The French Contrast Method
The French Contrast method is an extremely useful training modality that can rapidly improve your power, and speed. Both qualities have a high level of transferability to jumps, accelerations, and first step quickness on the court field. The French Contrast Method utilizes a training effect that occurs in the body called post activation potentiation (PAP). PAP is a phenomenon that results in a short-term increase in muscular power, as a result of a large recruitment of motor units from a near maximal resistance exercise or a resisted ballistic exercise.
If you’re not familiar with the French Contrast method, here’s an example template…
1. Heavy compound Lift (80-90%) 1-2 reps
2. Bodyweight Plyometric (N/A) 2-4 reps
3. Lightly Resisted Plyometric (10-20%) 2-4 reps
4. Assisted Plyometric (N/A) 2-4 reps
Essentially the French Contrast method uses two waves of PAP to maximize its training effect. The Heavy Compound lift recruits a large amount of muscle fibers, which are then more easily re-recruited for the Bodyweight plyometric. That increase in muscle fiber recruitment increases the amount of force produced during the take off, and results in a higher jump. The body is then slightly fatigued, so everything is scaled back for the second wave. The resisted exercise is now a lightly weighted plyometric or ballistic movement. Once again, that exercise recruits a large number of muscle fibers, which will now be more easily recruited for the assisted plyometric. Similar to the age old saying of “if you want to get faster, you have to run fast”, if you want to jump higher, you have to jump high, incorporating the French Contrast method increases the height of your jumps and speed of your sprints in training and thus increased your rate of progress.
There are four guidelines that are important to understand when first incorporating this into your training.
1. All four exercises should be similar movements.
The effects of PAP are highly specific to the movement you perform. If you choose the back squat as your heavy compound lift, your bodyweight plyometric should also be a bilateral lower body movement that emphasized vertical force production. A Squat Jump or Counter Movement Jump would be a good choice. If you choose an RDL as your heavy compound exercise, that lift embodies more of a hinge movement pattern and incorporates more posterior chain. Therefore, it may be better paired with something like a broad jump. If you want to pick a compound exercise to potentiate a 10yd sprint, you might look for something unilateral like a rear foot elevated split squat. (More examples found below)
2. The compound exercise is not a max out attempt.
`This is a common mistake amongst ego lifters. The purpose of the initial lift is not to max out or see how much weight you can put up, it’s to use a heavy enough weight to recruit a large amount of muscle fibers, with minimal fatigue. Lifting maximally will exhaust your central nervous system and your jump height will suffer. Since the whole point of this method is to maximize jump height, that would be pretty counter intuitive. Stick to somewhere between 80%-90% while leaving a rep or two in the tank.
3. Not enough rest between exercises and sets
Without proper rest between exercises and sets, the fatigue from each exercise will compound too quickly and your performance will decrease. You’ll lift slower and jump lower. Between exercises it’s recommended to rest around :30. Between sets it’s recommended to rest around 2-4 minutes.
4. Not using maximal intent during the plyometric and ballistic exercises.
Velocity based training and jump training is all about producing your maximal amount of force as quickly as you can, influencing your body to improve the rate at which it produces that force. If you’re not moving with maximal intent, you’re not giving your body any reason to adapt/improve, and you’re wasting your time. Resistance training is a bit easier to manage since you can simply put the proper amount of weight on the bar to fit the desired intensity. You can’t half ass a heavy squat. However, you can half ass jumps and sprints.
Back Squat 4x2 85%
Hurdle Jumps 4x4
Dumbbell Jump 4x2
Assisted Squat Jump 4x2
RDL 4x2 85%
Broad Jump 4x4
Medball Granny Throw 4x2
Plyometric Hip Thrust 4x4
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat 4x2 each 85%
Single Leg Seated Box Jump 4x2 each
Prowler Push 4x15 yards No Weight
Assisted Step up Plyo 4x4
Single Leg RDL 4x2 each 85%
Single Leg Broad Jump 4x2 each
Single Leg Granny Throw 4x2 each
Flying 10's 4x1
Bench Press 4x2 85%
Plyo Push-up 4x2
Medball Chest Pass 4x4
Jammer Arm Punch 4x4