Bare Bones Conjugate: A Bar, Rack, and Bench Weeks 1-4

TAGS: training at home, 0-90 bench, twelve week program, lack of equipment, Bare Bones Conjugate, bars, powerlifting program, repition method, Conjugate Training, power rack, dynamic effort, max effort

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For the next few minutes I want you to consider not what you don’t have, but the possibilities of what you do have. Recently on the Q&A, someone asked about training in multi-ply gear despite the fact that he can’t train conjugate because he doesn’t have all the “stuff.” The first thing I thought was, “Why not?” I knew he was missing the big picture. When thinking about conjugate training, we often look at all the specialty bars, bands, chains and other goodies that we use in training. But when you boil it down, conjugate training is about the max effort, the dynamic effort, and the repetition method.

It is not the stuff that makes the program. Yes, SS Yoke Bars, bands, and chains make things more fun and provide more variety, but they are not necessary. I decided to challenge myself to write out a twelve-week conjugate program for which you only need a rack, a bar, a 0-90 bench and some weights. This will cover nearly everyone who trains in a gym or with weights at home. Now you have no excuses.


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Your imagination is your only limit. You can easily do bodyweight, barbell exercises, or use the plates in place of dumbbells. Adding in drop sets, ascension sets, squeezes, pauses, slow eccentrics, and other methods will add even more variety. Don’t let a lack of equipment make you think you are limited in variety. The workouts below are not written for beginners or advanced lifters with any specific weaknesses. This is written to show you the possibilities available to you.

Here are the first four weeks of the twelve-week program.

When I write programs I always feel the lifter knows themselves best. For assistance work I will give ranges. Some days you've got it, some days you don’t. The ranges listed will reflect the typical amount of work sets done. On the same note, you need to take ownership of your training and need to put in the work necessary to make progress. Don’t just do the minimum because it says you can.

Girls UGSS 2015-6158

Wave 1

Max Effort Lower 

Work to a hard triple then drop reps to one and max out. If you can’t jump 20 pounds and know for certain you are going to get it, stop. Break records by five pounds and stop.

Week 1: Front Squat
Week 2: Sumo Stiff-Leg Deadlift
Week 3: Wide Stance Squat
Week 4: Good Morning from Pins to a Hard Six

Assistance Work 

  • Snatch-Grip Deadlifts, 3-5x8
  • Lunges, 4-6x12/Leg
  • Leg Curl Iso Hold on Bench, 3-5x4, Six-Second Hold Each Rep, 10-Second Rest Between Reps
  • Supermans, 3-5x20, One-Count Hold
  • Suitcase deadlift, 3-5x6/Side

Max Effort Upper 

Work to a hard triple then drop reps to one and max out. If you can’t jump 20 pounds and know for certain you are going to get it, stop. Break records by five pounds and stop.

Week 1: Close Grip Bench
Week 2: Floor Press
Week 3:  Overhead Press
Week 4: Illegal Wide Bench to a Max Six

Assistance Work

  • Steep Incline, 3-5x6-8
  • Palms-Up Kickback, Two-Second Squeeze, 3-6x8, Use 10-Pound Plate
  • Dead Stop Barbell Rows, 4-5x12
  • Barbell Curls, 4-5x12, Squeeze for Two-Count at Top
  • Trifecta Shoulder Raise, 20 Reps of Rear, Side, and Front Raise, Use 10-Pound Plate

Dynamic Effort Lower 

Week 1: Competition Squat, 70%, 12x2, 45 Seconds Rest
Week 2: Competition Squat, 75%, 12x2, 45 Seconds Rest
Week 3: Competition Squat, 80%, 10x2, 45 Seconds Rest
Week 4: Competition Squat, 50%, 3-4x12

Week 1: Speed Deadlift, 60%, 10x1, 30 Seconds Rest
Week 2: Speed Deadlift, 65%, 10x1, 30 Seconds Rest
Week 3: Speed Deadlift, 70%, 10x1, 30 Seconds Rest
Week 4: No Deadlifting

  • Arch Back Good Mornings, Close Stance, 3-5x 8-10, Load the Hamstrings
  • Serrano Split Squats, 3-4x6/Leg
  • Spread Eagle Sit-Ups, 3-5x10
  • Calf Raises, 2-4x1 Minute

Dynamic Effort Upper

Week 1-3: Speed Bench, 60%, 9x3, Three Sets Close, Medium, and Wide, 45 Seconds Rest Between Sets
Week 4: Close Grip Bench, 50%, 3xFailure, Two Minutes Rest Between Sets

  • JM Press, 3-5x6 Reps superset with Bench Dips, 3-5x12-15
  • Pull-Ups, 3-6xFailure, Add Weight if Needed
  • Bradford Press, 3-4x12 Reps
  • Reverse Grip Curls, 3-4x12, Back To Back with Rear Fly, 10-Pound Plate, 3-4x20

Girls UGSS 2015-6167

Adding Bands

If you are reading this, it is safe to assume you have access to a bar, rack, and a bench. Even if that is all you have, you can make good progress with that alone. But if we add some bands into the mix, we can increase our exercise selection and continue to make progress with minimal investment. You also won’t use up any additional floor space. I am including a four-week plan to show the difference in the cycles but also how much more you can do with just the addition of bands.

Wave 1 with Bands

Max Effort Lower 

Work to a hard triple then drop reps to one and max out. If you can’t jump 20 pounds and know for certain you are going to get it, don’t go any higher. Break records by five pounds and stop. If you don’t break your personal best it is okay. If you miss, do not take it again.

Week 1: Front Squat
Week 2: Sumo Stiff-Leg Deadlift
Week 3: Reverse Mini Band Squat
Week 4: Good Morning from Pins to a Hard Six

Assistance Work 

  • RDLs, 4-5x10
  • Band Leg Curls and Band Leg Extensions, 30, 25, 20, and 15 Each
  • Banded Pulldown Abs with Staggered Stance, 3-5x12

Max Effort Upper 

Work to a hard triple then drop reps to one and max out. If you can’t jump 20 pounds and know for certain you are going to get it, stop. Break records by five pounds and stop.

Week 1: Close Grip Bench
Week 2: Floor Press
Week 3: Reverse Light Band Bench
Week 4: Illegal Wide Bench to a Max Six

Assistance Work 

  • Steep Incline, 3-5x6
  • Band Pushdowns, 3-6x16
  • Barbell Rows, 4-5x12
  • Barbell Curls, 4-5x12, Two-Count Squeeze at Top
  • Band Side Raise, 2-4x20 superset with Facepulls, 2-4x25

Dynamic Effort Lower 

Week 1: Competition Squat, 50% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension, 12x2, 45 Seconds Rest
Week 2: Competition Squat, 55% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension, 12x2, 45 Seconds Rest
Week 3: Competition Squat, 60% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension, 10x2, 45 Seconds Rest
Week 4: Competition Squat, 40% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension 6x2, 45 Seconds Rest

Week 1: Speed Deadlift, 60%, 10x1, 30 Seconds Rest
Week 2: Speed Deadlift, 65%, 10x1, 30 Seconds Rest
Week 3: Speed Deadlift, 70%, 10x1, 30 Seconds Rest
Week 4: No Deadlift

Assistance Work 

  • Band Good Mornings, Wide Stance, 3-5x20, Focused Round and Arch
  • Serrano Split Squats, 3-4x6/Leg
  • Leg Raises Against Micro Band, 3-5x15
  • X-Band Walk, 3-5x20

Dynamic Effort Upper 

  • Week 1-3: Speed Bench, 40-50% Bar Weight, 20% Band Tension, 9x3, Three Sets Close, Medium, and Wide
  • JM Press, 3-5x6 superset with Bench Dips 3-5x12
  • Pull-Ups, 3-6xFailure, Shoot for 10-12 Reps, Add Weight or Band Assistance If Needed
  • Bradford Press, 3-4 x12
  • Reverse Grip Curls, 3-4x12

As you can see, there is plenty of work that can be done with minimal equipment. If you only had a hammer, a screwdriver, and a pair of pliers, you could do quite a bit of work. But it will be easier if you have a socket set, drill, and allen wrenches. With just a few more items, you can do more than double the jobs. The same holds true if you added in some bands, a sled, and some boards for benching. If you are limited on space or money, don’t let that hold you back. Learn more about how to train and use the exercises as tools. Stop putting limits on your training and start thinking outside the box. The system is the system and the equipment just makes it easier to get some of the jobs done.

power rack

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