much frequency on deadlift can be very hard to recover from, so don't be afraid to take a week off. We also won't do any ME deadlifting on the weeks we pull for volume on the DE day.

The final difference is that we will occasionally do our dynamic work with straight weight. When using accommodating resistance, we still use the classic 50%, 55%, and 60% bar weight with 25% accommodating resistance. Slow lifters may back that down by 5%-10%. Fast lifters may go slightly higher, so long as the bar speed is optimal. When using straight weight, we increase the standard percentages to 60%, 65%, and 70%, so long as the bar speed is optimal. Too many people get caught up in the weight on the bar and not the velocity. Remember, we're building speed strength here, not absolute strength.

After the main movements are done, we push the volume on the accessories. This is where you address weak points with more bodybuilding type work, but we also rotate in weighted carries. We'll typically pick three to four movements and prioritize them starting with the most obvious weakness. We work hard on these movements either as one group, or a couple smaller groups as we find weaknesses are usually shared by multiple lifters. The rest periods are short, and the volume is high.

Here are a couple of examples of what this day looks like:

Day 2: DE Lower

  • Low Box Speed Squat: 8 sets of 3 @50% +25% band tension
  • Speed Pull: 6 singles @50% +25% band tension
  • Standing Hamstring Curls: 5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Chest Supported Rows: 5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Reverse Hyper®: 50% of squat max for 5 sets of 20 reps
  • Backward Sled Drags: 3x 60 yard trips

Or a more deadlift-focused day:

Day 2: DE Lower

  • Belt Squat: 3 sets of 5 @60%
  • Conventional Deficit Deadlift: 3 sets of 5 at 65%
  • Lying Hamstring Curls: 5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Seal Rows: 5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Reverse Hyper®: 50% of squat max for 5 sets of 20 reps
  • Suitcase Carries: 3x 60 yard trips each side

As you can see, the second example uses no accommodating resistance. We do roughly 75% of our work with bands or chains on the bar. This session should take no longer than 90 minutes. The closer to one hour you can get, the better.

Day 3: Dynamic Upper

This is the closest day to the original Westside dynamic days. The only real difference we've made for raw lifting is that we occasionally do straight weight, and we have decreased the volume slightly from the standard 24-25 total reps. Week 1 of the pendulum wave will use the total 24-25 rep volume, Week 2 will drop down to roughly 20 total reps, and Week 3 will be roughly 15 total reps. We've found this decreases the amount of pec strains and shoulder/elbow soreness that our lifters experience. Again, some of the younger guys will keep their volume a bit higher, and our oldest lifters may decrease it even more—this is simply the general rule. 

We typically use 45%, 50%, and 55% bar weight with 25% accommodating resistance. When we use straight weight, we again increase the percentages by 10% to 55%, 60%, and 65%. The rest periods are short between sets, roughly one minute to 90 seconds. Rest is dictated by the number of people in the rotation, and you go as soon as the person before you gets off the bench. If the rest periods start to exceed 90 seconds, you have too many people in your group and need to break up into two groups. We find that any more than five to six lifters makes it hard to keep the pace, especially if you're playing with the higher end of the rep range (fives are the maximum, it's too hard to keep bar speed high enough with any more reps than this). 

After the speed benching, we again go hard on the accessories with lots of volume with short rest periods. Like the lower days, we pick at least four movements and prioritize them by the biggest weakness first. For most people, we find that the focus will be on the triceps, shoulders, and upper back, although not necessarily in that order. This setup often turns into a competition between several lifters on the team, and they push each other to move more weight or do more reps than they typically would have. Expect great results so long as you don't overdo it. 

Here are a couple of examples of what this day may look like:

Day 3: DE Upper

  • Speed Bench: 8 sets of 3 reps @45% bar weight +25% chain weight
  • Rolling Extensions: 5 sets or 8-10 reps
  • Lat Pulldowns: 5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Side Lateral Raises: 4 sets of 15 reps
  • Weighted Push-ups: 100 total reps in as few sets as possible
  • Band Pushdowns: 100 total reps in as few sets as possible

Or something like this:

Day 3: DE Upper

  • Speed Bench: 5 sets of 5 reps @55% straight weight.
  • Tate Presses: 5 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Face Pulls: 4 sets of 15 reps.
  • Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press: 4 sets of 15 reps.
  • DB Shrugs: 4 sets of 25 reps.
  • Band Pushdowns: 100 total reps in as few sets as possible.

Again, these are 60-90 minute sessions (excluding your warm-up, which I will touch on shortly) work hard, keep the rest periods short, and exhaust yourself by the end of the session. There is nothing easy or leisurely about these days. We've had lifters from other gyms train with us on these days and we often have to drop their percentages by up to 20% to keep them in the rotation. We typically get a message about how trashed they are from it in the following days. Otherwise, these days are typical at the shop for us because we're conditioned for it.

Extra Workouts

We have condensed the program into three days to ensure the whole team can train together when it matters most. Most of us do extra small workouts between sessions to focus on weak areas and/or restoration. Some younger guys like to do more upper back, triceps, and Reverse Hypers®. Some of the other lifters like 20-30 minutes of sled dragging. I hit some of the smaller muscle groups that I don't get to in the main sessions, such as neck, grip, and calves, followed by core bracing exercises. 

I'm able to do this work at home two to three times per week in a circuit fashion and find it beneficial to my recovery. When you move blood around, even in the extremities, you will typically recover in other areas. I like to do three to four rotations of the circuit in a 20-minute window or so. You should break a sweat and get your heart rate elevated when doing this work. Don't overdo it and set yourself back from an inability to recover. If you're not doing your extra workouts now, start by adding one per week and slowly increase the frequency. 


We do a good amount of volume in the warm-up. This is a great way to increase workload, bring up weak areas, and make sure that you're properly primed for the movements of the day. We start every session with core bracing work (McGill Curl-ups, Bird Dogs, Plank Variations, etc.). 

We pick two to three movements and get right to work. From there, we pick three more movements that directly correlate to the muscles being worked on that day. On a lower day, this could be Banded Hamstring Curls, Reverse Hypers®, and Sled Drags. An upper day might use Band Pushdowns, Lat Pulldowns, and Face Pulls. We do these as a circuit and run through it two to four times by feel. The weight should be light enough to get a little pump going and it should take no more than 15-20 minutes. The warm-up has decreased the amount of soft tissue injuries we've experienced over the years and made our lifters look much more muscular than their competitors. 

The 3-Day Conjugate Split for the Raw Lifter is a simple and practical solution for those on a tight schedule. In the past few years, this setup has added hundreds of pounds to our lifter's totals and allowed several people to hit elite totals in multiple weight classes. Give it a try and see if you make rapid progress. 

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Zane Geeting is a competitive powerlifter with over 20 years of experience. He has achieved elite totals both raw and equipped across three different weight classes. Zane also coaches several elite lifters from across the US and Canada. 

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