#235 – Conjugate vs Concurrent Training: Demystifying Modern Westside Training
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Matt and Scott discuss the commonly misunderstood concepts of “conjugate” and “concurrent” training, which come from the efforts of Soviet coaches like Verkoshanksy, Siff, Bondarchuck, and others in trying to understand how to best prepare athletes for competition (and beating the West, of course).
Concurrent training refers to training multiple skills and attributes at the same time. Crossfit is perhaps the ultimate sport with concurrent demands (although interestingly high level Crossfit athletes don’t necessarily train concurrently). The Crossfit training practiced in most gyms is concurrent in nature, with any given workout incorporating a mix of weightlifting, conditioning (HIIT and longer-term cardiovascular work), gymnastics, and other elements.
Conjugate training on the other hand involves training one specific skills or attribute at a time, with the aim of tying each individual attribute together for a performance event at the end of a block of training. Interestingly, the word conjugate comes from the Latin words con-, a prefix meaning with, and iugum, a noun meaning yoke or chain; in other words, to chain together. Block training is a form of conjugate training in which a lifter begins with high volume, high rep programming, possibly with accessory lifts and conditioning, and transitions through phases which gradually taper the work toward the specific demands of the strength meet — single rep max attempts performed entirely in the anaerobic ATP energy system.
The Soviet coaches recognized that exposing children to a wide variety of sports and physical activities — soccer, gymnastics, swimming, etc — developed broad, general athletic skills which translated well to other sports and activities as the children aged and became more focused and specialized. Training these various skills at the same time, or concurrently, was an important aspect of the early development of any athlete in the Soviet system. For the Russians, only at more advanced stages of training should an athlete focus very specifically on a single sport, training singular skills one at a time in a conjugate method.