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1×20 Strength System: Expert Roundtable

What is one of the fastest ways to build huge levels of strength in team sport, and strength athletes alike? 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock as a coach, or athlete, deeply interested in training theory, you’ve probably heard of single set resistance training.

You’ve also probably heard about the 1×20 system (the answer to the question posed at the top of the article) if you’ve been browsing Just Fly Sports for long enough, and if you’re like me, the incredible results athletes are getting from it in terms of strength and power gains are motivating to learn more.

What are some of the results that 1×20 style training gets or assists in?

  • 100lb squat gains in 6 months in trained athletes
  • 4-6” average increases in vertical jumps in offseason training
  • .3+ second drops in 40 yard time
  • Better early staging for high performance results later on

I even used modified 1×20 (single submaximal set) ideals for the resistance training section of my book “Vertical Ignition” and have gotten back big strength increase reports, such as +30lbs on squat in 5 weeks.

Before we get any farther, what exactly is the 1×20 system?  Well, it is essentially just that, using 1 set of 20 (or 14, or 8) reps in a “slow cooked”, or submaximal, over time (as opposed to HIT/taken to failure) format for each exercise in the workout.  The same workout is done each session, and when no more progress is made at 20 reps, is eventually progressed to 1×14, and then 1×8-10 over time.   You can perform a large amount of exercises on this protocol compared to lower amounts on multi-set GPP protocols.

For an example of what this work looks like in an actual workout in the 1×20 phase, check out this link from Jay DeMayo’s CVASP page.

We must remember that every training means is a tool, after all, and everything does certainly depend on the exact situation.  Having a good understanding on the how and why of the 1×20 philosophy helps us to better utilize it to get great results, rather than just thinking of it as “a mysterious magic bullet” that someone out there is claiming big things on, but is it too “out there” for me to use.

In order to really give strong insight into the system, its results, and ideals, I have gathered 5 experts to lay down some sage knowledge into the inner workings of this training tool.  They are:

  • Jake Jenson Strength Coach at Michigan Tech
  • Yosef Johnson of Ultimate Athletic Concepts
  • Chris McCormick Head of Athletic Performance at Gardener-Webb University
  • Jeff Moyer of DC Sports Training
  • Matt Thome Head Strength Coach at Michigan Tech

All of these authors have great practical experience with the 1×20 system and philosophy.  We’ll be covering a variety of topics for this roundtable, where are as follows:

  1. Why the 1×20 system works as well as it does
  2. Creative variations of the 1×20 method
  3. When to move from 1×20 to other types of work, such as VBT
  4. Differences between HIT and 1×20
  5. Case studies of the 1×20 program
  6. How has 1×20 changed your view of training
  7. How to utilize 1×20 and other methods throughout the seasonal training of high level athletes

Question #1

What are your thoughts as to why the 1×20 set works as well as it does?

Most people would think of this type of work as “strength endurance” and therefore irrelevant; how does this work help improve maximal strength, as well as speed and power markers without getting into the >80-85% 1RM range of resistance training?

Jake Jensen:

1.What are your thoughts as to why the 1×20 set works as well as it does? In my experience, there are a few parts that work together to make it effective. It works well because it optimizes training volume and increases training density. What I mean is that you do less volume on a daily basis so the planned training loads don’t dip too far into the athlete’s adaptation reserves.

1 set of 20 has a much lower training load than 3 sets of 10 or even 3 sets of 8, due to the fact that you have to drop the intensity to hit that 20 rep range (or 8 or 14, whatever the case may be). This allows you to do the same means of training more frequently throughout the microcycle, increasing training density. The other piece, is that the high repetitions facilitate technical mastery better than anything I’ve ever seen. I know that my squat technique got much better doing it, and our athletes here at Tech all have excellent technique.

2. Most people would think of this type of work as “strength endurance” and therefore irrelevant. How does it work to improve strength and speed?

Right off the bat I would ask, is strength endurance actually irrelevant? I would contend that it’s highly relevant in team sports. In any case, before I say a few words about how I think it works to improve max speed, I’ll just list some of the results I know of from personal experience using 1×20.

  • 2 Elite Powerlifting totals (both in single-ply)
  • 2 Junior National Powerlifting Records
  • Several lifters adding 50lbs to their total in under 6 months (drug free)
  • Most of our older guys (football) can squat 2.5x BW excluding several bigs
  • 40 times dropping tenths (plural) for guys already under 4.7 seconds.
  • Verts going up 6”+ for guys who already jump close to 30”

So I think it goes without saying that this program works for absolute strength. The numbers don’t lie. In fact, it works so well that team sport athletes have to be held back from adding weight because dangerous intensities are reached so quickly in back squat and bench.

So with that being said, yes it is primarily working on strength endurance, when you are hitting 20 reps. But that doesn’t mean it’s only strength endurance, especially from reps 15-20. Fatigued lifting recruits fast twitch fibers as well, so the motor recruitment profile is going to shift as you get closer to the end of the set. You can also make changes to that 20 number in order to continually effect change and therefore adaptation in your athletes.

I have done this by utilizing rep ranges from 20 to 14 to 8 to even 4. When it comes to speed, we all know that strength plays a role there but it’s not everything. There has to be a speed development component added to the lifting. But 1×20 sets that up perfectly, because the athletes aren’t being slaughtered by the lifting program so they can adapt fully to the speed work too.

Yosef Johnson:  It is on the level of the athlete’s threshold of adapativity. The stress is the right amount to move the many markers of progress. The first 10-14 reps are building endurance, but the last 5 five reps or so are building max strength.

1x20 Strength System: Expert Roundtable  

“The First 10-14 reps are building endurance, but the last 5 reps or so are building max strength”

Chris McCormick: All the contributors to this a discussion have either explained to me/aided in implementing the “methodology” of the 1×20 in some shape or form at my current situation, I believe I can speak for them that the 1×20 works so well because its suited to help an athlete develop the qualities that they need for their specific sport by using the right means & methods at the right time with the optimal dose. This could be Jake Jensen using these training ideas for his Powerlifting or Matt Thome for his team sports at Michigan Tech.

Digging deeper, the 1×20 method is so far different than most strength & conditioning programs as it focuses on building strength from head to toe. The lack of multiple sets initially allows for more exercises to be done & more joint based exercises to strengthen the Ankle, Calf, Knee, etc.  This is different than many programs where a bunch of multi joint movements are used and that those movements are a “catch all” to strengthen all the athlete’s weak links.

In addition to building capillary density (Aerobic Base/GPP Phase) & the motor aspect of learning exercises with higher reps & low intensity, I haven’t seen a better way to build maximal strength rapidly than using 1×20 method progression. This is done using weights far under the 80-85% 1RM range that most people think they need to use to build strength!

Jeff Moyer:

Strictly 1×20 as a standalone set:

  • Dr. Yessis has proven that performing 20-25 reps works on a continuum of speed – power – strength – endurance, rather than it being just black and white: 1-5 max effort, 6-10 strength, 10-15 hypertrophy, 15 – 30 endurance.  The body doesn’t work like that. We are able to get many different abilities in one set.
  • It has written about how hard it is to strengthen ligaments and tendons, but by doing higher rep strength work towards failure that it promotes more blood flow to those areas, thus strengthening them.  So 1×20 does a better job than most systems of targeting the ligaments and tendons.
  • 1×20 is low intensity on the nervous system.  Allows for recovery.
  • 1×20 builds work capacity.

1×20 System (1×20, 1×14, 1×8 over time):

  • It works well because it is a system that is molded to the athlete and their situation; it is strictly needs based.  1×20 is just an entry point.
  • There is an underline thought process and critical thinking skills that go with it.  I think it works well because coaches overestimate where the threshold for adaptation is.  It has become popular to talk about Selye, Dr. Sapolsky and “Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers.”  But unless you start with the least amount, you don’t know what stress and adaptation really is.
  • Something that also isn’t talked about much in coaching circles is transfer of training.  I think that besides talking about Dr. Bondarchuk, coaches should talk TO Dr. B and research further the ideas/ theories / and practical side of Training Transfer.
  • Understanding technique and exercise selection is a huge part of understanding the thought processes that go into this

Matt Thome: To begin with, I apologize if my answers are brief.  I’m planning on talking about this in more detail when I speak at Jay’s seminar in Richmond this July (CVASPS).  However, I will still try to provide some insight here so coaches can maybe attend that seminar with a little more background that can help spark further conversation.

Why does the 1×20 progression work so well?  This depends on what traits/qualities you’re looking at it; it works very well to accomplish many things at once in a very simple way.  To address the specifics of this question, of course it improves strength endurance.  It’s hard for me to believe that this is considered irrelevant by some while a primary topic of discussion in our field is currently the various types of strength that are needed for team sports athletes; why would we talk about speed-strength and strength-speed and leave strength endurance out?  This quality can help an athlete maintain technique for a longer period of time, which would very clearly have a positive impact on performance.

As for improving maximal strength with lower intensities, this is just as simple as providing the optimal level of stimulus needed for each particular athlete.  An athlete with a lower training age can get much stronger using lower intensities.  As they progress they will, of course, need to increase the strength of the stimulus to continually improve.

Looking at speed and power, the 1×20 and the progression to greater intensities is only one piece of the puzzle.  Specialized exercises, jumps, plyometrics, cutting technique, sprint work, etc. all play a role as well.  It’s really the synergistic effect of all these components, carefully programed into a congruent training system that leads to improvements in speed, power, and ultimately sport performance.

Question #2

Do you run the 1×20 system strictly the way it is assigned, or do you do any “creative interpretations”?

Jake Jensen:  I definitely didn’t use it only as assigned. Dr. Yessis says in his book that the 20’s should be used for 1-year minimum and I only did them for 25 sessions or so, after which I moved down into the 14’s and even 4 rep sets. I did that because of the way that Dr. Bondarchuk talks about change and specificity in order to reach sports form prior to competing.  So my interpretation was to do 1, 4-rep set per session with my single ply on for about a month (8 sessions) then transition to doing 4 singles per session for a month. This worked out really well for me, as I hit a 20lb. squat PR and was damn close to a 40lb. PR.

Yosef Johnson:  I have been around it for nearly 23 years. It is not assigned in any strict way. Simply cover all the joints of the body in their ranges of motion.

Chris McCormick:  In my first full year, we used the 1×20 method just as it has been written about. We progressed the athletes we thought needed more intensity or a different stimulus. For Football this January off-season, we began to use multiple sets with some of our multi-joint exercises while keeping the 1 to 2 sets as needed that is used in the 1×20 progression (1×20, 1×14, 1×8-10). Some of our Football guys regardless of the great results using only 1 sets on most movements were asking to have more “sets”, so we changed it where their first couple sets are truly warm-up in nature to work up to the last set which was AMRAP 2-3 reps before failure. Then the level system we use were assigned different rep number per set to control the intensity.

For example, the Red level (2nd Year) did 3 Sets of 8 Reps on Back Squat with the first set was a warm-up of 3-5 Reps, second set was a test set of 3-5 reps to see how the weight felt which dictated the last set which they were to get 8+ reps AMRAP 2-3 reps left in the tank. This made the Football players choose sub-max weights, specifically the set of 8+ became really 14-18 Reps like the 1×20 method, but psychologically that athletes have liked it more. NO different, but on paper look like a different program!

Jeff Moyer: 1×20 isn’t “assigned” any particular way other than do and give what is necessary to the athlete for the highest transfer.  Again, there is a thought process and critical thinking skills that go with it of: “what do we need to do to get better? And how much of that do we need to do?”  I try to do what is necessary for that time and the goal.

Matt Thome: With just about any program or system it seems to me that there would be room for some creativity within the bounds of specific principles.  As long as the methods or exercises you choose to use make sense in terms of core principles, you should be okay.

Question #3

At what point should an athlete “graduate” from 1×20 system and move onto other systems, such as Triphasic or Velocity-Based work?

Jake Jensen:  I think the easiest way to answer this is, when it stops working, when they stop progressing. Usually you will see that over the course of a week or two (4-6 sessions) they aren’t progressing their lifts. At that point I would switch the exercise before I change them doing 1 set of 20. But generally, if an indicator lift like squat is starting to stall out, it’s time to move to 14’s or even 8 rep sets.

I’ll switch the exercise before I change them doing 1 set of 20

“I’ll switch the exercise before I change them doing 1 set of 20”

Yosef Johnson:  First they progress to a 1×14 set up and then 1×8 with 1×14 as well. VBT is introduced when the athlete has good strength. This is normally after 6 months or so, no sooner. We don’t look at the various contractions as “phases”, all three are integrated at various points and times in a myriad of mixtures

Chris McCormick:  Most of my discussions with others who talk about the 1×20 like Yosef Johnson, Matt Thome, Jay DeMayo, Jeff Moyer & Ryan Bracius (UW-Whitewater) have been how to best implement the 1×20 in a team sport setting. As the Director of Athletic Performance at Gardner-Webb University, a small Division 1 college in North Carolina, my two primary teams are Football & Men’s Basketball. We have slowly begun implement a multi-year plan using the 1×20 which we have progressed these athletes through. Using 4 levels/templates (White, Grey, Red, Black), we have progressed the athletes based on needs we feel are important in relation to their sporting needs & training age. This includes not only general exercises like a Push Up → Bench Press, but also specialized exercises like a Hip Abduction/Adduction exercise with Active Cords → a Plyometric Side Lunge with Active Cords in relation to cutting ability over their 4-5 years. There are even more specific variations for our Quarterback, Kickers/Punters, & Linemen.

The beauty of the ideas that Dr. Yessis and others have presented is that not only general strength is developed fast to allow to “focus” on other qualities or movements like speed or specialized exercises to enhance sport skill, but by giving an athlete what they need turns the 1×20 program into the periodization scheme they need to improve given qualities after training stops leading to positive adaptations. This could become Undulating, Block, Westside-Based, VBT, etc., but again the focus is ALWAYS getting better for your sport! Don’t major in the minors!

Jeff Moyer:  I wouldn’t call Triphasic and VBT as “systems”, but we utilize these tools to some extent or another.  It just depends.

Matt Thome: Once the athletes are “strong enough” we’ll typically begin to implement some velocity-based training.  I’ll admit I have yet to define what exactly “strong enough” is for each sport or position group in football but you know it when you see it – we’ve started to look at how their 8RM squat relates to their bodyweight and have seen that most of our football team is squatting 2.5xBW or more (calculated 1RM) without a problem.  (When you have multiple 250lb D-linemen hitting 405lb+ for 20 reps, their probably strong enough to move on to some other things).  We’ll then integrate in some VBT to change up the stimulus a bit.  (It typically takes a year, more or less, to get to that point using the 1×20 progression).

Question #4

What are the main points of difference between HIT type training and 1×20?

Yosef Johnson: The intensity and the use of machines in HIT. 1X20 is also designed around movements that transfer to the sporting activity as well.

Chris McCormick:  I think at a quick glance they look similar in nature, but I see HIT type training as trying to achieve muscle failure or exhaustion, while the 1×20 is looking for the minimal effective dose to “move the needle” like Jeff Moyer & Yosef Johnson say.

Matt Thome: I’m not sure that I can provide a complete answer here as I’m not extremely familiar with HIT training.  However, to my understanding I think the primary difference is the overall goal: with HIT there’s a goal of pushing an athlete to a particular limit, and even sometimes past failure (using forced repetitions, drop sets, etc. – again, if I’m off-base here I apologize for not being knowledgeable about this system).

With Dr. Yessis’ system, the goal is to always “move the needle” a little bit each training session.  We’re essentially trying to take consistent baby steps without ever pushing too far past this.  We are always looking to improve but also within the bounds of that athlete’s readiness; some days we may have to adjust the load in the opposite direction if necessary.

The goal is always to move the needle a little bit each training session

“The goal is always to move the needle a little bit each training session”.

Question #5

What is your favorite, or memorable 1×20 system style case study?

Jake Jensen: I worked with a young single ply powerlifter at the University of Utah who was as dedicated as they come to the training process. He was frustrated with a Westside style training regime he’d been doing for awhile so he asked me to set him up doing 1×20. He literally did only 20’s in no equipment for about 30-40 sessions leading up to his meet. He didn’t even train in the squat suit or bench shirt.

We did a few calibration sessions just to be sure he wasn’t going to die, right before the meet. On meet day he ended up hitting 4 PR’s (squat, bench, deadlift, and Total) and setting 2 National records for Juniors in both bench press and total. We’re talking max strength, huge numbers, and having never hit any training below 20 reps. Just an awesome representation of how 1×20 trains the whole strength spectrum.

Yosef Johnson:  I assisted with a football player at the University of Minnesota who was a medical redshirt. We used the 1×20 with him for about 12 weeks. During this time, he gained 25lbs and dropped 5 minutes from his mile time. He also ended up being the strongest guy on the team.

Chris McCormick:  I think my favorite case study has truly been with our Football team. Football is rooted in the strength & conditioning culture of hardcore training & pushing everything to the max every time in the weight room. As I think everything in training has a time or place, using 1 set on exercises or lower intensities may seem “soft” or “not enough”. While this could be the perception, I tell our players that we will let our results speak for themselves & that our success on the field will attract people to inquire about what we are doing in our training. As we have only been training this way since January 2016, I am always continuing to add & subtract stuff. Here a couple good examples of 2 players we had that trained using the 1×20 method & some results:

  • Pro Day Football Player: Outside Linebacker/D-End   Ht: 6’2’’ Lbs: 248
  • Broad Jump: Mid February ‘16: 8 ft 0 in –>  Mid April ‘16: 9 ft 6 in
  • 40 Time (Handtime): Mid February ‘16: 5.03 sec – Mid April ‘16: 4.69 (CFL Workout)
  • Football Player: Running Back RS Sophomore  Ht: 5’10’’ Lbs: 216
  • Vertical Jump: Mid January ‘16: 31in – End of July ‘16: 37 in
  • 40 Time (Handtime):: Beginning May ‘16: 4.69 sec – End of July ‘16: 4.46 sec
  • Back Squat: July ‘15: 425×1 – July ’16: 430×12 (Have several reps in the tank, stopped him)

If anyone would like what we did training wise or our results from last year with our guys, you can contact me and I’ll send everything we exactly did!

Jeff Moyer:  Working with a high school football program and going 19-1 in two seasons

Matt Thome: The thing about Dr. Yessis’ system of training is that it works so well that there are far too many “success stories” than I can mention here.  But here are a couple of pretty good ones:

  • 5’5” 152lb corner back. Built up to 290lb for 20reps on the back squat by the beginning of December his freshmen year.  From testing in August to our testing period in March that same year, his 40yd dash time improved from 4.72 to 4.51 and his pro agility time improved from a 4.54 to a 4.22.
  • I also had a 250lb Defensive Tackle who squatted 535lb for 10reps (to parallel). Last year he also ended up clocking a 4.17 pro agility at the NFL regional combine in Minnesota.  Obviously, correlation doesn’t always equal causation but this athlete could squat well over 2xBW and was also pretty fast for his size.  Maybe we didn’t need to take his squat to that point but it seems like something transferred pretty well.  (We also never used more than 2 sets with this athlete).

Of course I’m just pointing out a few numbers here.  It should be obvious that we use more exercises than just the back squat and there’s much more to this system than 1 set of 20 reps. 

Question #6

How has the 1×20 system changed the way you view training in general?

Jake Jensen: I have come to expect more in terms of results. Now when I hear that football guys are squatting 500 lbs for a single I am frankly disappointed. We have guys hitting that weight for 8 reps on a light day. I’m talking little guys, running back type guys. I also now expect that athletes can do everything well and with big weights for reps. Like for example with pull ups or with even shoulder raises. We have 250+lb. guys doing sets of 20 pull-ups with weight around their waist.

I also look at training from a more general standpoint now. What I mean is that working in the gym is general preparation (you could argue special preparation) for team sport athletes. There is very little we can do with a barbell that is actually going to be special developmental in terms of their sport. More energy and time should be spent on implementing special exercises that turn that general strength into speed, power, and coordinated skills for the game.

More energy and time should be spent on implementing special exercises

More energy and time should be spent on implementing special exercises that turn that general strength into speed, power, and coordinated skills for the game.”

Yosef Johnson:  Stimulus levels do not need to be high. In fact they should be as low as possible.

Chris McCormick:  If I would have heard about the 1×20 2 years ago, I would have said you’re crazy and there is no way that’s enough to get results. It has made me realize that I don’t know much about training & things to do that while unconventional in a college strength & conditioning setting may lead to improvement of athletic development! I was talking to Yosef over the phone last year about some of his results when I first was interested in these ideas & was blown away on some of the strength & explosive numbers he was telling me his athletes have achieved. I have grown tremendously since as a coach, especially at my current situation where winning & championships hasn’t been a regular occurrence.

Using the 1×20 has confirmed to me, specifically with team sports, a constant pursuit of transfer of training. The search for transfer that leads to success in an athlete’s sport is all that matters in the end! General exercises only will take you so far, but specific exercises are the key to improving the qualities needed in sport. This search for specificity has also opened my eyes and seeing the similar thought processes in other people’s work like Frans Bosch, Chris Korfist, etc. who go against the grain of traditional strength & conditioning.

Jeff Moyer: It has expanded my Bull-Shit Meter

Matt Thome:  In general, what I’ve learned from Dr. Yessis and Yosef Johnson is more of a way of thinking than anything.  The reality is we tend overcomplicate everything in this field (myself included).  Maybe’s it’s like Robert Pirsig said:  “All the solutions are simple – once you have arrived at them.”  There have been many things that Doc and Yosef have taught me that were right in front of my face but yet I couldn’t see until they pointed them out; then it was obvious!  It’s hard to describe this specifically, but what it comes down to is that we always need to remember what the goal is and constantly be asking ourselves why we are using this or that to achieve that goal.

Question #7

For more advanced athlete with a good strength base, how does 1×20 system, or its derivatives play a role throughout the season, in GPP, SPP and transitional periods of training?

Jake Jensen:  I see 1×20 as a loading scheme to develop general strength. So it’s not going to be something we would use with special developmental exercises per-se. But definitely, regardless of where the athlete’s training age or result is, using 1×20 is going to help them build their preparation and maintain it throughout the season. This is accomplished more by how you periodize the training and less by your loading parameters (1×20).

If you were to use the Bondarchuk for example, Variation method, you could assign one weight and 1 set of 14 and use it for 2 weeks then switch exercises for 2 weeks with the same reps and set. Then so on and so forth during the season to maintain the strength qualities for that athlete during competition. This works equally well for athletes of all qualification in regards to strength maintenance. I think you would likely prioritize speed and cutting during the off-season though, making sure your periodization model allows sufficient adaptation reserves for that type of special developmental work.

Yosef Johnson:  It takes up a shorter part of the year but still plays a very important role for recovery ability, injury proofing and technique perfection.

Chris McCormick:  Our older athletes with sufficient strength in our minds (we have several athletes who Back Squat 2x bodyweight for 8+ reps) will begin to focus more on Speed/Explosiveness in their training. They will initially begin in the Off-Season with GPP, a 1×14-20 rep scheme covering the whole body as many of our athletes return from extended breaks with the possibility of not training.

With Football, as they begin to adjust to the training we will begin to advance not only the weights from 1×14-20 to 1×8 or straight to VBT training throughout the spring into the summer semester. In addition to the weights, specialized means such as Running, Jumps, Dr. Yessis’s Exercises w/Active Cords & changing general exercises to more specific (i.e. 1/2 Back Squat to ¼ Knee Bend Squat) will change from GPP→SPP while also Extensive to Intensive based on the sport-specific actions. Our older guys also have started using Olympic Variations used by Frans Bosch (i.e. Single Leg Cleans or Hang Cleans with ISO Catch) as another “specialized” mean as we haven’t done much Olympic lifting since I have been at GWU.

When Football camp & season hits, we limit our jumps to more Extensive in nature, scale back the 60-70% range with our weights to maintain strength across the body (1×14 range or VBT Training using a Tendo Unit) but keep the progression of our Specialized Active Cord exercises from the off-season as this doesn’t take a hit on the CNS & will continue to develop “specialized” strength for sport.

Jeff Moyer:  I don’t know how to answer this, as it depends.  Depends on the athlete.  What you mean by “good strength base”, sport(s) they play, yada yada yada.

As Dr. Bondarchuk has brought out, there is a ceiling for how much general strength training will transfer.

Things to consider:

  • Exercise selection, monitoring improvements in KPI’s and seeing what the lowest amount that is needed to get improvements in our KPI’s, is some of the base philosophy that transcends regardless of what block of time our athletes are in.
  • Exercise selection is a key component of what “1×20”.  So as an athlete progresses, the selection becomes more specific to the athlete and their sport and abilities.  As the level of the athlete’s physical abilities improves, the amount of transferable exercises decreases, so understanding exercise selection/technique is critical to the “1×20” philosophy.  

Matt Thome:  I don’t work with any advanced athletes but we do get to the point where they have a good general strength base.  This doesn’t mean, however, that we no longer need general exercises or that we don’t need to maintain their general strength base.  To ensure that an athlete is continually improving we’ll constantly need to change the stimulus (when necessary).  These changes aren’t necessarily always to an exercise that’s more specific than the last (although the program will trend that way).

Specificity is an interesting topic.  There’s much grey area between SPP and GPP; it’s definitely not black and white.  We use a concurrent design where elements of from that entire spectrum are present most of the time no matter the level of athlete, just to varying degrees.

Roundtable Expert Bios

Jake Jensen

Jake JensenJake Jensen is the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Michigan Tech University, prior to which he was based out of Salt Lake City, Utah where he worked with powerlifters at the University of Utah. Jake’s current single ply total is 770 kg. at 110 kg. His work also includes translating Russian sports performance manuals into English, and serving as interpreter for the authors at public events. He is currently finishing his undergraduate degree in sports science with a minor in nutrition at the University of Utah. His areas of experience also include integration of sports performance technologies such as POLAR, Catapult, and Omegawave.

Yosef Johnson

Yosef JohnsonYosef Johnson has nearly 20 years of sports performance training experience, and began working with Dr Yessis in 1994 as his protege.  He formed Ultimate Athletic Concepts (UAC) in 2003 and began publishing books in 2005. Yosef has worked with athletes from child to pro level, as well as consulted with several colleges.  He oversees the physical education program for the Reeths Puffer school district.

Chris McCormick

Chris McCormickChris McCormick is the director of performance at Gardner Webb University.  McCormick most recently served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Eastern Kentucky University and has a strong base of experience with a wide range of sports.

While at Eastern Kentucky, McCormick was the primary strength and conditioning contact for men’s basketball, baseball, women’s soccer, tennis, track and field. He also assisted with the Colonels’ football program – helping that squad post a 9-4 mark and a berth in the 2014 FCS playoffs.

McCormick’s work with the Colonels’ traditionally strong basketball program helped produce back-to-back 20-win seasons during his tenure. Both Eastern Kentucky tennis teams won OVC regular season titles in 2015 and the men’s team also captured the tournament crown.

Prior to his time in Richmond, Ky., McCormick was the head strength and conditioning coach at Division II West Alabama, with responsibility for each of that school’s 13 sports programs.

As an undergraduate, he spent time as a student assistant defensive line coach at Indiana State and also has coaching experience on the high school level.

McCormick graduated from Indiana State in 2010 with a degree in psychology and earned a master’s degree in psychology and school psychology from Ball State in 2011. He is a certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA).

Jeff Moyer

moyerJeff Moyer is the owner of Dynamic Correspondence Sports Training, whose motto is, “We Build Better Athletes.” At DC Sports Training, athletes work on the physical, mental and visual aspects to the sports. Their goal is to deliver the athletes of the greater Pittsburgh area the highest, most efficient results year after year of training with us. We will exhaust our means in order for our athletes to achieve the highest results, and to create a system model that will develop our athletes both physically and intellectually. Education must be the road to which will help us set this standard. Our results will be the vehicle which to drive us.

Jeff graduated in 2004 from Hartwick College where he was a two sport athlete (Football & Track & Field). Jeff has been a sport coach (Basketball & Football) at the youth, JV, Varsity and College level for football for over 10years. Jeff has been in the strength in conditioning industry for over a decade, having worked in the medical, private, team, high school and collegiate settings, training clients from youth development, to rehabilitation and sport performance.

Jeff has a relentless passion for all things physical preparation. His pedagogy is heavily influenced by Eastern Bloc sport science, while apprenticing under Dr. Michael Yessis and Yosef Johnson of Ultimate Athlete Concepts. Jeff has also been fortunate enough to extensively study with and work with Dr. Natalia Verkhoshansky, Mike Woicik of the Dallas Cowboys, Louie Simmons of Wesitside Barbell and Fellowship under Dave Tate of EliteFTS.

Matt Thome

Matt ThomeMatt Thome began his role as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Michigan Tech in August 2012.  In August 2015, his responsibilities shifted to a 50/50 split appointment between Athletics and the Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology Department.  He is currently responsible for the preparation of the Football and Men’s Basketball teams and teaches several courses throughout the year.  Prior to joining Tech, Matt worked as an assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Richmond as well as several private sports performance facilities.

Matt received his Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Exercise Science from Grand Valley State in 2008 and his Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Indiana University in 2011.  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).  Matt is also a featured author in “The Manual Vol 1”, a yearly publication from Central Virginia Sport Performance in conjunction with The CVASP Seminar.

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  1. Not sure if this is the right place to ask questions, if it’s not please redirect me.

    What exercises do you utilize this method on? Is it for the general strength exercises or do you also use it for plyometrics and/or balistic movements?

    At what percentage do you usually start? Around 60% of the 1RM?

    At what frequency should this be used? 2-3/week?

    • Hi Bjorn! I’ll do my best to answer what I can/

      – The exercise selection depends on the athlete and placement in the system
      – Plyometrics aren’t introduced until later in the training, IF at all the first year. Short and long coupling jumps are used during the training progression however.
      – We don’t use percentages, we just try to figure what they can do for 20 reps fairly easy and then work up from there.
      – 2-3x a week is good to start

  2. This is fantastic information guys! Thanks for putting this together. As an “older” athlete (nearly 27 now), I assume this type of training would still benefit me as I’m not even at the 2xBW squat level (could maybe eek it out for a single but I avoid maxing)? Just so I’m clear, is this used during the season AND off season at the same frequency (2-3 sessions/week)? Thanks so much for the clarification.

    • Jordan,
      This “type” of training is just a philosophy and mind set of: what is the end goal? What is need to transfer to it? And what is the least amount I needed to do so? Depending on your sport, I wouldn’t worry about squatting 2xBW as that is an oversimplification on what is actually needed to improve to your sport. How you squat (techniques, velocities used and placement) should also be part of the equation. Exercise selection is important within this system.

      Using 1set is very beneficial for in-season training

      • Maybe I’ll get a bit more specific just so I’m clear. I’m predominantly focused on jumping (my main sport is volleyball). As I mentioned, I’m 26 and have been training seriously for over 10 years. I got myself 39″ off the ground this past weekend, so I’m not exactly a beginner. I’m curious as to how you would utilize the 1×20 system using this information. Specifically, would you focus on more complex exercises (3-5?) for me or still choose 10-15 exercises (certainly many of them being isolation exercises) for a session?

        Lastly, you said 1 set is beneficial for in-season training. I assume you mean 1 set PER WEEK (1 session per week), but perhaps I misunderstood.

        Thanks a lot 🙂

        • Jordan,

          It would depend on how you would respond to the training so its hard to say. We would always keep on eye on your KPI’s to make sure that you are improving in those and not just the workouts. Too difficult to say with specific sets and reps as everyone responses differently. You age doesn’t mean much as the novelty of some of the exercises might be completely new too you. It just depends.

          Exercises and exercise technique are critical. For example: squatting with feet under your hips. Standing and seated calf raises are important for jumping, etc etc.

          1×14 is usually what I use for my in season athletes. They come in 1-2x a week depending on schedule.

  3. Interesting perspectives on this system-with application to powerlifting and team-sport athletes. I am keen to know if for example, you have applied to say swimmers? And if so, (briefly) how?

    • Stephen,

      I have to a limited extent with high school swimmers, but I know Jay DeMayo has with D1 college swimmers and is a great resource to help you.

  4. Hey a couple questions here;

    – How many exercises per muscle group should you do? So can I do squats and single leg squats 3 times a week or would that me too much for the quad and minimize the training effects.

    – Am I right if I understood that you’ll be doing around 15 exercises 3 times a week? So you will be training full body 3 times a week?

    Thanks in advance

  5. Kasper,

    What exercises and the amount of them that you do depends on the sport/position of the athlete and the athlete. If you look at movement, you train muscles. If you only look at muscles, you forget movements. This system is to improve sport performance.

    If you give me some specifics about you and your sport I can maybe better assist you.

    • Jeff,

      Okey I understand. I play basketball at a professional level in Europe. Point Guard position, 23y old, 6 ft tall, 190lbs, 7% bf. Another question you might already answer; can I implement olympic lifts, or is that beter for later on in a different phase of my training program?

      Thanks again

      • Kasper,

        Yes Olympic lifts can be used. Might be good to use during later phase of training when doing more VBT stuff.

        Ok so without know any more about than your age and sport, here COULD be an example progression: All phases working on cutting technique!!!
        20’s: Extensive low-box jumps, power skips, squat, horizontal press, horizontal pull, vertical press, vertical pull, lateral raises, front raise, RDL, Leg curls, Knee extensions, hip ab & adduction, knee drive, standing calf raise, seated calf raise, back raises, tricep kickbacks, reverse crunches, reverse trunk twists.

        14s: extensive scissor jumps, extensive lateral hurdle jumps, extensive leg-leg jumps, squats, GHR, horizontal press, horizontal pull, vertical press, vertical pull,lateral raises, front raise, hip ab & adduction, knee drive, standing calf raises,seated calf raises, back raises, hanging leg lifts, russian twists

        8s: Lower body – iso squat jumps, iso single leg lateral jumps, broad jumps, squats, GHRs, active cord front & side lunges, standing calf raises, seated calf raises, back raises, Delay squats

        thats just a mild example, but hope that makes sense

  6. Great article! I’ve been using the 1 x 20 for about a year and a half with most of my D2 athletes with great results. I’ve found that my female athletes really enjoy this method, they understand the process more then the men do.

    I progressed my athletes out of the 20’s quicker this year which I’m not sure if that was the best idea or not. I’ve been able to use it in-season with Volleyball, Softball, and Baseball but didn’t with Soccer and Basketball.

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