Breaking Down the Phases

20 Dec, 2016

Jeremiah Chapman CSCS, SCCC, Pn-1

Now that you have your Annual Plan developed and a clear direction where your program is heading, let's take a look at programming and how each phase will look.

Phase one is arguable the most important time of the year for your team's development. This sets the foundation for the rest of the year and will determine your ultimate success. The developmental goals during this period will be to increase muscle mass and expand the athletes work capacity. Using lighter loads will allow you to focus on rebuilding correct movement patterns and spend time emphasizing proper technique. Loads will be in the 60-75% range but the workouts should be demanding and challenge the team by increasing their overall workload each week.


Typically, you will have three to four phases before school is out. This will allow you to focus on the priorities you have set during each phase and allow each one to build from the prior period.

Phase 1a (if necessary) - Metabolic Circuit

Depending on the previous year’s results this could start as early as the first full week of November or after Thanksgiving Break. If the season did not go as planned, make sure your athletes view this time as an opportunity to outwork the competition. While not being able to play in December may be frustrating, using this time to improve and make sure your team is building for the next season must be your priority. Do not allow this valuable time to be wasted by continuing to revisit the past.

This can be a great time to incorporate a Metabolic Circuit like the Husker Power program in the early 90’s developed by Boyd Epley and Bill Kraemer. This is a series of eight to ten movements done for 3 sets of 10-15 reps at 60-70% with about 1:20 recovery. This a tremendous way to build a foundation and work capacity going into the off-season as well develop an edge mentally.

Phase 1 - Hypertrophy/Strength

Starting after Christmas Break and lasting until Spring Break will be the first true phase of off-season. Depending on the year this will fall somewhere between 8-10 weeks and will be determined by each individual school district calendar. Plan for one solid eight-week block or divide it into two separate five-week blocks if the calendar allows. Also, it is extremely important during this timeframe to use the off-season to enforce discipline and establish your programs cultural norms. Use this time to set the tone for the entire year to come. Be consistent and make off-season a priority. The kids will respond to your enthusiasm.

Throughout these winter months when the weather is unpredictable you will be able to focus on rebuilding muscle mass and strength in the weight room. Spend time addressing any injuries and imbalances while reinforcing proper technique with lighter loads. Staying in the 8-12 rep range throughout the first month allows young athletes to groove proper movement patterns while enabling them to gain size that may have been lost throughout the long season.

After the first month of building a solid foundation you may start to bring the reps down while increasing the load. Working in the 3-8 rep range will be best for athletes with a young training age. Speed and agility work can be added during off days from the weight room, although not necessary this early in the off-season. This is often a time where coaches can add strongman training, traditional mat drills, and competition days to the mix for additional work capacity development as well as building team chemistry and discipline.

Phase 2 - Strength/Power

From the end of Spring Break until the beginning of Spring Ball makes up the 2nd phase. This is generally six to seven weeks and will lead you through the end of April. Strength and power development becomes the main focal point during this phase, Using the size and strength gained through the first phase, athletes will transition into a power phase and begin applying their new strength to the field. Working in the 2-5 rep range with an emphasis on bar speed during concentric portions of the movement will be key.

Speed and agility development will become more and more critical as Spring Ball approaches and you can get outside more often. Now that a solid base has been built and the athletes have shown their ability to work hard, you can focus on the details of true speed and agility training. This means allowing for FULL (at least 90%) recovery between sets so the athletes can go full tilt during their drills. As an old coach once told me, “the only way to get faster is to run faster.” While this may be very tongue in cheek, if an athlete cannot breathe, or worse, is still puking from the previous sprint, true speed development will NOT occur. Quality > Quantity when it comes to speed development.

Phase 3 - Spring Ball

The month of May will be spent going through Spring practices (or working skills at smaller classifications) and the traditional off-season lifting will take a backseat. While skill development is critical, do not quit lifting all together. Avoid taking a step backwards as you get prepared to head into the summer development period. Continue to lift twice a week at minimum and ideally three times a week during the Spring. This will allow your athletes to maintain their strength levels and may even lead to an increase in strength in your younger players.

In the weight room, stay in the 3-8 rep range to allow enough stimulus to keep athletes strength levels while not getting too sore from lifting. Practice and skill development will become the focus and should also cover your agility training simultaneously. After Spring practice, you may have one or two weeks of school left. This time can be used as a recovery period or testing period leading into the critical summer months.

Phase 4 - Summer Break

For Fall sport athletes, this is the most critical time in their development. Usually this will be an eight-week window that will be split in half by the July 4th holiday. This could be viewed as Phase 4a and 4b. During the first three to four weeks your goals will be similar to Phase 1 of off season. Focus on building a solid base in the weight room and a large work capacity to use as the foundation for the last three to four weeks leading into two-a-days. Phase 4b will be spent developing strength and power in the weight room and running will shift slightly to accommodate the conditioning demands of the sport. Quality jumping, acceleration, and change of direction work will still be emphasized while conditioning should start to mimic the energy system needed to play the game. Repeat bouts of five to eight seconds of all-out effort followed by 25 to 30 seconds of recovery. Some examples would be repeat 40’s with 30 seconds between each rep or using a series of reactive agility drills that mimic each position player’s needs. Both scenarios would be 5-8 seconds in duration with 25-30 seconds to recover between.

Phase 5 - Two-A-Days

Field work will obviously become a huge priority while preparing for the upcoming season. Training sessions should be shorter in duration but still allow for the primary movements to be accomplished to ensure strength levels do not diminish over time. Two days would be a minimum with three days being ideal even if each session only last 30 minutes. Work sets should stay in the 3-6 rep range on compound lifts and can be slightly higher if implementing any single joint movements during this period. Depending on the pace and intensity of practice, conditioning would be after practice only if necessary.

Phase 6 - In-Season  

With the priority shifted towards skill development and executing the game plan each week, strength training will be limited. This does not mean that athletes can’t push themselves and get stronger throughout the season. At minimum, twice and ideally three times a week, they should be able to attack the weight room for a short period. Heavy lower body lifting should to be done earlier in the week followed by a lighter recovery session the day after the game. Volume will remain relatively low considering the amount of stress placed on the athletes during early week practices and of course games. As you utilize higher intensities be sure the volume stays low to make sure athletes are ready on game day. Stick within a 2-6 rep range on your big lifts and allow for higher volume on your recovery day at a lower intensity.


As you start to engage the Annual Planning process be sure to take a step back and look at the big picture. Where do you see your team (or want to see your team) 12 months from now? How do you get there? What are the obstacles you must overcome? Take these factors into consideration and work backwards to fill in your calendar. Have a plan, execute it, adjust when needed and eventually it will pay off. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you can certainly bet they were constantly laying bricks. Consistency is the mark of a champion!