Contrast training, also known as transfer training is a great way to “peak” your power output before starting your season. Performing this correctly is all about timing and volume. You do this too soon without completing a full offseason program and your results will be minimal, you do this too late and you can expect a small return as well. You plan out your rest periods, sets, and weight incorrectly and you won’t be training exactly what you want to train, which is speed and power. If your volume is too high you won’t recover, if your volume is too low you won’t adapt and produce the results you’re looking for. Contrast training takes a seriously trained eye, and flawless execution. When done right the result can be significant improvement in your performance.
The whole point of contrast training is to recruit high threshold motor units with a heavy strength exercise, then go into a power exercise to fully express the force output of these motor units. While doing this you open up path ways in your central nervous system that can connect to these motor units easier in the context of these specific power movements or athletic movements such as a sprint or jump.
A simpler way to put it is, we shock your body with heavy weight resistance and while your body is still excited we have you perform a power movement. In Hopes that this will improve your performance on this specific task. This will make you better at performing these athletic movements come performance time.
I’ve performed these contrast programs on my athletes for the past 5 years and when done correctly you can add 5 inches on an athlete vertical in a month. When done incorrectly at best, no results occur and at worst performance decreases and recovery goes down the drain. This is why it’s so important to follow specific guidelines that work.
Here are some things to consider when contrast training.
1. While working with your athlete you need to know what works best for them and adjust when you need to.
2. You should never leave a contrast workout feeling run down. You should feel pumped up and ready for more… That’s when you need to cut the workout.
3. Your heavy resistance movement shouldn’t last more than 5-8 seconds if it’s a unilateral exercise it shouldn’t be 5-8 seconds per side.
4. Shouldn’t feel fatigued after performing it.
5. You should to perform your power movement within 10-20 seconds after your heavy resistance movement. I’ve gone as long as 30 seconds to a minute after the heavy set but that was dependent on the athlete’s performance
6. Rest 2-5 mins per set
7. Be able to measure the out put of your power movement via timing on a sprint, height or distance on a jump or toss, or weight moved. If performance decreases increase rest
8. Don’t go too heavy, don’t go too light. This can be between 70%-90% of an athletes 1 rep max. You should be challenged but the weight should be movement relatively fast.
9. Perform 5-8 sets for a contrast workout.
10. A strong base of strength makes this type of training most optimal. THIS IS NOT FOR AN ATHLETE NEW TO THE GYM.
11. This should be started 60-45 days before the season starts
12. A throughout 3-9month offseason program of strength focus before this will produce the most optimal results.
13. 1-2 contrast workouts should be done per week.
Here’s some examples of contrast circuit I’ve used with my athletes successfully