Drop sets, supersets, HIIT. You've probably tried countless ways to make your workouts more effective and efficient. Who doesn't want a bigger bang for their exercise buck, right?
But there's another form of training — that's totally amazing — we bet you haven't tried yet: contrast training.
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This method pairs a strength-based exercise with an explosive plyometric movement using the same muscle pattern (think: back squats and jump squats). But the order of the moves is key: strength comes first.
This allows you to target a specific muscle group and practice a movement pattern in a slow and controlled fashion, which prepares your body for the plyometric work, says Ben Lauder-Dykes, CPT, a Fhitting Room instructor and certified kettlebell instructor.
But the benefits go both ways: The explosive exercise helps you produce more speed and force, which comes in handy when you're trying to lift a heavier load, Lauder-Dykes adds.
That means you can build muscle mass, increase power and improve athletic performance all at once. Hence, contrast training is such an efficient system and an awesome addition to your weekly workout routine no matter what your fitness goal, Lauder-Dykes says.
Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here – we've got something for everyone.
20-Minute Contrast Training Workout
Whether your aim is building strength, increasing explosive power or boosting speed, this time-efficient contrast training workout by Lauder-Dykes can help you do it. All you need is 20 minutes and a pair of dumbbells.
Before you jump in, start with the core-bracing drills below. Do them twice, then move onto the routine, which is broken up into three pairs of exercises (each couple consists of a strength move and a plyometric move). Repeat each pair three times, resting for 2 minutes in between each set.
While combining strength training and plyo work at the same time is economical and effective, it’s also what makes this method more physically demanding, Lauder-Dykes says. To reduce your risk of injury, limit your contrast training workouts to three times a week at maximum, he says.
Similarly, take a break from contrast training after four weeks. This will give your body time to recharge and reset.
Move 1: Wall Plank
- Get down on all fours on the floor with the balls of your feet touching a wall and put your elbows and forearms on a comfortable surface (like a mat, towel or carpeted floor).
- Extend your legs back behind you, pushing your feet against the wall, and lift into a plank, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Keep your neck in neutral alignment by looking at your hands.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds. Keep your hips level and squared to the ground and don't let your lower back arch.
Move 2: Dead Bug
- Lie flat on your back with your arms reaching straight toward the ceiling.
- Lift your feet off the ground so your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your lower back in contact with the floor throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Slowly and with control, extend one arm and the opposite leg away from each other.
- Lower your limbs as far as you can while keeping your lower back on the ground. Fight the impulse to arch your back by tightening your abs, pressing your bellybutton down to anchor your lower back to the floor.
- Exhale as you return your arm and leg to the starting position with the same slow, controlled movement.
- Repeat with the other arm and leg, then return to the center again. This is 1 rep. Continue for 60 seconds.
Move 3: Dumbbell Rack March
- Start standing and hold a dumbbell sideways with your hands at each end at chest height.
- Brace your core to keep the weight in place as you begin to march, driving your knees up to your waist.
- Continue alternating legs for 60 seconds.
Pair 1: Goblet Squat + Squat Jump
Move 1: Goblet Squat
- Stand with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward or outward slightly. Hold a dumbbell securely with both hands at chest height and your elbows close to your sides.
- Keeping your feet flat on the floor and your back straight, brace your core and push your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go).
- Pause here for a brief moment, then drive through your heels to stand back up.
- Do 8 reps.
Move 2: Squat Jump
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward or outward slightly.
- Keeping your feet flat on the floor and back straight, brace your core and push your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go).
- From the bottom of your squat, push through your feet to jump explosively off the ground. (You can extend arms down along the sides as you do so.)
- Land safely with your knees slightly bent.
- Do 6 reps.
Pair 2: Dumbbell Deadlift + Dumbbell Snatch
Move 1: Dumbbell Deadlift
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs, palms facing your body.
- Push your hips back behind you and soften your knees to lower the weights toward the middle of your shins.
- Check your posture: Your spine should be straight and long with your shoulders pinned back and down. The dip in your lower body should be very minimal. Brace your core to maintain this position.
- With your weight centered between your heels and the balls of your feet, drive your feet into the floor to stand up as tall as possible. Imagine you are trying to push the floor away.
- Reverse the motion to lower the weights with control.
- Do 8 reps.
Move 2: Dumbbell Snatch
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place the dumbbell between the arches of your feet.
- Bend your knees and hinge your hips back, keeping your back flat and your shoulders above your hips. Hold the dumbbell with your left hand and extend the right arm out to the side to keep your shoulders square.
- Packing your shoulders back and down, drive through your legs and core to zip the dumbbell up toward your shoulders to perform a high pull.
- Then, quickly flip your elbow underneath your shoulders and punch through to press the dumbbell overhead.
- Reverse this motion and bring the dumbbell back to the starting position.
- Do 3 reps on each side for a total of 6 reps.
Pair 3: Alternating Reverse Lunge + Broad Jump to Backpedal
Move 1: Alternating Reverse Lunge
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, arms at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Step with your right leg 3 feet behind you and bend your knees until they form 90-degree angles. Your back knee should touch the ground and your front thigh should be parallel to the ground.
- Keep most of your weight in the front leg as you press into your left heel and straighten your left leg.
- Bring the right leg back to the starting position and stand up.
- Repeat the motion with the opposite leg.
- Do 8 reps total.
Move 2: Broad Jump to Backpedal
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Swing your arms down and back as you bend at your hips and knees to come into a shallow squat.
- Thrust your arms up and jump forward as far as you can. Try to land softly, bending your knees in a squat to absorb the impact.
- Stand upright and quickly shuffle backward to the starting position.
- This is 1 rep. Do 6 reps.