Do you want to become a stronger and more powerful football player? If so, try French Contrast workouts. They are, without question, the best way to improve power during the off-season. The gains seen in reactive ability, force production and raw speed far exceed those of other methods.
The French Contrast Method, developed by French sports scientist Gilles Cometti, combines two common and effective training methods, complex and contrast training.
Complexes: Complexes are proven to increase power. They involve a heavy, compound exercise (more than 80 percent of your one-rep max) like the Squat or Bench Press, followed by a plyometric exercise involving similar muscles and movements, like Squat Jumps or Plyo Push-Ups.
Contrasts: Contrasts are one of the best methods to increase maximum strength. They involve a near maximum lift (80 to 97 percent of 1RM), followed by sub-max drop sets, starting at 70 percent of max and finishing at 50 percent of max.
Both complex and contrast training are meant to take advantage of the PAP effect (learn more about PAP), which teaches muscles to produce maximum force in as little time as possible. By using both of these methods, you deliver a much higher stress load to yourself, thus maximizing explosive power.
The key difference between the French Contrast Method and complex or contrast training is that it uses a four-exercise protocol compared to two. The extra powerful moves further challenge muscles, forcing them to make faster power improvements. Also, you will notice that the contrast exercises vary from the standard contrast method. Since the contrast follows a complex, you must take fatigue into account. Although the percent of max is different, the underlying effect on the body is the same as a traditional contrast.
I recommend using the French Contrast Method during the power phase of your workout. First perform a heavy Squat, then immediately perform a plyometric exercise that matches the demands of your specific football position. A lineman would perform a Squat Drop Jump, while a defensive back would perform a Hurdle Hop.
Once the plyometric jump is completed, go directly to the Weighted Jump. I believe this is where the athlete switches over from training power development to improving the ability to produce power in a fatigued state. Finally, after the Weighted Jump, perform a second plyometric jump. Here, I often use an accelerated plyo to keep the speed of the movement at the highest level possible. If necessary, for example because the proper equipment or required space is unavailable, you can perform a traditional plyo.
The French Contrast Method should be performed directly after your warm-up on lower-body days. Due to the high level of stress it places on the athlete, the workout should be followed by only one or two assistance lifts and one or two prehab exercises.
Using this method with my athletes, I have seen 50-pound increases in their Squat and two to three-inch increases in their vertical. These gains are seen in highly trained professional athletes—not high school athletes—which makes them more remarkable, because these athletes’ bodies are already performing at high levels.
Add the French Contrast Method to your next off-season training cycle. I promise you will not be disappointed with the results.
French Contrast Workout
Back Squat – 4×2 at 80 percent max
Hurdle Hop – 4×4 with bodyweight
Barbell Jump Squat – 4×4 at 30 percent max
Assisted Band Squat Jump – 4×4 with bodyweight
- Do not rest between exercises
- Repeat block four times
- Rest for five minutes between blocks
RDL – 3×6
Ankle Band Work – 3×12 seconds
Dumbbell Walking Band Lunge – 3×6
Isometric Ball Groin Squeeze – 3×10 seconds
Caution: due to the enormous amount of stress this method of training places on the athlete, only advanced high school, collegiate and professional athletes should use it. As a guideline, you should have at least three years of training experience before attempting to perform this workout.
For more great training tips, check out Triphasic Training: A systematic approach to elite speed and explosive strength performance.
Ben Peterson, author of Triphasic Training, is currently pursuing his doctorate in kinesiology and exercise physiology at the University of Minnesota. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peterson started his career in 2008, working for the Minnesota Twins as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Over the past four years, he has worked with hundreds of professional athletes in the NFL, NHL and MLB. Most recently, he has served as a consultant for Octagon Hockey, spending the NHL off-season working with their athletes in the Minneapolis area.