The 4 Phases of Training


This is competing 

“Why am I not making progress, am I not doing enough?”

“Should I be doing high volume or low volume?”

“High intensity or low intensity?”

“What am I missing?”

We tend to have one gear in our training, vision of athletics, and fitness, we lean towards going all out every training session regardless of the time of year or priority. What if this was actually detrimental to our progress? What if backing off from time to time could help us in our quest of extreme fitness, athletics or health and wellness.

As many of you have experienced when training in an all out fashion for a little too long we tend to get sick, run down, or worse, injured. Re-read this line carefully because it has taken me over ten years to allow for this to sink in. So if this is the case why do we continually do so? How come we do not learn from these mistakes?

I believe there are many factors at play as to why we continually repeat these training cycles, but this is a whole other topic of conversation. What I want to do is provide a non-scientific view on some training phases in no particular order and why they can be important to your overall plan and progress….

Phase 1: Play

Remember playing basketball in front of your parent’s house? Playing tag in the playground after school? Remember playing, period. There is something therapeutic about interacting with others, laughing, enjoying, and just fooling around… No real plan, just fun. As adults we lose the ability to play, some may compete in recreational sports, but gone are the days of calling up your buddy to meet you to throw the football after work…just cus’.

Vacation is a great time to just leave the strict guidelines of the weight room to the way side; try a new activity, play on the beach, let your body recover and restore, enjoy new, local foods, refuse the urge to count macro’s, or if you at enough protein at your AM meal, just enjoy! The psychological break alone will be well worth it. The rule for this one is: “There are no rules”

Phase 2: Crusin’

Kind of a new one to me, this is when your training has a clear theme, but no real progression method built in. You have no psychological attachment to the outcome, no attempts at PR’s, just sweat, detoxify, and move on to the next day. To make this a little clearer, you have a set plan for your week, but no program in place, for instance, squat on Mondays, intervals on Tuesday, press on Wednesdays…etc… Your whole goal is to get in hit it based on how you feel that day and leave in a better mood then when you came in. The rule for this on is: “Always leave wanting to do more.”

Phase 3: Training

All right, now things are getting a little more interesting, this is the phase that you should be spending the bulk of your training year in. Your priorities are now becoming clear, you have a theme, but also a plan, you’re implementing a formal progression model and are pushing the weights up and/or energy system demands. The major difference between training and the final phase competition, is based on how advanced you are as an athlete; you are “testing” throughout this training cycle. The general rule of thumb is that the more advanced you are the less frequently it becomes. Some like to test every 9-12 weeks with some easy weeks planned amongst the training (Deload). The volume and intensity within these weeks of training should be varied, allowing for compensation and recovery, as well as progress. Just make sure that you aren’t going for a personal best each and every session and that you aren’t exaggerating the amount of volume in each session. The rule for this one is: “There is always tomorrow”

Phase 4: Competition

This is it!! Time to ramp everything up, this tends to be when an important event is approaching, the length of this phase depends on the event and the person, it can be as little as 2-3 weeks and as long as needed to get the desired result… Priorities are clear and understood as well as critical to the success of the athlete. The priorities dictate the theme of training and it’s frequency.  How to organize this is based on the individual and the event, but the hit home point is that everything in this phase is accounted for; training, recovery, diet, lifestyle, sleep, game day preparation, psychological factors, everything!!! You name it, the coach and the athlete have discussed prior, leaving nothing unsaid, or unprepared for. The more frequently you compete, the more clear all the details become, the more the little nuances make the difference. Many times you can see an elite athlete compete, do well or poorly, and they can tell you the exact reason as to the outcome. “3 nights ago I couldn’t sleep, it messed up my routine and threw everything off…” The rule for this one is: “Follow the plan!!!”


Whatever your goals, elite fitness, athletics, health and wellness, everyone can benefit from time in each phase of training. If you listen a little closer to your body it is telling you something. You should have the ability to move from phase to phase seamlessly, allow for your mind and body to recover at times and test your limits at others. Whatever your goals, it is a journey, not a race, with some smart training and some planning the results will follow!


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