The conjugate method is system of training where exercises (extrinsic demands), that are similar in nature are constantly rotated. Rotating exercises avoids stagnation points (accommodation) and decreases the risk the repetitive strain injuries. Simply, variation is programmed into the training; thus, repetitiveness is reduced.
Viewing the conjugate method through the lens of varying only extrinsic training demands (exercise selections) will NOT yield optimal results from the system. To maximize the results of the conjugate method it must viewed and applied from a systems perspective. We have to look deeper than just adding variability to the exercise selection (extrinsic demands). Equally important is to apply the same thought process of adding variability to the individual lifter by means of increasing the lifter’s intrinsic dynamics (movement capabilities).
Adding variation into tasks is DIFFERENT than adding variation into the individual.
Intrinsic dynamics is the set of movement capabilities that an individual brings with them when performing a lift. Simply, the individual’s movement capabilities MUST optimally match the demands of the exercise (CAPACITY = DEMAND). In regards to this post, movement capabilities defined as, the joints involved in accomplishing the lift possessing optimal active range of motion.
For example, to perform a bench press that will induce adaption and not maladaptation (joint damage, repetitive strain injury, etc.); the lifter is required to have high functioning shoulder (glenohumeral) joints. If the shoulder joint lacks optimal of active range of motion; that joint lacks variability. Thus, we can rotate different exercises; however, due to the lack of active ROM and variability within the joint we are still stressing the same tissues repetitively.
Let’s play this very common scenario out on a lifter who only has 60% of shoulder joint active range of motion. The ONLY tissues that are being loading via training are within the 60% active range of motion. Thus, if the exercise is changed, and the intrinsic dynamics (active range of motion) 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. In this common scenario, even though the lifter has adding in variability to the training; he/she is NOT adding variability to the tissues they are loading. Simply, the lifter is not expanding his/her intrinsic dynamics.
The objective of the lifter should be to improve his/her lifts by means of expanding on his/her intrinsic dynamics. Simply, if intrinsic dynamics are expanded upon, the lifts will be improved. This is why it is imperative that lifters have a manual therapist who can assess joint function; and be able to apply principled treatment methods so that the outcome of the treatment is the acquisition of newly acquired increased active joint range of motion.
The only treatment system I have encountered that prioritizes joints is Functional Range Release (FR Release). I highly recommend lifters receive 1-2 FR treatments per month. FR treatment will expand the lifter’s intrinsic dynamics, aide in joints health, etc.
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