Applying Triphasic methods to powerlifting
This blog post will cover a method that I personally have used to increase my bench, squat and deadlift totals while training for a powerlifting competition. Many athletes that we train at CPS have also done the same.
Triphasic Training is a method developed and wrote on by Cal Dietz, Matt Van Dyke and Ben Peterson. This method of training is highly popularized across many collegiate and highschool sports programs. Triphasic training is focused on being highly transferable to sport. The Triphasic method follows general adaptation syndrome (GAS) where the body must be stressed with an appropriate amount of stress to cause an adaptation. It does this in a block model allowing for training to be focused on a specific adaptation. The model has three phases: accumulation, transmutation and realization that are broken down into four blocks: GPP, Triphasic Muscle Action Training, High-Velocity, High Load Phase and High-Velocity, Low Load Phase.
Preparing for a powerlifting meet, I was most concerned with maximal strength and developing this quality. Triphasic focuses on maximum strength at the end of the accumulation phase with the Triphasic Muscle Action Training block. In this block it breaks down the muscle action into its three phases (Eccentric, Isometric and Concentric) in this specific sequence.
Eccentric muscle action is when the muscle is lengthening, creating less force than the external resistance.
Isometric muscle action is when the muscle length does not change.
Concentric muscle action Is when the muscle length shortens by creating more force than the external resistance.
The goal of Triphasic Muscle Action Training block is to increase the stretch shortening cycle (SSC). The SSC is commonly associated with movements with a pre-stretch or countermovement, like jumping. The SSC follows the same muscle action sequence as the Triphasic Muscle Action but the isometric phase is called the amortisation phase.
The ability to transition through these phases quickly is important in terms of power vs time. The slower the transition, the greater the elastic energy lost that was stored from the eccentric phase. The power vs time graph forms a V, with each muscle phase having its part. Eccentric is the first lowering half of the V, isometric the bottom of the V and concentric is the second side of the V.
As mentioned transitioning through these phases are important and interconnected. The eccentric phase of training is responsible for decelerating the movement. “You cannot produce what you cannot absorb.” Meaning your concentric portion can never be greater than the eccentric. Of the three phases, the eccentric phase is the strongest, followed by isometric than concentric.
The transfer from the eccentric to concentric phase is brief but important. The isometric phase of Triphasic adds upon the increased ability to absorb the force from the eccentric phase. If the isometric phase remains untrained the transfer between phases is slowed and the power vs time V widdens out to more of a U. In this case, the athlete “bleeds” power.
The concentric phase is what typical strength training looks like (where we lift the weight, overcoming the resistance).
Triphasic follows a undulating model. The intensity through the week in the submaximal model looks like:
The supramaximal model of Triphasic follows:
I used these undulating models when I followed the Triphasic Muscle Action Training block. Each phase of the Triphasic Muscle Action Training block is two weeks. Two weeks eccentric followed by two weeks isometric followed by two weeks concentric. One week deloads may also be placed between each phase. As traditional strength training is a concentric muscle action and I was preparing to compete, I decided to only do the eccentric and isometric phase according to Triphasic standards.
When I started Triphasic I was 14 weeks out from competition. Essentially my periodization followed as: Eccentric two weeks, Isometric two weeks, Strength phase for four weeks and Peaking for six weeks. Starting this far out from competition allowed me to become more specified in my movements as the meet got closer.
For each first week of the eccentric and isometric phases I did in the submaximal undulating model. Both of the second week of the eccentric and isometric phase I did the supramaximal phase The supramaximal method causes greater adaptations but is recommended for advanced athletes. If you decided to go this route, use spotters &/or weight releasers.
Triphasic commonly uses safety bar squats and does so in a unilateral (single leg) fashion as it is most specific to many sports movements. There is research on bilateral deficit in which if you added up both of your unilateral one rep maxes, it would be greater than your bilateral max. However the sport I was preparing for was powerlifting so for specificity I used a standard barbell in the typical bilateral squat stance. Coach Travis Mash writes on this topic in one of his blog posts (Here), discussing how the bilateral deficit decreases or disappears with routine bilateral movements. I do however see the benefit of using the safety bar especially with supramaximal loads (for safety and if you wanted to hatfield squat it).
Included in Triphasic, I also used the french contrast methods. This method is supersetted in after the aboce 80% and supramaximal training for potentiation effects. The french contrast method model follows: a movement at competition speed with bodyweight, a movement just below competition speed (weighted) and a movement just above competition speed (assisted). When following this method included in Triphasic, each set tended to feel better than the previous.
As mentioned I used many methods from Triphasic but didn’t follow it to a T. Included in the eccentric and isometric phases I added in extra squat and bench volume in the form of linear progression rep maxes (I learned these from Coach Travis Mash) and progressive overload. Myself as well as others were able to see linear increases in rep maxes throughout. For the deload between the eccentric and isometric phases you could do Triphasic EDT and Super Training methods for one week. Some other deload options include: decrease intensity by 10% (for novice) or decrease volume by 50% and do the same intensity (for advanced).
Tissue remodeling from eccentric and isometric phases
Increases comfortability under heavy load
Tendon health from isometrics & slow eccentrics
Improve weak points
Force overload as eccentric > isometric > concentric
A dulling in pain from isometrics
Hypertrophy from training in a lengthened position.
Recommended to start 12-14 weeks out from competition due to the specificity of the skill. However many of us were able to hit competition PRs right after implementing the eccentric and isometric phases.
With some rep max work in front of the eccentric and isometric Triphasic work it may negate some tendon benefit as “connective tissues have stopped adapting after 10 minutes.” Read Jake Tuura’s blog post (HERE) on what to do for juicy tendons.
If I were in another sport I would adjust based on the specificity of the sport and transfer I was looking to attain.
I use french contrast methods in non triphasic training as well.
“Maximal strength training has residual training effects on motor abilities for 30 (+/-) 5 days.”
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Tyler Hakamaki, BS Exercise Physiology, Reflexive Performance Reset level 2, USAPL-CC
Further Reference material:
Amortization phase. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://athletics.fandom.com/wiki/Amortization_phase
Baechle, Earle (2000). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics. Champaigne, IL
Dietz, C., & Peterson, B. (2012). Triphasic training: A systematic approach to elite speed and explosive strength performance. Hudson, WI: Bye Dietz Sport Enterprise.
Helms, E., Morgan, A., & Valdez, A. (2019). The Muscle and Strength Pyramid Training (2nd ed.).
Mash, T. (2019, March 09). Bilateral vs. Unilateral Squatting. Retrieved April 23, 2019, from https://www.mashelite.com/bilateral-vs-unilateral-squatting/
McNeely/Sandler (2007). Power Plyometrics: The Complete Program. Meyer & Meyer Sport. UK
Schmarzo, M., & Van Dyke, M. (n.d.). Isometrics for performance.
Tuura, J. (n.d.). 3 Concepts for Juicy Tendons. Retrieved from http://jackedathlete.com/3-concepts-for-juicy-tendons/
Van Dyke, M. (2019, April 23). Advanced Triphasic Training Methods. Speech presented at CSCCa 2015 in TN, Nashville.
Walker, O. (2019, April 03). Stretch-Shortening Cycle. Retrieved from https://www.scienceforsport.com/stretch-shortening-cycle/
Warpeha, J. (2018). Overview of the Structure and Function of the Muscular, Nervous, and Skeletal Systems. Lecture presented at Strength and conditioning in Mn, Duluth.