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Do You Tier What I Tier?

Dec 1, 2020 | The Pointe

Fitness enthusiasts are always looking for new ways to challenge themselves. Tier System Strength Training is yet another way to do so. The great thing about this method is that it can be adapted to a variety of ability levels. Tier training isn’t just for the experienced enthusiast or athlete, but its origins are in elite athlete training.

The originator of this method is Joe Kenn. He is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and has trained NCAA and NFL football teams. His tier system has been implemented by many other coaches across the country. The primary idea behind the system is to train as you play. For football, this means training the total body in each session in a dynamic, multi-joint fashion. The system is broken down into three categories of exercises or tiers: Total Body, Lower Body, and Upper Body. Although this sounds simple enough, it’s the actual exercises themselves that sets the system apart from a traditional strength routine.

The Total Body exercises incorporate Olympic style lifts such as dead lift, power clean, and snatch variations. Each of these exercises use all the major muscle groups as well as causing extension in the lower and upper body joints (knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders). The dynamic nature of these exercises train the muscles and joints together as one unit to prepare them for what they would experience on the field of play.

Lower Body exercises focus only on hip and knee extension. This includes a traditional squat and lunge along with variations of both. The notable difference from traditional strength exercises is there are no ‘open chain’ exercises. An example of open chain is performing a seated leg extension in which the foot is not planted against anything.

Upper Body exercises in this system also start to look more familiar to the traditional workout. The exercises are divided into pushing (bench press, dips, and shoulder press) and pulling (row variations and pull-ups). Again, the notable difference is there are no open chain exercises like the biceps curl or triceps extension and the exercises incorporate multiple joints.

When designing a tier routine, it is important to remember that you are exercising the total body each workout session. This means that a two or three day per week schedule is ideal, as the body will need one or more rest days between sessions. In addition, the exercises should be performed in a rotating manner each session. The following illustrates a sample three-day tier workout:

The above description of the tier system only scratches the surface. There are additional intricacies that, when applied to a sports team, allow a strength coach to adapt the system that best suits the team. These include effort levels and rest periods between exercises to sport specific train.

If you are looking for new ways to train, this tier system may be an option for you. Should you need guidance on some of the Olympic style lifts the system uses, there are plenty of videos to be found online and a Pointe Personal Trainer can make sure you are using proper form. Due to the dynamic nature of these lifts, proper form is paramount to minimize injury risk. In addition, should one choose to perform heavy lifts, keep in mind that The Pointe weight plates and dumbbells do not meet specs to be dropped like true powerlifting rubber weight plates.


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