The Four Phases of Fitness: Skills, Stamina, Strength, Power
When you’re just getting back into fitness, or if you are ramping up the intensity after a slow period, it’s easy to overdo it. So what’s the best way to increase your workouts without getting injured or feel sore?
Think about your workout in four different phases.
Each phase represents a goal of your workout, and reflects your experience in the gym as well as your mindset during the workout. You might cycle through each phase multiple times each week, or spend several weeks or months in one phase before moving on to the next.
Four Phases of Fitness
Phase 1: Skills
FOCUS ON FORM AND TECHNIQUE
The Skills Phase is where you want to begin if you’re new to working out, or if you’ve been out of the gym for more than a week or two.
Your main focus in this phase is on building strength, mobility, and flexibility. You’ll be working with lighter weights, taking more time with your workouts overall, and taking frequent breaks in between movements. Keep your resistance just heavy enough to feel each movement, but well short of your strength limits.
The goal here is not heavy weights or fast times, it’s perfect form. You’ll be increasing your range of motions and building strength in the small muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support your major joints. Together, these will help prevent injuries and soreness.
The Skills Phase is a good fallback if you’re feeling stressed, slow or even tired on a given day. Just take your time and focus on your form to prevent injuries and maximize your gains.
Phase 2: Stamina
FOCUS ON PUSHING YOURSELF
The Stamina Phase is where you’ll start to take fewer breaks and push yourself a little longer before resting. Try to get in a extra few extra reps before you stop to catch your breath or grab a drink of water. You’ll start to feel sore, but not so much that you can’t tolerate it. In the Stamin Phase, you’re building cardiovascular stamina and endurance – without sacrificing form. This is where you’ll also see some weight loss, if that’s one of your goals.
Expect to stay in the Stamina Phase for several weeks, or more, when you are just getting started. Over time, the workouts will get easier as your cardio ramps up. You may see your heart rate during the workouts come down a bit as your cardiovascular system adapts. When this happens, it’s time to move on to the Strength Phase.
Keep in mind that in both the Skills and Stamina Phases, you want to be working with relatively comfortable resistance levels. You don’t want to be struggling with your weights in these phases.
Phase 3: Strength
FOCUS ON INCREASING WEIGHTS
Once your stamina has built up and you can make it through longer intervals without feeling wiped out, you should move on to the Strength Phase.
In the Strength Phase, you’ll slowly increase your resistance with each workout. Grab a slightly heavier dumbbell or medicine ball. You should notice your heart rate climbing again during workouts as you increase the intensity of your workouts. You’ll begin building lean muscle and strength in addition to cardiovascular stamina and should start to see toning and definition in your arms and legs.
Make sure you don’t advance into the Strength Phase faster than your body can handle, so that you don’t risk injury.
Check your form and technique as you increase your resistance. You never want to sacrifice good form for added strength. If you think you can add 10 pounds to a particular exercise, start with a few reps at 5 extra pounds, then ramp up to 10. If your form starts to suffer, back off again and regroup. You may find that it takes a little back and forth to get comfortable at the new resistance levels.
Phase 4: Power
FOCUS ON ADDING SPEED TO RESISTANCE
The last Phase, and one of the most important, is the Power Phase. Higher power outputs mean better function and quality of life.
In the Power Phase, continue with moderate to heavy resistance. Start pushing yourself harder without losing form. Instead of going for longer workouts, now you want to go harder with short bursts at max power.
You’ll need to take more breaks again as you hit your peak heart rate faster with a higher work output. This is the toughest way to workout, but you’ll see rapid gains in strength, speed, and power. Plus, working on Power is the fastest way to reshape your body in the direction you want.
The Power Phase offers the most reward – at the highest risk. Make sure you’ve mastered the other three phases before you tackle working out at high resistance. If you have bad form or your technique isn’t locked in, you can run the risk of serious injury that can sideline your workout for days to weeks.
These four phases will help you adopt the right mindset for working out. Don’t worry about how long you’re in any phase – they can last a week, a month, or three months depending on your goals and mental state.
After you cycle through each phase at least once, you can start to have fun with them. Try working out in a different phase each day. Go for Skills one day, Stamina the next, then focus on Strength, and finally Power.
When you rotate them like this, you’ll notice that your resistance level and scores will vary for each workout.
In the Power Phase, your rounds will increase and you’ll want to move faster through the workout. In the Stamina Phase, your times will decrease and you’ll want to take fewer breaks. This should be reflected by an increase in your scores.
During the Skills or Strength phase, your times or rounds should decrease relative to what you achieved during the Power or Stamina phase. Your focus is on setting the foundations for faster times and higher scores later on when you return to the Power and Stamina cycles.