Implementing the PUSH Band with Triphasic Training
By William Wayland
September 26, 2018
Triphasic training is a method of training focusing on the eccentric, isometric, concentric components of movements or muscle contractions. Qualitative, high intensity work is the bedrock of this method and velocity-based training (VBT) can act as a corner stone of implementation. It was championed by Cal Dietz & Ben Peterson in this original Triphasic Training book (1) and further proliferated by Matt Van Dyke. Eccentrics and isometrics are not a novel idea and have been used by various coaches over the past 4 decades. What triphasic training allows us to do however is systematise these elements into a coherent training approaching. Training usually consists of eccentric tempo-based lifting for 2-3 weeks, followed by isometric tempos for 2-3 weeks, and then finally concentric tempos for 2-3 weeks. Loading percentages for tempo-based work is usually 80%+ for the conventional method and 105%+ for the supramaximal method, which involves loading above single rep concentric maximums. Because of the intensive nature of this method we can use velocity ostensibly to monitor and track adaptation, and inform training intensities. I’ll cover some of the VBT implementation I use with my clients and athletes. VBT usage works best for our program as outlined in the table below which I’ll explore in this post.
On triphasic days we don’t use velocity to track our regular work sets. Why? We’ll there are two reasons, we are working on muscle actions that have very low (eccentrics) or no velocities (isometrics), and usually assist the ascending/concentric portion of the lift which would make velocity measures redundant. However, there are plenty of methods where we can apply VBT approaches during the triphasic cycle.
Changes in velocity at a known percentage of 1RM is a simple way to track adaption over a training cycle. So before triphasic work I’ll get the athlete to perform doubles or a single at a known percentage of their maximum, usually 80% for example and track changes in velocities over the training cycle particular the difference before we start the eccentric block and the change when we start the concentric block to make sure that we have achieved favourable changes. This also gives athletes an opportunity to track change across time and encourages maximum intent in chasing ever improving velocities at the same load. This is the simplest approach and the one that probably gets utilised the most regardless and what type of training method ones applies.
Readiness testing as mentioned before is crucial during intensive training such as the triphasic cycle brings. Here is a simple readiness or recovery test we can use with PUSH band and a PVC pipe or dowel that I picked up from a Dan Baker seminar a few years ago. I have in the past used the reactive strength index (RSI), while useful but I found it hard produce reliable results in athletes that don’t utilize a lot of ground reaction forces. I work with golfers and fighters who have pretty poor force expression in the fashion the RSI test asks for. I found this test far simpler, using just a PVC pipe and performing 2-3 sets of 5 jumps in a row we can take the best peak power velocity score in meters per second (m/s) and track it over time measuring 1-2 times a week. Peak velocity loss on a jump is very sensitive to neural fatigue, with 5-10% drops suggesting a drop in overall performance. If an athlete has velocity loss that exceeds 12-15% we may consider complete cessation of session and look to perhaps to implement recovery work, heavily modified workouts and even purely rest. The test is performed in the video below.
Where velocity measures are very useful within a triphasic program is to employ it during the dynamic work that forms a large part of the program. Dynamic days are often intensive with loading at 90% of 1RM and at the mercy of readiness for the athlete resulting from triphasic days, so making sure the athlete is prepared as stated in the first part of this article. Secondly we can use velocity for drop-off in quality for methods such as the deathground squat (squatting like your life depends on it - maximal intent). To clarify it is a cluster variant, the parameters are this: we squat at 90%+ load every minute on the minute (EMOM) until we see a degradation in rep speed and movement quality that drops below a pre-established threshold (usually 10%). Across an array of athletes most can achieve 5-8 reps with 1:00-1:15 rest between reps. Why perform repeated singles? Well with high reps and high loads the neuromuscular system will fatigue to the point where a second set will not resemble the first. Why rest 1:00? This is enough time for the CP system to recover and also keep the nervous system in an excited state, but doesn’t carry the energetic cost of multiple reps with only limited rest between clusters. This is a very time-efficient way to develop skill and capacity. You have about 6 seconds of quality, very high intensity work available to you. Go beyond that and we start using energy pathways we should avoid and see a speed and nervous system degradation. By hitting regular singles much like with cluster sets, we can achieve a higher volume of high quality work at a high intensity. I’ve always found attempting 90%+ lifts using a 3 x 3 scheme the third set looked awful, despite Zatsiorsky in the classic ‘Science and Practice of Strength Training’ suggesting this the best place to acquire strength. While this might be fine of soviet era weightlifters, the practicality of applying this to sports athletes is a tricky proposition. I’m sure any strength coach would rather have 9 high quality reps than 3-5 good ones followed by 4-6 ugly ones. To dictate the amount of volume we achieve we use either a set drop-off velocity measurement using PUSH band or a coach determined drop in rep speed. What we usually find is the first rep is slow and subsequent sets faster up until on average reps 6-8 unless they are having a really bad day and maybe only achieve 3-4 reps. Load and activation/arousal of the athlete matters and is influenced by maximal intent.
This can also be applied in an Escalating Density trainingfashion, setting 15-20 mins aside to perform as many singles within the time or until a velocity drop off occurs within the time limit, with the athlete aiming to increase total number of reps within the time limit. This works well with high functioning athletes that can perform 90%+ squats for numerous reps. Most athletes don’t have time to perform 20 rep squats or more living leaving with little room within their training session for anything else.
An auto-regulatory method I employ with athletes using high training loads on dynamic days of the triphasic model, or particularly in season are what can be described as the Bulgarianish method. Taking the name from the infamous Bulgarian method that required working to maximums daily. The athlete simply works to a maximum single rep for the day. I usually apply this only once a week rather than everyday as per the original method. You can use velocity threshold to dictate how heavy the athlete goes. Building an individual velocity profile can be useful in this regard. But I find 0.25 m/s average for back squats & 0.3m/s average for front squats works really well. Front Squats are very sensitive to technical aberrance whereas back squat can be gamed a little more even with poor form at low velocities . The aim is to work up to a comfortable heavy single repetition and yet avoid complete failure. Adding volume is the simple matter of working up to a maximum and then dropping 10-15% of your daily maximum and doing a few working sets of doubles or triples, which can also be determined by a further velocity drop off. Any attempt to add more volume will usually end in a disaster. I’ll only apply back-off sets on days the athlete feels capable. Controlling an athlete’s ego is crucial in this case. This presents in the following example with a threshold of 0.25m/s
I find this method highly beneficial from a psychological perspective as it allows athletes to come close to their maximum in a controlled fashion, re-establishing the notion that they have not taken any backward steps in regards to their strength can offer a boon mentally. It’s very important to restate that this is not an opportunity to go for a 1RM every time we employ the method. I have had athletes in the past sheepishly admit that they went ahead and couldn’t resist the temptation to go for a new one rep maximum when left to their own devices, usually when coach isn’t present. I have had athletes hit training PB’s where they have established a new 1RM staying out of velocity threshold, great if it happens but it is not the aim for the method.
An often underappreciated aspect of strength and power development, intent in the work we perform, maximum intent is a mind-set that reaps results when implementing PUSH band. I’ll encourage athletes to chase greater velocities and this is much easier when the athlete has visual representation. Maximal intent is however more than just maximum effort, for instance we know for instance when athletes that receive feedback achieved superior gains to those that do not (Randell, 2011 ) this is more sophisticated than just telling an athlete to purely try harder. Because better velocities are largely a marriage between effort and good form this feedback can allow athletes to not just feel but then see what better reps look like. Maximal intent allows us to fully realise an athlete’s potential by pushing them to be present and fully involved in their training. Triphasic Training helps systematise tempo-based training and best realise the implementation of these tempo-based training blocks. I’ve been using it with success with my client base and with my general population for years now. The PUSH band further allows me to monitor, track and assess my athletes. Furthermore it increases their engagement by allowing them to maximise their intent in training so their sessions are truly productive.
- Ben Peterson and Cal Dietz (2012) Triphasic Training: A Systematic Approach to Elite Speed and Explosive Power.
- Randell, A.D., Cronin, JB, Keogh, JW, Gill N.D., and Pedersen, MC. (2011). Effect of instantaneous performance feedback during 6 weeks of velocity-based resistance training on sport-specific performance tests. J Strength Cond Res 25: 87-93.
BIO: William Wayland
Head Coach & Owner - Powering Through
William Wayland is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He works in Essex, U.K., where he is responsible for the preparation of UFC fighters, professional boxers, world champion grappling athletes, and professional golfers. William is a former Sports Science educator and practising BJJ purple belt.