In an ideal world, a lifter's lifestyle and recovery capabilities line up with a four-day conjugate training split that includes a max effort and dynamic effort workout for both upper and lower body lifts each week. In the real world, this often isn't the case. For either time constraints or an inability to recover optimally, many lifters seek an alternative to the traditional template. In this Table Talk video, Dave summarizes several questions he has received on this topic and gives an all-inclusive response:

"How do you run a conjugate program only three days a week?

As an example of how this might work, Dave notes that you can rotate four days on a three-day per week schedule, as such:

  • Monday — Max Effort Lower Body
  • Wednesday — Max Effort Upper Body
  • Friday — Dynamic Effort Lower Body
  • Monday — Dynamic Effort Upper Body

After that Monday you would start the rotation again with a max effort lower body session on Wednesday. This is effectively a nine-day cycle instead of a typical seven-day cycle that repeats each week. Training this way and making great progress is more than doable, Dave says. In fact, during his most intense struggles with insomnia, Chad Aichs used a 14-day split for the conjugate system with which he would complete the four main training days in a time span of two weeks.

Will results be less than optimal training on a modified split like this? It's all based upon recovery, Dave explains. If you're trying to slam four training sessions into seven days but you can't recover, your results will be less than if you expand the cycle length. You may perform fewer training sessions over the same time frame, but your results will be better. The optimal point is always going to be where your recovery matches your training.

MORE: Training to Peak for a Meet

Dave goes on to say that where this can get tricky is when planning for a meet. When developing your plan for peaking for a meet, you want to work backwards from the day of the competition. This is much easier to do with weeklong cycles. For the sake of simple peaking rules, Dave lays out a scenario where you want your last heavy lifts to fall on the following days:

  • Last Bench: Seven days out
  • Last Squat: 10 days out
  • Last Deadlift: 14 days out

If you begin your entire plan for the meet by starting at this basic template and then working backward, it will be much easier than starting from the front and then trying to scramble to make things fit in the final few weeks of peaking. With this system or any other, Dave advises all lifters to make adjustments that make sense for the individual. This means your conjugate setup can look a lot of different ways and it may not always be the typical four-day split over one week. It could be the three-day split Dave outlined or, like a lot of lifters Dave has worked with, it may even mean centering most of the training on the weekend and then performing two weekday workouts consisting exclusively of accessory exercises.

The lesson here is to forget about trying to use the perfect sequence in every situation. Don't try to force things to fit a template. Form the template around the lifter instead and you'll be far more successful.

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