How to Utilize Contrast Training for Strength, Power, and Performance

by Charley Gould
Personal Training Quarterly January 2021
Vol 7, Issue 3


The purpose of this article is to provide an introduction to contrast training, including how it is defined, what variables are utilized, and examples of how to use it in training.

For athletes and individuals with performance-based goals, it is well-established that performing both strength and plyometric training is far more effective for improving strength, power, speed, and overall performance than performing one or the other exclusively (2,19,59). However, not all forms of combined strength and plyometric training are created equal. In particular, one such method that has garnered widespread attention among strength and conditioning coaches and researchers alike is contrast training (also referred to as complex training).

As popularized by Verkhoshansky and Siff in Supertraining, contrast training has become an intriguing method of combined strength and plyometric training for its well-established ability to improve a multitude of athletic qualities simultaneously (15,54). In fact, numerous studies, reviews, and meta-analyses have suggested that contrast training may lead to greater improvements in various measures of performance (e.g., sprint speed, jump height) than any other form of combined strength and plyometric training (12,16,24).

However, contrast training is a complex modality that strength and conditioning coaches should seek to understand prior to its implementation. As such, the goal of this article is to provide an introduction to contrast training. It will be defined, variables will be explored, and examples of contrast training will be provided.

This article originally appeared in Personal Training Quarterly (PTQ)—a quarterly publication for NSCA Members designed specifically for the personal trainer. Discover easy-to-read, research-based articles that take your training knowledge further with Nutrition, Programming, and Personal Business Development columns in each quarterly, electronic issue. Read more articles from PTQ »

Related Reading

Acute Effect on Power Output of Alternating an Agonist and Antagonist Muscle Exercise during Complex Training

Influence of Postactivation Potentiation on Sprinting Performance in Professional Rugby Players

Postactivation Potentiation Effects after Heavy Resistance Exercise on Running Speed

Postactivation Potentiation Response in Athletic and Recreationally Trained Individuals

Complex Training Revisited: A Review of its Current Status as a Viable Training Approach

A Review of Combined Weight Training and Plyometric Training Modes: Complex Training

Evaluation of Plyometric Exercise Training, Weight Training, and Their Combination on Vertical Jumping Performance and Leg Strength

Effect of a Submaximal Half-Squats Warm-Up Program on Vertical Jumping Ability

Kinematic Analysis of the Powerlifting Style Squat and the Conventional Deadlift During Competition: Is There a Cross-Over Effect Between Lifts?

The Effect of Resisted Sprint Training on Speed and Strength Performance in Male Rugby Players

The Application of Postactivation Potentiation Methods to Improve Sprint Speed

A Biomechanical Analysis of the Acute Effects of Complex Training Using Lower Limb Exercises

Effects of Preload 4 Repetition Maximum on 100-M Sprint Times in Collegiate Women

The Effects of Potentiating Stimuli Intensity under Varying Rest Periods on Vertical Jump Performance and Power

The Effects of Exercise Selection and Rest Interval on Postactivation Potentiation of Vertical Jump Performance

Influence of Type of Muscle Contraction, Gender, and Lifting Experience on Postactivation Potentiation Performance

Effects of Complex Training on Explosive Strength in Adolescent Male Basketball Players

Acute Effects of Heavy Preloading on Vertical and Horizontal Jump Performance

The Temporal Profile of Postactivation Potentiation is Related to Strength Level

The Effect of Sprinting After Each Set of Heavy Resistance Training on the Running Speed and Jumping Performance of Young Basketball Players

Meta-Analysis of Postactivation Potentiation and Power: Effects of Conditioning Activity, Volume, Gender, Rest Periods, and Training Status



1. Aagaard, P, Simonsen, EB, Andersen, JL, Magnusson, P, and Dyhre-Poulsen, P. Neural adaptation to resistance training: changes in evoked V-wave and H-reflex responses. Journal of Applied Physiology 92(6): 2309-2318, 2002.

2. Adams, K, O’Shea, JP, O’Shea, KL, and Climstein, M. The effect of six weeks of squat, plyometric and squat-plyometric training on power production. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research 6(1): 36-41, 1992.

3. Argus, CK, Gill, ND, Keogh, JW, McGuigan, MR, and Hopkins, WG. Effects of two contrast training programs on jump performance in rugby union players during a competition phase. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 7(1): 68-75, 2012.

4. Baker, D, and Newton, RU. Acute effect on power output of alternating an agonist and antagonist muscle exercise during complex training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19(1): 202-205, 2005.

5. Banks, ST. Postactivation potentiation: Practical implications in the collegiate setting. Graduate student theses. University of Montana, Missoula. 2016.

6. Bevan, HR, Cunningham, DJ, Tooley, EP, Owen, NJ, Cook, CJ, and Kilduff, LP. Influence of postactivation potentiation on sprinting performance in professional rugby players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(3): 701-705, 2010.

7. Blazevich, AJ, and Babault, N. Postactivation potentiation (PAP) versus postactivation performance enhancement (PAPE) in humans: Historical perspective, underlying mechanisms, and current issues. Frontiers in Physiology 10: 1359, 2019.

8. Boyle, M. New Functional Training for Sports. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2016.

9. Burger, T. Complex training compared to a combined weight training and plyometric training program. Doctoral dissertation. University of Idaho. 1999.

10. Chatzopoulos, DE, Michailidis, CJ, Giannakos, AK, Alexiou, KC, Patikas, DA, Antonopoulos, CB, and Kotzamanidis, CM. Postactivation potentiation effects after heavy resistance exercise on running speed. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21(4): 1278-1281, 2007.

11. Chiu, LZ, Fry, AC, Weiss, LW, Schilling, BK, Brown, LE, and Smith, SL. Postactivation potentiation response in athletic and recreationally trained individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 17(4): 671-677, 2003.

12. Chu, DA. Explosive Power and Strength: Complex Training for Maximum Results. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 1996.

13. Contreras, B. Postactivation potentiation: Theory and application. 19 Sept. 2016. Retrieved 2020 from https:// application/.

14. Dietz, C, and Peterson, B. Triphasic Training: A Systematic Approach to Elite Speed and Explosive Strength Performance (Vol. 1). Bye Dietz Sport Enterprise, 2012.

15. Docherty, D, Robbins, D, and Hodgson, M. Complex training revisited: A review of its current status as a viable training approach. Strength and Conditioning Journal 26(6): 52, 2004.

16. Ebben, WP. Complex training: A brief review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 1(2): 42, 2002.

17. Ebben, WP, Watts, PB. A review of combined weight training and plyometric training modes: Complex training. Strength and Conditioning Journal 20(5): 18-27, 1998.

18. Evans, AK, Hodgkins, TD, Durham, MP, Berning, JM, and Adams, KJ. The acute effects of a 5RM bench press on power output. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise 32(5): S311, 2000.

19. Fatouros, IG, Jamurtas, AZ, Leontsini, D, Taxildaris, K, Aggelousis, N, Kostopoulos, N, and Buckenmeyer, P. Evaluation of plyometric exercise training, weight training, and their combination on vertical jumping performance and leg strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 14(4): 470-476. 2000.

20. Gołaś, A, Maszczyk, A, Zajac, A, Mikołajec, K, and Stastny, P. Optimizing post activation potentiation for explosive activities in competitive sports. Journal of Human Kinetics 52(1): 95-106, 2016.

21. Gourgoulis, V, Aggeloussis, N, Kasimatis, P, Mavromatis, G, and Garas, A. Effect of a submaximal half-squats warm-up program on vertical jumping ability. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 17(2): 342-344, 2003.

22. Gouvea, AL, Fernandes, IA, César, EP, Silva, WAB, and Gomes, PSC. The effects of rest intervals on jumping performance: A metaanalysis on postactivation potentiation studies. Journal of Sports Sciences 31(5): 459-467, 2013.

23. Grange, RW, Vandenboom, R, and Houston, ME. Physiological significance of myosin phosphorylation in skeletal muscle. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 18(3): 229-242, 1993.

24. Güllich, A, and Schmidtbleicher, D. MVC-induced short-term potentiation of explosive force. New Studies in Athletics 11: 67-84, 1996.

25. Hales, ME, Johnson, BF, and Johnson, JT. Kinematic analysis of the powerlifting style squat and the conventional deadlift during competition: Is there a cross-over effect between lifts? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(9): 2574-2580, 2009.

26. Harrison, AJ, and Bourke, G. The effect of resisted sprint training on speed and strength performance in male rugby players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(1): 275-283, 2009.

27. Healy, R, and Comyns, TM. The application of postactivation potentiation methods to improve sprint speed. Strength and Conditioning Journal 39(1): 1-9, 2017.

28. Hodgson, M, Docherty, D, and Robbins, D. Postactivation potentiation. Sports Medicine 35(7): 585-595, 2005.

29. Jones, P, and Lees, A. A biomechanical analysis of the acute effects of complex training using lower limb exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 17(4): 694-700, 2003.

30. Lesinski, M, Muehlbauer, T, Buesch, D, and Granacher, U. Acute effects of postactivation potentiation on strength and speed performance in athletes. Sportverletzung Sportschaden: Organ der Gesellschaft fur Orthopadisch-Traumatologische Sportmedizin 27(3): 147-155, 2013.

31. Linder, EE, Prins, JH, Murata, NM, Derenne, C, Morgan, CF, and Solomon, JR. Effects of preload 4 repetition maximum on 100-m sprint times in collegiate women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(5): 1184-1190, 2010.

32. Lorenz, D. Postactivation potentiation: An introduction. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 6(3): 234, 2011.

33. Lowery, RP, Duncan, NM, Loenneke, JP, Sikorski, EM, Naimo, MA, Brown, LE, et al. The effects of potentiating stimuli intensity under varying rest periods on vertical jump performance and power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(12): 3320-3325, 2012.

34. Mangine, GT, Ratamess, NA, Hoffman, JR, Faigenbaum, AD, Kang, J, and Chilakos, A. The effects of combined ballistic and heavy resistance training on maximal lower-and upper-body strength in recreationally trained men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22(1): 132-139, 2008.

35. Mann, B. Olympic lifts: The importance of peak velocity and recommended guidelines. SimpliFaster, 18 April. Retrieved 2020 from velocity-recommended-guidelines/.

36. McCann, MR, and Flanagan, SP. The effects of exercise selection and rest interval on postactivation potentiation of vertical jump performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(5): 1285-1291, 2010.

37. Mitchell, CJ, and Sale, DG. Enhancement of jump performance after a 5-RM squat is associated with postactivation potentiation. European Journal of Applied Physiology 111(8): 1957-1963, 2011.

38. Mohar, K, and Fariq, R. The importance of postactivation potentiation (pap) training on physical fitness preparation for Malaysian female hockey players. International Journal of Engineering and Technology 7(3.7): 293-298, 2018.

39. Neto, WK, Soares, EG, Vieira, TL, Aguiar, R, Chola, TA, de Lima Sampaio, V, and Gama, EF. Gluteus maximus activation during common strength and hypertrophy exercises: A systematic review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 19(1): 195, 2020.

40. Rajamohan, G, Kanagasabai, P, Krishnaswamy, S, and Balakrishnan, A. Effect of complex and contrast resistance and plyometric training on selected strength and power parameters. Journal of Experimental Sciences, 2010.

41. Rixon, KP, Lamont, HS, and Bemben, MG. Influence of type of muscle contraction, gender, and lifting experience on postactivation potentiation performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21(2): 500, 2007.

42. Robertson, DG, and Fleming, D. Kinetics of standing broad and vertical jumping. Canadian Journal of Sport Sciences 12(1): 19-23, 1987.

43. Santos, EJ, and Janeira, MA. Effects of complex training on explosive strength in adolescent male basketball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22(3): 903-909, 2008.

44. Sas-Nowosielski, K, and Kandzia, K. Postactivation potentiation response of climbers performing the upper body power exercise. Frontiers in Psychology 11: 467, 2020.

45. Scott, SL, and Docherty, D. Acute effects of heavy preloading on vertical and horizontal jump performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 18(2): 201-205, 2004.

46. Seitz, LB, and Haff, GG. Factors modulating postactivation potentiation of jump, sprint, throw, and upper-body ballistic performances: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Sports Medicine 46(2): 231-240, 2016.

47. Seitz, LB, de Villarreal, ES, and Haff, GG. The temporal profile of postactivation potentiation is related to strength level. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28(3): 706-715, 2014.

48. Sweeney, HL, Bowman, BF, and Stull, JT. Myosin light chain phosphorylation in vertebrate striated muscle: Regulation and function. American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 264(5): C1085-C1095, 1993.

49. Tillin, NA, and Bishop, D. Factors modulating postactivation potentiation and its effect on performance of subsequent explosive activities. Sports Medicine 39(2): 147-166, 2009.

50. Trimble, MH, and Harp, SS. Post-exercise potentiation of the H-reflex in humans. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 30(6): 933, 1998.

51. Tsimahidis, K, Galazoulas, C, Skoufas, D, Papaiakovou, G, Bassa, E, Patikas, D, and Kotzamanidis, C. The effect of sprinting after each set of heavy resistance training on the running speed and jumping performance of young basketball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(8): 2102-2108, 2010.

52. Tubman, LA, MacIntosh, BR, and Maki, WA. Myosin light chain phosphorylation and post-tetanic potentiation in fatigued skeletal muscle. Pflügers Archiv: European Journal of Physiology 431(6): 882-887, 1996.

53. Vandenboom, R, Grange, RW, and Houston, ME. Myosin phosphorylation enhances rate of force development in fast-twitch skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 268(3): C596-C603, 1995.

54. Verkhoshansky, Y, and Siff, MC. Supertraining. Verkhoshansky SSTM, 2009.

55. Vigotsky, AD, Schoenfeld, BJ, Than, C, and Brown, JM. Methods matter: the relationship between strength and hypertrophy depends on methods of measurement and analysis. PeerJ — the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences 6: e5071, 2018.

56. Wang, LI. The lower extremity biomechanics of single- and double-leg stop-jump tasks. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 10(1): 151, 2011.

57. Wilson, JM, Duncan, NM, Marin, PJ, Brown, LE, Loenneke, JP, Wilson, SM, et al. Meta-analysis of postactivation potentiation and power: Effects of conditioning activity, volume, gender, rest periods, and training status. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(3): 854-859, 2013.

58. Young, WB. Transfer of strength and power training to sports performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 1(2): 74-83, 2006.

59. Zghal, F, Colson, SS, Blain, G, Behm, DG, Granacher, U, and Chaouachi, A. Combined resistance and plyometric training is more effective than plyometric training alone for improving physical fitness of pubertal soccer players. Frontiers in Physiology 10: 1026, 2019.

About the author

Charley Gould

Contact Charley Gould

Contact Charley Gould

Your first name is required.
Your last name is required.
Your email is required.
Your message is required.
Your reCaptcha is required.

Your email was successfully sent to Charley Gould

Charley Gould is a former professional baseball player and highly sought-after strength and conditioning coach who works with 100+ athletes, includi ...

View full biography
#everyonestronger #everyonestronger

has been added to your shopping cart!

Continue Shopping Checkout Now