Introducing the most effective workouts for getting bigger while increasing your sports performance.
To compete at the highest level, athletes must know how to get big, strong, and explosive. That’s why, in training advanced athletes, we use complexes to help them gain muscle, strength, and power simultaneously. To do that, we pair traditional strength movements with explosive movements to create an effect called post activation potentiation. The heavy strength exercise recruits a lot of muscle fibers and motor units, and the power movement done immediately after will allow for optimal muscle activation for that exercise (which leads to gains in lean muscle mass).
The more muscle fibers you recruit, the more potential power you can generate, making this a great tool to help increase power development. More power means improved sprinting speed, greater jumping ability, and a more explosive athlete. Welcome to Contrast Training 101.
Now knowing what this explosive training can do, let’s talk about how it’s done. To get started, simply pair a strength exercise with a power exercise that uses a similar movement pattern. You should use a lighter weight than normal to ensure proper form on these resitance exercises, and always leave one to two reps in the tank. Granted the weight should be heavy enough to elicit the recruitment in motor units, but not so heavy that it completely fatigues your muscles.
One contrast training favorite of mine is front squats into kneeling box jumps. Box Jumps and Squat are both vertical patterns so there is a high rate of dynamic correspondence. Remember, as in all contrast training, make sure not to perform more than 5 reps per set. If you don’t have a plyo box available, simply perform another vertical lower body power exercise such as squat jumps or vertical jumps:
Another great contrast training protocol for lower body power is deadlifts into broad jumps. Hip dominant variations like deadlifts are typically paired with broad jump variations since the load vector is more horizontal in nature than a squat. Just like any contrast training pairing, it’s important to note the concentric portion of the lift should be performed as fast as possible to the higher threshold motor units. As these don’t require any special equipment, you can perform it anytime, anywhere.
We also like to use contrast training for upper body power workouts as well. By pairing free weight exercises with explosive medicine ball exercises (as opposed to body weight exercises). For these types of combinations keep in mind that the ball should be just heavy enough to exert the maximum force possible. Experiment with different ball weights to find the best one for you:
If you don’t have medicine balls, substitute plyo push up variations for any pushing variation. For pulling variations, substitute explosive band pulls if med balls aren’t available.
Additionally, for athletes needing explosive upper body strength (fighters and football players), unilateral upper body contrast training is invaluable as well. While you may use a standard bench press for your strength movement, elastic bands work extremely well for the explosive movements because they create greater tension throughout the movement yielding greater acceleration. Greater acceleration = greater power. Start off with a simple one arm DB Press or DB Rows and progress to more advanced body weight variation shown below:
It’s worth mentioning you can use low reps to really focus on max strength and power, or slightly higher reps to focus on strength and power endurance. I would consider 1-5 reps for strength and power and 6-12 reps for strength and endurance. An example of a power endurance variation that will improve your sports performance can be seen here:
Typically we will do 4-5 sets of 3-5 reps for each exercise. Similar to the ISO Explode training I like to only do 1-2 contrast exercises per workout and use regular strength training exercises for the remainder of the session. It is important to get full recovery in between sets of contrast training to allow the central nervous system to recover. The strength work following the contrast sets should be lower level and lower volume, since contrast training is very stressful on the body.
Here are a few examples of what could be the start of a contrast training work out:
Contrast Workout 1 Pulling Power Emphasis
Barbell Glute Bridge to Hard style KB Swing
FAT GRIPZ Neutral Pull Ups with Med Ball Slams
Then finish with more traditional strength work such as squats, push ups, and planks.
Contrast Workout 2 Pushing Power Emphasis
Saftey Squat Bar Squat to Box Jump
Military Press to Overhead Med Ball Chest Pass
Then finish off with more traditional strength work such as deadlifts, chin ups, and anti-rotation press.
A solid base of strength, as well as jumping and landing ability, is very important before trying these exercises. These strength and power moves must be mastered separately before attempting to pair them together. But once you’ve got the basics down, contrast training is great for getting bigger while growing both extremely strong and powerful, in a short period of time.
To maximize your gains using this approach 1R would recommend the following supplements: