Train your central nervous system and improve strength and athletic performance by alternating between heavy exercises and explosive movements.

As a strength coach who works with high level athletes and an educator who trains the trainers - I'm always being asked what I think is the biggest mistake trainers, athletes and exercise enthusiasts make in the gym. My answer is always "most don't train the CNS".

You see - there are actually two ways to get stronger and improve performance. One way is physiological based which is done by putting on muscle size (hypertrophy) through typical bodybuilding style protocols. The other, lesser known, but possibly more important way of getting stronger is through neural based training. This is accomplished by using faster, more explosive exercise protocols like the ones I'm going provide later in this article.

A simple way of understanding what I just described above is to think of you body as a computer. Physiological (muscle based) training improves your hardware. Neural (CNS based) training improves your software. It only makes sense that you would want both - the latest hardware and the fastest, most high tech software.

Now that you understand the importance of doing both muscle and CNS based training I'm going to show you a how to achieve both all in the same workout using a training concept called Contrast Training. Contrast training is easy to explain:

Start with a set of heavy lifts, five to ten reps, and then follow it immediately with an unloaded, explosive exercise using the same movement pattern and the same reps.

Or, to make it even simpler: squats followed by jump squats. Bench presses followed by explosive push-ups.

Using Contrast Training in Your Workout

Here’s are a few examples of our favorite Contrast Training sets. To improve a more explosive chest, use this set!

To build a more explosive back, do this:

Want to jump higher - do this!

More explosive hips and legs, try this:

Build more rotation by doing this:

You can even use Contrast training to help improve your punching power!

Why Does Contrast Training Work?

The key to contrast training is post-activation potentiation, or PAP. That is, the explosive capability of a muscle is enhanced after it's been forced to perform maximal or near-maximal contractions.

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. (I use it a lot with the Boxing, Muay Thai and MMA fighters I train.)

With athletes, contrast training builds strength and power simultaneously. For non-athletes, it's a great way to tap into high-threshold motor units for hypertrophy, or to boost the metabolism to improve body composition (Fat loss). And while you're accomplishing those objectives, you're also changing up your workout in a way that's fun and challenging.

Here's an example of a Contrast Training Workout

  • 1a. Deadlifts 3-4 x 5-10 pair with...
  • 1b. Long Jumps 3-4 x 6-8

Rest 60-90 seconds.

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat.

Note: Superset 1a and 1b with 2a and 2b.

Rest 60-90 seconds.

  • 4a. Chin Ups 3-4 x 5-10 pair with...
  • 4b. Medicine Ball Slams 3-4 x 6-10

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat.

Note: Superset 3a and 3b with 4a and 4b.

Posted on: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 13:49

I like this routine, but how many days a week would i run this? Also should I add any other exercises or just the 8 listed in the example above. My goals are most important functional strength with hypertrophy being second.

Posted on: Sun, 02/03/2013 - 18:28

I use this in some circuit training I do like
Bench 8, 3, 6 reps
plyo push ups 3x8-10
DB bench on swiss ball 3x8
Military press 3x10

Still works kind of same right?

Posted on: Wed, 03/28/2012 - 20:57

Awesome information..! ;)