Over the last year, I've been training and coaching a few clients to compete in powerlifting competitions. I had the good fortune to coach one client to State and National Championships. I was training as a powerlifter but didn't have any desire to pursue it further than the coaching of others. I entered a few small meets and, along with The Club at Morristown Powerlifting Team, competed in my first full meet last month. The success at that competition prompted me to enter another meet in May, and possibly competing at the national level in August. I owe the success my team and I have had so far to Westside Barbell's conjugate method.
The Westside conjugate system is the best of two advanced training systems: the Soviet system, where several special exercises are used to advance the training of superior lifters and athletes, and the Bulgarian system, where near-max lifts are performed every workout. The Westside system is a combination of the two.
My previous training involved focusing on the big three lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift) simply because they are the three lifts performed in meets. With Westside, more focus is put on accessory exercises and speed work. This combination hits every aspect of each lift, strengthens lagging muscles, and puts an emphasis on core strength which is a key piece of any successful powerlifter. According to Louie Simmons, founder of Westside Barbell and creator of the conjugate system, he has trained world class sprinters using this system. Not once did he have his athletes perform a straight sprint. Instead, he focused on strengthening the hamstrings, core, and utilizing bands with resisted sprints.
What I found is the Westside system is not a program designed specifically for the sport of powerlifting. The speed work, combined with max effort days, is a perfect system for training any athlete in any sport. In all my years of training, the progress in strength and speed through this program has been unmatched. Coupled with a conditioning program on the off days, the conjugate system can be utilized to suit the needs of anyone whose goal is to improve overall general fitness.
What makes the Westside conjugate system unique is the variety, not just between speed training and max effort days, but the variation of exercises performed every two weeks. Because of this variation, this is one of the only programs that doesn't have to be substituted when you hit a training plateau. By adding bands and chains for accommodating resistence, a must when using this program, each session is unique and concentrates on hitting different "sticking points," such as the bottom of a squat or deadlift. By adding bands or chains, the load increases as the bar is lifted. This forces the lifter to exert more at the top, and stabilize more at the bottom of the lift.
Besides my powerlifting team who is currently on the Westside Barbell program, I train other clients with this method, from a Division I lacrosse player to a middle aged attorney. Both have greatly increased their speed and strength. There isn't one perfect program out there. In fact, there's a saying that the best program is the one you're not currently doing. But Westside is a great program that, when properly followed, goes way beyond your typical powerlifting program.
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