Focused Phase Training Method – 3 Month Program & Plan

If your training lacks sufficient diversity, you will accumulate the drawbacks and habituate to the benefits.

Interestingly enough, even the concept of training diversity has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. For example, with strength athletes, insufficient continuity will negatively impact strength gains, as every time you rotate your exercise plan you have to expend a lot of energy readjusting to the new exercises.

There is a way to reap the benefits of a diverse training strategy without accumulating its drawbacks. It’s called Focused Phase Training (FPT) and here’s how it works.

Training frequency is three times per micro-cycle. In this article, a micro-cycle is one week, but it could be as little as six days or as long as twelve days, depending on your particular needs.

For example, each workout consists of a “core” exercise and a circuit. You’ll use three core exercises and two circuits.

Core Exercise Selection

The core exercises are selected on the basis of dynamic correspondence. This is similar to the concept of specificity; however, an exercise which dynamically corresponds to your sport skill may not outwardly appear similar to the event!

For example, punching with dumbbells in the hands appears to be very similar to the punching done in the boxing ring. But, it has a low degree of dynamic correspondence.

In order to develop the pecs, delts and triceps, you need to be in a lying position so that the targeted muscle fibres are fighting against gravity during the movement. The additional load imposed by the dumbbells requires excessive contribution from the antagonists in order to maintain joint integrity.

The dumbbells will be too light to develop strength and too heavy to develop speed. A better choice for boxers would be the bench press, with weights that range between 55 and 85 percent of maximum. This exercise properly conditions the muscles which contribute to the boxing punch, although it doesn’t appear specific to the skill in question.

The core exercises in the program may or may not have a high degree of dynamic correspondence to your sport skills. If you’re a bodybuilder not engaged in any other sport, select three multi-joint exercises which represent a large percentage of the body’s total muscle mass with minimal redundancy.

One example might be the squat, pull-up and bench press. Another might be the deadlift, dips and rows.

Constructing the Circuits

Each circuit represents half of the body’s muscles. Here are 2 circuits for the muscle groups:

Use the same circuits for four micro-cycles (one month for the example provided) and then change them for each successive month. When choosing circuit exercises for the next month’s circuits, base your choices on eliminating weaknesses.

For example, if your squats seem to be limited by low back strength, choose exercises, training methods and loading parameters that will address these weak links.

Rely mostly on straight sets for the circuits presented here, there’s no reason why you can’t employ drop-sets, eccentric training, tellekinetics, plyometrics, or whatever else you find to be effective.

Focusing Phases

The name “focus phase training” refers to the fact that there are two separate rhythms (or phases) that focus on regular intervals, in this case, every two weeks. Here’s an outline of the first two micro-cycles:

Day Core Exercise Circuit
Week One
Monday Clean A
Wednesday Bench B
Friday Squat A
Week Two
Monday Clean B
Wednesday Bench A
Friday Squat B

 

As you can see, when using FPT, you train two weeks at a time without ever repeating the same workout. At the same time, there’s a significant amount of continuity.

Muscles used in the three core lifts are trained one time one week, and then three times the next week. For example, in week one of this sample workout, the pecs are trained on Wednesday and in week two the pecs are trained on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

All other muscles are trained twice one week and once the next week. This represents shock followed by recovery.

Before You Start

Conservatively estimate one rep maximums (1RM) for your three core lifts. You will be working off percentages of maximum with the core lifts in this program.

Assign exercises for each muscle group in each circuit. When choosing circuit exercises for muscles which are also used in the “core” exercises, try to avoid redundancy.

For example, if you use the bench press as a core exercise, don’t choose a Smith machine bench for the circuits. Use an exercise that’s significantly different in as many ways as possible. Some choices for this example might include dips, dumbbell flyes, cable crossovers, or incline dumbbell presses.

Don’t work particularly hard on the first week with regard to the circuits. The perceived intensity of the first week should be about 70 to 75 percent of maximum in terms of overall stress and energy expenditure.

Progression, volume control and testing: On week two, tweak your weights, sets and reps (on the circuits only) so that your total training volume increases by 10%.

The easiest way to do this is to leave the weight the same and simply add one rep per set on each exercise of the circuits. Then increase volume by another 10% on week three.

On week four the volume should be 50% of week three for your circuit exercises. This one week reduction of volume is intended to facilitate a more complete recovery and give you a physiological jump start for the next micro-cycle.

You’ll do performance testing every fourth micro-cycle as well. This involves working up to your one rep max for all three core lifts and then dropping back to 80% of that number for one all-out set.

This will provide an additional hypertrophy stimulus and also provide feedback on training-induced fibre conversion (i.e. the less reps you can do at 80% of 1RM, the more your transitional fibres are converting to the fast end of the spectrum).

A Sample Program

Here’s a sample FPT program to get you started. If any of the exercises are unfamiliar, inappropriate to you, or you simply don’t have the right equipment, make the appropriate substitutions. Here are four to five sets of five to six reps on the circuit exercises.

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However, if higher or lower reps are better suited for your needs, tweak it. The principles involved are more important than the details.

The circuits are meant to be done as conventional circuits. You’re going to do one exercise after another (1-6), taking as much rest as is necessary. You’ll then repeat the circuit for the prescribed number of times.

The core exercises should be completed in 15 minutes or less. The circuit itself should be completed in about 45 minutes or less. Most will rest less between early sets and more between later sets, as fatigue accumulates.

Also, although the following sample program seems to repeat itself a lot, it’s so you see an entire program and get a feel for the bigger picture. Note the changes in each step. Remember, this is a three month sample program.

Month One / Week One

Monday

  • A1: Hang Clean: 5 sets of 4 reps (5 x 4) at 80% of 1RM
    This is just a clean that starts from just above knee level rather than from the floor.
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • B1: Bench Press: 5 x 4 at 80% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise

Friday

  • A1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise

Month One / Week Two

Monday

  • B1: Hang Clean: 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • A1: Bench Press: 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Friday

  • B1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Month One / Week Three

Monday

  • A1: Hang Clean: 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • B1: Bench Press: : 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Friday

  • A1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Month One / Week Four

Note: Remember, total volume for your circuit exercises should be reduced 50% from last week. You’ll also be testing your 1RM for your core exercise then repping out with 80% of that new max.

Monday

  • B1: Hang Clean: 1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • B2: Circuit B: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • A1: Bench Press: 1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • A2: Circuit A: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise

Friday

  • B1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel)
    1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • B2: Circuit B: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise
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Month Two / Week One

Note:Core exercise percentages are based on new 1RMs achieved last week.

Monday

  • A1: Hang Clean: 5 x 4 at 80% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise
  • 1: Hamstrings: Stiff-leg Deadlift
  • 2: Lats: Chest-supported Seated Row
    This can be done with any type of chest-supported seated rowing machine, such as a Hammer machine.
  • 3: Triceps: French Press
    Use both hands and a single dumbbell for this exercise. Keep your elbows in a fixed position and lower the dumbbell behind your head.
  • 4: Gastrocs: Leg Press Calf Raise
    This is just a calf raise done in a standard leg press machine.
  • 5: Rectus Abdominus: Downward Ball Smash
  • Start with the medicine ball overhead, stand with elbows and knees slightly flexed, and up on the toes. Accelerate the ball downward, attempting to burst the ball against the floor. If the ball has a minimal amount of bounce, you’ll be able to catch it and smoothly continue to the next rep in one continuous motion. For greatest force production, there should be little or no hesitation between raising and smashing the ball downward. The amount of force generated can be roughly gauged by how high the ball bounces off the floor.
  • 6: Grip Strength: Static Bar Holds with Oversized Bar
  • All you have to do here is stand erect holding an oversized bar in the normal grip position; no alternated grip, hook grip or straps allowed. You can wrap a towel around the bar if you don’t have access to fat bars. The goal here is to hold the weighted bar for 20 seconds per set. 1 rep x 20 seconds is a set, so to speak. Once 20 seconds is possible, add weight on the next workout.

Wednesday

  • B1: Bench Press: 5 x 4 at 80% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise)

Friday

  • A1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 5 x 4 at 80% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise

Month Two / Week Two

Monday

  • B1: Hang Clean: 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • A1: Bench Press 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Friday

  • B1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Month Two / Week Three

Monday

  • A1: Hang Clean: 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • B1: Bench Press: 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Friday

  • A1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Month Two / Week Four

Note: Remember, total volume should be reduced 50% from last week on the circuits.

Monday

  • B1: Hang Clean: 1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • B2: Circuit B: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • A1: Bench Press: 1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • A2: Circuit A: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise

Friday

  • B1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel)
    1RM Testing, then max reps with 80%
  • B2: Circuit B: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise
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Month Three / Week One

Note: Core exercise percentages are based on new 1RM’s achieved last week.

Monday

  • A1: Hang Clean: 5 x 4 at 80% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • B1: Bench Press: 5 x 4 at 80% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise

Friday

  • A1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 5 x 4 at 80% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 4 reps per exercise

Month Three / Week Two

Monday

  • B1: Hang Clean: 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • A1: Bench Press: 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Friday

  • B1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 4 x 3 at 85% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 5 reps per exercise

Month 3 / Week Three

Monday

  • A1: Hang Clean: 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • B1: Bench Press: 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • B2: Circuit B: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Friday

  • A1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel): 3 x 2 at 90% 1RM
  • A2: Circuit A: 4-5 sets of 6 reps per exercise

Month Three / Week Four

Note: Remember, total volume should be reduced 50% from last week on circuits.

Monday

  • B1: Hang Clean: 1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • B2; Circuit B: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise

Wednesday

  • A1: Bench Press: 1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • A2: Circuit A: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise

Friday

  • B1: Half-Squat (slightly above parallel):
    1RM testing, then max reps with 80%
  • B2: Circuit B: 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise

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