Get Faster With Contrast Workouts

Learn how contrast workouts increase speed and power, and discover an example contrast workout from STACK expert Gabe Lazarro.


Contrast training is one of the most effective methods for developing explosive power in athletes. When executed properly, it can be one of the most productive speed workouts you'll ever come across in the weight room.

What Are Contrast Workouts?

The contrast training method involves performing a heavy strength movement, such as a Back Squat, immediately followed by a lighter and more explosive exercise that closely mimics the first movement.

How Does It Work?

By first performing a heavy strength movement (exactly how heavy will be explained in a moment), you are able to excite a higher number of High Threshold Motor Units (HTMUs), more commonly referred to as fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for maximal force production (learn more about PAP).

Following the heavy movement, the muscle fibers remain in an excited state for a brief period of time. When you execute a lighter explosive exercise shortly after the heavy set, you are primed for a much faster and more powerful muscle contraction.

Rules for Contrast Training

There are six rules that must be observed when performing contrast workouts:

  1. The duration of the heavy strength movement cannot exceed 10 to 20 seconds
  2. Use between 70 and 90 percent of your one-rep max
  3. Perform one to five reps and move the bar as quickly as possible
  4. Take only 10 to 20 seconds rest between strength and power movements
  5. Allow full recovery (three to five minutes) between sets
  6. Perform a minimum of five sets

Sample Contrast Workout

  • Back Squat - 1x1-5 at 90 percent max
  • Rest 15 seconds
  • Sprint - 10 yards
  • Rest 3-5 minutes
  • Repeat 5 times

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