FRENCH CONTRAST TRAINING – CONSTRUIT POUR L’ATHLETE

French contrast training is a training program, that is designed specifically with the needs and performance goals of athletes in mind. It is tailored to enhance the performance and meet the requirements of individuals engaged in bettering their athletic performance.

INTRODUCTION

When it comes to sport, we all (the adrenaline junkies) love to see the big tackles, world record attempts, head-to-head finishes as well as ultimate tests of maximal strength. But for any of this to be achieved these athletes need to be beyond just ‘good’ instead they need to excel in strength, speed and power based movements.

As a strength coach myself, I am always looking to find new methods and training styles to optimise specific performance qualities needed for my athletes to be at the top of their game. One method that has helped me do so, is French Contrast Training. This training system is a combination of complex and contrast training methods.

OVERVIEW OF COMPLEX AND CONTRAST TRAINING

Complex and contrast training are based around post activation potentiation (PAP). PAP is a short term response that positively improves the ability of a muscle to generate force. Over time this will lead to a long term adaptation which will lead to increased rates of force to be applied (rate of force development; RFD for short). This is hugely beneficial to various sporting actions which require high rates of force to be recruited in very limited time frames.

Typically, complex training is focussed on coupling a heavy movement followed by an explosive plyometric movement which follows a similar movement pattern to that seen in the heavy compound movement. Whereas, contrast training is performing a maximal/ near maximal (90%+) compound movement, followed by a short rest period before completing a higher velocity based set (same movement) with a lighter load (50-70%).

WHAT IS FRENCH CONTRAST TRAINING

French Contrast Training is a training method that combines several different types of exercises to improve athletic performance, particularly in terms of power, speed, and strength. It typically involves a sequence of exercises that alternate between high-intensity strength exercises and plyometric movements, often with short rest periods in between. The goal is to enhance neuromuscular coordination, explosiveness, and force production.

Here’s a brief overview of the typical structure of French Contrast Training:

  1. Strength Exercise (Heavy Compound): This is usually a compound exercise focusing on heavy lifting, such as squats, deadlifts, or bench presses. The goal is to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible and stimulate maximum force production.
  2. Plyometric Exercise: Following the strength exercise, a plyometric movement is performed. Plyometric exercises involve rapid muscle lengthening and shortening to generate powerful movements. Examples include box jumps, depth jumps, or medicine ball throws.
  3. Assistance Exercise (Lighter Variant To The Heavy Compound): This involves a lighter exercise targeting the same muscle groups as the strength exercise but with a focus on speed and explosiveness. This could be a variation of the strength exercise performed with lighter weights or resistance bands.
  4. Active Recovery: Short rest periods or active recovery exercises, such as mobility drills or bodyweight exercises, can be incorporated between sets to maintain blood flow and minimize fatigue.

The alternating nature of heavy strength exercises with explosive plyometrics and lighter, faster movements is believed to stimulate the neuromuscular system in a way that enhances athletic performance. French Contrast Training is commonly used by athletes in sports requiring speed, power, and agility.

PROGRAMMING FRENCH CONTRAST TRAINING

French contrast, is based on 4 movements performed back to back, with short rest periods between each exercise (20-30 seconds between exercises, 3-5 minutes between sets). Exercise 1 will be a heavy compound movement performed at 80-90% of the 1 rep max, moving into a plyometric jump, before moving back to a drop set or weighted jump movement (30-50%), and finishing with a second plyometric or an accelerated plyometric movement. Below is an example of how this looks when prescribing movements for French contrast couplets.

SESSION 1SESSION 2SESSION 3
Back Squat x2 @90%Deadlift x3 @90%Bench Press x2 @90%
Depth Jump x2Broad Jump Rebounds x3Plyo Push Up x2
Squat Jump x5 @50%Trap Bar Jump x5 @50%Single Arm Med Ball Throw x5
Banded Squat Jump x5Sled SprintsBanded Plyo Push Up x5

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, French contrast isn’t a style of programming which athletes with a low training age should perform, due to the high demands it requires. If you have a longer training age (12 months +), with a good base level of strength and power development, this program will excel you to the next level, and I would highly recommend you giving this a go.

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