#25 – The 3 Phases of Fitness to Maximize Your Physical Development

April 27, 2024 by VAHVA Fitness

Eero & Samuli describe the 3 archetypical phases of fitness you should go through in order to build the most complete and holistic human physique.

The Big 3 Fitness Phases and How to Apply Them

In this article we are going to introduce the Big 3 phases of training that everyone who is interested in complete physical development should be moving through.

By developing and mastering these phases, your strength and coordination will reach a significantly more complete, well-rounded and holistic level.

The topics we’re going to discuss in this article are:

  • Redefining progress: making clean or dirty progress
  • The 3 big fitness phases or areas
  • How to move through each phase
  • And how cycling through the phases benefits your overall strength and holistic performance

First, let’s start off with something most of you will be familiar with: the idea of progress.

Redefining Progress: Clean or Dirty

In life, you can make progress in a dirty way, for example economic growth through pollution, or you can do it in a sustainable way with clean energy by respecting the environment. 

This principle applies to your body as well. You can make progress by destroying and working against your body, or by working with it.

In bodybuilding, the terms "clean bulk" and "dirty bulk" for example are used.

In the clean bulk you are eating in a healthy way with a minor caloric surplus whereas in the dirty bulk you are eating pretty much anything with a significant caloric surplus.

Similarly, in lifting you can obsess over heavy weights and destroy your joints in the process, or you can take an intelligent approach to training and produce the same results with lighter weights.

In order to build the complete – the ultimate physique – you need to take a long-term approach and build change into your training. You need to move through phases. This is because one area of training will never be perfect alone.

A key feature of the 3 phases we talk about here is that they support the gains made in each of the other phases.

It is like applying the idea of progress across these phases of training, rather than simply increasing the weight on the bar. It's about taking the high resolution perspective on your progress instead of seeing everything in low resolution.

As your skills and strength improve in one phase, they give transferable benefits to the other phases as well developing much more complete and holistic performance. 

The 3 Important Phases or Areas of Fitness

We released the video 3 Essential Areas to Master for Complete Physical Development nearly 5 years ago, and we’ve been training these areas extensively for over 10 years.

Usually when you prioritize one form of training, you neglect another. The power of these phases is that they complement and support each other. The strength in one is often transferable to the others.

We will illustrate these phases or areas with three 3 different archetypes. Of course, these archetypes are not super scientific but the current scientific view doesn't actually have a good categorization for this. Yet, everyone can see the value and differences between these phases.

In the ancient training systems of Shaolin Temple or Pehlwani warriors of India, the training regimes had many different components for training including training with weapons, tools, bodyweight, mobility, plyometrics, internal work and self-massage or self-care. 

In the modern times, we typically have strength & conditioning combined with mobility/flexibility/rehab training. But there's more to training that this. Let's illustrate how.

1. Movement Training

tarzan vahva fitness

For illustrative purposes, each of these training phases can be well-described through different archetypes, and Movement Training is the most similar to Tarzan, king of the jungle.

Tarzan moves like an animal. He has incredible grip and hanging strength, a natural gymnastic ability, and can freely manipulate his body in space.
He also likes to play and have fun.

The principles of Movement Training are freedom, self-exploration, self-realization and self-love.

Movement Training is designed to get you moving the way children or animals do, encouraging free movement and play, and enjoying the present moment.

Playfulness is super important in life, yet older people easily forget this, and Movement Training is designed to bring that to the center.

You’re not taking an ultra-focused approach to training but you’re still developing your entire body through play and movement.

It’s not as intentional or purposeful as "Athletic/Precision Training", and it’s not as competitive as "Warrior Training", but it's full of variety and change, which means it’s less likely to get boring or repetitive.

Movement Training isn’t about proving something to anyone, it’s about taking care of yourself and having fun in the process. Of course, the benefits in strength, mobility and body composition will be amazing as a result.

Not only does Movement Training remind you that you can enjoy your training, but that you can have fun and play with others as you’re getting great results.

It’s a way to train and have fun, connect with your inner child, and interact with people at the same time. This is why this type of training is the fountain of youth both mentally and physically.

Our Movement 20XX Method covers everything you need to know about Movement Training.

2. Athletic/Precision Training

superman athlete 20xx

If Movement Training is most like Tarzan, then Athletic/Precision Training is more like the man of steel: Superman.

Superman has a pure form of strength and in many ways he is a perfect specimen. He’s refined in his strength, and has X-ray vision (which we’ll talk about later).

The Athletic/Precision Training mindset is incredibly focused, and involves intelligent training. It cultivates a powerful mind-body connection. It’s aware, intentional and conscious training with clear goals and objectives.

Athletic/Precision Training is about cultivating muscle control, and developing your mind/body connection in order to target your weaknesses like a surgeon and develop the body brick by brick like a master carpenter.

You're using intelligent training to develop laser-sharp focus and precision as you work towards perfection.

It’s designed to target and fix weaknesses and create a body structure that’s as close to perfect as you can get. This is how an average person can become a "gifted athlete".

With this precision you build an inner vision that enables you to activate and train specific areas.

The more precisely you train, the more realistic your view of yourself becomes, and you can approach training in a way better suited to your needs.

Athletic/Precision Training really helps to break down the ego and build up a well-developed, strong, and balanced body, free from weaknesses and restrictions.

Once you’ve done that, your body has been effectively bullet-proofed, so you’re ready to push your body to its limits.

Athlete 20XX Method goes into depth on how to train this phase thoroughly.

3. Warrior Training

conan the barbarian warrior

When Tarzan and Superman represent Movement and Athletic/Precision Training, then Conan the Barbarian best represents Warrior Training.

Conan the Barbarian is a warrior all the way through. His strength is gritty, hard, and defined. It is built around endurance and it’s a darker, war-like strength.

The Warrior Training mindset is discipline and grit. You build yourself like a machine so that you can overpower yourself and obstacles, including weights and other people if necessary.

Warrior Training encourages you to push yourself, to develop all aspects of your fitness, and to keep going past the point where your body screams to stop.

You are focused on endurance and functional strength. Functionality starts with your grip, and the tools you use will go a long way in developing it. You’ll move beyond simply training with dumbbells and barbells when you start Warrior Training.

It’s more competitive and performance-based, and you’re really testing your boundaries and your limits. It has huge practical applications in functional strength, sports and all martial arts.

Because of that, there’s an elevated risk, but through Movement and Athletic/Precision training, you will develop such a good foundation and connection to your body that you can approach your limits in a safe manner.

You know not to over-exert yourself. You can still push, but you’re not going to injure yourself because your body has been bulletproofed.

Warrior Training transforms your body composition very fast because all of this requires lots of energy (fat loss).

Both Warrior 20XX Method and Iron King Method are focused on Warrior Training.

Moving & Progressing Through the 3 Phases

movement 20xx review athlete 20xx testimonials comparison

The Big 3 phases are like a pyramid, with Movement and Athletic/Precision training forming the foundation.

Your foundation needs to be strong, stable, well-developed and structurally balanced. It's critical that you heal any injuries before trying to develop maximal strength or power.

People often discover our programs after suffering from injuries. They start training with stiffness, injuries, pain, restrictions, and imbalances.

If this is you, then fixing your body should be priority number one. You want to act first before you need to react after you tear something.

Start out with Movement and Athletic/Precision Training. You can leave maximal strength and power for later; the priority should be on healing & fixing yourself. Fixing weaknesses will increase your athleticism more than you can fathom.

We all have weaknesses and we’re good at avoiding them. If you have pain, you will avoid it and you’ll most likely never use that area.

Someone who has weak pull strength, will want to do more push training because it makes them feel powerful, but it adds to the imbalance, rather than addressing it. This is the human nature. 

Fixing these imbalances, taking care of the body, and making sure it’s balanced and healthy is the first step.

When you build a strong foundation, you increase your overall potential.

Laying the Foundation

foundation determines your potential in fitness

When you have an injury, it feels like a wall in front of you that you don’t dare try to climb. Injuries make you feel vulnerable and can totally kill your self-confidence.

Movement and Athletic/Precision Training is designed to take that wall apart, brick by brick.

Early in our training, we both had a few injuries: Samuli suffered a rib cage injury from heavy weighted dips, while Eero was suffering from serious shoulder impingements.

We trained for years to heal and repair these imbalances, moving into Athletic/Precision Training and learning deeply about proper mobility, muscle control and joint activation.

In Athletic/Precision Training, you’re targeting weaknesses and injuries directly. And while it can be challenging at first, for both the body and the mind, it can be a life-changing fix.

Athletic/Precision Training isn’t about simply isolating the muscles; it’s about conscious stabilization and activation.

And it’s not just Athletic/Precision Training that helps you heal from injuries and build up the foundation. Movement Training as we do in Movement 20XX Method is also hugely powerful.

Movement is a constant part of our practice. It helps a lot with agility and movement, and even after years, it’s still giving us benefits and is becoming actually more important year after year.

For example, when you practice the bear walk your shoulders need to be active, your core is rotating and stabilizing as your body is rolling and moving all over the place.

You’re stabilizing your body the whole time, and moving in ways that help the movement centers realign. Your reactive muscle tissue becomes responsive and starts to function again.

With these training techniques, you’re not just fixing an injury, you’re rejuvenating your body.

Pain often comes from multiple movement patterns being restricted, not just where the pain is felt acutely. These movement patterns bring movement into the entire body and this helps everything to heal.

These methods are designed to train the body as a whole. You can’t just fix one area, you need to be developing and strengthening everything together, as one whole.

Not only will these training methods help you heal your body, but your mind and self-confidence will be strengthened too.

When you have pain or injuries, you don’t want to test yourself, but when the body is in good shape you can go to your edge with trust and confidence. This is true power and freedom.

The Peak of the Pyramid

grappling eero vahva fitness

At the peak of the pyramid, it’s about building conditioning and developing maximal power output and performance.

We realized with MMA training that strength meant nothing without endurance behind it.

You can lift as much as you want, but if you cannot sustain your strength for long periods of time, it's practically useless and more a party trick than anything else.

Warrior 20XX Method made a huge difference here. It strengthens your performance, endurance, adaptability, and preparedness as well as your mental strength.

When it comes to the peak of the pyramid, we consider the speed and power training of Athlete 20XX Method to be there alongside with the conditioning of Warrior 20XX Method and the functional power of Iron King Method.

Skill training as per Skill Master and even lifting heavy falls into this category as well – they can be fun activities once your body is fixed and the foundation has been built.

So, how do you progress between the phases? 

1. Fix the injuries and imbalances first by building a strong foundation utilizing Movement Training & Athletic/Precision Training. This never stops 100% and you may always return back to the basics.

2. Next work on the peak of the pyramid (functional power, speed & power, conditioning and skill training) to test your physical limits and have fun with your body as you humanly can.

More advice for how to mix different methods & phases can be found inside our programs. Eero has an entire 26-minute video lesson on this - it would take too much time to explain it here entirely. 

Becoming The Most Powerful Iron King

Samuli spent a long time fixing all the issues and injuries in his body, but now that he has no chronic pains he’s focusing on Athlete 20XX Method (speed, power, and plyometrics) and Iron King Method.

He’s consciously targeting his ankles and grip, to get them to that higher level. In the process of developing body awareness, you continuously find new areas to fix and every new area will unlock more athleticism.

This is why we like to say that "weakness is just potential in disguise". Once the weakness is fixed, more potential is unlocked.

When we started training with clubs, maces and sandbags, it made such a dramatic change in our physiques. These tools represent factual warrior training of the past, like the gladiators, Shaolin monks, Pehlwani wrestlers or the Spartans might have used.

After adding these ancient tools to our repertoire, we created The Iron King Method.

Eero was camping in -20'C (-4 F) when he was in the military back in 2010, and they had to carry stretchers loaded with equipment. He remembers his arms killing him and thinking ‘how can I be this weak?’

When he started focusing on the Iron King Method, this memory reappeared and he realized he was developing that exact strength and wondered what it’d be like to carry that same stretcher today.

Eero started with a 6 kg (13 lb) mace and it made the most significant impact on his arm development to date. More than any dumbbell or barbell had ever done.

Regular types of training now almost feel like a waste of time. They burn calories and build general strength but the functional benefits are small.

Yet, after every Iron King training session, we feel stronger and more capable. The maces and clubs feel as though they have a direct transfer to martial arts and different sports.

Grip is a fundamental part of your strength. Barbells and dumbbells, although easy to grip and hold onto, are not the most effective for developing grip strength.

And a lot of that is because they’re easy to grip and hold. If you try and apply that same grip-strength to an odd-shaped object or a person, you’ll see it’s not the same thing.

In the gym, you see people using wrist wraps and grip supports all the time, rather than targeting and developing their grip. Their muscles and structures in the wrist are yelling that they’re too weak.

The grip and the hands should be as strong as the prime movers in the body. If your grip fails, then train the grip until it no longer fails!

Arm training has a bad reputation amongst functional trainers as well, like they’re just a vanity thing, or ‘connection cords’, but they are super important, and should be as robust as possible.

And it is true that the root of the power comes through the ankles, hips, and core, but it is the arms and the hands that express it. They need to be able to transfer all that power, so they have to be iron-strong as well.

So, if you were looking for incentive, let this be it: build strong arms.

It's Time To Fulfill Your Potential.

Each of the Big 3 phases develops a functional method of strength, and when trained correctly it’s healthy, but you don’t reach the top and then stop.

We’ve talked about this at length in "What is Strength" post: training is non-linear.

It’s not like you finish with one phase of training, and that’s it. You train one area, and move onto the next one, and you come back later to refine it.

You will always take care of your body no matter how old or strong you get.

Eero used to train every rotation for the shoulder, just to heal and stabilize the joint. He did the same with the hips, but he spends very little time on them now.

The training isn’t useless now, but all the training he’s done has built up muscle memory, which leaves him free to focus on other areas now.

The Iron King Method has dominated our focus for the last year and we’ve gained heaps of strength and it's been a fun process. It’s the same fun that is present in the Movement 20XX Method, which Samuli is planning to focus on next.

But no matter which area we choose to focus on, the benefits from all our previous training will still be there.

And you can experience these benefits too.

We have received over 130 video testimonials from people who have done our programs (over half we haven't even released in the full format yet). 

Our members talk about how they'd broken their bodies, and our training programs fixed injuries and left them feeling like a different person - sometimes within a month!

At least a third of these comments say something along the lines of ‘I fixed my…, I can finally move properly.’

Many of the comments on the Movement 20XX Method talk about how powerful the element of playfulness is.

One person said they were doing the movements at the beach, and his kids started to follow him and move with him. This made him more interactive with his kids while he was training.

And age is not a restriction either: we have people from 50 to 80 years old doing these programs, and some of them have said they feel they are moving like they did in their 20s!

Movement and Athletic/Precision Training help maintain performance into old age, they’re great for longevity, they prevent injuries, they’re an excellent pre-and-rehabilitation tool, and they provide many other benefits as well.

So, young or old, there’s no more excuses. Prioritize your health and well-being, and start training with VAHVA Fitness.

Get started with one of our flagship programs today:

Movement 20XX Method will get you moving like Tarzan

Athlete 20XX Method develops the structurally perfect physique with X-ray vision.

Warrior 20XX Method and Iron King Method are for becoming like Conan the Barbarian or a Spartan warrior – ready for war.

Stay strong!


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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