When Explosive Lifts + Heavy Weights Are Not Enough

It’s no secret that lifting heavy makes magical things happen. When you lift heavier weights, you stimulate a greater number of muscle fibers, which triggers a bigger anabolic response. This is required for gaining muscle and strength, but too many people focus exclusively on lifting.

While Maximum strength is a vital component towards building a stronger, more athletic body, it can only take you so far. True strength and power requires the optimization of many properties, which is where Triphasic Training comes in. 

Picture your muscles like a loaded slingshot.

When you pull back to load the sling, you build tension, and the more tension you build, the more explosive the shot. Triphasic training is the slingshot that builds more tension in your muscles. 

A Brief History of Triphasic Training And Time 

In 2003, Cal Dietz, the head strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota, found that while two athletes might have been equally strong in the weight room, one athlete could generate far more force on the field than the other.

Studying more, Dietz found that maximum force (as measured in the weight room) had nothing to do with optimal output on the field. Furthermore, the key to optimal performance and speed does not lie within the concentric phase of the lift, rather true strength happens in the eccentric and isometric phases of a lift.

Now, what does that mean?

Rather than regurgitate a full textbook, just know that anything explosive begins with an eccentric load. (It’s most commonly observed during jumping and while descending slowly into a squat.)

Then there’s isometric action, which happens when the muscle remains at a constant length. (These are commonly known as pauses or holds, and typically lead to increased force and power outputs.) Concentric action is known as the measurement of how much you can actually lift and is the most common action performed by lifters.

Here’s How It Relates To Your Workouts

If all you do is constantly train your bench press and continue to bounce the bar off your chest to gain momentum, you’ll never see progress.

That’s like a turboprop trying to outperform a commercial jet engine. It’s never going to happen. 

Going too hard with a heavy load every time you hit the gym will only cause damage to your nervous system and causes serious fatigue.

The key to maximizing strength, size, and performance isn’t about being the strongest person in the room. Rather, it’s about producing more force in less time, and including isometrics and eccentric training in your workouts.

So, does that mean that all I have to do is just lower the bar a bit slower, do some pause sets, and I’ll get stronger?

Not exactly. Ask anyone who has gone through a rigorous training cycle. You’ll quickly learn that lifting heavier weights all the time and forcing reps only leads to exhaustion and causes injuries.

Just like how a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, if you continue to rely on training the maximum strength portion of your lifts, you’ll have one strong link and two weak links. With triphasic training, you’ll be strengthening those other two links.

That said, intense sessions like these aren’t for everyone, and shall you decide to give it a try, here are a few guidelines to follow.

Due to the high amounts of stress and volume, most people will do well in a six-week training phase that is broken up into three two-week cycles, with each cycle focusing on one of the three phases (eccentric, isometric, and concentric).

Triphasic training should be performed with the first exercise of a given training day. The last thing you want to do is perform this style of training when you are fatigued. As such, deadlifts, squats, heavy rows, and presses work best.

Let’s Talk About What Each Phase Does

Eccentric Phase

Since every dynamic movement begins with an eccentric action, it only makes sense to strengthen that portion of the lift. Here are a few rules as it pertains to eccentric training: 

  • Never perform eccentric training over 85% of a one-rep max. 
  • Always use a spotter. You’ll be spending a lot of time under tension which means your muscular system could go out on any given rep. It’s best to play it safe. 
  • Finish each rep as explosive as possible. Your goal is to explode out of the lift as fast as possible.

Isometric Phase 

Isometric training allows the muscle to explode fast and hard like a slingshot. The more you’re able to create tension in the muscles, the more power and speed you’ll be able to produce. 

  • Move fast, then hold hard. When you perform isometrics, you need to move through the eccentric position fast so that you don’t break the momentum. 
  • Create tension throughout the entire body by squeezing every muscle as hard as possible. It should feel like the longest 5 seconds of your life.
  • Finish strong. Come out of the hole as fast as possible. If you can’t, then the weight is too heavy.

Concentric Phase

This is the phase that gets all of the attention: the phase that measures how much you can lift. But the true measure of concentric strength is how well you can flow through the eccentric and isometric phases. When you learn how to maximize those, only then will you truly be your strongest. 

Your 6-Week Triphasic Training Program

While these workouts may not seem like much compared to what you may be doing now, you’ll want to stick to the protocol so you don’t comprise results and recovery. 

Schedule: You will only workout three days a week, and should rest at least 24 hours between each workout. I would recommend Monday, Wednesday, Friday, with resting or doing active recovery on the weekend, but the exact schedule is up to you.

You can perform a dynamic warmup for mobility or a slow steady cardio session to promote recovery, but that is up to you.  

You’ll notice a combination of different workouts during the week. Day 1 is all about triphasic training. Here you’ll perform all three phases of triphasic training with the big lifts (squat, bench deadlift) over the next six weeks. Day 2 and 3 are all about recruiting the most muscle fibers and fatiguing the shit out of your muscles so you can tap into your true strength potential. 

Eccentric Phase: Weeks 1 and 2

 Day 1

For week 1, you will load the back squat at 80 % and 75% of the bench press. For week 2, you will increase your load to 85% on the squat and 77% for the bench press. Ensure you get plenty of rest between each set before moving on.

For the Cs, crush the circuit as fast as you can with 30 seconds of rest between each exercise. At the end rest 1 minute and repeat.

Day 2

Higher reps will allow you to get a good pump and force the muscles to grow. Rest 1 minute between A1, and A2, then 2 minutes, and repeat 2 more times. For the B circuit, repeat just like day 1.

Day 3

Get ready to become a beast. Seriously, this will challenge every ounce of endurance you have. Select a load around 65-70 % and perform 10 reps of every exercise with 30 seconds of rest between each exercise. Rest 1 Minute at the end of each round, and repeat 4 more times. 

Isometric Phase: Weeks 3 and 4

Now that you’ve learned how to lower weights under control, it is time to create as much tension as you can. Following a similar approach to the first 2 weeks, you will now use 80% load during week 3, and 85% during week 4. 

Day 1 

Follow the exact protocol during week 1 and 2, make sure to get a warmup set in, and take plenty of rest between heavier sets. After your heavy ISO holds, move on to the accessory circuit. 

Perform the tempo deadlift in a continuous motion, lower for 3 seconds, raise for 3 seconds for 10 reps. Then move right into a max set of pushups. 

Day 2

Same protocol as week 1 and 2, this time you will increase your load to 75% of your 1 rep max and perform 10 reps. Once you complete 4 sets, move on to the accessory work. 

Day 3

Your goal is to get in as much work as you can in the form of a cluster set. For the back squat on week 3, you’ll load it 80% and week 4 will be 85%.  After you perform your first set of 4, rest 20 seconds, then repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 mini sets and 16 reps. Once you finish your first cluster rest 3 minutes and repeat 3 more times for a total of 64 reps.

After you complete the cluster, move on to B1, for 4 sets of 15, with 2-3 minutes of rest between each set. After B’s, perform 3 sets of the accessory work. 

Concentric Phase: Weeks 5 and 6

It’s not time to see all of your hard work over the past few weeks come to life. Your goal in this phase is to lift as heavy as possible. Don’t be afraid to grind it out and dig deep. 

Day 1

Choose 90% of your 1 rep max for week 5 and 95 % for week 6. Once you finish your heavy sets, move onto the accessory work. In this circuit, you will 30 seconds between each exercise and 2-3 minutes after each set. 

Day 2

In this day you will perform 3 straight sets of 1-minute sets with 3 minutes of rest between sets. For the squats, try not to rack the bar. Your loads will be 75 % for week 5, and 80% for week 6.  It is wise to find a spotter during this workout. 

After you perform the main lifts move on to the accessory work for 3 sets with minimal rest between exercises and 2 minutes of rest after each set. 

 Day 3 

The goal of this workout is to de-load and reset the body. The moves should feel fast and smooth. Your load percentage will be 65 % for week 5, and 70 % for week 6. The following training method is a way to boost your performance when you feel stuck. Now go get some.

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