For athletes power is of utmost importance. Power is the product of strength and speed. Pretty much every major sport you can think of, the sports person will require power, especially explosive power to perform at a high level in their sport. For Boxers, more power means a harder punch, this is crucial because a Boxer fights in a designated weight class, you can’t just add on 20lbs and rely on your extra mass to make you punch harder, you have to find a way to increase power whilst staying in the same weight class and whilst retaining your speed, the same applies to an MMA athlete. Other obvious sports which require a major element of power would be sprinting, Rugby and American Football. It is possessing a mix of strength, speed and power which makes you an athlete(throw in some endurance of course)
So how do you set out to achieve this? Contrast Training is one method of training you can apply to increase your power. This combines different forms of exercising into the same workout, one weight training exercise followed by one plyometric exercise, medicine balls can also be used. Both exercises in the pair should work the same muscle group. The aim is to hit the fast twitch, speed and power producing muscle fiber so you should be looking to use 70-80% of your 1 rep max when performing the weight training exercise. The plyometric exercise will naturally be an exercise with little to no weight as this utilizes body weight exercises such as push ups or box jumps. This pretty much sums up Contrast training, one heavy set followed by a lighter set, a contrast between heavy and light weight. Contrasting the exercises simultaneously builds your strength and explosive power and tricks your body into recruiting more muscle so you can perform movements such as hitting harder, running faster or jumping higher.
Contrast training works through potentiation, this is also commonly referred to as PAP(post activation potentiation), you first fire up your fast twitch muscles by performing a heavy weight training lift and then immediately transfer this muscle fiber recruitment by performing a power movement(such as plyometrics). When you do an explosive movement right after an exercise that requires all-out strength, your nervous system supercharges itself by throwing more motor units into tasks like jumping, sprinting, or throwing a punch. Not only does this method of training aid performance, but it can also help the CNS system(Central Nervous System) due to an improved mind muscle connection.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the CNS when training, there are two ways to get stronger and improve performance, most will only know the 1st method which is the physiological way based on putting on muscle size – or hypertrophy, this is achieved through protocols me and you most likely hear about, the standard bodybuilding method. But the second way to getting stronger is through neural based training which emphasizes more explosive exercise protocols and Contrast training helps the second method through the CNS.
Heavy Weight Training Movement – Squat 5×5
Full range of movment, hips below the knees. It goes without saying the Squat will massively aid increased power due to the hip drive involved
Plyometric Movement – Jumping. Broad jumps or Box jumps 5×3
Heavy Weight Training Movment – Deadlifts 3×3
Work up to heavy sets of 3 so progressively add weight to the bar and do 3×3 with the top weight. Deads are great for developing strength and power all over
Explosive Movement – Kettlebell Swing(due to its utilisation of the hip hinge) 3×5
(For back you can also use Pull ups followed by overhead medicine ball slams)
Heavy Weight Training Movment – Barbell Bench Press 5×5
Plyometric Movement – Plyo push up 5×5 (slow down, fast up)
You can also include sprints and sled pulls with added weight or pulling a tyre, these can be mixed up ie 30 seconds sprints, 30 second walking and repeat, or 30 second sled pulls followed by 30 seconds walking. Times can be reduced according to your fitness and then increased as you get used to the work out, ie 15 second sprints 45 seconds walk working up to a 30 second split. Also try 10-20m sprints, walk back and repeat.
Although Contrast training is aimed at athletes, it should be tried by everyone, training your body to generate force quickly is something which can help you in everyday life, simple things such as picking up shopping bags or even picking up the kids. A word of advice, you should not perform these workouts on successive training days, nor close to important competitions and always specifically warm up.