Tierphasic Training (Part III of III)

By: Matt Van Dyke

While working with my own teams at St. Cloud I have combined these two methods within the off-season period to create the “tierphasic training program”. This program allows for the max strength gains to be seen due to the tier system during the first phase, and then shifts its focus to the stretch-shortening cycle and specific energy systems utilized within the sport during the triphasic phase, which leads into peaking before camp and/or pre-season competition. This method allows for me to select the date that my athletes need to be peaked for, and then work backwards to determine the time frame I have to work within.

The tier method I have adopted can be either six or eight weeks, with the triphasic program ranging from six to ten weeks. These variations allow me to determine what my athlete’s need the most based on the time of year and their current training status, and then move forward from there. The triphasic needs of the athlete are determined first, and then the remaining weeks are devoted to base or tier training. If time permits, I will use the full twelve week cycle of triphasic training, but it often doesn’t. When twelve weeks is not an option I will use the ten week triphasic approach. In this method I remove the reactive training weeks with the idea that athletes have been getting that training on Wednesday’s and Thursdays, when using a five-day training model. With an eight week block only two weeks can be used within the below 55 phase, and only one if a deload week is needed. The six week method allows for only a single week of eccentric and isometric work, each followed by a deload week, and then either one or two weeks of the below 55 training, depending on the need for a deload week.

The length of the tier phase can then be determined based on the amount of time left in the training cycle. Whether the program length is six or eight weeks, it begins with a higher volume phase for technique perfection and some repeat effort training. It is important to note that the quality of reps is always a focus rather than the overall quantity. I can control this by limiting the number of reps per set to three, because power outputs tend to decrease after the third rep, and then increasing the number of sets. Rest time is also controlled by me to guarantee specific adaptations of the energy systems are achieved. This program can be worked to a max-out within the six or eight week block if you determine it necessary for your athletes. I will max-out my less advanced athletes, as long as they have excellent technique, in order to push them beyond their current boundaries. With my advanced athletes I will work them to the ninety-plus percentages to get a feel of where they are, but never fully max-out in order to avoid any unnecessary risk factors for injury in the weight room.

Deload weeks during the tier system consist of decreased intensity and volume to allow the body recovery, while deload weeks during triphasic training consist of the “contralateral circuit” which is utilized to reduce the residual effects of the aerobic training system.

Hockey is fairly straight-forward to set up due to their single, long off-season, but if I am training a team with a broken up off-season schedule, such as football, it becomes more difficult. Typically in football, I will only have about eight weeks to train athletes in the winter off-season program, with ten additional weeks for training in the summer, if I am fortunate. In this scenario I choose to train the team using the modified tier system for the entire eight week winter off-season in order to maximize strength levels. Then the summer training program, prior to the opening of camp, is the block I make decisions based on what is best for the team. If there are certain players on the roster that need to increase their strength levels and will not be contributing to the team a great deal during camp, such as a new red-shirt, strength gains utilizing the tier system would remain in place for their continued general development. The six, eight, and ten week triphasic training programs are at my disposal for team members that will contribute on the field come game-day. These different options in training length leave the door open for me to go back and spend a brief block “touching up” strength levels as well as increasing work capacity using the tier method. It should be noted that the major goals of the summer block should be to increase the athlete’s rate of force development and prepare them for camp. Out of the systems I have seen at this point in my strength coach career the triphasic method is the optimal choice for these goals.

The first table below represents an annual training plan for an advanced hockey player using an eight week tier method and a twelve week triphasic program; the second table shows an annual plan for an advanced football athlete with an eight week tier and ten week triphasic approach. The bright red represents a max-out and is optional depending on the level of your athlete.