November
25
2015

The Conjugate System for a CrossFit Gym

By Chris 1

By Jason Brown, owner of CrossFit 781

Over the past decade, CrossFit’s growth has been explosive and there is no slowdown in sight. Since I started CrossFit in 2006, I’ve noticed a trend in our community: new box owners brimming with excitement and passion for running a new business, for training people and for helping others, but some without the experience to properly program for the wide range of athletes at their box. As someone who has been working hands-on in the strength and conditioning community for over 12 years, and in CrossFit for nine years with a portion of that time spent at a competitor level, I’ve amassed plenty of tried and tested learnings and best practices for training a full range of athletes – from the most green to the most seasoned.
Through my own trial and error during the past eight years, I have developed a program template that hits each of the objectives for my own training and the training of the hundreds of athletes that come into our gym each week as well as those who have hired me to develop their own personal training programs – it all comes down to balance. Through a long period of trial and error, I experimented with various templates to avoid overtraining and keep myself, as well as members of my box, progressing. Overall, I knew there was a better way and I knew my background in strength and conditioning would give me an advantage to determine the right template.
Structure is Key
I started out with the mindset of trying the keep the programming as balanced as possible where randomness was seldom and I was determined to find a system that made the most sense from many perspectives. One of the first templates I started out with looked something like this:

Monday: Strength>Knee Dominant>5-10m metcon
Tuesday: Gymnastics>Vertical Pushing>10-15m metcon
Wednesday: Strength>Hip dominant>5-10m metcon
Thursday: Gymnastics>Horizontal Pull>15-20m metcon
Friday: Strength>Knee Dominant>5m (or less) metcon
Saturday: Mixed Modality metcon 20+min
Sunday: Open Gym (Rest Day)

We had a lot of success with this type of template and produced some great numbers in the strength department especially with our female members. We had four females deadlift over 300 pounds and most of them had less than two years of lifting experience. I considered this programming a success. And you may be asking, so why fix it if isn’t broken?

I started thinking about our members that only train on specific days of each week. What about the population of our gym that only trains on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, for example? They were missing out on a lot of vital movements such as most of our multi-joint movements. At this point, I decided to take some time to go back to experimenting with my own training. Within a week, a lightbulb went off in my head — without even knowing it I went back to the tried and true Conjugate System.

I’ve always had fun using the conjugate system as well as experienced continuous progress from multiple perspectives. The reasons why the Conjugate System is so successful is straightforward — a lot of variance, emphasis on speed training, not just heavy lifting, appropriate accessory work to bring up lagging muscles and recovery through lots of GPP work. My new template looked something like this:

Monday
• Max Effort Lower Body Movement
• Secondard submaximal left 
• Accessory Work: 2 Exercises 
• Accessory Core Work
Tuesday 
• Energy System Work
• GPP Work
• Accessory Work
Wednesday
• Max Effort Upper Variation 
• Secondary submaximal Movement
• Accessory: 2 Exercises
• Accessory Core: 1 Exercises
Thursday 
• Active Recovery work: sledpull powerwalking, belt squat walking, individual non-invasive work, tissue work 
• Or Aerobic Work @Z1
Friday
• Dynamic Effort Lower Body: 2 Movements 
• Accessory Work: 2 Exercises
• Accessory Core Work: 1 Exercise 
Saturday
• Dynamic Effort Upper Body: 2 Movements
• Accessory Work: 2 exercises 
• Accessory Core Work: 1 Exercise
Sunday: OFF

As you can see, it’s more in depth compared to the first template that I shared, but keep in mind, this was specifically for my own training. I had planned to separate my strength training and metabolic conditioning. Overall, this was the template that would lead to coming up with what I think is a great template that can be applied to any box.

The Conjugate System

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Westside Barbell and the Conjugate System and if you read my last article on “The Conjugate System for the Competitive CrossFitter” before reading this one you got a small amount of background information on the basis of this system. As a quick summary, the Conjugate System is centered around two heavy days (or lower and upper max effort) as well as two speed days (upper and lower dynamic effort). Hypertrophy (bodybuilding or repeated effort) is also a part of this system where accessory work is the larger percentage of the overall training volume.

Overall, speed training, in my opinion, is one of the most under-utilized forms of training in CrossFit today. Using light loads and accelerating the bar as fast as possible constitutes as speed strength training. Another great use for speed training with your box programming is simply giving people time to only work on being efficient with a given lift. For this reason, all levels of ability will benefit from these days where the intent is to focus on maximal power output rather than maximal loading.

Just to see how all this plays out with all levels of CrossFit classes, a typical week at CrossFit 781 may look something like this:
Monday

 Max Effort Lower Body 

1) Back Squat: Work up to a heavy triple. Rest 2-3:00 
2a) Bulg. Split Squat: 3 x 6-8 ea. No rest. 
2b) Banded High-to-low Half Kneeling woodchop: 3 x 8-10 ea. Rest 1:00

 Conditioning 

3 RFT:
10 Power Cleans (135, 95) 
400 Meter Run
Rest 1:1

 Tuesday

 GPP 

1a) Prowler Push: 4 x 60 yards. Rest 1:00  
1b) Farmer Carry: 4 x 60 yards, AHAP. Rest 1:00

 Conditioning 

4 Rounds 40 work/20 Rest:
1a) Rowing Calories
1b) Burpees
1c) Double Unders
1d) Toes-to-Bar

 Accessory

Russian Twists: 2 x 20

 Wednesday

Max Effort Upper Body
1) Push Press Cluster: 4 x 1.1.1 (10s), adding weight each set. Rest 2:00 
2) Weighted (BW) Pull-ups: 15 reps, AHAP. Rest 2:00

 Conditioning 

5 RFT:
5 Hang Power Clean + S20H (135, 95)
10 Pull-ups
15 HR Push-ups

 Thursday

Skill/Gymnastics
3 Rounds, not for time:
– Single Leg Squat Practice x 3-8 reps ea.
– Static Hold (hollow-hold, handstand hold, L-Sit, L-Hold, Ring Support)
– Mobility

 Conditioning 

w. a partner:
5:00 Max Cals on Assault Bike
5:00 Max Wallballs 
5:00 Max Distance Farmers Carry 

Friday
Dynamic Effort Lower 
  1. Box Squat: 10 x 2 @50% (if using chains) 60% if no chains, every minute.
  2. Single leg RDL: 3 x 6-8 ea. Rest 1:00

 Conditioning 

AMRAP 3:
3 Deadlifts (135, 95)
3 Hang Power Cleans (135, 95)
3 Front Squats (135, 95)
*Rest 3:00 and repeat

 Saturday

Strength
1a) DB Rows: 4 x 8-10 ea
1b) DB Push Press: 4 x 8-10
1c) Side Plank: 4 x 15-30s ea side

 Conditioning 

With a partner:
AMRAP 25:
Run 400 meters 
20 OHS (95, 65) 
4 Rope Climbs

 Within a given week there is a lot of freedom. Max effort day does not have to necessarily be a 1 rep max. The intent here is work up to some challenging sets between 1-5 repetitions. It’s at your discretion when you want your people working up to a 1RM. As long as there is a rotation of movements, it can be relatively often though.

 How to Apply the Conjugate System to your CrossFit Box

 Applying this system is going to give you a template to keep your programming balanced so that your members make progress, avoid overtraining and burnout, and steer clear of injury. If you’re just starting out, keep it simple. Remember, CrossFit started out with basic couplets/triplets — nothing fancy. Within this approach you will have the ability to be creative and make this system work best for your box and the range of athlete abilities. To get you started, I’ve provided a detailed template with rep ranges, work/rest intervals, as well movement patterns for each day of the week at the end of this article.

 I encourage you to learn more about the Conjugate System and see for yourself how it can be applied to a wide range of athletes and abilities and results in helping your members and clients get stronger, look better, and live longer.

 To learn more about me and my personal journey as a strength and conditioning coach as well as a competitive CrossFit and Olympic lifting athlete, you can jump over to my website www.boxprogramming.com. And, be sure to check out the programming article that I recently wrote which you can find here: http://twobraincoaching.com/the-conjugate-system-for-the-competitive-crossfit-athlete/

For help developing programming for you or your affiliate, contact me anytime:
Jason Brown
Instagram: jasonrbrown
Facebook: Jason Merica
Here is a detailed template with rep ranges, work/rest intervals, as well movement patterns for each day of the week.

Monday (Max Effort Lower Body)

Box Squats
Dead Lifts
Sumo Dead Lifts
Power Cleans
Back Squats
Front Squats
Squat Clean
Squat Snatch
Overhead Squat
Paused Back or Front Squat

 All lifts this day will be taken to a heavy effort or max effort.

1-5 Rep Maxes
Heavy set 1-5 reps
Full recovery 3 minutes between heavy sets
Total sets somewhere between 8-10
Tuesday
GPP Work: sled work, loaded carries, ect.
Accessory Work
Conditioning

 Wednesday (Max Effort Upper Body)

Shoulder Press
Push Press
Push Jerk
Power Jerk
Split Jerk
Behind Neck Variations
Weighted Dips
Weighted Pull-ups/Chin-ups (various grip widths)
Weighted Push-ups
Log Press
Bench Press (various grip widths)

 All lifts this day will be taken to a heavy effort or max effort.

1-5 Rep Maxes
Heavy set 1-5 reps
Full recovery 2-4 minutes between heavy sets
Total sets somewhere between 8-12 sets

 Thursday 

Gymnastics Skill Work
Conditioning

 Friday (Dynamic Effort Lower Body)

Box Squats 
Dead Lifts
Sumo Dead Lifts
Power Cleans
Back Squats
Front Squats
Squat Clean
Squat Snatch
Overhead Squat

 All lifts at submaximal loads i.e. 50-70%

Rest 45 seconds-1:00 between efforts
Performed for higher sets/lower reps every minute on the minute i.e. 12 sets of 2; 8 sets of 3; 10 sets of 1.
Less than 3 reps per set
Weight should be moved with maximum velocity.
Using accommodating resistance i.e. Bands and chains for seasoned lifters may be useful but not necessary.

 Saturday 

Shoulder Press
Push Press
Push Jerk
Power Jerk
Split Jerk
Behind Neck Variations
Weighted Dips
Weighted Pull-ups/Chin-ups (various grip widths)
Weighted Push-ups
Bench Press (various grip widths)

 All lifts at submaximal loads i.e. 50-70%

Rest 45 seconds-1:00 between efforts
Performed for higher sets/lower reps every minute on the minute i.e. 12 sets of 2; 8 sets of 3; 10 sets of 1.
Less than 3 reps per set
Weight should be moved with maximum velocity.
Use accommodating resistance i.e. bands and chains for seasoned lifters may be useful but not necessary.

 Movement options for both max effort and dynamic effort are the same, but try to not to overlap movement patterns each week and the variance among your max effort work.

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