Make sure you check out part one in this series – eccentric training – which should be the first part of your Triphasic training program.
Triphasic training is tailor-made for ruggers. It’s a weight training method that increases both strength and power. But, unlike a lot of non-specific bodybuilding type workouts, it targets not only your muscles but your nervous system too.
With Triphasic training, each periodized workout phase targets a specific type of contraction.
By breaking a rep down into its constituent parts and emphasizing one at a time, it is possible to eliminate weak neuromuscular links and develop greater strength and power.
What goes up, must come down, but before up turns into down, there is a point where movement stops. In strength training, this is called an isometric contraction. In an isometric contraction, there is muscle tension, but the joint angle does not change. In fact, isometric means same length or same distance. Examples of isometric contractions include:
Isometric contractions bridge the gap between eccentric contractions and concentric contractions. They are the link that joins these two different contraction phases together. For example, when doing the bench press, you first lower the bar eccentrically and then push it back up concentrically. But, in between these two phases, it’s an eccentric contraction that brings the bar to a stop. If you don’t stop the bar from moving downward quickly and efficiently, at least some power will be lost. A powerful acceleration starts with a powerful deceleration.
Think about isometric contractions another way; when you run in rugby, you seldom do so in a purely straight line. You have to zig and zig past the opposition. Each time you change direction, you must stop your movement one way and redirect your movement another. Each change of direction is punctuated with a brief isometric contraction – that split second where you are motionless.
Most isometric gym exercises are low-tension and won’t do much for your strength. Planks and wall squats are classic isometric exercises. Both involve holding a specific position for an extended time. This type of training will increase isometric endurance but won’t do much for your strength or power. Ironically, you are stronger isometrically than you are concentrically or eccentrically. In other words, you can hold steady more weight than you can lift or lower. This is why most low-load isometric exercises involve such long holds – they are too darn easy!
In Triphasic training, the isometric contraction is loaded much more purposely, and with greater amounts of weight. This will have a significant impact on mid-rep strength and power. Focusing on the isometric phase of a rep will increase motor unit recruitment and rate coding.
Motor unit recruitment refers to the number of motor units you can use at the same time. Motor units are recruited sequentially and in order of size, from smallest to largest. Untrained individuals can only recruit a relatively small number of motor units at the same time. With training, and especially using heavy loads and isometric contractions, you can learn to recruit more motor units at the same time. This increases your potential for force production, allowing you to use more of your existing muscle mass.
Rate coding refers to the rate at which each of these fibers fire, which increases muscular tension. Muscle contractions are a series of twitches, and the faster this happens, the more force you’ll be able to generate. The tension in your muscles is the sum total of the number of twitches. The more twitches per unit of time, the higher the rate of force development will be.
Isometric training exposes your muscles to supra-maximal loads that affect both your muscles and your nervous system. Increased isometric performance will strengthen the link between eccentric and concentric contractions, and that will have a positive effect on all aspects of strength and power.
To increase isometric strength, you need more than a few sets of planks and wall squats. Instead, you need to apply the following guidelines to your workouts.
The best way to implement isometric training is to introduce it gradually (preferably during the off-season) and after a phase of eccentric training. Use this chart to determine what weights to use and how long the isometric phase should be during each rep. Start at the top of the table (least intense) and work downward over the course of several phases of training.
|% of 1RM||Eccentric||Rep range||Sets|
*When working with 80-85% of 1RM, have a partner help lift the weight so you can focus more on the isometric part of the rep. You can apply eccentric training to a wide range of exercises, but the best choices, according to official Triphasic guidelines, are:
For all isometric exercises you should:
Here are two example workouts using the eccentric triphasic training method. Not all exercises involve isometrics. Other exercises are included for muscular balance and exercise variety. Use the loading/tempo/volume that is appropriate to your current phase of training.
|1||Front squats||Isometric training protocol|
|2||Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts||Isometric training protocol|
|3||Bulgarian Split Squats||3||12 per leg||60 sec|
|4||Seated calf raises||3||12||60 sec|
|5||Squat jumps||3||8||60 sec|
|1||Dumbbell bench press||Isometric training protocol|
|2||Single-arm dumbbell row||Isometric training protocol|
|3||Barbell shoulder press||Isometric training protocol|
|4||Lat pulldowns||3||12||60 sec|
|5||Skull crushers||3||8||90 sec|
|6||Dumbbell curls||3||8||90 sec|
While the isometric phase of Triphasic training will undoubtedly increase both strength and performance, it is not without risks. Rapidly lowering and then stopping a heavy load puts tremendous strain on your joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Ruggers with pre-existing injuries should avoid this type of training. In addition, you should only attempt isometric training after having completed several weeks of the first part of Triphasic training – eccentrics. It also goes without saying that a full warm-up is essential for reducing your risk of injury.
Get yourself fired up for isometric training with pre-workout and recovery faster with post-game. In the third part of this series, we’ll take a look at the final part of triphasic training – concentric/reactive training.