Contrast Training

Welcome back to part two of this article series concerning the use of contrast training as a beneficial alternative to enhancing your exercise workouts. If you missed part one yesterday, be sure to check it out, we defined contrast training and uncovered its hypothesised mechanism of how it brings about results.

In part two, we move forward with this foundation of knowledge and give advice as to how best to implement contrast training into your workouts, before finishing off with some upper and lower body exercise examples to get you started.

Let us first recap as to the definition of contrast training, which can be described as “a set of heavy resistance repetitions followed immediately by an unloaded, explosive exercise utilising the same movement pattern.”

An example of this would be the performance of 5 heavy repetitions on the bench press, followed by a set of explosive push ups.

Implementing Contrast Training

So how can you effectively bring this technique into your training routine? The secret lies in creating an absolute contrast between the two exercises you are performing.

You need to ensure that enough resistance is utilised on the initial strength exercise to evoke a strength response and cause subsequent hypertrophy, whilst the second exercise is undertaken with as much explosive force and power as possible.

Research has highlighted the following with regards to optimal repetitions and sets:

  • Complete between 5-10 repetitions per set of each exercise.
  • Complete between 4-6 sets of each exercise.

As per normal training, if you’re looking to develop pure strength then opt for the lower scale of repetitions, whilst if you’re looking to develop hypertrophy then opt for higher repetitions. Do not complete more than 10 repetitions for the resistance phase, as this may result in not being heavy enough to invoke the maximal recruitment for the second phase.

Rest periods will vary based on the individual and the types of exercise performed but ideally look for no more than 30 seconds between the contrast and no more than 3 minutes between sets.

Example Contrast Training Exercise Combinations

So with the basics laid down in stone for you, let us take a look at a few exercise examples:

Upper Body

Chest region: Bench press followed by explosive push-ups.

Contrast Training: Chest

Back region: Pull ups followed by overhead medicine ball slam.

Contrast Training: Back

Lower body:

Quads region: Barbell squats followed by box jump.

Contrast Training: Quads

Hamstring region: Deadlift followed by vertical jump from deadlift position.

Contrast Training: Hamstrings

Above are just four examples of how you can incorporate contrast training into your workout routine. This is by no means an exhaustive list and to some extent you can create your own exercise couples to match your individual needs and requirements. You are really only limited by your creativity and imagination. Just always remember the basic principles and you won’t go far wrong.

Final Word

Before signing off, it’s important to note that contrast training is demanding and should not be utilised each and every training session. It does however make for a nice change, so if you reach a plateau in your training and feel like achieving new highs and smashing your training goals then contrast training could be just the thing you’re searching for.