French Contrast Training seems to be on fire right now with the amount of Tik Tok and Instagram stars pushing this method of increasing athletic performance. “Steroids for Athletes” they call it. But what is it? How can I use it? And is it really that effective at enhancing athletic performance?
French Contrast training is a form of traditional contrast training that requires athletes to complete 4 exercises in succession with little rest between.
1. Heavy Compound Lift
2. High Force Plyometric or Speed Exercise
3. Speed-Strength Movement
4. High Speed Plyometric Exercise
1 exercise from each of these exercises is completed with around 20 seconds rest between 1-4 and approximately 4-5 minutes rest between total sets.
The heavy compound lift could be a squat, bench, deadlift, or any variation of these that allows heavy loading. I would suggest keeping the total load for this exercise below 85% of your 1RM and you’ll complete around 2 reps here.
Your high force plyometric exercise can be weighted jumps, depth jumps, and sled sprints. Don’t load this too heavy as we still need to move this fast enough to get a plyometric stimulus from it. We will complete about 2 reps here.
For your speed strength movement, we can complete quarter or half squats, cleans from any position, fast trap bar deadlifts or anything else that allows us to move some weight while building some speed. We will complete around 2-3 reps here.
Lastly, we have a high-speed plyometric exercise. For this we can complete band assisted jumps, assisted 10 yd sprints, something that helps you move faster than you can physically move yourself.
Is this a program you want to do all year round? No. we need to keep in mind that these programs should be periodized. This is a great way to build some power and speed during the preseason but doing this directly after the season ends would be a little useless. The body needs to be built up first to fully appreciate the affects of contrast training. This is also not a program that novice athletes should be working with. Why use advanced training methods if you can get the same results with simpler programs? I would save this type of programming for collegiate athletes and up. If you are in high school or younger, you need to develop your body first.
Is it really steroids for athletes? It can definitely enhance your performance, but it won’t give you an unfair advantage as all athletes have access to strength coaches. I believe the performance enhancement from this training style is a culmination of the training you complete throughout the year in order to make you as athletic as possible at the right time, but still allows you to develop physically at other times of the year. The athletes that invest in a good coach will always prevail at some point.
Some of the problems I see from French Contrast Training are purely training error. Using loads that are far too heavy for the heavy compound lift, not resting long enough between sets, and selecting exercises that do not provide the stimulus we want. Loads that are too heavy result in movement speed that is too slow. Rest times that are too short won’t allow you to fully recover and won’t allow you to build power throughout the session. Exercises that carry over to building sprinting speed won’t always carry over to building change of direction etc.
BS Exercise Science