July 29, 2010 posted by

Transition Phases

There aren’t transition phases built into the Workout From Hell. That’s not a mistake though, to be sure, periodizational training wasn’t as common in the 80s as it is today. When each phase of a program follows a straightforward progressive overload principle transition phases aren’t as necessary. Let’s take a brief overview as why you sometimes want to transition between phases and other times you don’t.

In its simplest sense it depends on the total intensity of the program you’re doing. In P90x, for example, you’re simultaneously training across various energy systems to your maximum. Your body is stressed in many various ways so that there is a pretty short window of opportunity for improvement before hits a plateau from simply overstressing itself. Another modern program, Turbo Fire, combines HIIT (high intensity) training with more traditional cardio (low intensity) and bases its transitions (recovery phases) on the overall intensity of the phases so the amount of time between transitions varies throughout the program.

Because the WFH only targets one energy system in each phase, which changes every three weeks, you don’t need a week of doing something different in between to adjust (like 90x). You will find, however, that your body can’t react right away and this provides you with a self-induced transition phase. When you drop your repetitions the first workout or two are a learning experience. Your body has become accustomed to doing a higher number of reps (time) and there is an adjustment period as it tries to recruit higher threshold muscle cell motor units (intensity).

To aid your body’s transition I recommend beginning the first few workouts in a phase with exaggeratedly slow movements. In the WFH you shouldn’t be moving fast anyway but, in almost any program, when you begin a new phase you should concentrate on technique first. Only when technique is mastered do you want to begin to push intensity (weight, speed, etc).

Keep in mind that intensity doesn’t equal hard in your mind. Intensity is defined by how stressful an individual exercise is on your body, not how hard it feels. Low intensity workouts can be very hard and painful. Try riding your bike for 8 hours, or doing one of Debbie Siebers’ Slim Series workouts. There are no hard movements it still hurts. Conversely the most intense exercises might not hurt much at all (unless you get injured). A box jump wearing a 40lb weight vest won’t tire you out but it will put incredible stresses on your body. This is why there are times, especially in a complex program like P90X, where your recovery weeks can feel harder than the rest of your program.

pic: for your retro viewing pleasure, more catherine destivelle


  • My plan is for phase 2 is to target, 10-15 reps, so it's still somewhat hypertrophy, but not a lot of weight changes.

  • Great blog!I am just into week 1, of Round 3 Lean. (Lean, Classic, Lean)I find that when I keep the movement slower, controled with good form I really feel the impact. Not cheating using momentum, I get better results but its so much harder. In a good way 🙂

  • There's a blog on slow vs fast coming next week. Hassan, I'm adding a small twist to the schedule. I'll play with it this weekend and announce next week but, yeah, I think 10-15 is good for your goals.

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