Matt 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.
Freelap USA: How has your utilization of the 1×20 system (Phase 1: 1×20 reps; Phase 2: 1×14 reps; Phase 3: 1×8 reps) evolved over the years, or do you use it the same way as when you started?
Matt Thome: For me, it’s mostly been a refining process with the 1×20 progression over the years. The general concepts/principles have always been there as Dr. Yessis laid them out, but my implementation has gotten better with my understanding of the nuances within the program. For example, when and how you change the general exercises and recognizing that a team needs to make a change, experimenting with different general exercises, progressing athletes from phase to phase and progressions year to year, etc.
I think this is the same with any training system. You could almost say that once you have a good understanding of the “rules,” you are able to experiment to get more creative with stretching them a bit.
Freelap USA: What is your approach to making adjustments for athletes in a large group based on individual responses to a program?
Matt Thome: When working with a large group, I think the No. 1 thing you can do is educate your athletes. Once the athletes know what they’re doing, the majority of the “individualization” is pretty easy. Basically, you teach them how to autoregulate—when to keep the weight the same, when to increase, when to drop down, etc. Now, for a while this means telling them exactly what to do and why they are doing it, but you will gradually be able to allow them more freedom.When working with a large group, I think the No. 1 thing you can do is educate your athletes, says @matt_thome. Click To Tweet
In terms of individualizing exercises and progressing intensities, that’s something I do on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes this means modifying an exercise or selecting a better exercise for that athlete on the fly; sometimes it may mean programming something completely different (within means) for several athletes depending on their needs. I also might progress an exercise or the intensity (for example, from 1×20 to 1×14) for an individual athlete or group of athletes who are ready to do so before the rest of the team. I generally organize training groups (Gold, Black, White, Grey) by class, but will shift people around (up or down) as needed.
Freelap USA: What is the heaviest, relative to maximal intensity, you will go for a standard strength set? How often do you test maximal strength on a yearly basis?
Matt Thome: The heaviest I have gone with athletes for quite a few years is about 80% or 1×8 RM. With only going up to one set at about 80% or so, we’ve still had three to six football players every year able to hit 500lbs or more for 8+ reps in a back squat. It seems to me that you can get “strong enough” by using only one set at an 80-85% load two days per week. Now, I’m not at all saying that max effort work is useless. It’s a powerful stimulus and can be useful for phase potentiation or post activation potentiation even if there is no goal to further increase strength.I believe you can get ‘strong enough’ by using only one set at an 80-85% load two days per week, says @matt_thome. Click To Tweet
I don’t test max strength at all. Like I said, max effort work is a powerful stimulus and should be treated as such. Throwing in a week of maxing out is going to have an effect on everything you do for several weeks following. Not that this is always a bad thing either, but with the 1×20 progression it just seems pretty pointless to test strength. We record the weights and reps they hit every training session; if I want to know how strong someone is, I just look at what weights they’re hitting.
That being said, I think it’s a good practice to make sure you document some of those numbers (from training) periodically. Maybe one to two times per year, depending on the sport and what makes sense in their yearly calendar.
Freelap USA: How are you making use of barbell speed monitoring for your athletes, and what training phases does this happen in?
Matt Thome: I was using a pretty inexpensive accelerometer to measure peak and average velocities for a while. It was great to determine a load for dynamic effort work and then to “re-test” (or just throw the accelerometer on the bar during training) every three to four weeks to adjust the weight. However, the device we used was inconsistent as to whether it actually worked that day or not, so it wasn’t great for autoregulation and it ended up being more trouble than it was worth.
If I had a better tool for monitoring barbell velocity, I would use it once we get to the point where athletes use higher velocity dynamic effort work and also for Olympic lifts. I’ve seen that some people use it with strength work but this doesn’t seem to be necessary to me, especially within the 1×20 paradigm.
In terms of monitoring velocity with dynamic effort lifts, I see two primary modes of progression: maintain a constant velocity range and progress the weight (most common) or maintain a constant weight and shoot to increase the velocity. I’ve played around with a mixture of both. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it, just a different means of introducing novelty.
Freelap USA: What are some modes of injury prevention that you feel are unique to your training and methodology?
Matt Thome: I did a short write-up and a follow-up podcast with Jay DeMayo on cvasps.com a few years ago on this. I think we tend to overcomplicate this issue, or at least over-think it. If we deconstruct the issue, it’s much simpler then it appears.
You can categorize almost all injuries as being a result of too much stress and/or poor technique. Poor technique is pretty self-explanatory—an acute or chronic injury could occur due to poor technique in the sport or in the weight room. Technical breakdown could also be caused by inappropriate training load relative to the athlete. “Too much stress” is relative to that particular injured tissue. You could also say that this particular tissue has too little strength (or force-absorbing capabilities, etc.) relative to the specific demands imposed in competition, practice, etc.First build up general strength in each joint, then gradually increase specificity, says @matt_thome. Click To Tweet
Thus, we need to develop athletes to withstand these specific demands. I think if you take a good look at Verkhoshansky’s “dynamic correspondence,” that will help quite a bit (same muscle groups, ROM, emphasis portion of the ROM, type of muscular contraction, and speed/force of movement). In other words, first build up general strength in each joint, then gradually increase specificity. When put this way, injury prevention is primarily intelligent training.
Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask. More people are reading SimpliFaster than ever, and each week we bring you compelling content from coaches, sport scientists, and physiotherapists who are devoted to building better athletes. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — SF