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Training The Modern Athlete: The Importance of Triphasic Training

About 1 year ago I came across a podcast that had a guest on by the name of Cal Dietz. This man has coached collegiate athletes for over 20 years and many of these athletes have gone on to careers in professional sports. Over and over he and the podcast host would refer to his book titled Triphasic Training and the interesting concepts that came from it. After hearing their discussion, I decided I needed to pick this book up and get after it. 

If you decide to by this, let me warn you, this book reads like a textbook. After reading this book, I realized that this is stuff that I could apply to the athletes I coach at the school where I work and also with my business. I put some of these principles into practice and have gotten some incredible results. Strength numbers have gone through the roof in all categories. There have been kids seeing a 20 pound improvement in the bench press in one month and a 40 pound improvement in the front squat over the same time. But what really caught me by surprise was the speed, agility and jump test results. Keep in mind, we have not really trained to improve in any of these areas specifically. All we have been doing is lifting weights and working in some mobility/flexibility work. The results were incredible. In the vertical jump, forty yard dash, and pro agility (5-10-5), all kids have seen improvement. Some kids jump result saw as much as a 4 inch improvement in the vertical, 0.21 seconds in the forty, and 0.5 second improvement in the pro agility. This all occurred over the winter sport season, or roughly 10 weeks. Remember, we did little to no technique work on these drills. The transfer from weight room to drills was incredible.

Improving overall strength will improve these test results. That, my friends, has been proven. But what I felt helped the most is the addition of the Triphasic principles. Triphasic training involves three different types of muscle contractions: eccentric phase, isometric phase, and concentric phase. To explain this simply, for an exercise like the bench press, the eccentric phase occurs while you lower the bar to your chest, the isometric phase occurs when you hold the bar at a fixed position above your chest (basically you pause with the bar an inch or two above your chest), and the concentric phase occurs when you press the bar. In years past, we focused primarily on concentric training. We would want the kids to move the bar as fast as possible. We still want them to do that, but now we added in a few wrinkles.

How we train the eccentric phase... Some days, for an exercise like the squat or bench, we would take 6 seconds to lower the bar. During this time, our body is working hard to fight gravity. We are training our bodies to decelerate a load. Building strength in this area is important in regards to decelerating our body when we land from a jump. Everybody wants to train acceleration (we love it to) but often deceleration gets neglected. We can only improve our acceleration time by so much. The next thing we can do is improve our deceleration time. The faster we decelerate, the sooner we can accelerate. Think about it this way, if me and you can accelerate our bodies evenly, but I am more efficient decelerating my body, I will beat you. Having the ability to decelerate quickly, then accelerate is crucial in every sport. 

How we train the isometric phase... Lets look at the front squat. We load the bar to the required weight, we lower the bar quickly and then put the breaks on and hold the bottom position of the squat for 3 seconds before lifting it explosively. We want to descend with the bar fast and come to a controlled stop in the bottom position. From there, we will fight gravity and hold. We are building strength at the bottom of this lift. Lowering the bar fast and slamming on the breaks puts our body through a training stimulus that we would not see in years past.

How we train the concentric phase... Lift heavy weights, preferably 90+% of your one rep max, or heavier, for a few reps. So, if your max is 200 pounds, you will train at or above 180 pounds for a few sets of 1-3 reps. No rocket science here. Lift heavy, lift fast, rest, and repeat. The kids love these workouts. 

I feel building strength in all three phases has been a game changer. Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to dive into this stuff more, check out the book Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz. Or, if you don't feel like reading a text and want to bounce a few questions off me, you know where to find me!


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