Build Explosive Power With These Contrast Training Workouts

STACK Expert John Cissik explains the use of contrast training for power development and offers both off-season and in-season sample workouts.

Contrast training is a tool that can enhance an athlete's power. Developing the ability to exert force quickly (power) is important for every athlete. It's especially important to peak this physical ability during the season.

Contrast training can develop power while increasing strength and maximize your time in the gym. It is primarily a power development tool. We don't care about a pump and we don't care about training to failure. The only thing we care about is exerting strength as quickly as possible while maintaining good form.

RELATED: Get Stronger and Faster With Contrast Training

Contrast training uses exercises that can be performed explosively, like variations of Olympic lifts; but it can also be done with Squats, Bench Presses and Deadlifts.

The idea is to alternate between a heavy set and a light set. In both sets you try to move as explosively as possible. The heavy set forces you to recruit a lot of motor units. Then you use those "extra" motor units in your light set. In other words, you'll feel much more explosive when you get to the light set.

The heavy set should be between 85-95% of your 1RM (1-Rep Max). The light set needs to be at 55-65%. Regardless of the weight, perform no more than three repetitions per set. The exercise should be done for three to five working sets (in addition to any warm-up). Rest two to three minutes between sets. The focus is on being explosive, not training to failure or training to get a pump. It's all about the quality of the movement!

RELATED: Why French Contrast Training May Be the Key to Your Strength

I normally like to use 90% of maximum for the heavy set and 60% for the light set. So, for example, if we're doing Power Cleans with a 300-pound maximum, our sets might look like this after warming up:

  • Set 1: 1@270 pounds
  • Set 2: 3@180 pounds
  • Set 3: 1@270 pounds
  • Set 4: 3@180 pounds
  • Set 5: 1@270 pounds
  • Set 6: 3@180 pounds

This is a great type of training to include in a cycle that is heavily focused on power training, I like to combine it with complex training during the season, since we never have enough time to train, and anything we can do to maximize our time is very helpful.

Below are two comprehensive sample workout programs using contrast training with other training tools. The first is an off-season workout program; the second is an in-season program.

RELATED: Add Size and Power With Contrast Sets

Off-Season

Monday

Weights

  • Back Squats: 3x4-8@85%
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3x4-8
  • Bench Press: 3x4-8@85%
  • Bent-Over Rows: 3x4-8
  • Standing Military Press: 3x4-8

Speed/Agility

  • Falling Starts: 3x10 meters
  • Standing Starts: 3x10 meters
  • Crouching Starts: 5x20 meters
  • Bounds: 3x20 meters
  • Shuffle Right/left: 3x5 meters
  • Backpedal: 3x5 meters
  • L-Drill: 3-5x

Tuesday

Weights

  • Power Snatch: 3x(1@85% + 3@55%)
  • Power Clean: 3x4@70%
  • Kettlebell Pulls: 3x6
  • Plyometrics
  • Bench Drop, stick the landing: 10x
  • Squat Jumps: 10x
  • Standing Long Jump: 10x
  • Hurdle Hops: 3x10 meters

Thursday

Weights

  • Incline Press: 3x12-15@70%
  • Superset: Dips and Pull-Ups: 3xMax on each
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3x12-15 each arm
  • Superset: Lateral and Rear Lateral Raises: 3x12-15 each
  • Superset: Biceps and Triceps: 3x12-15 each

Conditioning

Circuit: perform each exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 60 seconds after each block.

Block 1:

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Jump Rope
  • Plank

Block 2:

  • Heavy Rope Slams
  • Jump Rope
  • Side Planks

Block 3:

  • Burpees
  • Jump Rope
  • Flutter Kicks

Friday

Weights

  • Front Squats: 3x12-15@70%
  • Lunges: 3x12-15 each leg
  • Good Mornings: 3x12-15
  • Reverse Hyperextensions: 3x12-15

Speed/Agility

  • Resisted Sprints: 3x10 meters
  • Standing Starts: 5x60 meters
  • Shuffle + Turn + Sprint: 3x 5 meters + 30 meters, perform each side
  • Backpedal + Turn + Sprint: 3x 5 meters + 30 meters

In-Season

Monday

Weights

  • Power Snatch: 3x (1@90% + 3@60%)
  • Snatch Grip Deadlift + Snatch Pull: 3x6+3@100%
  • Back Squats + Box Jumps: 3x3@90%+5 jumps
  • Good Mornings: 3x15-20

Speed/Agility

  • Standing Starts: 5x20 meters
  • Resisted Sprints: 5x20 meters
  • Bounds: 3x20 meters
  • Small-Sided Games: 4x5 minutes

Tuesday

Conditioning

One long circuit: perform each exercise for 30 seconds. No rest until the entire circuit has been performed, then rest two minutes and repeat.

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Jump Rope
  • Plank
  • Kettlebell Snatch, right hand
  • Jump Rope
  • Side Plank (right side)
  • Kettlebell Snatch, left hand
  • Jump Rope
  • Side Plank (left side)
  • Kettlebell Lunges
  • Jump Rope
  • Supine Hold
  • Kettlebell RDLs
  • Jump Rope
  • Crunches
  • Push-Ups
  • Jump Rope
  • Reverse Crunches
  • Bear Crawls

Thursday

Weights

  • Power Clean: 3x(1@90%+3@60%)
  • Front Squat + Push Jerk: 3x(4@85%+3@60%)
  • Eccentric Bench Press: 3x4@70%
  • Bent-Over Rows: 3x8-12

Speed/Agility

  • Standing Starts: 5x80 meters
  • Bounds: 5x40 meters
  • Small-Sided Games: 5x4 minutes


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SQUAT | POWER CLEAN | BENCH PRESS | DEADLIFT | POWER TRAINING | BOX JUMP | EXERCISING | OLYMPIC LIFTS | POWER | PULLS | CLEAN | PRESS | DUMBBELLS | SNATCH | KETTLEBELL | RAISES