Bare Bones Conjugate: A Bar, Rack, and Bench Weeks 5-8

TAGS: Max Effort Lower, Max Effort Upper, Dynamic Effort Lower, Dynamic Effort Upper, band work, Conjugate Training, matt ladewski, assistance work

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Conjugate training is much more than bands, chains, and specialty bars. It is also not box squats, sled dragging, or powerlifting gear. For those of you who missed the previous bare bones article, let me bring you up to speed. The purpose of the article series is to address the issues of an elitefts reader who thought he couldn’t train using the conjugate system because he didn’t have the “stuff” to do so.

I understand his confusion, but the conjugate system is about max effort, dynamic effort, and the repetition method. You can do everything with just a rack, bar, bench, and some weights. Specialty bars, bands, dumbbells, and the other goodies make things more fun and make some things easier, but you can accomplish everything with the most basic of equipment.

The conjugate method started with basic equipment and evolved as more tools became available. You may need to be more creative, progress could be slower, and you will have fewer items to give you feedback on weaknesses, but it can be done. Whether you train in a commercial gym or in your garage, you have the tools to get the job done. In part one of this article series we looked at the first four weeks of the bare bones conjugate training program. Now we're moving forward to weeks five through eight.

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Weeks 5-8: Wave 2

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: Pin 3 Rack Pull

Week 2: Dead Squat, 1-2 Inches Above Parallel

Week 3: Deficit Deadlift (Stand on plates)

Week 4: Good Mornings from Pins (Hard set of 8)

Assistance Work

  • Good Morning Squat, 3-5 x 8
  • Lateral Lunge, 4-6 x 10 Back-to-Back with Bar Rollouts, 4-6 x 6
  • RDL, No Lockout, 3-5 x 15
  • Zercher Upper Back Good Mornings, 3-5 x 20
  • Calf Raise, Narrow Stance, 3-4 x 20

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: Bench to Rolled Towel with Close Grip

Week 2: Low Incline with Medium Grip

Week 3: Pin Press (Start two inches off chest)

Week 4: Illegal Wide Bench Press (Hard set of 8)

Assistance Work 

Dynamic Effort Lower

Use max from Cycle 1.

Week 1: Front Squat, 70% for 12 x 2 with 40 seconds rest

Week 2:Front Squat, 72% for 12 x 2 with 40 seconds rest

Week 3: Front Squat, 80% for 12 x 2 with 40 seconds rest

Week 4: Competition Squat, 50% for 3-4 x 12

Assistance Work 

Weeks 1-4:

  • Rack Pulls, Conventional Stance, Just Below Knee, 3-5 x 5
  • Seated Good Mornings, 3-5 x 20
  • Bodyweight Leg Extensions, Length of Song (Rest as needed but limit breaks to 15-20 seconds)
  • Single-Leg RDL’s,  3-5 x 10 (Use 10- or 25-pound plates on the bar to increase range of motion)
  • Hanging Leg/Knee raises, 3-5 x 10

Dynamic Effort Upper

Weeks 1-3: Speed Bench, 65% for 9 x 3 (Three sets close grip, three medium, three wide)

Week 4: Bench Press, 8 x 8, One-Minute Rest

 Assistance Work 

  • 4-6 Rounds of Superset: Barbell Extensions to Neck x 8, Close-Grip Push-Ups with Feet on Bench x 12
  • Chin-Ups, 3-6 Sets to Failure (Add weight if needed)
  • Overhead Pin Press at Nose Level, 3-4 x 10
  • Plate Pinch Curls, 3-4 x 20

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Weeks 5-8 —Wave 2 with Bands

As with the first wave, I have included a separate wave with the addition of bands not only for dynamic effort but also for some assistance exercises. There are some similarities but you can see the different and variety that can be added with just a few 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: Pin 2 Rack Pull Against Bands

Week 2: Zercher Squat from Pins (Pins just above knee level)

Week 3: Snatch Grip Deadlift

Week 4: Good Morning from Pins (To a hard set of 8)

Assistance Work 

  • Good Morning Box Squats to Bench, 3-4 x 10
  • Band Pull-Throughs (Hamstring Emphasis), 3-5 x 12
  • Reverse Lunges, 3-5 x 6 (each leg)
  • Side-Bend Pushdowns with Band, 4-5 x 12

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, don’t go any higher. Break records by five pounds and stop.

Week 1: Close Grip Incline

Week 2: Floor Press

Week 3: Reverse Light Band Bench

Week 4: Illegal Wide Bench to Max 8

Assistance Work 

  • Cuban Press, 3-5 x 12
  • Band Pushdowns, 3-6 x 15
  • Barbell Rows, 4-5 x 12
  • Barbell Curls, 4-5 x 12 (Squeeze for two-count at top)
  • Superset for 2-4 Rounds: Band Side Raise x 20, Face Pulls x 25

Dynamic Effort Lower

Week 1: Competition Squat, 50% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension, 12 x 2, 45 Seconds Rest

Week 2: Competition Squat, 55% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension, 12 x 2, 45 Seconds Rest

Week 3: Competition Squat, 60% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension, 10 x 2, 45 Seconds Rest

Week 4: Competition Squat, 40% Bar Weight, 25% Band Tension, 6 x 2, 45 Seconds Rest

Assistance Work 

  • Week 1-3: Pin 1 Deadlifts Against Bands, 4-5 x 3 (Work hard but be explosive)
  • Week 4: No Deadlift
  • Superset 4-5 Rounds: Band Leg Curls x 15, Band Pulldown Abs (Staggered Stance) x  10
  • Band Good Mornings with Narrow Stance, 3-5 x 20 (Focus on round and arch)
  • Split Squats, 3-4 x 12

Dynamic Effort Upper

Week 1-3: Speed Bench, 40-50% Bar Weight, 20% band tension, 6 x 5 reps (Two sets close grip, two medium, two wide)

Assistance Work 

  • Bench: 1 x 15 Close, 1 x 15 Wide (Get all reps and add 5-10 pounds the following week)
  • 3-5 Rounds of Superset: Reverse Band JM Press x 6, Band Pushdowns x 20
  • Single-Arm Band Pulldown, 5-6 x 10
  • J-Walking, 1-3 Trips (Up and down)
  • Reverse Grip Curls, 3-4 x 12

Two waves complete and I have given you a few different types of progressions. Change exercises after each wave or ride the wave a few cycles until you get stale. Each person and their state of readiness will determine where to take the cycle from here. It might need to be cut after one or two, or run the full three weeks. Next cycle I will toss in a few different things to cap off the twelve-week cycle. These will bring you to the point where you will be ready to test and start a new 12-week block.

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