The “Conjugate Method” Made Simple

Louie Simmons is one of the most underrated strength and conditioning coaches in the world. He’s been instrumental in changing the world of weightlifting – yet most people have never heard of him

Simmons is probably the greatest powerlifter in the sport’s history, reaching Elite level (top 1%) in five different weight categories, and managing a 920lb squat, 600lb bench press, and 722lb deadlift.

He’s also responsible for the increased interest in using chains for strength training (attaching them to barbells for squats), as well as resistance bands. Simmons has written articles for some of the biggest publications in strength and conditioning, has designed courses for CrossFit, and consulted for several different sports.

He also owns “The World’s Strongest Gym” called Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio.

One thing that Louie Simmons has brought to the world of powerlifting is the Westside Conjugate Method, a form of periodization that is fairly unique. Its main goal is to increase strength, so if you’re looking at it as a way to burn fat – you may want to look elsewhere. Also, the Conjugate Method is designed to help powerlifters, so expect a program that is based around the three main lifts (squats, deadlifts, and bench press).

louie simmons

Variety is the Spice of Life

When looking at what makes the Conjugate method special your eye is immediately drawn to the massive amount of variety the program offers. The theory is to work on the three lifts from every imaginable angle. So, for deadlifts, you may be performing sumo deadlifts with a conventional bar one week, rack pulls with a widened bar (using fat gripz for example) the next week, and deficit deadlifts using a trap bar the week after that.

This program is perfect for people who get tired of the same old program week in, week out. Even though the same basic moves are being performed (bench, deadlift, squat) you’ll rarely perform the same variation twice.

The Split

The Conjugate method is split into a traditional upper/lower body split, with bench press being focused on for two sessions per week and squats or deadlifts for the other two sessions (squats twice for one week, deadlifts twice for the next).

The sessions are split into Max Effort and Dynamic Effort.

Max Effort is based on lifting the heaviest weight you can, with the session focusing on you hitting a 1-3 rep max lift.

Dynamic Effort is all about power, which is speed and strength combined. A Dynamic Effort session would involve multiple sets (10-12) or 1-2 reps, performed as fast as possible using a weight that is about 50% of your 1rm for bench, 60% for deadlifts, or 70% for squats.

Each week you would perform one max effort session for squats or deadlifts, one max effort session for bench press, one dynamic effort session for squats or deadlifts, and one dynamic effort session for bench press.

Each session would use a different variation of the exercise. The program lasts six weeks, then you can repeat it.

Max Effort Session Example

Bench Press

Pick a variation: Flat Bench, Close Grip, Full Range of Motion, no chains or resistance bands.

Work up to 1 rep max

  • Close Grip Bench Press

Accessory Exercise: Pick a compound movement such as bench press, push up, dips

  • Weighted Dips 3 x 4-6 reps

Pick exercises for shoulders, triceps, abs, and back (high reps)

  • Seated DB Shoulder Press 2 x 20 reps
  • Cable Tricep Pushdown 3 x 12-15
  • Bodyweight Pull Ups 2 x AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
  • Abdominal Crunches 2 x 15-20

Dynamic Effort Session Example


Pick a variation: Back Squat, Straight Bar, Wide Stance, Box Squat to parallel depth.

12 sets of 2 reps performed fast but with excellent technique

60% 1rm

  • Box Squat to parallel 12 x 2 reps
  • Accessory Exercises: Pick 4-5 movements
  • Glute Ham Raise 3 x 20
  • Good Mornings 2 x 15-20
  • Chin Ups 3 x 12-15
  • Abdominal Crunches 2 x 15-20
  • 59