Workout Plans
  • Goal: Build Strength & Power
  • Skill level: Advanced
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • Days per week: 3
  • Type: Power
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Per Bernal / M+F Magazine
Per Bernal / M+F Magazine

Optimize muscle fiber recruitment to get stronger and more powerful.

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Cal Dietz—AKA the mad scientist of collegiate strength and conditioning—knows a thing or two about training elite athletes. Since becoming the head strength coach at the University of Minnesota in 2000, he’s amassed a laundry list of athletic accolades: He’s trained 11 national championship teams, seven national champion individuals, 543 All-Americans, 34 Big Ten championship teams, 37 Big Ten Players of the Year, a Hobey Baker Award winner, and 10 world champions.

The secret behind his success, and also Dietz’s pièce de résistance, is his Triphasic training method—a unique and effective strength protocol that has been embraced by Olympians, average Joes, and everyone in between.

“It was originally developed through trial and error to get results in the sports I was training,” Dietz recalls. “The system came about when we got the best results, and the results we got left us saying, ‘This is crazy.’ In track and field, we had some kids running the world’s fastest time to date for that year.”

Triphasic Explained

What It Is

Triphasic training is a lifting protocol broken up into three two-week long training blocks. Each block focuses on a particular portion of the main lifts—the eccentric (down) phase, the isometric (static) phase, and the concentric (up) phase.

How It Works

The two main benefits of Triphasic training are maximal fast- and slow-twitch fiber recruitment—the more muscle fibers you recruit, the more force you’re able to produce—and becoming more proficient at specific parts of the movement. For example, some lifters struggle at different parts of an exercise, like locking out a deadlift or exploding out of the hole of a squat. By focusing two weeks of time on the three different phases of a lift, that weakness will soon become a strength.

Why It Works

How fast we run, how high we jump, and how much weight we lift are dependent on our ability to produce force—that is, rapidly shifting from an eccentric contraction (the lengthening of a muscle) to a concentric contraction (the shortening of a muscle). The ability to rapidly shift from eccentric to concentric is what separates elite athletes from ultra-elite ones—just watch Andrey Malanichev squat, LeBron James jump, or Julio Jones cut, and you’ll see that they all share that same quality, despite competing in different sports. Triphasic mirrors that switch in the gym and helps you harness it more effectively.

How to Use It

Test your one-rep max for each of the three main lifts. Follow the plan below for the full six weeks and then retest your maxes.

Triphasic Tempo Explained

# / # / # / #

The first number indicates the seconds to spend lowering the weight; the second, in the holding phase; the third, in the lifting phase. The fourth number refers to the cluster portion—for these, do one rep, rest for the seconds indicated, do another rep.

DIRECTIONS

Each phase is two weeks, so the percentages (marked “%”) represent the amount you should lift for that week. (Read: Week 1/Week 2.) While the exercises, sets, and reps don’t change much, the tempo does. So refer to the tempo column and stick to a one- Mississippi count per second. For accessory work, choose from one of the many work templates that we outline below and tack it on after the main work.

Phase 1: Eccentric 

Dietz normally starts with the eccentric block. It’s the most taxing of the three since you’re under a heavy load for an extended period of time. The outcome, though, is drastic changes of the musculature of the lifter by strengthening the joints and tendons. During this block, be sure to focus on form. Lower yourself down with a substantial amount of weight. Once at the bottom of the lift, drive it back up. After completing this block, your muscles and tendons will be ready to take on the blocks that follow.

Phase 2: Isometric

The next block you’ll perform is the isometric phase. Here, the focus is on holding the lift in your weakest position before completing the lift. If you have trouble lifting the weight off the floor for the deadlift, you’ll pause at shin level. If you have trouble with the lockout, then hold the weight right above the knees. This phase will help you overcome sticking points by strengthening the muscles needed to lift the weight in that particular position.

Phase 3: Concentric

Triphasic concludes with the concentric block, in which the lifter performs the rep as forcefully as possible, again, in his weakest position. If you are the type of lifter who gets pinned at the bottom of your bench press, then you would push halfway up, pull the bar back down and almost touch your chest, push halfway up again, then back down, and conclude with a full concentric rep to the top. That’s one set.

Weeks 1-2: Eccentric Phase

Weeks 3-4: Isometric Phase

Weeks 5-6: Concentric Phase

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