What is Contrast Training?

Being explosive is and important part of nearly every sport. It’s hard to pick one out where you don’t have to run, jump or cut in quick bouts. So building that kind of explosive power is key to every athlete. We’ve all seen basic ways of trying to become more explosive, from box jumps to power cleans to medicine ball throws. All of these modalities serve their purpose and can help you become a better athlete. One avenue that most people don’t think to take while trying to build explosive power is with contrast training. It’s a pretty basic concept itself, but understanding how to use it and when to use are things that should be understood first.


Contrast training is simply performing a strength exercise followed by an explosive exercise that mimics the movement of the strength exercise. An example is the barbell deadlift followed by box jumps.



Picking 2 exercises that share a common movement pattern is the key. Without that it’s not contrast training, it’s just super setting. Performing a maximal or near-maximal muscular contraction before an explosive movement causes post-activation potentiation (PAP), which allows for a more powerful explosive movement. Basically, if you lift something heavy, it’ll turn your nervous system on and allow for greater force production.


With contrast training, the idea is not to use this as cardio, so we’re not trying to see how many deadlifts we can do then go and try and jump on a box 20 times. At that point you’ve lost the effect. the strength exercise should be performed at maximal or near-maximal weights, somewhere around 90% of 1RM for sets of 2-3 followed by 3-6 reps of the explosive movement. Again, the idea here is to stimulate the nervous system, then display force with the same movement.


Here’s a sample of what a contrast grouping might look like in your training:


                               REPS                 INTENSITY

DEADLIFT             3  3  2  2            85%  85%  90%  90%

BOX JUMPS          6  6  4  4


You only need to perform this style of training with one grouping of exercises, don’t try and do it with bench, squat and clean all in the same day. It should also be done at the beginning of the workout, while the nervous system is fresh, and only during the offseason if you’re an athlete.


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