Explosive performance capabilities in sports heavily depend on two primary physical qualities: 1) the ability to produce a high amount of force (i.e., maximal strength) and 2) the ability to express high levels of force rapidly (i.e., power). How and when to develop each quality in training to enhance sports performance remains a topic of debate among coaches. Traditional training approaches have each quality developed in sequential order over time with classical linear periodization. Others prefer to develop strength and power simultaneously.
In a new study, published ahead of print in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, traditional strength training was compared with contrast training to determine their effects on countermovement jump, repeat sprint ability, 1 RM squat strength and muscle thickness in elite male soccer players (~18 years old). A team of 22 soccer players were randomly split into a traditional strength training group and a contrast training group. The traditional strength training group performed straight sets with a predetermined load. The contrast group combined a strength exercise with an explosive, high velocity movement (e.g., squat with vertical jump). Loads were undulated in both groups throughout the training period. Before and after the training program, the aforementioned performance and anthropometric tests were evaluated.
The results showed that contrast training moderately improved repeat sprint ability and largely improved countermovement jump and 1 RM back squat strength. The traditional strength training group demonstrated large improvements in 1 RM squat strength and muscle thickness. These results suggest that contrast training may be more useful for improving performance variables while traditional strength training may be more useful for building strength and hypertrophy. Therefore, depending on the needs of specific athletes, and the time of year (i.e., in-season or off-season), each approach has its place in training. For example, traditional strength training may be more appropriate during the off-season, when explosive performance is less of a priority. In contrast, during the late pre-season and in-season phases, contrast training may be more appropriate.
Spineti, J., Figueiredo, T., de Oliveira, V. B., Assis, M., de Oliveira, L. F., Miranda, H., … & Simão, R. (2015). Comparison between traditional strength training and complex contrast training on repeated-shuttle-sprint ability and muscle architecture in male elite soccer players. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Ahead of print.