Triphasic Training for Youth Athletes

 

What you need to know

  • Triphasic training is a great way to teach young athletes body awareness
  • Triphasic training gets young athletes strong incredibly fast
  • Triphasic training teaches young athletes to absorb force helping them to reduce the likelihood injury

 

Triphasic training – the brainchild of University of Minnesota’s Head Olympic Strength and Conditioning Coach Cal Dietz – is an advanced sports performance training system, originally designed for collegiate, professional, and Olympic level athletes. Triphasic training breaks movements down into their three phases – eccentric, isometric, and concentric – and trains them independently to maximize strength, power, and speed. Regardless of the sport or movement, all explosive movements go through these three phases.

Many coaches who have read Triphasic Training may avoid using it with their athletes because it is different than any other form of training they have used in the past – people fear change. Others may feel it is too advanced for their high school and junior high athletes. While, simply copying and pasting workouts from Triphasic Training into your athlete’s off-season training program would be irresponsible, disregarding the importance of training all three phases of an athletic movement would be equally irresponsible. When used with proper precaution and supervision, triphasic training is (in my humble opinion) by far the most effective style of training to teach young athletes body awareness, rapidly increase their strength, and most importantly, keep them injury-free.

 

Body Awareness

The first two blocks of triphasic training feature slow eccentric (going down) and isometric (static holding at the bottom of the movement) emphasized movements. During the eccentric block, the weight is lowered down incredibly slow, usually 5-8 seconds. The isometric block is similar, but this time the weight is held in the bottom position for 3-5 seconds. Both of these training blocks are great for young athletes because it forces them to control the movement.

Far too often when athletes are instructed to simply lift a weight for a given number of reps, they perform half-rep versions of the exercise as they also allow their elbows and knees flailing in and out erratically. By controlling the weight down smoothly and stopping at the bottom without bouncing, young athletes “feel” the movement and their bodies learn to stabilize in these various positions. By learning this body awareness at a young age, athletes will reap much greater benefits from their strength and conditioning programs as they mature and increase their training intensity and volume.

 

Rapid Strength Gains

In the world of strength and conditioning, things that suck generally are the most beneficial, and nothing sucks worse than spending multiple seconds controlling a heavy load through a full range of motion. Doing so is extremely taxing on the body and as a result the body is forced to adapt and become stronger.

Another important consideration is the fact that strength gains are largely specific to the joint angles being trained. If a young athlete performing a bench press only controls the bar down half way and bounces it off his chest he will never gain a significant amount of strength in the lower portion of the movement. Because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, being weak in a specific portion of a movement causes the whole movement to become weak. Conversely, if an athlete gains strength in their weak area, the whole movement becomes stronger. For these two reasons, eccentric and isometric training produces greater strength gains through the entire range of motion in comparison to sloppily performed concentric movements.

 

Injury Prevention

Injury prevention is the most important aspect of any strength and conditioning program – injured athletes cannot score touchdowns. Building off the previous points, when athletes improve their body awareness and stability, they allow their muscles and tendons to absorb more energy. By absorbing more energy in the muscles and tendons, less damaging stress is transferred to the joints.

Increased strength also plays a role in injury prevention. When heavy loads are lifted, not only does the body adapt by becoming stronger it also increases the size of the muscles, tendons, and bones of the body allowing them to handle more wear and tear before becoming injured. The combination of these two allows for an athlete that can handle greater amounts of force before becoming injured.

 

 

How to Implement Triphasic Training with Young Athletes

 

Reduce the Intensity

The bodies of youth athletes are not prepared to handle the stress that heavy eccentric and isometric movements put on them. Likewise, high intensity plyometrics should be used sparingly at this time as well. As the athlete matures the intensity of the training can gradually increase.

Good mechanics should always be the focus when working with young athletes (or any athlete for that matter). When implementing triphasic training with younger athletes it is perfectly fine to use weights lighter than those prescribed in Triphasic Training. A good starting point would be 75% of their max or a weight they can perform 8-10 times. With a weight this light, the athlete may need to perform five or more reps with triphasic means to gain the desired training effect.

 

Reduce the Volume

Just as young athletes are not prepared to perform high intensity triphasic movements, they should also avoid large amounts of training volume. Young athletes do not require as much volume to adapt as more mature athletes, allowing them the opportunity to improve faster, but also increasing their chances of becoming overtrained. Many of these athletes will only require 1-3 sets of each exercise and should avoid high volume workout programs

 

Teach Proper Technique

Ultimately, the goal of training young athletes is to teach them proper technique to prepare them for more intense workouts as they enter high school and college. Because of this, proper technique should never be sacrificed in order to lift more weight or complete more reps. When using good technique with full range of motion not only do young athletes gain strength they also improve their coordination and stability.