It wasn’t until early 2017 that I stumbled across the conjugate system. Up until then I was stuck on the same old block training or what most would call the linear model of periodization. My athletes would bust their ass for a month then during the next month all of their original strengths gained in the previous month would be lost. I was tracking their progress and I saw a pattern. When I prioritized one section of the force velocity curve, others would diminish. If we focused primarily on eccentric strength, concentric strength took a massive hit. Adding 5-10lbs to the bar only worked for so long before progress would begin to stagnate. The carry over to the field was not moving at a fast enough pace. I was convinced this was normal, things take time. Nothing comes easy and I was willing to wait it out. My athletes trained this way for years before I realized there was a better way.

Originally the conjugate system was adapted from Russian training methods used to train multiple sports in the old Soviet Olympic training system. But I stumbled across the system watching YouTube videos of Dave Tate talking about training methods he used to get guys strong. As I was implementing some of the same principles from the conjugate method into my training, I saw immediate results. So my interest was peaked. Then one of my good friends told me to look into Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell. 

I’m going to be honest. I listened to probably every YouTube seminar video available of Louie explaining the way he implemented the conjugate system. I read all the books and learned a ton! With that said, I was also super confused most of the time. So when I started applying this system with my testing athletes (testing athletes’ train for free, every strength coach needs testing athletes. Self-applying and tracking your own results are great, but you need to test and see how the stimulus affects other human bodies for 6+ weeks at a time) we failed a ton to say the least. A majority of my clientele is the baseball population. So they were my first priority. As I tested the conjugate system on them and myself, we continuously ran into over-training.

For those who do not know what over-training is, it’s basically an illness. It’s 100% clinical and should be avoided. But with out risk, there is no reward. My guys focused on full baseball development. So I had to find a way to manage their throwing programs, (think intensity, volume, training economy) hitting programs, (think intensity, volume, training economy) and the conjugate system simultaneously. We were going full fledge conjugate with 4 training days a week separated as followed. 

  • Max-effort lower
  • Max-effort upper
  • Dynamic effort lower – 72 hours after max effort lower
  • Dynamic effort upper – 72 hours after max effort upper

To be fair, I have read so many articles from guys who successfully implemented the system “with out error” for athletes. I’ve seen all the testimonies of guys getting stronger, faster, etc. But I on the other hand am not like most strength coaches. I have to wear multiple hats. I am not only a strength coach; I am a hitting instructor and throwing instructor. So technically, if I wanted to, I could of just thrown everyone on the 4x a week module the conjugate system is most known for and just told my athletes to deal with it. But I wasn’t looking for a quick fix. I was looking for a long-term development plan that would actually produce RESULTS. Which required me to test, test, test and test again until I could find something that really worked for the baseball player TODAY.

Baseball players today are looking any edge they can find. From the latest tech to the newest training fads. These guys are going above and beyond trying to find something that can take them over the top, restart their career, or finally get noticed. So it amazes me how this market is still saturated with basic outdated training techniques. Development gets way more complicated than just long toss, batting practice, and lifting heavy or light weight. Especially once you start working with professional baseball players.

Our throwing programs are pretty intense, as they should be. Difficulty, stress, and failure create adaptation and growth. We spend about 80% of our throwing programs focused on warm up and recovery, believe it or not, this is a workout in and of itself. The recovery and warm up is basically strength training in smaller doses. My pro hitters can take upwards of 200-300 swings a day.  We all know the “one-more” guy who finds his way into swinging for an extra 20 minutes. Not to mention the hard worker who goes out early to practice for extra ground balls and stays late for extra swings. Things like this, the average strength coach does not account for. Unfortunately every swing, throw, and sprint counts as volume in one aspect or another. It also takes up a significant piece of the athletes training economy. This is why training the baseball population with the conjugate system was extremely difficult to implement at first.

Back in 2018 I was making small strides training with a conjugate module by self-applying this system. One day after a long 9 hours on the job, (1 of which was spent training myself, 4 of which were spent at the gym coaching, the other 4 were spent outside in 120 degree heat coaching my youth groups back to back) I came home and had dinner with the family. Afterwards I found myself hunched over with a terrible pain in my stomach. I thought my kidney burst. I didn’t for one second think that this pain was from over-training. I was used to over-training all the time. What’s hard work to a hard worker? Just work. It’s nothing. So when I got to the emergency room and paid 2k for the doc to pump me full of sugar water and tell me I am working too hard, I thought hmmm… Maybe there’s a better way to do this. If this could happen to me, it could happen to one of my guys.

In-short the conjugate system is basically a scientific approach for enhancing multiple motor abilities (strength, speed, and strength-endurance) at once. This is a very complex system and I highly recommend anyone reading this to do your own research and self-apply, the purpose of this blog is to inform on how I successfully implemented this system with my athletes (specifically with the baseball population) not break down the conjugate system as a whole. There are MANY ways to implement this system, and although there are no real absolutes in the programming, there is one rule that should be followed regardless of what training system you conform to.

Work general to specific, always.  Do not, I repeat, do not just throw newbies on max effort lower then throw in crazy intense plyometrics like depth jumps. It may look good for social media clout, but it will drastically stagnate or even decline the newbies development.

Know your role and the population you are working with. For newbies (first time training) basically anything general works. During the initial stages of training the body will respond to just about anything. “As a result of the general adaptation response, the specific training effects which enhances potential are not produced” – Super Training, Dr. Mell Siff

As the athlete gets stronger and more developed, their sporting efficiency will grow and allow them to adapt to more specific training means. The goal is to always train optimally, not to just train.

At first, my athletes were getting decently strong, but because they had to primarily focus in the weight room it left very little room for technical skill development. So when my guys were headed out to the field for a 3-hour practice they were dying. When they needed to work on mound blending or swing design, they didn’t have much left in the tank.  Most of my testing athletes were remote clientele. These were guys who tained for free, they were self sufficient and tracked their progress for me. They also were well trained athletes who were with me for several months before I asked them to help out with testing. 

But because they were remote, I had no idea how to calculate their current training with what they did on the field outside of my recommended throwing and/or hitting program I designed. This lasted about 6 months before I pulled the plug on 4x a week strength module with throwing/hitting development. It was easy to implement the system with other populations like track and field, football, basketball in the off-season, etc. But with baseball being such a highly technical skilled game, I had to find a way to make sure the weight room was complimenting their skill development and didn’t take away from it. After all, these guys were coming to me to make them better at baseball, not better at weight lifting. 

So I changed the system to 3x a week. After some tinkering we got our baseball off-season program to look like this. Keep in mind this doesn’t include our general to specific phasing we use for each athlete based on their current fitness level.

Day 1 week 1 – ME Lower

Day 2 week 1 – DE Upper

Day 3 week 1 – DE Lower (Recommended 72 hours after ME Lower)

Day 1 week 2 – ME Upper

Day 2 week 2 – DE Lower

Day 3 week 2 – DE Upper (Recommended 72 hours after ME Upper)

Day 1 week 3 – ME Lower

Day 2 week 3 – DE Upper

Day 3 week 3 – DE Lower (Recommended 72 hours after ME Lower)

Next 3 week wave would look like this

Day 1 week 1 – ME Upper

Day 2 week 1 – DE Lower

Day 3 week 1 – DE Upper (Recommended 72 hours after ME Upper)

Day 1 week 2 – ME Lower

Day 2 week 2 – DE Upper

Day 3 week 2 – DE Lower (Recommended 72 hours after ME Lower)

Day 1 week 3 – ME Upper

Day 2 week 3 – DE Lower

Day 3 week 3 – DE Upper (Recommended 72 hours after ME Upper)

This worked extremely well for most baseball players right away. Some of my meatheads still use the 4x a week module when they are “shut down” from throwing. This is usually directly after season has ended.

Our baseball in-season template is as follows

Day 1 week 1 – ME Lower

Day 2 week 1 – DE Upper

(With a recommended 72 hours apart, but sometimes during season, you got to do what you got to do and get it in when you can)

Day 1 week 2 – ME Upper

Day 1 week 2 – DE Lower

(Recommended 72 hours apart)

Day 1 week 3 – ME Lower

Day 2 week 3 – DE Upper

(Recommended 72 hours apart)

Next 3 week wave would look like this

Day 1 week 2 – ME Upper

Day 1 week 2 – DE Lower

(Recommended 72 hours apart)

Day 1 week 3 – ME Lower

Day 2 week 3 DE Upper

(Recommended 72 hours apart)

Day 1 week 2 – DE Lower

(Recommended 72 hours apart)

This template worked really well with our position players. Especially since most of their coaches loved running 4-5 hour collegiate practices…

Some guys still really liked the  3 days a week module, so often I would just add an extra mobility/restoration day with light sled work and/or an ME/DE lift with 1 or 2 accessories instead of 3-4.

THE PRINCIPLES

Max Effort – Athletes need to train above 90% frequently to increase strength. We teach the athlete to strain here. The velocity in this range is low but the intent to move this weight as fast as possible is very high. Our youth athletes cycle through several phases before ever attempting our max effort or dynamic effort work.

Recovery – This requires 72 hours of rest between day 1 and day 3, and day 3 and day 1. This also requires 12-24 hours of rest between day 1 and day 2, and day 2 and day 3. Through out the week we will implement FRC (functional range conditioning) to ensure optimal recovery and improvement of joint capacity.

Dynamic Effort either upper or lower is later in the week. This is where our speed work takes place. Here we focus on raising explosive strength and RFD (rate of force development) this is 72 hours after max effort work to ensure recovery. Depending on where the athlete is at in their training they will be between 30 – 75% here. As shown in the graph, the higher the velocity the lower the force. We raise the force output here because of the high acceleration we place on the bar. 

Repeated Effort – This is where the accessories come into play. We focus on bringing up weak areas of the body and building tissues. 

The 3 week waves allows the athlete to systematically increase the intensity and volume weeks 1-3 then drop back off during week 1 on the next 3-week wave. Every week 1 will act as the “Deload” week to avoid overtraining. The law of accommodation states that there will be a decrease in the response of your body if the stimulus is constant. So after 3 weeks of following a similar stimulus the body falls into accommodation, which stagnates and/or decreases performance once the body fully adapts to the stimulus. Louie said it best, “to adapt is to die.” We now change the stimulus every 3 weeks to avoid accommodation. 

By training the above three methods systemically we can actually manipulate the force velocity relationship with each athlete and enhance multiple special strengths year around. This system intertwined with our throwing program has worked time and time again with increasing our athletes throwing velocity and also adding lean muscle mass. I do not have averages to show you, that’s kind of a scheme. Let me explain; if I train a vet with MLB time and he gains 2 mph to his already fast, fastball. That spread compared to the high school newbie who came in sitting 70 poo and adds 10mph in 3 months cause he has never trained before will be a drastically different spread. So be careful about buying products because of the “average MPH gain” gimmick going around.

This system has continued to succeed my expectations as I grow with my own implementation of it. My athlete’s consistently improve their agility scores with out really spending hardly any time on “agility training”. They constantly improve on their jumps for both height and length, their sprint times increase (10yd, 30yd, 40yd), and maximal strength and explosive strength development goes through the roof. The best part, its year around! 

Elite athletes require elite training methods in order to progress. Although it may be easier to just conform to basic linear progression protocols year around because it’s fairly easy to implement as a coach and is widely accepted with novice trainees. This approach will with out a doubt stagnate or even decline athletic performance of the well trained athlete.

At some point the coach will need to risk it. You never really know until you know. This will require self-application and constant testing to better your methods and your knowledge.

The most IMPORTANT aspect of this system, hands down, is the coaching. With out a qualified strength coach who knows how to implement, instruct and cue proper weightlifting technique, you will quickly find yourself up shit creek with out a paddle. Blaming the system instead of yourself. Don’t be that guy.

If you’re a college coach, facility owner or private instructor, and are interested in OPP training your athletes. We offer team training on a mass scale using our easy to use software. This software includes over 350+ videos of exercises, educational content for the coach and athlete, and more. We can assess and develop individual programs for each athlete or implement our system on a broader scale and make it sport/position specific to fit the needs of your team.

For more info on our training packages or remote software, email us directly at info@optimalpowerperformance.com

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