Total Body Conjugate 8-Week Program

TAGS: sample program, Total Body Conjugate, You Ask I Answer, matt ladewski, program design

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Fresh out of high school in the late 1990s, I was exposed to many new experiences. Thanks to the internet, I found an article by Louie Simmons that had some of the craziest ideas I had ever seen. Lying on the floor to bench press? I had never see anyone bench with chains or a specialty bar for that matter. Fast forward nearly 20 years and the conjugate system is still my go-to system. I believe it is the best system out there at getting people stronger.

The system is the system, but the exercises and how you structure some things allow for great variances in training for many individual needs. In my book You Ask I Answer, I answered a question about full-body training in the conjugate system. Based on your training age, goals, and schedule, this can go many ways. Below is an excerpt from my book along with a sample eight weeks of training set up for one of my clients.


Q: How do I set up a full body conjugate workout?

I enjoy doing full-body workouts. It fits into my busy work schedule. I love being able to be flexible with this as much as I can be. I was planning on using a conjugate style every 72 hours or so (I think the great Louie Simmons recommended this for conjugate). Sometimes I do need more than 72 hours to recover. I'm usually drained from work.

How would I go about switching exercises for dynamic and max effort? Should I keep exercises the same for max and dynamic days (ex: bench press with chains on day 1 and day 2) and then switch it on the next max and dynamic days (ex: incline with monster mini bands on days 3 and 4)? 

I love keeping things fresh to avoid burnout, boredom, and the biological law of accommodation.

I train at a typical commercial gym (24 Hour Fitness), so some things regarding different barbells for conjugate are out of the picture sort...unless I buy my own and bring it into the gym.

A: Could you do both an upper and a lower main lift in the same workout? I think you could with some tweaks, but I probably wouldn't.

I would set it up so that you do the main exercise, a supplemental, and one assistance exercise for upper and then some assistance for lower. Then, the next workout would be the reverse. I would show you how it would look on paper. It is not written for a specific weakness or volume and does not include everything. Each individual would need to decide how much and how frequently each muscle needs to be hit.

This is written for a workout every 72 hours.

It can easily be stretched to two days a week for more of a set schedule.

Monday

Thursday

  • Front Squat: Max effort
  • Snatch Grip Deadlifts: Supplemental
  • Reverse Hypers: Lower assistance
  • Pushdowns, Dumbbell Curls, Face Pulls: Upper assistance
  • Lats and Abs

Sunday

  • Upper Dynamic Effort
  • Dumbbell Press: Supplemental
  • Bradford Press: Upper Assistance
  • Back Raise, Split Squats, Calf Raises: Lower assistance
  • Lats and Abs

Wednesday

  • Speed Squats/Speed Deadlifts: Lower Dynamic Effort
  • Yoke Bar Good Mornings: Supplemental
  • Reverse Hypers: Lower assistance
  • Rear, Side, Front Dumbbell Raises, Preacher Curls: Upper Assistance
  • Lats and Abs

Time could be an issue, so use circuits, supersets, tri-sets, etc., to get the most out of your conditioning and time. What this becomes is a 10-day cycle with a high/low type of setup. It would take a little planning, but it can be done.

Because you mentioned that recovery could be an issue, switching to a 14-day cycle is a possibility. You can set the days to Monday and Thursday. Make Thursday your more demanding workout, and you will have an extra day of recovery before the next workout.

Another option is the 14-day schedule with a separate day for lats and biceps. This will remove some of the work from both days and condense the lat work to just one day. This will also allow you to spend more time on other areas.

This eight-week sample program is a snapshot of a few cycles written for a former competitive weightlifter (local/state level). Michael wanted to get back into shape, lose weight, and include some weightlifting movements. Numbers were not the main goal, but he was hitting numbers near his old maxes at a nearly 20-pound-lighter bodyweight. This may look very different from what you are used to seeing, but the concepts are still there. Most importantly, he was having fun while making progress.

If you are new to the conjugate style of training, I highly recommend that you do more research so that you can properly manipulate the system. This is the best way for you to fully maximize this type of training. What I have written here is a 14-day cycle with an added back/biceps day. This is not your typical conjugate training plan, but it is fun and is a challenge to push the boundaries a bit.

Cycle 3

Weeks 1 and 3 

Max Effort Upper

*Work up in sets of five until it is hard. Continue to work up in singles. Try to break your previous best by five pounds. If you do not have a record, set one. If you miss, then stop. If you break your record, then stop.

Week 1: Steep Incline

Week 3: Close Grip Bench

Good mornings: 3-4 work sets of 12-15 reps

*Do back-to-back sets 3-5 work sets:

  • Leg Curl Variation: x 12
  • Bradford Press: x 12 (over and back is 1 rep)

*Last three can be done as straight sets or as a circuit for 10, 12, or 15 minutes

  • Dips: 4-6 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Optional lower body exercise: 3-5 sets of 12 reps
  • Leg raises: 12-20 reps (50-75 total)

Dynamic/Rep Lower

Cleans

Week 1: 65%

Week 3: 70%,  6 x 2 with 90 seconds of rest

Squats

Week 1: 3 sets of 8 reps

Week 3: 3 sets of 10 reps

Overhead Press: 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps

*Last three can be done as straight sets or as a circuit for 10, 12, or 15 minutes

  • Lunges: 3-5 sets of 12 for each leg
  • Skull Crushers: 4-6 sets of 12 reps
  • Face Pulls: 3-5 sets of 25 reps

Back and Biceps

*Do 3-5 work sets for each.

  • A1: Pullover Variation (machine, cable machine, band, or dumbbell): x 20
  • A2: Barbell Curl (close grip, wide grip, or reverse grip, two-second squeeze at top, three-second lower): x 12
  • B1: Row Variation (chest supported, barbell, dumbbell, low cable row): x 8
  • B2: Dumbbell Curl Variation (hammer forward, hammer to opposite shoulder, Zottman): x 12
  • C1: Spinal Erectors (seated good mornings, back extension, pull-throughs, upper-back good mornings, band good mornings): x 12
  • C2: Abs (side bends, Roman chair, leg raises, sit-ups on a stability ball, pulldown abs): x 12

Weeks 2 and 4

Rep Upper

Close-Grip Bench: 6 sets of 5 reps and 1 AMRAP (six total sets). One-minute rest. Start light. Add five pounds the following week if you completed all six sets of six reps OR add 10 pounds if you got more than 10 reps on the last set.

Snatch to Overhead Squat: 3-5 sets of 2-3 reps. Do one snatch with 4-6 overhead squats.

*Do 3-5 rounds.

  • A1: Single Leg RDL: x 12 per leg
  • A2: Trifecta: x 20 reps of each without putting down the dumbbell (dumbbell rear raise, side raise, front raise). Yes, all 60 reps with same dumbbell without putting it down.

*Do 4-5 rounds or 10-15 minutes.

  • B1: Pushdowns: x 8
  • B2: Ab Wheel or Ab Fallouts: x 8
  • B3: Optional: Leg extension: x 8 (with a two-second squeeze)

Max Effort Lower 

*Work up in sets of 3 until hard, then work to a max single.

Week 1: Front Squat

Week 2: Deadlift with plates raised 2-3 inches

Dumbbell Press on Low Incline: 3-4 sets of 15 (on week 4, beat week 2)

*Do 3-5 rounds.

  • A1: Dumbbell Overhead Press: x 10
  • A2: Split Squats: x 10 each leg

*Do 3 rounds.

  • B1: Dumbbell Shrugs: x 20
  • B2: Calf Raise: x 20

Back and Biceps

This week is straight sets. No back-to-back sets or supersets.

  • 45-Degree Back Raise: 3-5 sets of 10 with a one-second squeeze. Hold dumbbells for added weight.
  • Pull-ups: 25-50 total reps; you choose sets and reps (add weight as needed)
  • Machine rows (low cable or chest supported): 3-5 sets of 12 reps
  • Dumbbell Curl Drop Set:  Do 12 reps, go to a lighter dumbbell, and do 12 more reps: 3-4 work sets
  • Preacher Curl: 3-4 sets of 20 reps

Cycle 4

Week 1 and 3

Max Effort Upper

Work up in sets of five until it is hard. Continue to work up in singles. Try to break your previous best by five pounds. If you do not have a record, set one. If you miss, then stop. If you break your record, then stop.

Week 1: Close Grip Floor Press

Week 3: Reverse Mini Band

Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 3-4 work sets of 6-8 reps

*Do 3-5 back-to-back work sets.

*Last three can be done as straight sets or as a circuit for 10, 12, or 15 minutes.

  • Dumbbell Flyes (on low incline): 3-4 sets of 20 reps
  • Optional Lower-Body Exercise: 3-5 sets of 45 seconds
  • Leg Raises: 4-5 sets x 12

Dynamic/Rep Lower

Front Squats

Week 1: 70% 12x2
Week 3: 75% 12x2

High Pulls: 5-6 sets of 3 reps (use clean or snatch grips)

Close Grip Bench: 3-5 sets of 8 reps

*Last three can be done as 3-5 straight sets or as a circuit for 10, 12, or 15 minutes.

  • Band Leg Extension: 40 seconds at week 1, 50 seconds at week 3
  • Barbell Extensions (to nose): 4-6 sets x 12
  • Rear Dumbbell Flyes: x 25

Back and Biceps

*Do 3-5 work sets for each.

  • A1: Pullover Variation (machine, cable machine, band, or dumbbell): x 20
  • A2: Barbell Curl (close grip, wide grip or reverse grip, two-second squeeze at top, three-second lower) x 12
  • B1: Row Variation (chest supported, barbell, dumbbell, low cable row) x 8
  • B2: Dumbbell Curl Variation (hammer forward, hammer to opposite shoulder, Zottman) x 12
  • C1: Reverse Hyper on Bench: x 25 or Supermans: x 50 (per set)
  • C2: Abs (Side Bends, Roman Chair, Leg Raises, Sit-ups on stability ball, pulldown abs): x12

Weeks 2 and 4

Rep Upper 

Week 2: Bench: 8 sets of 8 reps. The last set is AMRAP. One-minute rest. Start light. Add five pounds the following week if you completed all 10 sets of 10 reps, or add 10 pounds if you got more than 15 reps on the last set.

Week 4: If you did not complete all sets, try to beat the previous week with the same weight.

Zercher Good Mornings: 3-4 sets of 12

*Do 3-5 rounds.

  • A1: Good Mornings (round and arch band): x 20
  • A2: Facepulls: x 25

*Do 4-5 rounds or 10-15 minutes.

  • B1: Underhand Band Pushdown (with a two-second squeeze): x 15
  • B2: Ab Wheel: x 6
  • B3: Overhead Squat (no lockout): x 12

Max Effort Lower 

*Work up in sets of 3 until hard, then work to a max single.

Week 1: Snatch (from a small deficit—just do singles)

Week 2: Reverse Band Front Squat

Single-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press: 3-4 sets of 12 – on week 4, beat week 2.

*Do 3-5 rounds.

  • A1: Dumbbell Y+T: 15 T’s then 15 Y’s
  • A2: Stability Ball or TRX Leg Curls: x 12

*Do 3 rounds.

  • B1: Single-Arm Band Pulldowns (sit on floor): x 12 reps per side. Get a good squeeze on each rep.
  • B2: Shrugs: x 20

Back and Biceps 

*This week is straight sets. No supersets.

  • Dumbbell Cuban Press: x 12 (be super strict)
  • Supine Rows: 3-5 sets of 10 with one-second hold
  • Band Pullovers: 3-5 sets of 15 reps (hook a rope to the band)
  • Wide-Grip Barbell Curls: 3-5 sets of 12 with two-second squeeze at the top
  • Concentration Curls (with three-second lower): x 12

This training is set up very differently from traditional conjugate training. The concepts that make the conjugate system work—max effort, dynamic effort, and the repetition method—are all in there. This is what makes this work. Changes in training and new challenges make it fun. There will always be goals to chase and another five pounds to put on the bar. Train hard, and have fun.

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