The amount of times I’ve seen high school athletes (or even some collegiate athletes with no strength trainers) in the gym working on building their lats and biceps with no regard for athletic performance is truly beyond me.
Athletes need to take control and start working out to improve performance in their sport, not worrying about having the biggest arms in the gym. I believe that even individuals that aren’t competing in high-level sports should train like athletes. There’s no better way to maintain longevity and continuing to be able to do what you love to do for longer than to train like an athlete!
Training for aesthetics probably won’t help build your athletic abilities, but training athletically can definitely help build aesthetics
Triphasic Training is a relatively simple approach to periodization (creating a progressive, thought-out training plan) in which a movement is broken up into its 3 parts: Eccentric, Isometric, and Concentric.
While there are certainly other ways to train and get excellent results, this well-tested use of triphasic movements can see great results for anyone. New to working out, Redshirt Senior football player, or a 30-year-old mom wanting to be able to play soccer with her kids? Training like an athlete in all 3 phases of movement will get you your desired results.
Triphasic Training is an idea that Cal Dietz (author of Triphasic Training) stumbled upon while working with 2 shot put athletes. Despite the athletes having very similar builds and having the same maximum bench press (an important movement in their sport), one of the athletes could throw the shot put substantially further than the other.
After some force plate testing, Dietz discovered the factor that led to the difference in distance thrown: The superior athlete was able to absorb the force of the weight eccentrically (on the way down) at a much higher velocity than the other one. This ability to absorb force eccentrically plays a huge role in the amount of force an athlete can produce concentrically (the way up), resulting in a much farther distance thrown.
Cal Dietz, author of Triphasic Training builds his programs around applying stress in strategic fashions to elicit results
Triphasic Training is based on the idea that success in sport is predicted by which athlete can produce the most amount of force in the allotted time period. Of course, there are so many variables and this isn’t going to always be true for all sports, but when you think about jumping for rebounds in basketball or getting sent on a go-route in football, this couldn’t be more true.
Triphasic Training takes this idea and maximizes each athlete’s ability to produce large amounts of force quickly. Each phase of a Triphasic program’s ultimate goal is to raise the athlete’s rate of force development, ultimately making them stronger and more explosive.
If the lingo used in the shotput example confused you, let me break each of the 3 parts of movement down to understand exactly how triphasic training works.
The eccentric part of motion is when the muscle being stressed is lengthening. Think of a bicep curl (because it’s easily the greatest exercise). The eccentric section of a bicep curl is when you’re lowering the dumbbell and able to check out your sweet pump in the mirror again.
Being able to control force eccentrically drastically improves the ability of the same muscle to move with purpose concentrically.
Eccentric Phase of a countermovement jump
Isometric muscle contraction actually has no movement at all! Your muscles are contracting, but they are neither lengthening nor shortening. The isometric phase is the brief moment between the eccentric and concentric motions.
After training eccentrically, an athlete is able to absorb more force than usual. This increases the importance of an isometric phase as that athlete will almost ‘bleed’ or lose force that could otherwise be used concentrically.
In a squat jump, if the athlete cannot harness the eccentric force created on the way down into fast, powerful upward force, the isometric phase of the movement is failing to do its job.
Isometric Phase of a countermovement jump
Concentric motion is usually what people think of when they think of training. It’s the flashy, upwards motion of a bench press that makes everybody clap and worship you at the gym after you hit a sick new PR or the tough pull of a deadlift that makes the largest human ever’s nose bleed.
Training concentrically should always be fast and is without a doubt important to train, but Cal Dietz says that it is not the only part of a lift that you should work on, as its potential will end up being limited by eccentric/isometric weaknesses if underdeveloped.
Concentric Phase of a countermovement jump
There are tons of details or complexities within the triphasic training model that Cal Dietz runs through in his book, Triphasic Training, but in this article, I am going to simply lay out the foundations on how to roughly develop a training program for any athletes looking to get serious about training. If this program design process sounds intimidating (it probably should), I’ll lay out exactly how to get a custom program from myself later on in this article.
Used in succession, these 3 phases can build a strong, powerful, fast athlete that is ready to peak just in time for competition. The recommended length of each phase can be changed depending on how much time the athlete has to peak, but should stay somewhere within the same range.
Recommended Length: 4-6 Weeks
This is the longest phase of the block model in which the athlete will develop some basic motor qualities like strength and balance while raising their aerobic and anaerobic capacities. Exercises done in the accumulation phase are general and don’t have to be specific to an athlete’s sport.
Building qualities like strength, balance and endurance are important leading into the following phases and competition. Following an aerobic phase, triphasic means (eccentric/isometric/concentric) are used while lifting above 80% 1RM intensity to build maximum strength.
Recommended Length: 2-4 Weeks
The transmutation phase begins turning some of the strength gained from the accumulation phase into power. The athlete’s sport begins to factor into the selection, duration and intensity of exercises.
Athletes will lift between 55-80% of their 1 rep max for core lifts with a focus on moving the bar as fast as possible. Also called the speed-strength phase, athletes are challenged with lifting heavy weights at high velocities.
Recommended Length: 1-2 Weeks
This is the part of the program where the magic happens. This phase is all about peaking. Speeds of lifts mimic what an athlete will see in their sport, getting them neurologically set for competition. This phase should be done as close to competition as possible.
Athletes should see a peak in physical condition and feel that transfer of training into their actual sport.
Strategically sequenced together, the residual effects (how long each adaptation lasts without coming back to it) of the accumulation, transmutation and realization phases can peak an athlete right before competition.
Personally, I think that building a triphasic program is a great way to get the most out of an individual. Obviously, there are so many different ways to create a program and wouldn’t necessarily put this particular technique over another, but I have found that training triphasically makes sense to the athletes that I utilize it with, and can create lots of “buy-in” to a program.
One substantial drawback of the triphasic training system is that not many athletes have large enough periods of time in the off-season to go through a full cycle of this method. Luckily, Cal Dietz has heard this criticism and made a YouTube video explaining exactly how to shorten a triphasic program into a 10-week cycle.
Overall, I think that the Triphasic Training book is one that all strength coaches and athletes alike should read, as there are tons of new, innovative ideas on every page. There are also full program examples that show what specific exercises are on which day and how it all fits into the bigger picture. I certainly don’t think it is the be-all-end-all of periodization, but Triphasic Training is a method that coaches should have in their toolbox.
Take a good look at each piece of your training program and ask yourself this: Why is this in my program and how will this help me in my sport?
If your training program consists of drop setting different bicep curl variations every day, you’re probably going to have a hard time answering those questions, and changing your training program might not be a bad idea.
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