I was first introduced to French contrast training by Cal Dietz, the head Olympic strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota. The explosive strength of his athletes absolutely blew me away. After doing some research and picking the brains of Cal and his assistants, I was able to implement this training method with a few of my advanced athletes. I have now been using these training methods for roughly two years, and I am seeing a greater level of explosive strength and reactiveness in my athletes than ever before. Here’s what you need to know about this breakthrough training method.
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What is the French Contrast Method?
This advanced method is designed to apply more stress on the athlete to elicit greater neurological and physiological adaptation to maximize explosive strength and speed endurance. It uses two styles of training to promote these gains.
Complex Method: A heavy compound exercise followed by a plyometric movement that is biomechanically similar, such as a Squat and a Squat Jump.
Contrast Method: A heavy set followed by an explosive exercise that is typically deloaded, meaning you use assistance on the move.
The combination of exercises increases the amount of muscle fibers that are recruited to perform a movement, as well as the speed at which those fibers are recruited. This increases the speed at which your muscles can produce force (i.e., rate of force development), explosive strength and speed endurance.
The French contrast method places a lot of stress on the athlete, which is what makes it such an amazing tool for performance coaches tasked with increasing explosive strength and speed endurance in their athletes. However, this style of training is only suitable for advanced athletes—those with 2 to 3 years of strength training experience. I recommend the French contrast method for elite high school athletes, collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes.
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How to Apply the French Contrast Method
The French contrast method can be implemented by following the template below.
Exercise 1: Heavy Compound Exercise
- Examples: Back Squat, Deadlift, Band Split Squat
- Sets/Reps: 1×2 at 80 percent max
Exercise 2: Plyometric Exercise
Exercise 3: Weighted Jump
Exercise 4: Plyometric or Assisted Plyometric Exercse
- Perform the exercises in a circuit with no rest between them.
- Repeat the circuit four times, resting 4-5 minutes between sets.
- Choose exercises that train similar movement patterns.