Contrast Training

Do you sometimes feel like you have tried everything there is to try when it comes to training? Many feel workout fatigue or experience plateau effect after months of hard training – and this can be quite annoying.

Sometimes our bodies get used to a particular type of training routine, and we don’t have to push it as hard anymore. On the other side, it could also be our mindset that gets tired from dull repeating of the same routine. This where contrast training jumps in!

We’re going to explain what contrast training is and why is it so beneficial for your body. So, if you are looking for something new, we are sure you’ll be motivated to try this out immediately!

What Is Contrast Training?

Contrast TrainingContrast training can be explained in one sentence: it is a trick to push both your mind and your body to use muscles to their maximum!

This type of workout highly affects neuromuscular activity and boosts the communication between your nervous system and muscles during an explosive routine such as running.
The format of this training includes a fiery, energetic exercise done right after lifting weight – but it has to use the same muscles.

If you think this is pointless (why on earth would I be training the same muscles in two exercises?) read further and you’ll realize how that’s exactly the point!

Why Contrast Training Works?

Our topic is still a relatively unknown one, and many studies need to be done to understand contrast training completely. What researchers have come around to know for now is a phenomenon called PAP or post-activation potentiation.

Wow, that sounds complicated! But don’t worry, PAP could easily be called a „remembering muscle phenomenon.“ Here is what it refers to:

The first portion of contrast training consists of performing heavy lifting with your muscles. During this workout, your muscles and nervous system remember the movement pattern. That’s why in contrast training you perform an explosive power movement immediately after this workout to engage the muscle-fiber even more!

Some of the typical contrasting pairs are deadlifts and kettlebell swings, squats and jumps or run. These work together ideally because mobility training between strength sets helps you to keep support, prevent injuries, and boost power set performance.

Through contrast training, you can experience an immediate benefit of performing an exercise better and investing more power or engaging more muscles into training.
In the long term, you also gain more muscle fiber through muscle adaptations and teach your nervous system to communicate with muscles faster and better.

Types of Contrast Movement

Some of us want to improve our strength and some aim for speed, so there are two main categories of contrast movements used for each specific goal.

RFD or Rate of force development

The rate of force development stands for your or your body’s capability of speeding from a deadlock position. It is precisely what the name says – how fast how fast a person can create force. An example of RFD exercise could be jumping from a still, seated position.

Elastic explosiveness

According to T-Nation elastic explosiveness stands for body’s capacity to develop force “by way of the stretch-shortening cycle through a countermovement.“ An example could be performing a squat jump or alternate leg bounding in which he flexes knees before the jump.

Contrast Training Format

As the name suggests, the crucial thing with this type of exercise is to create a real contrast between two exercises you are pairing. Use enough weight when performing strength exercises to truly generate strength and then invest as much explosive power in your other exercise.

The basic format of contrast training is as follows:

  • Attempt to perform about five reps of the strength portion of the contrast set. Try to move as fast as you can while still obtaining a nice form. Finishing reps in a period of 10-15 seconds would be ideal.
  • Rest your body for 20 seconds before transferring to explosive exercise.
  • Just like with the strength portion, try to perform five reps per explosive exercise and, again, in 10-15 seconds.
  • Rest your body for 2 minutes in between sets. You can completely stop, but it might be wise to perform an active rest.

Contrast Training Format

Here’s a practical workout example with several different pairs of exercises.

Example 1

Perform a squat and jump pair that includes five reps of weighted squats. Pay attention to the proper form, but don’t neglect the speed entirely.
After performing the portion, rest for 20 seconds and then proceed to jumping. Jumps should be done with maximum explosiveness.

Example 2

When it comes to contrast training for runners, squats and sprint are an ideal pair. Using barbell while squatting will add weight to create force and sprinting will allow you to boost your endurance for running.

Example 3

For those focusing on upper body, a combination of pull-ups and medicine ball slams works fantastic. For increased strength, use additional weight instead of natural pull-ups. Make sure to use all the explosive power when performing each throw.

Final Thoughts

Once you hit workout fatigue, no matter if it’s physical or psychological, contrast training might be an ideal solution.

A unique combination of strength and explosiveness it offers results in both extreme muscle activation as well as neuro system activation. At the same time, the format of the training is simple and easy to follow, which gives you enough freedom to use the tools and equipment you wish to use.

As long as you use maximum effort, you can expect maximum results in a short amount of time!