Combining plyometric and weight training to increase speed and power

Increasing your speed and power through contrast training

Objective: to increase power and speedTime in training year: all year round

Suitable for: track and field sprinters, jumpers and throwers, court players, martial artists. Will also be of use to middle and long distance runners of all speeds as a means of increasing leg power (which will improve top end speed, in-race acceleration and performance economy).

What are these workouts?

Workouts that combine paired exercises – one plyometric and one weights (or medicine ball) that work the same muscle group, for example the squat and the squat jump, the lunge and the split jump, the heel raise and the straight leg jump and the bench press and the plyometric (jump) press-up. Note: to get the most benefits from these workouts the weight used needs to be in excess of 70% of one repetition maximum (1RM) in order to hit fast twitch, speed and power producing muscle fibre.

What’s so great about them?

These workouts can increase your speed and power by a process known as potentiation.


Combining weights and plyometric (jumping) exercises into the same workout will heighten the responsiveness of fast twitch (speed and power producing) muscle fibre. It appears that more of these muscles’ fibres become available for use in the subsequent exercises – boosting your potential to jump or lift, for example. Regular inclusion of complex/contrast training workouts into your training will lift your power and speed capability over time.

Complex training

This method involves performing all designated sets of one exercise, for example, jump squats and then following it with all the sets of squats. One to two minutes’ recovery would be taken between all exercises in this training method.

Example: 3 x 4 x 80% 1RM squats plus 3 x 6 jump squats

Contrast training

This method involves performing a set of the plyometric exercise first and then a set of the weights exercises. This ‘contrast’ is continued until all sets of these exercises are completed and then the next combination is performed and so on. Again, recoveries should be long – 1-2 minutes between exercises in each ‘contrast’ set and the same between pairings.

Example: 4 x squats: 6 x jump squats: 4 x squats: 6 x jump squats: 4 x squats: 6 x jump squats (weight at 80% 1RM)

A word of advice

Follow the recovery guidelines as indicated between sets and reps in order to ensure that each plyometric exercise and lift is performed without fatigue. Tiredness will impair technique and potentially lead to the learning of incorrect and slower movement patterns. If you have not performed these types of workout before, always underestimate what you think you can achieve. They are very demanding and muscles, ligaments and tendons need to be gently accustomed to them and gradually strengthened. You should not perform these workouts on successive training days, nor close to important competitions.

Always specifically warm up.

The workouts

Workout 1:Contrast method – legs

Suitable for: all sportsmen and sportswomen needing increased power and speed. Especially applicable to the power and strength build up phases of training. (For an in-depth account of how to plan your strength training across the training year – click here)

Workout 1

Workout 2: Contrast method

Suitable for: racquet sports players as a power maintaining workout in-season

Workout 2

Workout 3: Complex method

Suitable for: middle distance runners and field sports and racket players. For use all year round

Workout 3

Workout 4: Complex method

Suitable for: weight lifters

Can be used during a specific training phase to break up weights only workouts.

Workout 4

These workouts are for illustration purposes. They are designed to show just what is possible with contrast and complex training. As indicated see strength planning series (under training plan) in order to see how to include complex/contrast workouts into a training programme.

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