Training Comparisons between Plyometric Training and Contrast Training in Athletes

Author: Damon Harrell

Throughout time athletes have sought out the best ways to train to gain an advantage over their competitors. Athletes and exercise scientists have looked into different training methods to improve performance and longevity in their respective sports. One athlete that represents the golden standard for longevity and peak performance is Lebron James. It is reported by Business Insider that Lebron spends 1.5 million dollars a year on training and the maintenance of his body. The pursuit for athletic greatness and the curiosity of how the human body reacts to different
types of training has led to comparisons of different types of training. Two popular training methods that are used to improve athletic abilities like speed, agility, strength, and vertical jump are contrast strength training and plyometric training.

Contrast strength training is the use of high and low loads in the same training session (Hammami et al., 2019). Six or more weeks of Contrast strength training is effective in improving muscle strength and power with adaptations in neuromuscular function and muscle morphology (Muscle Shape) (Hammami et al., 2019.). An example of Contrast strength training is weighted squat jumps. Using a higher weight for squat jumps combines the fast dynamic movement with a heavyweight, making it contrast strength training. Plyometric training utilizes
the stretch-shortening cycles- an active muscle lengthening followed by active muscle shortening. This increases explosiveness in the muscles and a good balance of stiffness in the tendons (Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2020). An example of plyometric training is performing squat jumps over a short time; this is an exercise that maximizes muscular output repeatedly.

One study investigates the effects of Contrast strength training vs Plyometric training in Junior male soccer players ages 15 through 17. The main goal of this study was to determine which training approach improved the athletes’ lower limb explosiveness in the categories of the 40-meter sprint, change of directions test, a one-rep max squat, a force-velocity test, and a vertical jump test. The study used 40 experienced junior male soccer players and divided them into three groups. Both the contrast strength and plyometric groups each had fourteen players in them but the control group (standard season exercise regimen) only contained twelve. Baseline tests were performed before the eight-week standard training program took place. After the eight weeks of standard training, the tests were repeated and the intervention was put into place, splitting the participants into contrast, plyometric and standard groups. The intervention lasted two months before final tests were performed. The results of the study showed that after the initial eight-week period of standard training, there were no significant improvements in test performance. The training intervention test showed a significant decrease in test times between the two experimental groups and the control group, meaning both groups showed to be effective in improving performance. Contrast Strength training had greater test results in squat jump,
countermovement jump, one repetition max squat, and neuromuscular adaptations. The plyometric group showed a greater improvement compared to the controlled group in the squat jump. The difference in the two experimental groups’ results wasn’t drastically different enough to conclude that one is more effective than the other. What can be taken from this study is that both methods of training are effective in athletic improvement.

This study done by Hammami et al in 2019 had an aspect of youth of the participants that could have affected the study results and the body’s response to the two experimental groups. A study review by Ramirez-Campillo et al., 2020 points out how age could factor into the test results. The review investigated basketball players undergoing plyometric jump training and testing in similar categories as the first study. The review concludes that older players were more
responsive to plyometric training than younger players. This is important because trainers, coaches, or athletes can choose any method of training that is best effective for their age range. For older players, it appears that plyometric training is most effective.

The type of contrast training could have also affected the results of the study done by Hammami et al. In a study done by Argus et al. in 2012, the authors investigated which type of contrast training was more effective on jump performance on rugby players. The two types of contrast training were speed-strength and power-strength. Speed-strength training is lower weights used for one rep max while power-strength training uses a higher one-rep max. (Argus et
al., 2012). Speed-Strength training is another name for plyometric training and consists of exercises like box jumps. An example of power-strength training is weighted box jumps. This study was similar to the soccer study with the intervention happening after four weeks of normal training. The results showed the power-strength training provided greater improved results over the Speed-strength training. The study measured results by taking peak power output. The
subjects all performed bodyweight squat jumps, 50 kg countermovement, 50 kg squat jump, depth jump, and broad jump. The soccer study used speed-strength contrast training. This could be the case due to the type of test that was performed. Power-strength training (contrast strength training) is better suited for building power in muscle groups and may be more beneficial for power sports like rugby. Speed strength training (plyometrics) is more effective in building
muscle reaction time through repeated motion.

The studies show that both methods are effective in improving performance. For athletes older than 30, the studies find plyometrics or speed-strength training to be more effective. For athletes in their twenties, like the ones in the rugby study, power-strength contrast training appears to be more effective towards performance. For the youngest athletes, both methods were effective and no method showed to be better than the other. It appears that all athletes, from little
league soccer players to professional athletes like Lebron James, should approach the method that suits their age. Adolescent athletes can’t go wrong with either method, while athletes ranging from ages 18 to 25, should do more power-strength training and older athletes should stick with plyometrics.

Works Cited

Argus, C. K., Gill, N. D., Keogh, J. W. L., McGuigan, M. R., & Hopkins, W. G. (2012).
Effects of two contrast training programs on jump performance in rugby union players during a competition phase. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 7(1), 68–75.

Hammami, M., Gaamouri, N., Shephard, R. J., & Chelly, M. S. (2019). Effects of contrast strength vs. plyometric training on lower-limb explosive performance, ability to change direction and neuromuscular adaptation in soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(8), 2094–2103.

Pardos-Mainer, E., Lozano, D., Torrontegui-Duarte, M., Cartón-Llorente, A., &
Roso-Moliner, A. (2021). Effects of strength vs. plyometric training programs on vertical jumping, linear sprint and change of direction speed performance in female soccer players: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 401.

Ramirez-Campillo, R., Garcia-Hermoso, A., Moran, J., Chaabene, H., Negra, Y., &
Scanlan, A. T. (2020). The effects of plyometric jump training on physical fitness attributesin basketball players: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport and Health Science.