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Just Fly Performance Podcast Episode #46: Yosef Johnson

This week’s guest is Yosef Johnson, owner of Ultimate Athletic Concepts and performance coach with nearly 20 years of experience.  Many of the previous guests on the show, as well as contributors to Just Fly Sports, have been mentored by Yosef on Russian training methods and the work of Dr. Michael Yessis.

Yosef has a blend of mentorship and communication from “The Big Three” in Russian Sport Peformance methodology (Dr. Bondarchuk, Yuri Verkhoshansky, Dr. Michael Yessis) that is probably unsurpassed by any performance coaches in the Western world.  Out of this knowledge and mentorship has come a wealth of knowledge that has trickled down into the methods and means of coaches at a growing number of NCAA institutions.  One of these methods that is gathering more and more notoriety is the 1×20 method, but Yosef also has great knowledge of special strength methods, biomechanics and long-term development amongst others.

One of the main reasons I wanted to get Yosef on the show was that so many other guests I’ve had will point to Yosef as a mentor and consultant of theirs, so I really wanted to get to the source of all this great knowledge, and Yosef has been a conduit of the wealth of information, Soviet and otherwise, in this regard.

On the show today, we’ll be talking about special strength training, long term development, maximal strength training in the scope of athleticism, and more.

Today’s episode is brought to you by SimpliFaster, supplier of high-end athletic development tools, such as the Freelap timing system, kBox, Sprint 1080, and more.

Just Fly Performance Podcast #46: Yosef Johnson


Key Points:

  • Yosef’s background and mentorship
  • Implementation of special strength exercises through an athlete’s career
  • Yosef’s spectrum of special strength for building jumping ability for team sport
  • Ideas on early intensification and long term development
  • How to progress maximal strength work through an athlete’s career
  • Yosef’s use of the 1×20 system, and subsequent training implications


“What Michael Yessis always told me if that if it’s taking a long time to recover from a workout, then the workout was too hard”

“Early in an athlete’s career, general strength is more important, and as time passes, specific stuff is going to be more important, because the general has already run its course”

“In the early stages, special strength is more for learning than it is for training”

“We all know that there’s a limit to the amount of transfer we’ll go from a general exercise”

“There is a finite transfer from general exercises onto performance.  There is no limit from performance onto specialized movements.  There is a point where getting stronger in the squat, the bench press or whatever, this isn’t going to help us anymore.”

“Special strength is like throwing heavy or light hammers, or playing a team sport in weighted conditions, or running uphill/overspeed”

“If you look at a volleyball player, a quarter squat for her or him is a specialized movement, especially if you are moving a weight like 60% of 1RM…. But for sports like swimming or golfing, for them it’s not specialized, it’s totally different”

“Half squat (the first thing we use in our vertical jump development) is what we use, we normally don’t go any deeper than that”

“I’d only be a fan of using Olympic lifts in the velocity based way, the way Bryan (Mann) uses them”

“If we get an effect with a 12” box in depth jumps, and we’re not going to get a better effect with 24”, why would you go to 24”?”

“Like Bondarchuk says, if you use something that’s more intense than you need, then you can never come back (to a lower intensity)”

“Bondarchuk always said 90% (of a 1RM) is just too slow”

“(Regarding 1×20 and Dr. Yessis) He wrapped everything up into one ball, into one set, in the early part of the year… and not only do you do all those things, but you do them better than any targeted program”

About 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.


  1. Interesting how coaches in the same field can have drastically different opinions.
    Charlie Francis would have strongly disagreed with what Yosef was saying about bar speed.
    Charlie always said that bar speed is irrelevant and that the intent to move the bar as fast as possible is what really matters.
    Also, I believe that Charlie’s athletes lifted in the 90% plus range year round. I remember him saying that strength is the fastest quality to gain, but also the fastest to lose, so should not be dropped for more than just a short period.

  2. David,

    Excellent observations. I think that with elite sprinters and Charlie’s populations, those guys and gals already have the fine tuned speed-coordination they need in the periphery to run fast, so all they need is a strong central stimulus. I don’t know that Charlie’s athletes lifted 90%+ year round, I know they did select blocks of it with EMS, however. For many athletes, particularly those who might not get potentiation from 90%+, using it would fall more into what Yosef was talking about I’d say.

    Kind regards,


  3. Several movement theorists are moving less toward the theories of “specialized strength”, and more toward a Dynamic Systems approach of organizing movement. (See movement theorists like Paul Glazier and Keith Davids.) This approach is less “breaking down movements into their component parts” (as Yosef and the Russians do), and more organic organization of the sport-components around improving the organism’s capacity to achieve the activity goals.

    It’s possible that Yessif, Johnson and the Russian’s tactics can improve specific assessment tactics, and yet not improve athletic performance which is the goal.

    There seems to be another leap to be made here, connecting the more current- Dynamic Systems Theory with the reductionist theories of athletic performance used in these 1970’s concepts.

    • *Yessis

    • Harrison,

      What results has these “movement theorist” gotten? Do you work with athletes? Does DST explain ALL movement problems and solutions?

      I believe that there is more similarities than differences between the work of Yosef, Yessis and the Russian sport development system and DST. But without an understanding of these systems as well as other motor learning and control theories, it is easy to criticize on message boards.

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