Strength Training

The Powerful effects of CONTRAST TRAINING!

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Q: Joe,

As an aspiring strength coach I try to watch and read as much as I can. I recently watched Power! (Actually watched it twice it was so good) and I had a programming question regarding contrast training. Do you program that style during a power phase of a linear model? What about an undulating? Also, how long do you typically run something like that for and days/week?

-Jason M.


A: Jason,

I’ve been getting more and more questions recently regarding Contrast Training. This type of training isn’t anything new, but it seems as if our POWER DVD definitely “reminded” athletes and coaches how beneficial this method can be for producing incredible increases in speed and power! That is, IF it’s performed properly and incorporated at the right time in your program. 

Before I answer your question, I wanted to reprint an excerpt from a blog post I wrote about two years ago regarding contrast training:

—–January 2011 blog post excerpt (begin)—–

Because of the layout of my new facility, we’re able to incorporate more of what’s referred to as Transfer Training or Contrast Training into some of our sessions. With this type of training, we’re attempting to “excite” the Higher Threshold Motor Units and then “transfer” this heightened state into a synchronized activity. (In the videos below, we’re using Contrast Training in an attempt to improve sprinting speed.) Basically, I had my athletes perform a strength (resisted) exercise followed by sprints. The resistance exercises that I choose never last longer than 10 seconds and the rest interval between the resistance exercise and sprint is long enough to recover, yet short enough to ensure we don’t lose the “transfer” effect. I have been breaking up this type of training into two categories:

#1) General Transfer Training

#2) Specific Transfer Training

Here’s an example of GENERAL Transfer Training…

I consider the above video “General” Transfer Training because – although the squats “activate” the prime movers in sprinting – the technique of the resistance exercise (squats) does NOT mimic the activity (sprinting) we’re trying to improve. 

On the other hand, here’s an example of SPECIFIC Transfer Training. In the video below, you’ll see that the resisted exercise is very similar (technically) to sprinting…

I can tell you that both versions of Transfer Training have produced BIGTIME results thus far. All 9 of the athletes I’ve experimented with have PR’d in their 10-yard sprints (electrically timed) using both methods. The “Specific” Transfer workout sprint times were slightly better than the “General” workout. In my opinion, this was due to improved technique to go along with the “excited” nervous system.

Here’s some general info from an actual “case study”: 

Former Penn State lacrosse standout & Monmouth University wide receiver, Chris Hogan, ran an electrically timed 1.70 10-yard sprint his 1st day with us. After making some changes to his stance and technique, he started running consistent 1.65’s. After performing multiple sets of 2-rep box squats with chains, Chris ran a 1.62. Then, I incorporated “Specific” Transfer Training (with the prowler) on one of our training days and Chris hit a HUGE PR with a time of 1.56 seconds! He now consistently runs in the high 1.5’s and this has taken his 40-yard dash to a whole new level! Here’s Chris running a 4.3-second 40-yard dash only four weeks into our program! 

In the above video, his 10-yard (electric) split was 1.58 seconds. This made all the difference in him breaking the 4.4-second barrier and running this blistering 4.39-second 40 yard dash!

—–January 2011 blog post excerpt (end)—–


Onto your question:

When incorporating Contrast Training into my programming, I have my athletes perform it once a week for 3-4 weeks. 

It would be performed during the power phase of a linear periodization model.

If you’re following an undulating periodization model, you can perform Contrast Training on a dynamic-effort or speed training day. 

Regardless of the periodization model you prefer, Contrast Training is best suited for a “peaking” phase. For example, I’ve had my football clients perform a 3-week cycle of Contrast Training leading up to the NFL Combine or training camp.

NOTE: Interestingly, I just completed another 3-week cycle of Contrast Training with five of my high-level (D1 college & pro) football players. I had them sprinting with a heavier prowler this time (compared to the video above). Although the weight was heavier (325 pounds), it was “light enough” that every athlete completed their 10-yard sprint between 3.0 and 3.78 seconds. Once again, every athlete PR’d during their unresisted 10-yard sprints. Of special interest to me was the fact that Keith Williams broke his previous best 10-yard sprint with an insane 1.50-second performance after the heavy prowler sprints. I definitely take note when I find things that make elite level sprinters run even faster!

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We are currently doing more in-house experimentation and research regarding “Specific” Transfer Training and its effect on sprinting speed. We are experimenting with different weights, rest periods, number of sets, length of training block, and the permanence of the gains. The results have been very interesting thus far. 

Rest assured, Contrast Training is a super-effective way to increase speed and power when incorporated properly!

If you want to learn more about the specifics of Contrast Training – as well as learn the most effective exercise pairings – check out our international best-seller: POWER!

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FINAL NOTE: If you’re interested in running faster, the wait is almost over for the highly anticipated release of SPEED! This DVD and 130 (plus) page book will be the definitive resource on speed training for team sport athletes. Trust me on this one…this product is going to change the game forever. There has never been a speed training product like the one you are about to witness. I’m as excited about the release of this product as you guys are!

Unfortunately, hurricane Sandy (bitch) set us back about 10 days. But rest assured, the DVD is completed and the book is in the final stage of editting. You should have this product in your hands by the first week of December. We really appreciate your patience. Trust me; this thing will be well worth the wait!

-Joe D. 

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