Take the Red Pill

TAGS: red pill, The Matrix, Nate Harvey, programming, strength and conditioning, conjugate, dynamic effort, max effort, Sports Training, conditioning, athlete, strength training, strength coach

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“TAKE THE RED PILL!”

If you follow any of my social media stuff, you’ll see a Matrix reference at least a couple of times a month. The older I get and the more I’m around, the more I swear we’re in some sort of program.

My whole Matrix theory obsession all started my junior year of college. We were in a team meeting before starting spring ball, and our coach asked all of the juniors what we thought we needed to do to have a successful year as seniors. Our junior year was almost a good year; we just missed a playoff spot in a program that had traditionally been one of the worst in the nation. The last junior to speak was our goofy ass-kicker (love you, Rudderow). He stood up and said something to the effect of ”Guys, the answer to this whole thing is right in front of us, we just have to be willing to see it, ya know, like Neo… from the Matrix!”


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I think most of the room could not figure out what in the hell he was talking about, and Coach was crying laughing, but I absolutely loved his answer. I’m not going to go into a long explanation in this article, but he was dead on! Next season, we went undefeated, made playoffs, and were ranked as high as fifth in the nation for the first time in school history. Rudderow was Morpheus, and he gave us the red pill!

My dude, Eric of Roc-en Pro fame, recently made a post about the Conjugate system that was a red pill explanation if I ever heard of one. He took an XL shirt I had sent him and put it on two of his clients who have very different structures and builds. Then he simply said, with easy modifications, this shirt can be made to fit myself and these two other very different individuals.


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That’s Conjugate!

In my “Training Lanes: A Guide to Conjugate Training for Athletes” article, I went over each of the lanes and gave some very general guidelines on how to set up a program for your athletes. In this article, we’re giving you the red pill! The best part is it’s a lot simpler than you think. If you can teach correct form, athlete intent into the bar, and not talk yourself out of implementing it, you’ll be in the hallway with coding numbers falling down the walls, stopping bullets with your hands, and impaling and consuming Agent Smith before you know it!

Max Effort Upper Outline

1. Tissue Prep – Pick one or two of these depending on the athlete’s need. Use the more aggressive option during your most crucial times of the year. Minimal needed dose.

2. Warm Up – Pick one or two of these for a warm up.

3. Throws Lane – Non-Reactive Explosive Strength – 3-6 x 5 – Typically off-season options. Pick one movement per workout. Do not use the same movement twice in one week.

4. Max Effort Lane

  • Set and Rep Options – Do not miss reps on any of these.
  • 1, 3 or 5 Rep Max
  • 1RM followed by 1-2 down sets with 80% of the 1RM taken to near failure
  • 4-5 sets of 2
  • Work up to what feels like a 9 out of 10 and do 4-5 sets there, If you can add weight, add it.

5. Accessory Lane – Use 4-6 movements from these categories (sets X reps). Take each set to positive failure (when form breaks down). The reps are just a guideline. We are trying to really fatigue these muscles, especially in the off-season. Max Effort days usually have more intensive movements and lower rep range (e.g., bent barbell row instead of seated cable rows).


RELATED: Conjugate Sequence System: General Physical Preparedness and the Yearly Plan


  • Second Pressing Movement – 3-4 x 5-10
  • Horizontal Row – 3-6 x 8-12
  • Tricep – 3-6 x 8-12
  • Obliques or Rotational Abs – 4x25
  • Shrug Variation – 4-5 x 12-20
  • Scapula and Rotator Work (shoulder health) – 4-6 x 20-30
  • Bicep – 3-4 x 10-15

6. Mobility/Reset Lane

  • Dick Hartzel Banded Shoulder Traction
  • Dead Hangs
  • Repeat Tissue Prep options for problem areas

Max Effort Upper Summary:

  1. Tissue Prep
  2. Warm Up
  3. Throws
  4. Max Effort Movements
  5. Accessory Movements
  6. Mobility/Reset

Dynamic Effort Lower Outline

1. Tissue Prep – Pick one or two of these depending on the athlete’s need. Use the more aggressive option during your most crucial times of the year. Minimal needed dose.

2. Warm Up – Pick one or two of these for a warm up.

3. Jumps Lane – Non-Reactive Explosive Strength – 3-8 x 5. Pick one movement per workout. Do not use the same movement twice in one week.


READ MORE: Alwyn Cosgrove's Rest-Pause Program


  • Box Jump
  • Weighted Box Jump – hold dumbbells, medicine balls, etc.
  • Seated Box Jump
  • Seated Weighted Box Jump
  • Seated Box Jump with Foot Slam – slam feet into the ground when you jump off the floor
  • Seated Weighted Box Jump with Foot Slam
  • Kneeling Jumps
  • Kneeling Jumps with Weight – hold medicine ball, weighted vest, etc.

4. Dynamic Effort Lane

  • Speed Squat – always to a box – 6-10 x 2
  • Week 1 – 10 sets @ 30%, Week 2 – 8 sets @ 35%, Week 3 – 6 sets @ 40%
  • 3-5 X 5
  • Week 1 – 5 sets @ 30%, Week 2 – 4 sets @ 35%, Week 3 – 3 sets @ 40%
  • Speed Pull – 6-10 x 2
  • Week 1 – 10 sets @ 30%, Week 2 – 8 sets @ 35%, Week 3 – 6 sets @ 40%
  • Kettlebell Swings – 3-4 x 10 reps

5. Accessory Lane – Use 4-6 movements from these categories (sets x reps). Take each set to positive failure (when form breaks down). The reps are just a guideline; we are trying to really fatigue these muscles, especially in the off-season. Dynamic days usually have less intensive movements but higher reps (e.g., Reverse Hyper instead of Romanian Deadlift).

  • Single Leg Movement – Doesn’t have to be on this day. Just get one in once per week.
  • Hip Extension Hamstring – 3-4 x 10-60 (many times we’ll get up to 60 reps on Reverse Hypers)
  • Knee Flexion Hamstring – Ankle weight or banded hamstrings. Ultra-high reps. Start at 100 total and build up to 300 total over 4-8 weeks. This dropped hamstring issues significantly.
  • Adductor Movement – 3-4 x 20-30. Groiners or Thompson Hips.
  • Weighted Abs – 100 total
  • Upper Back Movement – 3-4 x 10-20

6. Mobility/Reset Lane

  • Dick Hartzel Banded Hip Mobility
  • Repeat Tissue Prep options for problem areas

Dynamic Effort Lower Summary:

  1. Tissue Prep
  2. Warm Up
  3. Jumps
  4. Dynamic Effort Movements
  5. Accessory Movements
  6. Mobility/Reset

Dynamic Effort Upper Outline

1. Tissue Prep – Pick one or two of these depending on the athlete’s need. Use the more aggressive option during your most crucial times of the year. Minimal needed dose.

2. Warm Up – Pick one or two of these for a warm up.

3. Throws Lane – Non-Reactive Explosive Strength – 3-6 x 5 – Typically off-season options. Pick one movement per workout. Do not use the same movement twice in one week.

4. Dynamic Effort Lane

  • Speed Bench
  • Sets x reps – 6-8 x 3
  • Week 1 – 8 sets @ 30%, Week 2 – 8 sets @ 35%, Week 3 – 6 sets @ 40%
  • 3-5 x 5
  • Week 1 – 5 sets @ 30%, Week 2 – 4 sets @ 35%, Week 3 – 3 sets @ 40%

5. Accessory Lane – Use 4-6 movements from these categories (sets x reps). Take each set to positive failure (when form breaks down). The reps are just a guideline; we are trying to really fatigue these muscles, especially in the off-season. Dynamic days, in general, have less intensive movements but higher volume (e.g., Tricep Pushdown as opposed to a Fat Bar JM Press).

  • Horizontal Row – 3-6 x 12-20
  • Tricep – 3-6 x 12-20
  • Obliques or Rotational Abs – 4 x 25
  • Shrug Variation – 4-5 x 12-20
  • Scapula and Rotator Work (shoulder health) – 4-6 x 20-30
  • Bicep – 3-4 x 10-15

6. Mobility/Reset Lane

  • Dick Hartzel Banded Shoulder Traction
  • Dead Hangs
  • Repeat Tissue Prep options for problem areas

Dynamic Effort Upper Summary

  1. Tissue Prep
  2. Warm Up
  3. Throws
  4. Dynamic Effort Movements
  5. Accessory Movements
  6. Mobility/Reset

Max Effort Lower Outline

1. Tissue Prep – Pick one or two of these depending on the athlete’s need. Use the more aggressive option during your most crucial times of the year. Minimal needed dose.

2. Warm Up – Pick one or two of these for a warm up.

3. Jumps Lane – Non-Reactive Explosive Strength – 3-8 x 5. Pick one movement per workout. Do not use the same movement twice in one week.

  • Box Jump
  • Weighted Box Jump – hold dumbbells, medicine balls, etc.
  • Seated Box Jump
  • Seated Weighted Box Jump
  • Seated Box Jump with Foot Slam – slam feet into the ground when you jump off the floor
  • Seated Weighted Box Jump with Foot Slam
  • Kneeling Jumps
  • Kneeling Jumps with Weight – hold medicine ball, weighted vest, etc.

4. Max Effort Lane

  • Set and Rep Options – Do not miss reps on any of these.
  • 1, 3 or 5 Rep Max
  • 1RM followed by 1-2 down sets with 80% of the 1RM taken to near failure
  • 4-5 sets of 2
  • Work up to what feels like a 9 out of 10 and do 4-5 sets there. If you can add weight, add it.

5. Accessory Lane – Use 4-6 movements from these categories (sets x reps). Take each set to positive failure (when form breaks down). The reps are just a guideline; we are trying to really fatigue these muscles, especially in the off-season. Max Effort days usually have more intensive movements lower reps (e.g., Good Morning instead of Back Extension).

  • Second Barbell Movement – 3 x 5-8
  • Single Leg Movement – doesn’t have to be on this day. Just get one in once per week
  • Hip Extension Hamstring - 3-4 x 10-60 (many times we’ll get up to 60 reps on Reverse Hypers)
  • Knee Flexion Hamstring – 3-4 x 6-12
  • Hip Flexor Movement – 3-4 x 20-30 – Hanging Knee Raise or Weighted Knee Raise, for example.
  • Weighted Abs – 100 total
  • Upper Back Movement – Usually a pull/chin up variation – 3-4 x 6-fail

6. Mobility/Reset Lane

  • Dick Hartzel Banded Hip Mobility
  • Repeat Tissue Prep options for problem areas

Max Effort Lower Summary:

  1. Tissue Prep
  2. Warm Up
  3. Jumps
  4. Max Effort Movements
  5. Accessory Movements
  6. Mobility/Reset

There it is, Neo! Take your red pill and go forth and fight the status quo or keep following the lemmings off the cliff... it’s up to you.

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