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The Contrast Protocol: Training techniques to build more muscle and power

The Contrast Protocol

Training techniques to build more muscle and power

Developing muscle requires intensity and volume, and contrast training gives you both in one comprehensive, scientifically-proven training method. Contrast training consists of performing a heavy loaded exercise set followed by an unloaded explosive equivalent of the same (or similar) movement pattern. Examples include a set of barbell squats followed by box jumps, flat dumbbell presses followed by explosive plyometric push-ups or chin ups followed by medicine ball slams.

Contrast training was originally developed in the 1970s in Russia and Eastern Europe to improve explosive power through post-activation potentiation (PAP). The theory supporting PAP states that heavy loading just before an explosive movement causes a higher stimulation of the central nervous system (CNS). What this means is that once you apply a heavy load to a muscle, that muscle will have a greater ability to perform an explosive movement immediately after. This effect can last as long as a half hour after the resistance loading.(Chiu, Fry, Weiss, et al 2003). Contrast training therefore allows us to stimulate our CNS to give us a bit more horsepower.

Initially contrast training can help you build new muscle by providing a new training stimulus that can ‘shock’ your muscles to adapt, which will improve strength and muscle size. Secondly, the combination of heavy lifting and fast, explosive exercises is a combination that has been proven to maximally recruit motor units. In other words, lifting heavy weights and moving explosively improves your CNS’s ability to bring more muscle into the game. Additionally, the combination of reps performed on heavy lifts along with the reps performed during the explosive exercises creates a greater total work volume.

This makes contrast training an extremely effective training method to help you build bigger, stronger muscle for a better body and more power in the gym or on the sports field. You can also shift the focus of each contrast training workout by simply changing the rep ranges you use. For instance, to develop more power use lower reps with more weight and longer rest periods, but if you are training for muscle growth then increase the reps and lower the rest periods.

As such, an example of a contrast set for muscle growth could like this:

  • Sets per contrast pair: 4-6 sets
  • Reps of the heavy lift within a given contrast set: 6-10 reps
  • Reps of the explosive exercise within a given contrast set: 6-8 reps
  • Rest time in transition between the heavy lift and the explosive exercise: No more than 15 seconds
  • Rest between contrast sets: 90 seconds to 2 minutes

It is recommend that you use 1-3 contrast training pairs at each workout. This means that if you normally do four sets of squats, try doing four sets of the squat contrast training set. Plus, add in another contrast paired-set, like lunges paired with split jumps. Then, proceed with the rest of your leg workout as you normally would.

Keep in mind that contrast training is a versatile concept. While some contrast paired-sets are obvious, others may not be so obvious to the average gym-goer. But with a little research and knowledge you can design your own contrast training workout for your major muscle groups. Just be sure to follow the basic principles.

By Nick Tumminello

(Re-published with permission from www.vpxsports.com)

This article is published courtesy of VPX Sports – check out their newly designed homepage on www.vpxsports.com for more articles like this one, uploaded daily.

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