Oct 27, 2016
Contrast Training
Cameron Davidson

When I started working with Pennsylvania State University women’s volleyball in 2009, the team was coming off back-to-back NCAA Division I national championships. My job was to help continue the tradition of one of the most successful volleyball programs in the country. No pressure, right? Fortunately, my philosophy aligned with the team’s high expectations, and the squad extended its streak with titles in 2009 and 2010, before tacking on two more in 2013 and 2014.

So how did I go about making an already elite program even better? I focused on developing what I call “volleyball-tough athletes.” This means improving the skills needed to play at the highest level, such as having an explosive first step, jumping high, taking big swings over the block, and maintaining body control when blocking.

One of the ways we do that is through year-round training. And once our preseason training block starts in July, we use contrast training. Using this method, athletes superset a heavy exercise with a light, explosive one. When compared to maximal effort and/or dynamic training, contrast training has been shown to foster better results in rate of force production and jumping performance. The ability to generate force quicker gives our athletes the opportunity to get to balls faster, hit harder, and jump higher.

Below is a sample contrast training workout from the Pennsylvania State University women’s volleyball team’s preseason plan.

Heavy: Anterior loaded split-squat – 5×3 each leg

Explosive: Split-stance broad jumps – 5×2 each leg

Strength: Feet-elevated push-ups – 4×5

Auxiliary: Ring Y-raise – 4×8

Auxiliary: Single-leg band hip thrust – 4×8 each leg

Strength: Split-stance single-arm dumbbell row – 3×10 each arm

Auxiliary: Wide stance anti-rotational chop – 3×10 each way

Auxiliary: Goblet squat – 3×8

Auxiliary: Hanging breathing alt-leg raise – 3×4 each

Cameron Davidson, MS, CSCS, SCCC, USAW, is Performance Enhancement Coach for Pennsylvania State University women's volleyball, men's ice hockey, and track and field.

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