Plug & Play Conjugate Football Programming

Oct 28, 2021

Originally written for Elitefts.com

A while back, I wrote an article called Conjugate Football that came with a full four weeks of programming. If you missed it, check it out here. Since writing that article, I've had many people reach out and ask programming questions, along with requests for additional blocks of programming. Many of the questions revolved around scheduling their athletes for training sessions and adjusting the training to coincide with their athlete's availability.

To be honest, this is where my initial article dropped the ball. I wrote it for the ideal scenario, meaning unlimited time to train. As we know, that is rarely the case for anyone, let alone a high-school athlete. Long story short, in this article, I will expound upon a more realistic training schedule(s), as well as how to plug in play strength and conditioning methods into a training template that aligns with either the individual or group of athletes you're training.

First, I want to preface this article by stating something I said in the first version of this article, and that's how the conjugate method is an incredibly versatile training system. The fact that the system is based more on autoregulation than on rigid percentages makes it more feasible and feasible when trying to train multiple fitness qualities within the same week.

For instance, training both anaerobic and aerobic qualities within the same week not only allows for better long-term sustainability but it facilitates recovery and builds capacity, something you'd be hard-pressed to find with a linear-based program. Moreover, aerobic fitness is equally as important as any other aspect of a training program contrary to what many might believe.

Without aerobic capacity, being able to recover between sets (or plays) will be harder to do. This is why this program is called the Conjugate x Conditioning method—you simply cannot have one (strength) without the other (conditioning).

Below I'm going to outline multiple versions of this training template to align with the scheduling constraints of your athletes. This will allow for better plug-and-play programming for each day. I'll also include what a four-week block of training can look like that you're more than welcome to utilize and adjust how you see fit. Before I do that, I want to discuss some adjustments I've made to my first conjugate football article.

I love programming because it is constantly evolving and what I wrote a year ago is, in my opinion, garbage. With that said, the tenets of the system are still very much intact. The delivery and how the methods are used has evolved though. I'm going to highlight all the methods that will be used in this program and why they are used and nothing extra.

Strength Methods

Submaximal Effort Method: Important method to build motor patterns with multi-joint movements and is a prerequisite for the max effort (ME) method. If someone cannot perform a relatively heavy set of five front squats, it makes no sense to ask them to perform a 1RM. This method appears more in my programming now vs. ME Method.

Programming Example: 5RM (or a heavy five with perfect technique) in a multi-joint movement with two to three minutes of rest between heavy sets.

Maximal Effort Method: The greatest method for maximal motor-unit recruitment, but your athletes need to have mastered their foundational patterns first before programming this for them.

Programming Example: 1RM in a multi-joint movement with three minutes of rest between heavy sets.

Dynamic Effort Method: Once proper motor patterns have been established, working the velocity portion of the force-velocity curve is important. This method can also replicate the specificity of a football game (more on this later.)

Programming Example: Box Squat: 8 x 3 - 50% of 1RM + 25% band tension, every 45-60s (this resembles a football game where most plays last between four to six seconds and a play happens every 45-60s.)

Repeated Effort Method: The obvious reason for getting lean tissue, but also as a prehab tool is critical for athletes avoiding injury. This method will also play into increasing the strength of their big lifts.

Programming Example: 3-4 x 8-15 reps. Rest 60-90s between sets.

Conditioning Methods

Strongman Endurance Method: Posture, core, and grip strength are important as we know, but so is aerobic ability. This method, in essence, does it all.

Programming Example: Sled pulls and loaded carries: 10 rounds x 60 yards each resting 90s to two minutes between sets. Note: I utilize the sled as much for upper-body work as I do lower-body work and you'll see this in the programming.

Cardiac Output Method: Improving recoverability is critical as well as the ability to replenish ATP. The aerobic system does replenish high-energy phosphates in a football game. This method improves cardiac output, hence the name (the heart's ability to pump blood to the extremities.)

Programming Example: 30 minutes of steady-state conditioning using cyclical measures ie. bike, rower, light sledpull. Heart-rate does NOT exceed 70% of max.

Tempo Intervals: A progression to cardiac output method, this method allows your athletes to arrive at the same adaptations of CO method, but allows a break from the monotony of low-intensity steady-state cardio.

Programming Example: 20 rounds of 15s hard/45s easy conditioning using cyclical measures ie. bike, rower, light sled pull. Heart-rate does NOT exceed 70% of max.

Plug and Play Programming

Now that we've covered the methods, let's delve into the structure. This is where you'll make the big customizations to either the individual or athletes within a group. One thing to know here is that the Cardiac Output style work does not have to take place at your facility and does not require your coaching. Your athletes can simply perform this work as homework.

Option #1

This template consists of:

Monday: Submaximal Effort Lower
Tuesday: Strongman Endurance
Wednesday: Submaximal Effort Upper
Thursday: Aerobic Conditioning
Friday: Dynamic Effort Lower
Saturday: Dynamic Effort Upper
Sunday: OFF or Active Recovery

 

Option #2

This template consists of:

Monday: Submaximal Effort Lower
Tuesday: Dynamic Effort Upper
Wednesday: Aerobic Conditioning
Thursday: Dynamic Effort Lower
Friday: Submaximal Effort Upper
Saturday: Strongman Endurance
Sunday: OFF or Active Recovery

 

Option #3

This template consists of:

Monday: Maximal Effort Lower
Tuesday: Dynamic Effort Upper
Wednesday: Aerobic Conditioning
Thursday: Dynamic Effort Lower
Friday: Max Effort Upper
Saturday: Strongman Endurance
Sunday: OFF or Active Recovery

 

Option #4

This template consists of:

Monday: Maximal Effort Lower
Tuesday: Strongman Endurance
Wednesday: Maximal Effort Upper
Thursday: Aerobic Conditioning
Friday: Dynamic Effort Lower
Saturday: Dynamic Effort Upper
Sunday: OFF or Active Recovery

 

Option #5

This template consists of:

Monday: Submaximal Effort Lower
Tuesday: Strongman Endurance
Wednesday: Maximal Effort Upper
Thursday: Aerobic Conditioning
Friday: Full Body
Saturday: OFF
Sunday: OFF

 

Volume Prescriptions

I'd like to tell you that you need some sexy formula for volume prescriptions, but I'd be lying. Yes, you can use things like Prilepins chart, but keep in mind that is no more than a guide. Instead, I'm going to give you anecdotal recommendations, which may come as a surprise to you since they are lower in volume than you might guess.

Method Volume Rest Interval
Submaximal Effort Method 15-25 2:00 - 3:00
Maximal Effort Method 3-8 3:00
Repeated Effort Method 30-50 1:00 - 1:30
Dynamic Effort (includes plyos) 20-30 45s - 60s
High Volume band work and Reverse Hyper 50-100 1:00

Closing

These templates and examples give you the basis of how to build your Conjugate x Conditioning Football programming. They also give you the tools to cover all of your bases (strength development and conditioning) all in one seamless template. Moreover, we know that scheduling will always be a factor that we have to contend with, but with what is provided here, you'll be able to make the correct choices and avoid paralysis by analysis that many coaches suffer from.

Lastly, the real magic comes from how you customize these templates to the individual. Overall, focus on the key foundational movement patterns (squat, hip-hinge, lunge, push, pull, and carry) and aerobic fitness as the literal foundation to build upon. This aspect of programming simply cannot be skipped, so make sure not to trade complexity for simplicity because it looks cool on paper. Teach your athletes to move well first and the rest will fall into place!