Nutrition/ Supplementation

Block vs. Conjugate Periodization, Joe D’s “Supplement Pyramid” and more Badass feedback!

Q: Joe D – After purchasing your Super Strength dvd (great video!) its obvious your a huge advocate of conjugate periodisation, aka, the Westside method. But im assuming your aware of the philosophy behind block periodisation and its many benefits. My question is, is there ever a time where you would use a block periodisation model for your athletes? I’m always looking to expand my knowledge base so I figured who better to ask then THE MAN himself. If you don’t get around to answering this question I understand coach. Have a great holiday!


Boulder, CO

A: Good question, A.J. This is a question that seems to be coming up a lot lately. Instead of creating an “argument” as to which peridization model is “better”; I will give you my personal opinion on the benefits of both. You can then decide which model is better for your personal situation.

The reason I favor the Russian Conjugate Method – aka, the “Westside Method” – most of the time is because it produces quicker results and it’s a more realistic approach for most of the athletes that hire me. Although I’d love to be able to work with athletes – uninterrupted – for years at a time; that’s just not how the private training business usually works.

For example: Every summer, athletes from all over the world travel to my gym to train with me in preparation of their football, rugby or soccer seasons. These athletes will be with us for anywhere between 6 weeks to 3 months. Likewise, every January, college football players from across the country come to New Jersey to prepare for the NFL Combine or their NFL Pro Day. On average, we have 6-12 weeks to get these guys stronger, faster, better conditioned and improve their technical skill at the various Combine tests. In both cases, I am always able to make drastic changes in this timeframe because I have our athletes training multiple qualities at once (conjugate periodization) from the day they arrive until the day they leave.

If my NFL Combine athletes don’t get quick results, I’m out of a job!

These “quick” results just wouldn’t be possible if I separated the training into different “blocks”. There just wouldn’t be enough time to get everything in and get the job done!

On the other hand, if you have 6 months or longer with an athlete – uninterrupted – it is a logical approach to break up the training into “blocks”. For example, although all of my NFL clients love to lift, many of them don’t feel like maxing out on bench or squats the day after the season ends! These guys need a couple weeks off at the end of the season to relax and recuperate. After that, I’ll ease them back into training by performing more “rehab” type movements to help overcome imbalances and injuries that occurred during the season. (For example: Single leg squats and step-ups are favored over barbell squats; dumbell benching is favored over heavy barbell pressing, etc.) Once they start feeling “normal” again, you can incorporate a “hypertrophy” block (if they need to regain muscle mass). After that block, you can move into a strength block (with just enough hypertrophy to get a residual effect from the previous block), then focus on a block that develops power/speed (with residual strength effects…), then focus on specific conditioning/energy system/technical training, etc. Hopefully you get the point.

Basically, here’s the short version of my answer: If you have 6 months or less with an athlete, I’m a huge advocate of Conjugate Periodization. If you have an athlete training with you long-term (uninterrupted), the “slow & steady” Block Periodization model (or other “Linear-based” models) are a logical approach to get the job done.

-Joe D.



Q: This question is for Joe Defranco. Joe I would love to hear more from you regarding supplements!! I know this is a very broad topic so I’ll try to narrow down my question: Do you have a list of “foundational” supplements that you pretty much feel all athletes should be taking? I know every athlete is different but surely you have an “A list” that you find yourself prescribing to most of your athletes?? ANY advice or input from you regarding supplements would be golden!! Thanx Joe D!!


A: Andy,

As the years have gone by and I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve found myself taking – and recommending – less and less supplements. The funny thing is that our athletes’ size, strength and overal performance haven’t suffered at all… In fact, our results have never been better!

Personally, I now organize supplements in 3 different categories. I like to think of this as my own personal “Supplement Pyramid“. (Unfortunately, I’m not a computer nerd so I don’t know how to make a cool pyramid graphic for my supplement pyramid…so you’ll just have to use your damn imagination!)

***I’m also running very low on time right now, so I won’t be going into detail in this post as to why I chose each individual supplement. If you have any specific questions regarding why I recommend certain supplements, please drop your questions/comments/concerns below in the “comments” section and I’ll do my best to follow up on this post. Here we go…

The base of my pyramid would be my Foundational Supplements. These are the supplements that I feel everyone should take year-round, forever! Basically, this is my “all-star” list of things that are difficult to injest in adequate amounts through food alone; so I feel you should make it a priority to “supplement” more of each into your diet. (Hence the term “supplements”.) These aren’t supplements that will add 50 pounds to your bench in 2 weeks, 10 inches to your verical jump in 2 minutes, or any other outrageous claim. The purpose of these Foundational Supplements are to fill in the “holes” in your diet and keep you healthy! Somehow, somewhere, athletes have lost sight of the fact that playing sports and working out are supposed to be part of a healthy lifestyle! Before anyone thinks about “quick fixes” and “performance enhancers”, they should think about being healthy! My top three choices for this category are a quality GREENS supplement, FISH OIL supplement and PROTEIN/MEAL REPLACEMENT shake. Now I know you’re all probably wondering what happened to the good ‘ol multivitamin? Well, through personal experience, I’ve found I don’t need one when I’m taking a quality greens drink, fish oil and meal replacement shake!


Here are my personal favorites in each category:

GREENS SuperFood by Amazing Grass

Ultimate Omega by Nordic Naturals

Ideal Whey by GI Nutrition

Raw Vegan Protein by Sun Warrior


The middle of my supplement pyramid is reserved for Performance/Hydration Supplements. You’ll notice that many of the most “popular” supplements on the market don’t make my list. This is because, during the past few years, I have really started weighing the risk:reward of the “performance” supplements that I recommend to my athletes. You see, many of the supplements that give you a “monster pump” or “insane intensity” are also the same supplements that make you cramp, pull muscles or gas out in the 2nd Round or at Halftime, etc.

Notice the Endura isn’t far from the Prowler…

Some may say my performance supplement recommendations have become somewhat “conservative”. That’s fine. Since we deal with serious, high-level athletes at my facility; we must always make sure the risk of a supplement doesn’t out-weigh the reward. Because of this, I find myself constantly recommending things that aid in hydration, as opposed to things that give you a “monster pump” (yet increase the probability of muscle pulls and cramps)! For muscle-building and repair, I’m a huge advocate of good ‘ol fashion Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) over “testosterone boosters” and popular “NO” products. When taken in adequate amounts, BCAA’s have been – and always will be – one of THE best ways to recover from workouts and build muscle. Simply put, when taken properly, THEY WORK! And now it’s easier than ever to get adequate amounts of aminos in without having to choke down a million horse pills!! High school, college and professional athletes can also sleep at night knowing that BCAA’s aren’t banned by any organization – unlike many of the “performance enhancing” supplements on the market!

Speaking of sleep; let’s not forget how important sleep is with regards to your recovery and performance! In fact, getting a solid 8 hours each night just may be better than any supplement on the market! Ironically, many of the best athletes in the world are also some of the most intense people you will ever meet! Because of their intense personalities, many of them have trouble “shutting their brain and body off” at the end of each day. On a personal note, I have an extremely difficult time “shutting my brain off” each night as well. Thankfully, I recently discovered an incredible sleep aid that not only helps me sleep; it has actually decreased some of my soreness from training and it does not make you groggy in the morning at all!

Here are some of my top supplement choices in this category…

Endura by Metagenics

Coconut Water by Vita Coco

Ideal Recovery by GI Nutrition

Monster Amino by CytoSport

Power to Sleep PM by Irwin Naturals


The “peak” of my supplement pyramid would be reserved for Specific Application supplements. These are supplements that can be used periodically for specific goals or situations.

For example, if an athlete hits a plateau and can’t seem to put on any more weight, he can try one of the many creatine products. On the other hand, if an athlete needs to drop a couple extra pounds and he/she needs some help, they may try a fat burner.

Another example may be a day where you didn’t get much sleep, you had a tough day at work, etc., and you need an extra “kick” to make it through your workout. This can be a case where you take a pre-workout supplement like NO-Xplode to add some intensity to your workout after a lackluster day.

I can go on and on with examples, but hopefully you get my point. I’m not going to get into all the different “specific” supplements I recommend for this category because there are just way too many depending on the situation. Plus, I can’t give away all of our secrets Smile

I would like to end this question by saying way too many people start taking the Specific Application supplements way too early (and often) in their lifting careers! If more people focused on TRAINING HARD, EATING RIGHT and supplementing with my “Foundational Supplement” recommendations; they would make steady progress throughout their lifetime! Unfortunately, most kids start taking Specific Application supplements the very first day they start lifting and then their body is immune to them by the time they really “need” them down the road! My suggestion is to get as much out of your TRAINING and your Foundational Supplements for as long as possible and “save” the Specific Application supplements for when you really “need” them! Trust me, you don’t want to “throw the kitchen sink” in your body when you’re 15 years old, then have nothing to turn to when you hit a plateau during your college career!

Hopefully, some young athletes will see this post before it’s too late…

-Joe D.




“No questions, just gratitude. I am a 40 yr old Baptist preacher in Mobile, AL and I am 2 weeks deep into your ‘Built Like A Bad – – –’ workout.  It beats anything I have ever done in over 25 years of lifting. You’re the Doctor and it was worth every dime. When the 12 weeks are up, I won’t have any trouble from malcontented deacons. Thanks Joe.”
Clint Pressley
Mobile, AL


“I just finished my 2nd week of the Badass program and all I have to say is WOW. I have never been put through the paces like this before and I am only on Week 2. I love the program and can’t wait to see the end result. Also, I did P90X and I must say after 2 weeks on your badass program i can feel the difference more than after 2 months on P90X. Just thought you would like to hear that.”
-Russell S.
You still have time to purchase “BUILT LIKE A BADASS” in time for the holidays! Buy the ebook and print it out for a “badass” stocking stuffer!!!


-Joe D.



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  2. Hi Joe really interesting article as always. I hear Many trainers suggest magnesium daily/ post workout since it s hard to get it enough from diet? What s your thought? Would you recommend it? Thanks

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