Tips & Tricks

General Physical Preparation? Let’s Try Broad Spectrum Preparation Part I: Strength as A Spectrum

The athletic development and sport preparation field often undergoes it’s own audits via the latest fads, trends, and paradigm shifts.  Lately there has been a recent shift to low dose/ optimal dose/ minimal effective (insert your term here) dose amongst many successful coaches.  Especially among the ones I’ve been fortunate enough to interact and listen to in the past three years.  Thanks to guys like Ryan Bracius, who lets me visit him at Whitewater whenever I ask; as well as the great speakers at the Track and Football Consortium.   The latest of which featured an all-star lineup on top of even better presentation material.   At conferences such as the TFC the vast amount of material and impact of the information often leaves one’s head spinning, in a good way! Each presentation has nuggets of gold and diamonds in the rough.   For myself, Jeff Moyer’s presentations contained both.  Jeff was able to sift through the quagmire of concepts and offer some of the best practical advice that you could apply today.  One diamond in the rough he hit upon was in viewing strength as a spectrum.  Specifically, how it is executed in a high repetition program such as the 1×20 system.   In Jeff’s application he mentions that strength training is one of many components of many needed in an training arsenal.   As a coach who has limited time to train his athletes (like much of us do) he must find a way to effectively and efficiently to make improvements in the key indicators that matter.  Spending time executing multiple sets and reps of multiple strength exercises not only takes away from time learning vital skills but also the athlete’s recovery and adaptation reserves. In other words, you can only run the well dry so long before you run out of water. In Jeff’s words “twenty reps is one of the least possible CNS costs to get a positive transfer.”  The phase of 20s is also paramount to building the broad spectrum of needs for young athletes which include strengthening of connective tissues, cardiovascular development, capillarization of blood vessels, skill improvement, and maximal strength all within a single set.  Sounds like a way to get a bang for your buck in my opinion.  {1}   Well this got me thinking…how can I see or show this?  As Jeff mentions in his TFC presentation “A Minimalist Approach to Building A Better Athlete.”  That the 20s cover a spectrum of strength including accelerative strength, strength endurance, and maximal strength along with immense carry over to power metrics such as vertical jump, broad jump, and sprinting.  The great thing about trends is that sometimes they spawn the production of nifty little tools.  Enter:  velocity measuring devices!  So, I decided to measure the spectrum of reps in a twenty rep set and see how if fell along the velocity zone/ special strengths spectrum. {2} In my case investigation I used the Open Barbell V2.0 and accompanying IOS app.  for the ½ squat exercise with two of my Women’s soccer players. The following photos show the velocities of each rep during the twenty rep set.  I was able to track one of the athlete’s over the course of several weeks because she began training with me before the other.  So, goes life in the private sector once one gal starts coming and seeing results she tells her friends about it and soon enough you get more working with you. I digress. If we examine the first 10 reps we can see ”Meg” begins with a low end accelerative speed .53 m/s then quickly jumps up to the mid range .66 m/s up to rep ten before fatiguing a bit where she falls below .6 m/s. My guess is that this was her first session attempting a twenty rep back squat and was feeling her way through the movement. Reps 12-16 reveal the competitor Meg is, as she hits nearly a .7 on reps 13 and 16 before getting back down in the .5m/s on rep 17. On her last rep she is able to jump near .6 again probably becuse I told her to finish fast.  Intent is everything when you get fatigued! Upon close examination you can see some fluctuations going on as the speeds certainly did not drop uniformly as a perfect spectrum would look like. Again, I attribute this to her first attempt at this.

Meg 1/2 squat 85 pounds.

Meg 1/2 squat 85 pounds reps 14-20

Meg 1/2 squat 85 pounds reps 4-13.

                  A few weeks later you can see that Meg was not only able to add 15 lbs. but produce greater overall speeds throughout the set. She began in the high .6 m/s range which she held for the first 5 reps. Reps 6-20 we see that Meg slowed down a bit into the .5-.57 m/s range but maintained the low end accelerative throughout.  In other words, she was able to repeatedly display her accelerative ability for 14 reps after the initial fast reps.  What’s more interesting is that she displayed faster bar speeds with 15 lbs. more load.  We can see that this also gives us insight into the type of strength she is able to develop in the 1×20 system.

Meg 1/2 squats 100 pounds. reps 1-3.

Meg 1/2 squats 100 pounds reps 4-13.

Meg 1/2 squats 100 pounds reps 14-20.

                  The first pic in the series features a set of 20 at 132lbs. for Katelynn (Meg’s teammate).  As you can see Kate begins really strong at .65 m/s before dropping a bit to the low accelerative end in the mid .50 m/s. in rep 4.  From rep 5 she is able to maintain speeds in the low accelerative range until rep 16 in which she begins to teeter in the absolute strength zone to .47 m/s and near uniform drop until the last rep at .42 m/s. Katelynn’s set demonstrated a pretty much uniform drop in speed and looked more like a spectrum.

Katelynn 1/2 squats 132 pounds reps 1-3.


Katelynn 1/2 squat 132 pounds reps 4-13.

Katelynn 1/2 squat 132 pounds reps 14-20.

              About 6 weeks after her initial session with 85 lbs.  Meg increased her squat to 132 lbs. I should also mention that she did not put on one pound of bodyweight in the time she has trained with me.  **This will come into play in a follow up article as I show how this transferred to her speed and agility markers. She begins in the low accelerative end for 4 reps before dropping to .45 m/s in the high absolute strength zone in rep 5. Meg is able to maintain that force production capability until rep 15. Where the “weight” of load has become heavier in the .37 m/s range.  **In Dr. Mann’s recommendations .30 m/s is the slowest cut-off for the squat lift {3; pg. 48} and she is able to maintain the high end absolute strength zone for the 5 remaining reps.

Meg 1/2 squats 132 pounds reps 1-3.

Meg 1/2 squats 132 pounds reps 4-13.

Meg 1/2 Squats 132 pounds reps 14-20.

                I’ve always held to the mantra that everything we do in the weight room and all other forms of sport preparation should compliment, amplify, and improve an athlete’s skill set.  In the current landscape of “year round” competitive sport; where our kids are over played and under trained; we as coaches must deal with the problematic environment that the situation produces.   In my practice, training must produce positive training and performance results without draining the athlete.  We want to get the most bang for our buck, performed in a time efficient manner, and allow the system to recover, adapt, and grow.  This investigation revealed the positive effect of high rep sets in regards to training multiple strengths at one time.  Not only is this appropriate for the level of athletes in this investigation but also a necessity given their year round commitment to their one sport.  In the next installment I will investigate our progress in other key performance athletic markers.   {1} Moyer, Jeff. A Minimalist Approach to Building a Better Athlete.  Track and Football Consortium VI; December 2017. {2} {3} Mann, Bryan J. Developing Explosive Athletes: Use of Velocity Based Training in Athletes. Ultimate Athlete Concepts 2016.