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REPOST: Practical Application of the Conjugate System with Matt Wenning
On this week’s show I welcome back Matt Wenning. If you have not already listened to my first interview with Matt please be sure to check it out. We talk about how he has helped our country’s military and first responders get stronger and reduce on the job injuries.
On this show we talk about the conjugate method in detail. How it can be used not only for power lifters but athletes and anyone else looking to get stronger.
Matt shares with us his experience at the Swiss Symposium. It’s a conference where some of the industries brightest thinkers share on a wide variety of topics. Matt spoke about the sumo deadlift and lower back health. He also talked about our topic for the week, the conjugate system.
The conjugate system was developed by Soviet Olympic weightlifters as an answer to the system they were using, which is more like the modern Bulgarian system. The conjugate system came from the variable system that the Dynamo Club was using. Although olympic weightlifting is only two lifts (Snatch and Clean & Jerk) Dynamo Club was using 70+ variations. This drastically reduced injury and allowed them to go harder.
This type of training was first used in the the United States by the Louie Simmons at the Westside Barbell Club but Charlie Francis used these methods with Ben Johnson in Canada in the 70’s and 80’s. A fun Westside history tidbit is, Matt owns the house Westside got its start in. Matt bought the house from Louie in 2006.
I asked Matt about the practice of box and wide squats exclusively in the Westside method. He said that the trick is to do what you are bad at. Typically people are bad/deficient at box and wide squats so generally they should be used more than conventional squats. Matt says a good program will give more than it takes away. Meaning if you do the same thing over and over your body will get used to it and your progress will slow. It’s important to constantly change your programing so that we continue to progress. Matt advises that we need to stop looking for a 10 week fix to a multi year problem. Training with the Westside method is a multi year program. Matt attributes his use of the Westside method throughout the majority of his career for his ability to achieve world record strength with very few injuries. The real win is getting very very strong with very little wear. I point out that it’s important to note; the whole reason the majority of us train is for health and longevity. Being able to train in a way that reduces wear and increases strength is very important.
My next question for Matt was the criticism people have of the Westside method and its lack of competition lifts incorporated in its programing. He agrees with Louie’s contention that Westside’s heavy use of accessory lifts does improve technique. Matt says he mixes in the conventional lifts once every three weeks.
When asked about training large groups Matt says it’s impossible to make a perfect program that helps EVERY athlete 100% unless it’s one on one training. There are some very common issues that work for most people. That is addressing weak glutes and poor hamstring to quad ratios. Also rear deltoid and rhomboid weaknesses compared to anterior deltoid and pecs. When we address these weaknesses with large groups that gets us 90% there, and when we are 90% that’s good enough for large groups.