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Mental Side Effects of the Conjugate Method

Can incorporating the conjugate method into your training program help you reach your strength potential?


I knew something was up when Taylor specifically told me to delete the video on my cellphone of her missed kneeling jump attempt and not to let her see it. She only wanted to see her successful PR jump just a moment later.

Like anyone else, I can understand not wanting to fail. Yet this still felt different. She seemed allergic to failure. In fact, when I asked her, she couldn’t remember the last time she failed a rep in training. As someone who’s got failure down pat, I was taken aback.

Taylor is a good friend of mine. She’s not only one heck of an athlete, but she’s also as inspirational as they come. Taylor Drescher is her name, and she got started in the CrossFit scene at age 19 while she was multitasking her way to three national championships as a competitive cheerleader at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

In the meantime, she’s managed to become a first lieutenant officer in the Marine Corps. It seems like the last couple of CrossFit Regionals she’s had to wipe off camouflage paint left on her face between reps from her training in the field just the day before. Clearly, she’s a winner.

What I came to realize was that this wasn’t just a “Taylor thing”; this was a conjugate method thing. You see, Taylor walked into Shane and Laura Phelps Sweatt’s gym and was introduced to Westside Barbell, Louie Simmons and the entire concept of the conjugate method, and she bought in. Later, she became the head coach of CrossFit Conjugate, and it’s changed her life forever.

The reason I’m telling you this story is because I think we all have seen the conjugate method. We’ve seen the bands, we’ve seen the chains and we’ve seen the funky assistance exercises. Furthermore, the result of this work has been the development of some of the strongest, fastest and most powerful people in the world.

What I didn’t know that I’d come to love about the conjugate method was a culture of winning. It’s a mindset like I’ve never seen in strength and conditioning. So much of what I know and see in strength training is based, purposely, on failure. The conjugate method is not.

In a recent interview with Taylor, I asked her about this method that seems to turn the “failure is your best friend” approach to strength training on its head. “You get used to succeeding and you feel good about it,” she said.

I found myself imagining the power of an athlete who doesn’t know how to fail. Anyone who has stood under a heavy barbell knows the power of that inner monologue that’s telling you either this is going to go well or that doubts your lift.

The conjugate method seems to cultivate a winning mindset that preps athletes for competition in the best possible mental space. Taylor put it perfect when she said, “As a coach, you want to be able to pull the reins back versus having to keep pushing and pushing and pushing, because if you have to keep pushing them, then they’ll be nothing without you. But if you can pull the reins back on them and cut them loose when it’s time to go, you just created an animal.”

I’d argue that the psychology of the conjugate method might be worth as much or more as the strength you’ll earn from it. Producing force is one thing, but producing the mind of a winner is something completely different.