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Denison University Strength and Conditioning

Article Submitted by: Mark Watts – Denison University Strength Coach


Conjugated Periodization is a Russian & Eastern European based training system, which is much different than linear periodization. Most linear periodization has several phases and starts with higher volume and lower intensity in week one and higher intensity and lower volume by week 12 or so. Usually the earlier stages of the summer program are designed to enhance hypertrophy and strength endurance and then evolving to strength and power development later in the summer cycle. With the conjugated system, all of these fitness qualities including maximum strength, explosive power, strength endurance and hypertrophy are all addressed and developed year round. We do not want to neglect any of these qualities during anytime of the year. We do not want to detrain in terms of strength endurance or wait to the end of a cycle to address maximum strength. By running full speed, performing plyometrics, using the maximal effort method requires us to use low volume year round.


We use 3 different methods for strength development based on Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s research. The Dynamic Effort Method, The Maximum Effort Method, and the Repetition Method. We use the Dynamic Effort mostly with our plyometric, ballistic and Olympic movements. In strength training, we concentrate mostly on the maximum effort method. This means we work up to a repetition maximum for our emphasis movements. An example is working up to a 3-rep max on the barbell back squat by performing 3 reps and increasing the weight until you feel you are at your “3RM”. A 3 rep max is the heaviest weight you can lift for 3 reps. We feel this system negates weekly and daily fluctuations in maximum strength and allows more adaptability in the load intensity being used on a given workout.


There are a few flaws in a percentage-based system of resistance training. Namely, there are individual differences for each lifter that using percents of a 1-rep max.

– A 1-rep max often changes during the course of a training program. Your 1-rep max can fluctuate every day let alone every week. You may start your percentages based on a 300lb 1-rep max. By week 6, your 1 rep max is not 300lbs anymore. You are using percentages based on a false max. Percentages give a good guideline, but they’re not 100% accurate.

– Everyone is stronger at different rep ranges. Two athletes may bench press 300 pounds. One athlete may be able to bench press 270 (90%) 4 times. The second athlete may be able to bench press 270 twice. If you are having the athlete bench press 270 for 3 reps; the 1st athlete is not being pushed and the 2nd is set up for failure.

If you have accurate rep maxes from a previous cycle, it is ok to use percentages of your 1-rep max for a guideline. Just make sure you have the capability to make daily and weekly adjustments to those percentages.


There are many workouts that prescribe set and rep schemes that have the athlete perform a static number of sets and reps with the same weight i.e. 3 sets of 3 or 5 sets of 5. What ends up happening is: the first sets are basically warm-ups and even though the last set is very challenging, it is under the athlete’s true 3 or 5-rep max. If you are able to do all sets with the prescribed reps, then the weight is not at the true rep-max. The other scenario would be an athlete missing repetitions on the latter sets. This would consequently reduce the total volume. If your first work set is a true rep max, then it will be extremely difficult to achieve the same number of reps for subsequent sets.

In order to maximize the training effect from our emphasis lifts, we will either use a rep range or use descending reps schemes for maximum intensity. If an athlete performs a true 5-rep max, there is little to no chance the athlete will be able to perform 5 reps on a second set. We use a 5% drop in weight or more likely reduce the reps by 2 to avoid over training. We will also use drop sets which will include a 10% drop in weight and an increase in reps by 2. A third method would be using a cluster set which will be explained later.


Every rep and every set is extremely important for athletic success. Control each rep on the eccentric (negative) portion of the lift. Without bouncing the weight at the bottom of the lift, execute the concentric portion as quickly and as much force as possible (even on warm-up sets.) This is called Compensatory Acceleration Training invented by Dr. Fred Hatfield. This is important for maximum strength development and prepares the Central Nervous System (CNS) for subsequent sets.


Olympic lifts are great tools to develop speed-strength and explosive power due to a rapid triple-extension movement in the second pull phase of most of the lifts. But, Olympic lifts are not the only method for building explosive power. Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches are specific skills. Being proficient at a power clean may not necessarily transfer directly to explosiveness on the field. The rate of Force Development (RFD) of the triple extension movement in general terms can have a positive correlation on similar triple extension type movements on the field.

At Denison we always weigh the Risk-to-Reward Ratio on all of our lifts. Our biggest concern is safety, primarily in the catch or rack phase of the clean. We feel because of limited flexibility, improper technique and a lack of proper coaching; there are some postural positions we would like to avoid with this lift.
Overall, we do not want our athletes performing the Olympic lifts without proper coaching, supervision or equipment. We feel there are alternatives with faster learning curves that can be implemented.


There are many methods not used in summer training that we will now use on occasion at Denison. Because of discrepancies in equipment and logistical difficulties, we kept the summer workouts relatively basic. We will utilize some of these aforementioned methods for optimum power development and regulation of training intensity and volume. In the Contrast Method; we will couple a maximum effort movement with a dynamic effort exercise or plyometric exercise in a complex. Clusters will allow us to execute more reps at higher rep intensities. Clusters will compensate for fatigue and still keep performing range at or above the designated percentage range for that particular exercise. Supersets will allow us to expedite the workouts in a much more efficient manner by combing exercises using antagonistic muscle groups with limited rest in between. Will also pre-exhaust targeted muscle groups to control synergistic dominance and fatigue in a particular exercise.