Get Stronger and Faster With Contrast Training

If you're looking to get bigger, stronger and more powerful, contrast training could be just the challenge you need.

If you're looking to get bigger, stronger and more powerful, contrast training could be just the challenge you need. This method pairs a traditional resistance training exercise with a similar plyometric movement—for example, a Back Squat with a Box Jump. Contrast training helps recruit all possible muscle motor neurons, and—depending on how the sets, reps and loads are programmed—it can help athletes reach a wide variety of goals.

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Benefits of Contrast Training

1. Enhances muscle fiber recruitment, a vital component to improving power and strength. A study compared athletes performing traditional and compound training using resistance and plyometric exercises. Compound training increased power output in vertical jumps and sprints.

2. Improves hypertrophy training with an increase in power and neural output. Contracts additional muscle fibers, resulting in more micro muscle fiber tears and ultimately greater levels of hypertrophy. The 7/4/7 protocol described below ensures maximal muscle contraction, increased vasodilation and a grueling session.

3. The combination of two intense complementary exercises spikes the heart rate, making contrast training useful for metabolic conditioning. This is ideal for body composition clients looking to gain or preserve muscle mass. It also conditions athletes to perform other taxing lifts, such as Cleans and Snatches, with greater ease.

Examples of Contrast Training


Here are examples of how to alter your training routine to incorporate contrast training for various goals:

Hypertrophy (7/4/7): Bench Press Example

Swap traditional 3x12 Bench Press with:

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo (Eccentric/Concentric) Rest (Seconds)
1a. Bench Press(70% 1RM) 3 7 (4/2) 0
1b. Clapping Push-Ups 3 4 (1/1) 0
1c. Bench Press(65% 1RM) 3 7 (4/2) 90

Power: Deadlift Example

Swap traditional 3x3 Deadlift with:

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo (Eccentric/Concentric) Rest (Seconds)
1a. Deadlift(85% 1RM) 3 3 (1/1) 0
1b. Broad Jump (Max Distance) 3 5 (1/1) 120

Strength: Squat Example

Swap traditional 5x5 squat with:

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo (Eccentric/Concentric) Rest (Seconds)
1a. Back Squat(80% 1RM) 5 5 (2/1) 0
1b. Box Jumps 5 5 (1/1) 120

Additional combinations:

  • Deadlift with Power Clean
  • Bench Press with Plyometric Push-Up
  • Dumbbell Chest Press with Jammer
  • Overhead Press with Wall Ball
  • Split Squats with Power Skips
  • Bent-Over Row with Plyometric Inverted Row
  • Weighted Pull-Ups with Explosive Chin-Ups
  • Chin-Up with Overhead Medicine Ball Slams

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Contrast training can fit into any microcycle or workout. You can switch up a typical linear periodization scheme of hypertrophy, strength and power by using it in 2 or 3 of your workouts per week. You can actually mesh mesocycles, combining strength, hypertrophy and power to make yourself a stronger, bigger and more powerful athlete.

Contrast training can replace your first big movement on each day. For example, if you are training for strength, substitute the strength example shown above for your standard 3x3-5 sets/rep scheme on the Squat. You can also use contrast training on a full-body power day once a week by hitting all major movements. The full-body day should be limited to 4-5 exercises, since it's very intense on the body and nervous system.

Action Time


Try this technique before implementation and start with a modest load. Stand up and perform the following for hypertrophy:

Hypertrophy (7/4/7): Squat Example

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo (Eccentric/Concentric) Rest (Seconds)
1a. Bodyweight Squat 3 7 (4/2) 0
1b. Jump Squat 3 4 (1/1) 0
1c. Bodyweight Squat 3 7 (4/2) 90

Even a single set with your body weight is enough to prove the effectiveness and intensity of contrast training. Imagine the challenge of doing this same protocol, except with a loaded Back Squat.

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Mihalik, Jason P., Jeremiah J. Libby, Claudio L. Battaglini, and Robert G. Mcmurray. "Comparing Short-Term Complex and Compound Training Programs on Vertical Jump Height and Power Output." Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22.1 (2008): 47-53. Web.

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