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Louie Simmons on the Conjugate System: Part 2 by Louie Simmons - CrossFit Journal

In Coaching, Powerlifting, Videos

December 09, 2010

Video Article

Train the same way for too long and you’ll experience accommodation, which will reveal itself in poor performance. For Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell, the conjugate system offers a way to avoid accommodation through constant variation of exercises.

“Strength is measured in time, not in weight,” Simmons says in explaining his method of training.

In Part 2 of this lecture, Simmons talks about “building” and “testing” exercises that relate to the three contested powerlifts: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift. Each will have a weakness holding it back, and so breaking down the lifts and then targeting and eradicating the weaknesses in each will result in greater strength and new PRs.

According to Simmons, the abs have to be the strongest muscles of all.

“It all starts in the stomach … . You don’t flex that first, you’re going to have bad back problems,” he says.

To illustrate his point, Simmons gives a simple demonstration that amazes the CrossFit trainers in the room.

9min 24sec

Additional reading: CrossFit Westside? by Tom Seryak, published March 4, 2010.

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24 Comments on “Louie Simmons on the Conjugate System: Part 2”


wrote …

The end of the video is awesome. Todd Widman's surprised face is epic.


wrote …

Great article. I like his philosophy that stomach strength is most important. I would like to know more about how Louie trains his stomach "standing". Anybody know anything about this? Maybe in a future article?


wrote …

Pretty good thread of comments (Q&A) with Chris Mason from the first installment of "Louie Simmons on the Conjugate System". Take a look:


replied to comment from Stefan Borovina

Attach a band to a pullup bar or top of a rack like you were going to use it for band assisted pullups. Now stand by the band and grab it about head height. Then just crunch down like a standing situp. This can be done facing the band and facing away from the band. You can also do this on a tricep/lat pulldown machine with weights if you have access.


wrote …

It's amazing how Louie can just rattle off the numbers, and not just his own. I bet you he could tell you what everyone in his gym lifted during meets in the last 3 years and be bang on.


wrote …

I want him to be my grandpa.


wrote …

Long live Louie! Todd's reaction was classic.


replied to comment from Jeff Chester

He's amazing but i still dont get it.
How does crunching help you deadlift (stand up)? i mean its the oposite movement.


replied to comment from Patrik Karlsson

Because it is the opposite movement! The posterior chain has to pull on something to get some leverage. If your bones aren't stabilized and reinforced from the opposite side, that is the weak link in that lift. Your max lift is determined by the weakest link. Also some CNS and tissue load ordering stuff but that's the basic reasoning. Hope this was helpful --


replied to comment from Benjamin Murphy


Thank you! That actually makes a lot of sense. Actually opened my eyes real wide. Thanks again...


wrote …

I love Louie.. Quick how many times has he broken his back??:)


replied to comment from Jeff Chester

Ahh that makes sense... thanks Jeff!


wrote …

Listening to Louie is so entertaining! I want all 5 segments up!!!


wrote …

So...If I have a stomach like that, I can squat 700+?..
Can't wait for part 3. Great stuff!


Andrew Stemler wrote …

cool stuff


wrote …

Absolutely golden. "Whatever your not good at thats what you gotta do... when you got all the answers, thats when you got to change all the questions..." FB Status: updated.


wrote …

"To master Kung Fu, your training Must be severe"

Love it!


replied to comment from Kristofer Shamloo

Lol! 10-4!


wrote …

Maybe my favorite Louie video to date! I consider his book "Westside Barbell Book of Methods" the Holy Grail of strength. I strongly recommend the book to anyone looking to improve their bench, squat, or deadlift -- mostly everyone, lol. Their are so many helpful tidbits; for example, he talks about how former USSR olympic lifters used to perform at least 600 GHD raises per month as maintenance work. One of my 2011 goals is to complete this same volume of ghd raises at the end of 2-3 workouts.

I agree that the end of the video was amazing. Louie's ability to cite specific numbers reminds me of my high school swim coach, who could tell you hand-timed 25 yd practice splits for sprinters dating back to 70's (this was in 2003-4).


wrote …

I know it's already been mentioned/asked but since Louie is Mr. Exercise Encyclopedia he's gotta have a whole pile of ab stuff he does. Now I'm curious what those are.


wrote …

Louie does a ton of ab work using an overhead cable from a lat pulldown machine at his gym. He uses various grips and stances and does rep after rep. His ROM is quite small as he only contracts the abs and or obliques rather than involving the hips to any significant degree. The motion he showed in the video is exactly what he does. There are other things, but from what I have seen the cable exercises make up a lot of his ab training.

He is fun to watch, no? He is very quick minded and always has something to say. We were having breakfast at his Bob Evans one morning and this group of old gentleman comes walking in. It was me, Louie, and few other large individuals at our table. One of the older guys knows Louie and said that we looked like a dangerous bunch (or something of the sort). Before I can even process what he said, Louie banters back, "Funny, I was thinking the same thing about YOU guys."

He always has stuff like that.



wrote …

Great info, thanks for making this info available HQ. Not many other institutions are so open to bringing in new ideas and pushing to improve - thanks for investing in excellence and being open to new ideas. We could all learn from this. If you are still working with Louie I'd love to see some info on his plyometrics and dynamic work off the floor.


wrote …

Louie, Im so tired of hearing how much you can lift when you have admittedly taken steriods for the last 36 years.. Your system may be great but dont boast about how strong you are when you havent reached those numbers naturally

(for anyone who will bust my balls about this post watch bigger stronger faster where he admits to it)


wrote …

The gear may have as much to do with the ridiculously high totals as the drugs. There are bench shirts from which guys are getting 250 pounds-plus carryover. You wouldn't see a 1250 squat without the canvas/multiply suits and briefs and all that, even if the same lifter (gearless) was on a steady regimen of the best anabolics available (I readily acknowledge that said lifter probably was anyway).

The IPF totals, Louie, Matt Kroc, Chuck Vogelpohl etc. are part of an entirely different sport than raw powerlifting (and obviously, crossfit). I don't compare Louie's 930 squat to my 385 because it's a comparison of apples and oranges (geared untested vs. raw tested). Kind of like comparing a Nascar race to a go-cart derby (I say this as a proud metaphorical go-cart driver).

In federations where drug use is not forbidden or tested-for, one can fairly assume that most successful national and international level competitors may be receiving some type of pharmaceutical assistance. There is a level of naivety involved in assuming otherwise.

If you take drugs and you compete against those that take drugs, and thereby competition remains fair, and the terms known to all competing, game on. That's a personal choice. I have yet to see an interview or read a publication wherein Louie denied being a steroid user. The only case to be made on any allegation of hypocrisy on Louie's part is that Louie does not volunteer the information more readily. Should he issue a disclaimer to begin each seminar? Would such a disclaimer be relevant to the applicability/usefulness of the conjugate system?

Louie remains the most awesome tyrannosaur in the paddock. Mostly for popularizing the most effective methodology for gaining maximal strength with or without anabolic steroids.

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