Complex Training

Joe Kenn | Vice President of Performance Education


The greatest thing about training sporting athletes is the creativity there is in programming. Working to put the best practices available to create a plan to allow the athlete to enhance their physical and mental capabilities is an exciting process. One training modality that I prescribe at different times of the competitive year is, Complex Training.


Complex Training, which has also been called contrast training or post-activation potentiation training, is a unique form of pairing movements. In strength training programming, you will hear about pairing, super setting, and giant sets of strength training exercises. Complex Training integrates a strength training movement paired with a plyometric movement with a goal to improve explosive power.


I have read and seen several ways coaches and athletes have implemented complex training into their programming. The standard pairing is a strength training movement followed by the plyometric movement. These movements are usually biomechanically similar. Generally, the strength movement will be performed at percentage in the mid 80’s plus, followed by a 3-4-minute rest, and then a maximal effort jump attempt.


“As the muscles have been intensely activated by the strength exercise, this develops in the muscles a greater potential to apply force than they would have normally. This added potential to apply force is called post-activation potentiation (PAP). It is the fundamental basis of complex training. This potential to apply force, generated by the strength exercise, is utilized by the athlete in the plyometric exercise to boost their power output to a level greater than it otherwise would have been had they been doing plyometrics alone.” (Wikipedia)

The majority of my experience with complex training has been utilizing a counter movement Hang Clean (“drop and go”) with a max effort vertical jump. I began examining the Clean Grip Snatch and Vertical Jump complex this summer (see below) I consider this a strength-speed complex as the strength movement was performed before the speed (plyometric) movement. I prefer to utilize a shorter rest period between movements to simulate game activity for the athlete.


The plyometric activity would take place within 30 seconds of the completion of the strength movement. I prefer to utilize a more dynamic approach to the strength movement with the percentages being less than the general guidelines and stick to 1-2 repetitions per set. I will prescribe this rotation for 10-15 sets for power capacity work closer to the start of training camps and 6-8 sets during developmental periods.


There is definitely merit in utilizing this type of training to increase jump distance, which usually means you have increased an athlete’s power/explosiveness. If you are interested in this type of training, I highly recommend a search on complex training to get more detailed information on prescription and application.

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