Westside / Conjugate Q&A With Musclebear
Appreciate any help you can pass on. I have recently done the 5th Set training routine. You start out at 80% 1RM and do 4 sets of 2 and a final, 5th set of AMRAP. Add 5lbs to lifts for 5 weeks, deload, and reset. I did a ‘mock meet’ after doing that routine for about 5 months and posted at 420 squat in sleeves, a 285 bench and 470 deadlift, sumo at about 215lbs.
My best all times lifts were a 480/350/505 at 242. The squat was in wraps but I’m sticking in sleeves at this point.
SQ: mid point (I get a good initial pop out of hole and then slow down/struggle mid way and then power up)
BP: same. After initial pop, I die out
DL: the last few inches, literally. I went for 510 and it came up as if it was on springs until it died out above the knee. I’ve been focusing on really pounding my posterior chain, which is something I regretfully never paid much attention too.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve done maybe 8-10 meets since 2011 and have always had the best numbers when using a conjugate program leading in. Unfortunately I’m the ‘habitual program jumper’ so I’ve spent too many years just spinning my wheels without making progress just because I thought the “next” program was going to be better.
The last time I ran a conjugate program, it was the template given out by Chad Smith on his article “How I Would Westside”. It was a 12 week meet prep split into 3 waves. Waving from 3 rep maxes down to one rep maxes and into a meet. During that meet, which was Nov 2015, I squatted 450(wraps)/325/485(missed 510).
Felt stronger and better in that meet than the meets where I used 5th set or 531 leading in. And the results speak for themselves, especially the bench part. I opened at 300 thay meet and couldn’t easy budge it last week, nor could I budge it when I went for a max attempt in July 2016. Something about ME works for me, especially in the bench. Nothing else was different. Diet and weight were the same for all mentioned meets.
I’d appreciate any guidance you can offer. I’m not necessarily looking for a full on program, but anything would help, even just some basic guidelines to work with, movements, rotations, etc. As I’ve said, I’ve spent too many years bouncing around looking for the next best thing and all the while just spinning my wheels without making program. Conjugate works for me. And with some help from you, I feel I can make it to the next level.
Short term goals, best my current 220 numbers: 420/325/485/1230 and long term goal is to best my 242 (1300) as a 220’er.
Your numbers have dropped somewhat significantly from the time you were 242 pounds. Obviously, this will happen when you’re dieted down into a lower weight class. But as a newer lifter, you should try to add as many pounds possible onto your total in the long term scheme of things. Think long term here. Why spin your wheels and face plateaus at ~215 pounds, when you were clearly much stronger at 242? You might make gradual progress while staying low at 220, but it really seems to me that your optimal weight class would be 242 in terms of being able to put on the most strength long term. While this does conflict with your long term goal of beating your best total of 1300 @ 242 as a 220er, think of how insignificant this is for your long term plans. Don’t beat yourself trying to total 1,300 at 220 when you could be getting strong and looking to clear past 1,500 @ 242 in your near future. While this advice might take some time to sink in, every high level powerlifter would tell you the exact same thing. Think of where you want to be 5 years from now with your lifting, and stop impeding your strength progress by trying to be in the “optimal” weight class! Judging by your numbers, you have yet to really see your true potential and your optimal weight class may very well be 242 once you’ve put on more muscle mass.
With regards to your sticking points, this is a little tricky to address exactly what’s going on without videos of your lifting. Here’s my best shot at addressing them:
SQ: mid point (I get a good initial pop out of hole and then slow down/struggle mid way and then power up) – Whether this is happening with wraps or just sleeves, your hamstrings need to get stronger. You’re able to grind out a lift using your quads & back strength, but your squat slows down due to a lack of hamstring strength. This is probably the most common sticking point for squatters, and aside from just getting stronger in general, be sure to incorporate GHRs as part of your accessory work and make sure you’re doing them every lower day. You can also incorporate pause squats or “tempo” squats (5 seconds down, pause, explosive up) in your dynamic work for multiple sets
BP: same. After initial pop, I die out – Work on your triceps and delts. It is better to go high volume on bench versus lower volume on conjugate, so get at least 10 sets minimum for DE work and have an actual secondary movement incorporated for each upper body day. A barbell movement is perfect for a secondary exercise, though dumbbell work is fine too.
DL: the last few inches, literally. I went for 510 and it came up as if it was on springs until it died out above the knee. I’ve been focusing on really pounding my posterior chain, which is something I regretfully never paid much attention too. – This one is tough without seeing video. Part of the problem might be due to you having a bad starting position, which will cost you a lift once you approach lockout. Strengthen your hips and lower back. Block pulls, pulls versus bands, RDLs, etc. will all work. In actuality, you just need to get stronger. Everything you do in training contributes to your deadlift strength.
As far as guidance, I might as well make the announcement now. For the past few months, I have been working on a platform that can be used for conjugate lifters which will provide an endless variety of variations and movements for training sessions. I am not talking about a PDF file with a cookie cutter template of what lifts to perform – this is something that has NEVER been done before in powerlifting. With this application, each training cycle will have the same structure of a well programmed conjugate training cycle, while never repeating itself twice in a row. This means you will able to run a conjugate program at the same level of proficiency as high level lifters are, without the monthly fee of working with an online coach. I am currently programming the code for it, and ETA for the release of this product will be Spring of this year.
Stay tuned, and in the meantime please make sure to read all of the articles I’ve written on my site related to using conjugate for raw lifting as a good starting point on my suggestions for training movements and accessories. Feel free to ask me any other questions you may have!