Strength Performance Network

Conjugated periodization for collegiate athletics - a perspective

There are many approaches to strength coaching, but all have the same key goals – prepare the athletes for the physical rigors of competition.  This includes everything from foundational strength, sport specific conditioning, injury prevention and pre-habilitation, to team spirit building and psychological preparation, and many more things in between. 

But at the core of it all is strength and conditioning, as the job title indicates.  Studies repeatedly demonstrate that during competition seasons, as specific skill sets increase, absent an effective program, strength can significantly decrease.  Training inherently cycles through different periods, a.k.a. periodization, in order to provide progression without overtraining.  Just as a season has an off-, pre-, in-, and post-, so strength and conditioning goes through cycles.  There are many periodization models that are followed, from the traditional/linear model first espoused by Medvedev, which proved effective for peaking for a single event but insufficient for prolonged competition seasons, to a variety of undulating and non-linear periodization approaches with a broad variety of macro, micro, and meso cycle durations and rotations.

One method that has consistently proven effective is the conjugated periodization method.  It basically involves rotating sessions of max effort, repetition training, dynamic effort, and recovery.  Pioneered mainly at Westside Barbell, and without going into a detailed paper on the method itself, there are many advantages to this approach in a collegiate athletic program. 

The max effort days allow for each athlete to compete with his own previous personal best in a given rep range.  Rather than externally imposed rep maxes, the individual athlete competes with his own recorded achievement.  Intrinsic motivation has always proven superior to external goals.  The dynamic days emphasize explosive movement, or the power aspect of the lifts, contributing directly to athletic performance and contributing to improvement of strength on the max effort days.  Repetition days can be used pre-season and in-season for sport specific metabolic work and specific muscular endurance, or off-season for hypertrophy.  Especially important for in-season in particular are recovery days, where the work load and activities allow for recuperation without stagnation. Each of these can also be combined in a variety of ways as needed during the year or season.  Max effort upper body can be combined with repetition supplemental exercises and a short bout of recovery (using light weights, flexibility and mobility) in a single workout, as long as it contributes to the overall progression of the program.

The huge advantage is the flexibility of the system to adapt to season, sport, and athlete, so that forward progression is more constant than other models of periodization.  It also acknowledges, unlike working solely with single rep-max percentage calculations that are externally imposed, the fluctuations of individual performance.  It is unlikely that any athlete gain the EXACT same yardage or shoot the EXACT percentage of field goals in EVERY game.  He/she may average a certain performance, but not achieve it in every outing!  Likewise, superimposed rep maxes can set up an athlete for unreasonable failure, rather than simple expecting the best each time out and average growth over time regardless of occasional fluctuations in performance.

It is by no means the only way, but because it is effective and flexible, it works really well within the structure of a collegiate athletic strength and conditioning program.

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Comment by Glen Adams on January 25, 2012 at 12:21pm


Comment by Eddy Schumacher on January 25, 2012 at 12:02pm

Best way to get a picture of how to structure your conjugated periodization is to read the article titled "The Periodization Bible" at by Dave Tate. Again, this is ONE of many viable approaches, but as I stated in my review, it had several advantages in the collegiate setting. Here's a direct link to the article.

Comment by Glen Adams on January 25, 2012 at 9:48am

max effort, dynamic, repetition...could you rough layout a week of training for me please ?

Comment by Nate Harvey on January 17, 2012 at 8:17am

Good post.

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