The Phase IV Philosophy: Periodization Principles

Robert Forster, CEO & Founder of Phase IV and Forster Physical Therapy has teamed with Herbalife to create a fitness program using the very science that has made Robert so successful. These programs on video will be available soon but follow this link to see a preview -

At Phase IV our team of experts assess and train athletes in two broad areas of athletic performance:

Structural preparedness: Structurally, your body needs to be strong, flexible and biomechanically sound to perform correct technique for your sport, and tolerate the training necessary to peak the fitness of your metabolic energy production systems

Efficient metabolic energy production: Metabolically, your ability to produce energy efficiently to meet the demands of your sport is paramount for success

Most athletic achievement is limited by failure of the structural system to sustain the workload necessary to achieve peak metabolic fitness. Injury relates to the structural system as fatigue relates to the metabolic system. Both are failures of their respective systems and represent roadblocks to peak performance, eliminated only by using a scientific, measurable approach to physiological assessment and training. This approach is called Periodization Training and has consistently produced the best athletic performances across all sports for the past thirty years.

Periodization Training Principles

Periodization was first developed by the Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War when they sought to dominate the sporting world through science, research, and physical domination. The Eastern Europeans put their collective resources into manufacturing the world’s best athletes. They performed extensive research to discover the most effective training regimes, and were able to control variables in ways the West could not match.

Periodization training is effective because it exploits the body’s great potential for adaptation. Based on Seyles’ Fundamental Laws of Human Adaptation, Periodization training breaks the training program into cycles (or periods) where fitness is developed in a scientifically rational sequence.

It is now understood that exercise is a form of stress on the body stimulating an increased production of natural hormones to shore up the body, and meet the demands of the activities you choose to practice. However, the body is such a great tool of adaptation that after about six-to-eight-weeks of the same activity, the body becomes stronger and can handle the load without experiencing stress. The hormone back-up fades, and so will performance, if the exercise stimulus is not altered in such a way as to create stress on the body and hormone production peaked.

At Phase IV, we strictly follow the basic tenants of Periodization realizing all exercise is futile if rest and recovery periods are not provided. Hard work is always followed by time for recovery. Recovery is when your physiology evolves and where the benefits of your hard work is realized. No one ever became stronger during a workout, it is in the recovery period when we become fitter.

This approach solves the training puzzle of balancing hard work and smart recovery, allowing fitness adaptations and a “hardened” body able to sustain all the hard work and recovery, peaking your metabolic fitness.

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Benefits of Periodization Training

  • Exploits the body’s powerful hormone response to the stress of new exercise stimulus
  • Avoids mental and physical burnout and over-training by constantly varying workout stimulus, and providing rest periods for recovery
  • Allows athletes and coaches to create exceptional peaks in fitness for key competitions, and remain fitter all year long
  • Protects the body from injury as it brings fitness to a peak

Periodization training calls for consistent (but often varied) work stimulus, built in rest periods for recovery and a scientifically rational sequence to develop fitness to a peak. Realizing that exercise stimulus must be altered every six-to-eight-weeks to force future adaptation, the next question is: “What physiological attributes should be developed first, second, third...and so on?”

First Things First: The Importance of Structural and Metabolic Base Training

Early in the yearly training cycle, all highly effective and repeatable methods of athletic preparation must provide a sound foundation to build performance to a peak later in the competitive season. This foundation for all sports and activities lay in a highly developed aerobic base and well established functional joint stability. This is what Phase IV does better than any one else, and why discerning coaches like Bob Kersee and others continue to turn to Phase IV to create these programs for their world class athletes and recreational competitors.

Why an Aerobic Base for Anaerobic Sports?

Football, hockey and even Olympic freestyle wrestling are the most anaerobic sports, requiring constant attention to developing and maintaining a high capacity for aerobic energy production. Simply put, the physiological adaptations accompanying advanced levels of aerobic functioning are necessary infrastructure for training and performing ballistic, explosive anaerobic sports as well.

The Benifits of Aerobic Fitness

  • Re-engineering your metabolism to burn body fat as a preferred energy source
  • Spares the vital carbohydrates stores in the muscle cells (glycogen) during lighter exercise and saves it for great finishes
  • Increasing your fat burning potential avoids fatigue producing lactic acid build up in the muscle cell
  • The aerobic muscle cell enzymes actually use lactic acid as an energy source and helps to clear it from the muscle cell, delaying the onset of fatigue during exercise
  • All recovery periods are aerobic and great aerobic conditioning allows for quicker recovery between highly productive intervals of hard work

Why is Functional Stability So Important?

For young and old athletes alike, the first prerequisite for athletic performance is the ability of the muscles tendons, ligaments, and fascia to work together and create biomechanically sound movements at the joints. Functional stability is where strength and flexibility blend to create meaningful, synchronized sport specific movements allowing for proper execution of technique and protecting against tissue overloaded and subsequent injury.

Benefits of Functional Joint Stability

  • Well-balanced strength and flexibility of the muscles and tissues around each joint creates efficiency in movement, avoiding wasteful energy expenditure during performance
  • Improves force production as proper joint alignment maximizes the leverage created by bones
  • Creates proper loading of joints to prevent injury
  • Flexibility and elasticity of properly trained ligaments, tendons, and fascia allows them to act as shock absorbers, storing energy to be given back later in the movement cycle

Once you have established adequate structural and metabolic Base Fitness, the prerequisite for all sports training and fitness programs, the next Phase of Periodization is where differentiation occurs in accordance with the needs of your sport or recreational fitness activity. After an evaluation of your sport or fitness needs and your personal strengths and weaknesses, the next Phases of Periodization will be planned.

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Maximum Strength Phase

Maximum strength development requires progressive resistance exercise utilizing weights, rubber bands, and other resistive devices. At Phase IV, through proper program design, strength improvements can be accomplished without increasing muscle size and mass! If you don’t want to get bigger muscles, but want a long lean look instead, this can be accomplished with scientific training techniques. Your personal needs as they relate to your sport will dictate how much time is spent in this phase.

Power Phase

Power is a vital prerequisite for all sports, but in varying degrees. Power and strength are often misunderstood. If strength is the ability of the muscle to develop force with contractions, power adds a time element (i.e. the ability to generate the force quickly is called power). Sport is about power. You import power to the ground with your feet when running, to the ball with your racquet or club and to the pedals on your bike. After developing strength it must be transformed into power to be functional for sport.

Speed Phase

In many sports speed is a critical requisite for success. However, speed for an Ironman athlete is different than speed for a 10K runner. For long events like the Ironman, fast times are achieved with efficiency and the ability to conserve energy to keep going and not by leg speed. In the 10K race, leg speed is needed to do well. For sports requiring greater speed this phase of training involves higher velocity movements to activate fast twitch muscle function. (See Overspeed Training in the Services section of the website)

Peak Fitness

The purpose of the entire Periodization Training Program is to bring fitness to a peak for a given competition, event or season. After all the cycles of hard work and recovery are orchestrated to build fitness throughout the training period, at the end we reduce the workload and watch your fitness skyrocket! This is called the “taper” and it is the most neglected concept of fitness and sports training amongst fitness enthusiasts and recreational athletes.

At Phase IV your Licensed Coach and Strength Training Performance Specialists will taper your workouts by decreasing the frequency and duration of the workouts, while keeping intensity high. If you typically do harder workouts every forty-eight hours, during the taper you will reduce them to every seventy-two hours and perform a shorter, harder workout to peak your fitness.

Strength Endurance (Maintenance)

Once fitness is brought to peak it can be maintained for only about eight weeks. During this period it is important to maintain strength and endurance with continued but reduced weight workouts and training sessions. After developing a solid fitness program you can reduce overall training volume (hours) by two-thirds and keep fitness high, as long as training intensity is maintained.

Yearly Periodization Program

Periodization Training is about revisiting each phase of the program year-after-year. After a brief break in training for total mind and body, you will start all over again with Base Training and all other phases of Periodization Training. In this manner you build on last years accomplishments and year-after-year you continue to grow in your fitness capacity. It is a proven, safe and effective method of training. This is why it is now used by nearly all professional sports teams, and it will get results for you too.

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