Triphasic training refers to Cal Dietz’s training method from his book by the same name. That training method is simply 3 phases lasting 2-3 weeks each that puts an emphasis on the eccentric muscle contraction in the first phase, the isometric contraction in the second phase, and the concentric contraction in the third phase. The purpose of this method is to improve the complete sequence of muscle contraction by improving each separate phase.
We have started to incorporate this training method with some of our athletes at Endeavor since reading the book. We’ve incorporated it with some of our semi-private training clients, and within our team settings as well. After seeing the results, I’m now sold on this training method.
Specifically, in a team setting this is something that is easily manageable. The directions are simple; it’s either go down in 6 seconds, or pause for 3 seconds at the bottom, or come up as fast as you can. When you have only one of these components to focus on at once, it is pretty straight forward and simple to perform. It is not overly difficult for the coach in a team setting to coach the whole weight room.
Another thing I really like about this method is that it’s a great teaching tool for beginners-to-intermediate lifters. If you ever feel like less experienced lifters seem to struggle to control their movement, whether it be lunges, squats, chest press, rows, etc; putting the emphasis on one phase of the movement seems to fix that problem pretty quickly, especially using the eccentric and the isometric phases. They both force the athlete to control the weight in phases of the muscle contraction they struggle with when they have less lifting experience.
While I don’t really have measures yet of how improved their muscle contraction is using the triphasic method, I can say that I can see improvements simply in how the athletes are moving the weights after the 3 phases. Almost all of the athletes on each team look more confident handling the load on all their big lifts, and they seem to control the weights better. The eccentric portion of the movement is the one I see the biggest improvements with, as this is common for a number of athletes to not fully control the eccentric part of certain movements, mainly with the dumbbell chest press, and the reverse lunge.
Does this look familiar??
As a side story to this (whatever it’s worth), I have been using it in my own training, and have noticed immediate effects on my performance on the ice. I play hockey in the morning twice a week, and a week and a half into the eccentric phase I could already feel a difference when I was skating, and changing direction.
All in all, I have been very pleased with the results I got from the triphasic training method, both in the training of my athletes, and my own. This is definitely something that will stick in my programs for a while.
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Overtraining is usually something we perceive as being bad. Overtraining is associated with lack of recovery, injuries, suppressed immune system, plateaued results in the gym and on the field, low energy, low motivation, etc. I’m not gonna dismiss any of these side effects from a training volume too high, as these are very real effects from overtraining. Actually, I’m usually the first one to sensitize people to the effects of overtraining, and I encourage coaches and trainers to monitor training volumes and progress closely.
Then, why am I writing a post questioning the importance of overtraining?
I’m not really questioning the importance of overtraining. What I want to say is that if it is planned, monitored, and the appropriate amount of rest is planned consequently to allow overreaching, then overtraining might be an interesting tool to use. I’m not talking about the kind of overtraining that lasts for weeks, or months where you just bury your athletes in the gym without any consideration for obvious symptoms of overtraining that are just getting worse and worse.
If you know that your athletes are going on vacation for a week or two, or they won’t be able to train for that same amount of time, planning to have them reach an overtraining state before they leave might actually be beneficial. Because you know that during their time away they will have plenty of time to recover, which will allow them to supercompensate, which will be beneficial for their development. Upon their return they’ll have recovered and they might have reached new levels of strength, power, endurance, or conditioning.
This might also be a strategy that can be used even with athletes who are not going on vacation. You can plan overtraining in your program. As long as it’s followed by an appropriate deload period, you can definitely get some benefits from it.
After all, overtraining is essential to make progress. The system needs to be overloaded to create adaptation that will translate into gains in strength, power, endurance, aerobic power, or whatever you are trying to improve. If the overload is not sufficient, the body won’t create adaptation that will trigger improvement.
In the image above, you can see the importance of creating the right amount of training stress, and give the appropriate amount of rest before imposing a new stress. The red curve is the ideal one where the body is stressed enough to create supercompensation big enough that will lead to improvement. In that case it’s also important that the training stress is re-applied at the right time (as identified by the letter B in the chart). So the bigger the training stress (creating overtraining), the more time you will need to allow for recovery so the compensation reaches its peak.
If you ever talk to Cal Dietz, strength coach at the University of Minnesota, you’ll hear him say over and over again that he overtrains his athletes. For someone who doesn’t understand the supercompensation concept it may sound kinda silly, but the reality is that Cal plans his training volume and rest periods with his athletes as much as anyone I know. He takes into account the fact that his athletes are also students, that have Christmas break, Spring break, finals, vacations, and all that stuff that’s part of a student’s life. Therefore he knows that his athletes won’t train with him 52 weeks a year, which is why overtraining (or overreaching) at different time of year is a good option in his situation.
Like I said before, everything is relative. Nothing is all black, or all white, a lot of things fall into this good old gray area. It’s all a matter of understanding the context.
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“Here he goes again with a top 10. What is it with this guy and top 10′s?” you might be wondering.
I don’t know what it is about me, I just really like top 10′s! It’s fun to read, it’s fun to write, and the bullet points make it easy to take something away from the post.
It’s either that or I’m just a weirdo. What else do you expect from a guy who likes WWE wrestling, the Backstreet Boys, and the movie Vanilla Sky.
Just a great movie.
Anyway moving on.
If you want to keep getting better at what you do, you first need to accept the fact that you don’t know everything and there’s something to learn out of everything in life. I feel like this past summer I have learned a lot, so here we go:
(this is in no specific order)
1. PRI works. Period. I have blogged about the concepts of the Postural Restoration Institute in the past, but it’s only this past summer that we found a way to really integrate PRI methods in the training programs at Endeavor. All the credit goes to Kevin Neeld for that, and thanks to him PRI is now more than just cool corrective techniques, it’s an integral part of Endeavor’s training programs. When you learn how to apply that stuff, it truly is like magic.
2. There is more than one way to attain a goal. There is no “one way” or “one method” to achieve training goals. I think this is why people argue so much about different training philosophies; because they are getting results with the methods they’re using, they think it’s the only way to go. When you stay objective and take a look at what other coaches are doing, you might realize that there are coaches out there getting just as good results while using different training methods. It’s like the old saying “there is more than one way to skin a cat”.
3. I need a good balance in my life. As much as I love my job and as much as I love learning new things and getting better at what I do, I realized that I can’t be all about work all the time. I respect the “workaholics” out there, but that’s just not me and I’m fine with it. I like to have time in my life to sleep, go out to eat, watch movies, spend some time at the beach in the summer, and spend time with my girlfriend. I probably worked more this summer than I ever have before. As much as I love what I do, I have to admit that it was a bit much. I think balance is a good thing in life, and for me it’s important to keep me sane.
4. On a related note, I realized this summer that I miss my family quite a bit. For those who don’t know, I moved from Canada to the US about 3 years ago to pursue my career goals, which means starting a new life all over again and leaving your family and friends behind. I have seen them on an average of once to twice a year since I moved, which is actually not too bad. But my sister has a 3 year old daughter, who happens to be my Goddaughter, and every time I see her I can’t believe how fast she is growing! It always makes me think about how fast time goes by, and how much time I’m not there to spend with her . When I visited my family last May I promised myself to make an effort to visit them as often as possible (after all they’re only 8 driving hours away). The good news is I’m going back this weekend and I’ll stay for the whole week, which will also account for my yearly week of vacation!
Her name is Ariane. She is the cutest thing in the world!
5. It’s very easy to misinterpret things over the internet. I wrote an article a little while ago for StrengthCoach.com called ‘Understanding the Aerobic System’. Since then, there has been long forum discussions on the topic, new articles on the aerobic system popping up, and some strong reactions against it. To sum it up, my article was to put things in perspective when it comes down to the aerobic system and that there might be some benefits to training it directly, depending on your situation. Now, some people seem to think that I’m an “aerobic guy”. Funny how things work sometimes…The reality is that aerobic system training is a very small part of the programs I write, and I don’t always include that type of training in my programs. But because I wrote one article on the topic, I’m “that guy”….I’m going to have to be more careful on what I write about in the future, that’s all I know…
6. Related to the last point, you shouldn’t judge what a coach is doing until you fully understand his situation- the kind of athletes he trains, their training experience, their strengths, their weaknesses, the equipment he has, the amount of time his athletes spend with him, the total number of athletes and how the sessions are structured (personal training, semi-private, etc). There is just so much going on in any given setting that it’s extremely hard to judge of one’s training system until you fully understand every factor involved.
7. Nashville is awesome! I spent a weekend there a couple of weeks ago for a wedding in my girlfriend’s family, and I really liked it. I especially liked my visit at the Grand Ole Opry, walking down Broadway with everything country and the food at that BBQ place we tried! Definitely a place I’ll want to go back to.
8. The Newsroom is the greatest show on television since Entourage! It seems pretty underrated since I haven’t heard anyone talk about it (and don’t bring back the “you’re weird” argument because I like the Backstreet Boys!). In all seriousness, if you have HBO On Demand at home, you need to start watching this series, it’s brilliant. I never was a fan of Jeff Daniels (other than for his role in Dumb and Dumber), but he is just unbelievable in this new show.
He doesn’t exactly look like this in The Newsroom, but still…
9. Cal Dietz is the man. I have just started reading his book Triphasic Training (I’m on page 50 I think), but I’m already sold. I don’t have much to share for now, but I have a feeling I will have a lot to blog about once I’m done with it….
10. A strength and conditioning facility is still a business. It doesn’t matter how good of a coach you are, or how much you know, you’re still running a business. We had this discussion in one of our meetings at Endeavor recently, and the truth is people don’t know the difference between “good training” and “bad training”. Of course, in the end when clients stay long enough to appreciate how much better results they’re getting with a “good program” they will slowly understand the difference. But if you’re trying to market your sports training facility to the general public who have never heard about you, they don’t know the difference between what your program and the cookie-cutter program from the sports training chain company down the street. It’s a fact. You can’t market yourself with the FMS, and foam rolling, and smart training programs, because the general public don’t know that it’s “better”! Customer service and human relations will always be what people will notice first when trying to sign their kids up somewhere. Never forget this.
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That’s the first thing that came to mind when I wrote the title of this post. Hopefully you can appreciate.
Aaaaand just so you know I didn’t write this title just to plug a wrestling reference! I promise.
In fact, I was at the BSMPG summer seminar this past weekend and I had a blast. I got to spend some time with the smartest minds in the business including Patrick Ward, Sean Skahan, Cal Dietz (University of Minnesota), Joel Jamieson, and Jim Snider (University of Wisconsin) just to name a few.
The recurring subject that came back with a lot of these guys during conversations is that…well…you have to know your role! What I mean is that as a strength coach you need to recognize your area of expertise, and more importantly you need to know where that area of expertise stops.
It’s really cool to learn about the SFMA, DNS, ART, Graston, Mulligans, all the rehab protocols, but we need to recognize that a lot of these things are not our job to do. There is nothing wrong with learning from different fields, but not with the mindset of doing everything yourself! As Patrick Ward was telling me himself: “we need to know just enough about everything to know where to refer our clients to and when”. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Joel Jamieson was also telling me that coaches get too caught up sometimes trying to fix people, and their sessions turn out into an hour of corrective exercises.
Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s extremely important to be able to bridge the cap as a strength coach because there always will be some grey area, and we can’t send every one with a mild discomfort to physical therapy. Which is why we need to understand how the body works, what is good movement, how to identify dysfunctions or imbalances, and how to use corrective strategies efficiently. But our job is still to TRAIN ATHLETES!
I will be the first to recognize that there is a lot of incompetent health practitioners on this planet, but it doesn’t mean that you should try to fix everyone yourself.
Our job is to make athletes and clients feel better, improve their performance and lower their risk of injury. If they’re in pain, that is not our job to take care of them and fix them. And that’s the bottom line.
Another wrestling reference. Sorry.
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Just a quick post today to share with you some of my favorite exercises to develop power for athletes. Obviously there are plenty more exercises that I like to use throughout a training year, but these are just a couple of my favorite ones if you need some variation and something different from the traditional plyo exercises and the common Olympic lifts.
Unloaded squat jumps are a great exercise that I learned from Cal Dietz, strength coach at the University of Minnesota. It allows you to jump higher by pulling down on the bands as you jump (although it doesn’t necessarily translate into more power development), but because of the height of the jump, you have more force to absorb (or decelerate) when you come back on the floor. That really is what’s beneficial about the exercise; an increased ability to absorb forces and react to high velocities.
The second one is more of a method than an exercise itself. It’s called the complex method, and the concept is simply to perform a heavy lifting exercise (with about 90% of your 1RM) for 2-3 reps, rest for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes and then perform a bodyweight plyometrics exercise. The idea is that the heavy lifting exercise will activate more fast-twitch muscle fibers that you’ll in turn be able to use when doing the plyo exercise. In the video I perform them within 15 seconds, but ideally you’d want a longer rest.
The third one is a medicine ball throw variation that I got from Eric Cressey. It incorporates more velocity in the movement by running a couple steps and jumping before smashing the med ball into the wall. I’ll use this variation a lot with baseball players.
The last one is a variation of an Olympic lift. The reason I like it so much is because it usually is so much easier to teach and to learn than the traditional Olympic lifts. The 1-arm DB snatch is very effective to develop power and will take minimal time to master. If you haven’t already, try it!
As I mentioned in the beginning, this really is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are so many exercises to help develop power. I just wanted to share some of my favorite ones with you if you always end up using the same ones and need variety!
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