“There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” – H.L. Mencken
Yet another application of the multi-versatile ARXFit technology that I employ at Efficient Exercise is to use it as the go-to, heavy force production movement when utilizing the Complex, Contrast, and (my favorite) the French Contrast methods.
Wait… the French what? Well, I suppose a quick overview of these methods is in order. Note that MUCH could be written on each of these methods alone, and some very intelligent S&C coaches have done just that. My intent here is simply provide an overview.
So let’s kick off with the French Contrast Method. This method was developed by French sports scientist Gilles Cometti, and combines two common and highly effective “old school” training methods: complexes (designed to improve power production) and contrast training (designed to improve maximum strength). Specifically:
Complexes: involve a heavy, compound exercise (> 80% 1RM) like the Deadlift, Squat or Bench Press, followed by a plyometric exercise involving similar muscles and movements, like hurdle hops, squat jumps or ballistic/clapping push-ups.
Note: don’t confuse the above with barbell or dumbbell complexes. Context matters. Maybe in my lifetime we’ll settle on a standard set of S&C definitions, but until then…
Contrasts: involve a near maximum lift (80 to 97% of 1RM), followed by sub-max drop sets, starting at 70% of 1RM and finishing at 50% of 1RM.
Both complex and contrast training methods are designed to take advantage of Post-Activation Potentiation, which trains the neuromuscular system to produce maximum force in an ever decreasing time period (i.e., training for max power production). Combining these methods allows for the delivery a much higher stress/training load (as opposed to using the methods separately), without the risk of overtraining or “confusing” the central nervous system.
With me so far? Cool.
Okay, so at it’s most basic, the French Contrast method is a simple melding of the complex and contrast methods outlined above. And we’re doing so in the name of exploiting the post-activation potentiation phenomenon. And all of this is in an attempt at wringing a little bit more power out of the proverbial engine. A big block 454 doesn’t mean much if it can’t transfer gobs of power, lightning fast.
What follows is a basic template that I like to use, using the trap bar deadlift as an example:
1. an 80 to 90% 1 RM TBDL single or double (or an ARXFit deadlift or leg press single or double)
2. a similar motion plyometric (hurdle hop, in this case; 3 – 5 jumps)
3. a 30% of 1RM trap bar jump squat; 3 – 5 reps
4. a banded overspeed vertical jump; 3 – 5 reps
3 rounds, with 30 seconds rest between exercises, and approximately 5 minutes rest between rounds.
Additionally I may (depending upon preceding performance evaluation), finish with an additional ARXfit double or single. Or, and additional single or double of TBDLs at working weight.
I have some clients who train with me who are otherwise full-on engaged in CrossFit training. These clients are smart enough to realize that, after a certain point, the only way to get better at CrossFit (or any endeavor, really) is to (1) focus on getting generally stronger, and more powerful and (2) hone specific technique. The truth is that metabolic conditioning is pretty straight forward; you just have to suck it up, and do the work. And hopefully in a way that doesn’t needlessly waste your time, or get you hurt in the process. Top-end power and strength, however, must be teased-out smartly. French Contrast training is a great way to better power output without frying the CNS and dropping into an over-reached/under-recovered state.
And it should be noted, too, that this is a highly specialized methodology; not something that a beginner should consider doing. Nor should this method be employed by anyone just wanting to get generally strong and fit. It is also not designed as a hypertrophy methodology. Remember, one can go a long, long way with the most basic of smartly programmed iron work. No need to over complicate things. But if you’re an athlete who is looking to more finely tune the engine (while trying to increase or maintain metabolic conditioning), French Contrast is a hell of a good way to go.
Here’s another French Contrast example:
A1. ARXFit incline press x 2
A2. feet-elevated ballistic push-ups x 5
A3. leverage machine ballistic incline press x 4
A4. PowerMax 360 “push-pulls” (overspeed press) x 5
Now, the ARXFit equipment offers an even better punch here because (1) each phase of the heavy force production lift is truly a max effort in each phase of the lift (eccentric, isometric and concentric), (2) set up time is minimal, and (3) safety – I don’t have to worry about spotting, or missed rep “bail out options”.
Good stuff for sure.
As for programming? For me it’s an option anytime a targeted power session is in order. In other words, in lieu of an Oly derivative day. And if I wanted to (and if I were using a standard, high-force producing initial exercise), I could always Autoregulate that exercise.
The options here are endless.
In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –