Applying Triphasic Training Methods to Olympic Lifts

By: Cal Dietz and Matt Van Dyke

The means of applying Triphasic Training, from eccentric, to isometric, to reactive can be applied to any lift, even the Olympic movements, if a coach so desires. These exercises can be undulated for time in the same manner that any other lift utilized in the triphasic program can be, depending on a coach’s goals and their athlete’s needs.

The eccentric phase will require the movement to be started from the top of the hang position, as a lift starting from the floor would not allow any eccentric action to be completed. It is important that the athletes maintain a proper position throughout the eccentric portion of the exercise to allow for maximal power output. After the timed eccentric has reached the desired range of motion, which will usually be around the mid-shin area, an explosive pull and/or catch will be used to finish the movement.

The isometric phase will be completed with a pause held at the bottom of the movement. If a pull from the floor is the ultimate goal, the isometric would be completed with the plates hovering just off the ground while the athlete maintains a proper position. If a hang clean is the end goal movement, the isometric would be held anywhere from the top of the knee to the mid-shin area, depending on the athlete’s lower limb lengths. It is vital that the athlete maintains a proper position and does not allow the weight of the bar to pull them out of a strong position. It is important to note that the isometric should be held for at least 3 seconds to ensure the stretch-shortening cycle is not being used during the lift, so potential energy dissipates. The movement will always be finished with a pull and/or catch depending on the coach’s programming position. If general strength is a main goal of this training, an isometric hold could also be completed at the bottom of the front squat, but this training will not improve the power production of the pull in the Olympic lift. Olympic lifting is already a sport in its own regard, so it is important to remember that we are training athlete’s to improve performance on the field, not improve lifting.

The reactive phase will be the completion of the entire Olympic movement. If a hang clean/pull is used, the stretch-shortening cycle will play a large role in energy production for the lift. The improvements made throughout the eccentric and isometric phases will be made very apparent during this phase. Power clean/pull will not cause the SSC to be used as there is no eccentric portion of the exercise. This is not to say the power clean cannot be used effectively in a training program. Starting strength increases due to the isometric phase will allow for a stronger pull from a stopped position, leading to increased power outputs.

A contrast method can be used with either the hang or power clean throughout the implementation of Triphasic Training. Two types of contrast methods can be used during training. The first includes a single plyometric, such as a box jump, with the chosen Olympic movement, the second option is the French contrast method. The French contrast method should be paired with the heavy sets to improve the utilization of the SSC and the RFD of athletes. This will consist of 3 sets of jumps, a body weight movement such as hurdle hops, a weighted movement such as weighted squat jumps, and finally an accelerated movement such as accelerated plyo jumps can be used to complete the French contrast training method. This training increases the transfer of training with speeds at (body weight), just below (weighted), and just above (accelerated) game speeds seen in competition.

The addition of the triphasic training method to the Olympic lifts will improve explosive power through the enhancement of the SSC, as well as increasing the rate of force development, when the French contrast method is included. These performance variables will immediately improve power outputs of athletes while also improving their efficiency of movement.

It is important to remember that this training is intended for athletes, not Olympic weight lifters. Few athletes reach the technical proficiency of true Olympic weight lifters, and as coaches we must keep in mind that the perfection of the movement is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to improve the power and the efficiency of each athlete. With this in mind straps will be allowed to be used during training as this can improve the ability to train.

Below is a template of a 6 week triphasic block showing the utilization of an Olympic movement paired with the French contrast method. The second chart shows the undulated model used in triphasic training with percentage ranges as well as rep and tempo options.