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New Idea: Apply Conjugate Method Thinking to Both External Demands & Internal Capacity

Updated: Apr 1, 2022

To truly maximize the results of the conjugate method it must be viewed and applied from a systems perspective - systematic training must be being performed at the BOTH internal and external levels in parallel.



The conjugate method is a system of training where exercises/lifts (external demands), that are similar in nature are constantly rotated [1].

The rotation of exercises and lifts avoids stagnation points (i.e., accommodation) and decreases the risk of repetitive strain injuries. For the purposes of this essay think of the conjugate method as, the variation being intentionally programmed into the training, and thus, reducing the repetitiveness that leads to accommodation and stagnation.


Viewing the conjugate method through the lens of varying only external training demands (i.e., lifts/exercise selections) will NOT yield optimal results from the system. To maximize the results of the conjugate method it must be viewed and applied from a systems perspective; meaning: we have to look deeper than just adding variability to the exercise/lift selections (i.e., external demands). Equally, and in most cases MORE important is to apply the same thought process of adding variability into the individual lifter by means of increasing the lifter’s internal capacity (i.e., joint movement capabilities).


Viewing the conjugate method through the lens of varying only external training demands (i.e., lifts/exercise selections) will NOT yield optimal results from the system - we have to think about adding capacity into the lifter.

Internal Capacity = joint movement capabilities


Internal joint capacity is the set of movement capabilities that an individual brings with them when performing a lift. Simply, the individual's joint movement capabilities MUST optimally match the demands of the exercise (CAPACITY = DEMAND). Movement capabilities are defined as: the joints involved in accomplishing the lift as being in a state of function and also possessing an optimal active range of motion to perform the exercise/lift.


For example, to the only way to utilize a bench press in training that will induce adaption (+) and not maladaptation (-), the lifter is required to have high functioning shoulder (glenohumeral) joints. If the lifter lacks joint function and optimal range of motion in the shoulder, we know that the joint lacks variability. So even when we utilize the conjugate system and rotate exercises/lifts we are still stressing and loading the same tissues repetitively, due to the lifter's lack of function and/or active range of motion (i.e., variability) within the joint! Furthermore, we must understand that the rotation of exercise in conjunction with the increased training loads and stress of the same tissues will in time lead to more maladaptation (-) like: joint dysfunction, joint damage, repetitive strain injuries, etc. due to the joint lacking the requisite capacity.


To perform a bench press that will induce adaption (+) and not maladaptation (-) the lifter is required to have high functioning shoulder (glenohumeral) joints.


illogical application of the conjugate system


Let’s play a very common scenario out with a lifter who only has 60% of shoulder joint active range of motion. Understand: the ONLY tissues that are being loading via training are within the 60% active range of motion. Thus, if the exercise and lifts are rotated/changed, *if the internal capacity (active range of motion) of the shoulder has NOT been expanded upon, the same tissues within the unrestricted 60% active joint range of motion will be the ones exposed to the training loads.


This is a very common scenario where the lifter is utilizing the conjugate system to add variability into his/her training but they are not adding in the variability into themselves at the joint shoulder joint (i.e., the internal level). Because the lifter is adding in variability only at the external level, they will still have the same issue, unfortunately!


utilizing conjugate system at the internal level


The only way out of the above scenario is to train the shoulder joint (i.e., internal level) to expand the range of motion and acquire more function gaining access to the 40% of the shoulder he/she does not have access to. Meaning: the objective of the lifter's training should be: to improve his/her lifts by means of expanding on his/her internal joint capacity. Simply, if the internal capacity of the lifter is expanded upon, the performance of the lifts will be improved.


The only way out of the above scenario is to train the shoulder joint (i.e., internal level) to expand the range of motion and acquire more function gaining access to the 40% of the shoulder he/she does not have access to.

Lifters Training for Absolute Strength Should Have Joint Assessments


This is why it is paramount that lifters have joint assessment [add in hyperlink] done on the big three joints, that is the: hips, shoulders, and spine so they can know the state of these joints - that knows if the joint is in a state of function or a state of dysfunction. The information acquired via joint assessment enables the lifter to then be able to optimally build absolute strength on functioning joints, instead of building absolute strength on dysfunction - which building absolute strength on dysfunctional joints is a one-way road that leads to an absolute blow up the joint, tissue, etc.


Internal Strength Training Should be Ran in Parallel


As a former bodybuilder and lifter who has trained at Westside Barbell for now over a decade, it is my belief that internal strength training is non-negitionale for the lifter [2]. I will touch on exactly what internal strength training is in more detail another time, but for now, I want to give access to the internal training that I do myself virtually with my training partner and fellow Function Range System practitioner Brian Fox to all lifters.


Take action and join us virtually in our weekly internal training [add in training subscription hyperlink] - training that starves off the biological accommodation that leads to maladaptation from weightlifting by signing up and starting the training process.


works cited
  1. “USING THE CONJUGATE SYSTEM.” Westside Barbell, www.westside-barbell.com/blogs/the-blog/using-the-conjugate-system?_pos=1&_sid=4c86f4b09&_ss=r.

  2. Dr. Michael Chivers. Functional Range Systems, https://functionalanatomyseminars.com/frs-system/frs-internal-strength-model/



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