What’s the French Contrast Training Method? Let’s Talk About It

When we hear about ‘French something”, we all assume that it will be something to do with beauty, fashion, art, or food, you know, the joyful parts of life. And so when someone in the gym says they follow the “French Contrast Method Training,” you might go, “What” and shake your head in disbelief. 

To prevent that kind of situation from occurring and to help you learn about one of the most interesting training methods, we’ve prepared this short article. In it, we will be discussing what the French contrast method is, why it’s good for training, and who should follow it. Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished reading, you will be able to determine whether it can benefit your goals or whether you should recommend it to a gym buddy who would find it helpful.

So without stalling further, let’s get started. 

What is the French Contrast Method? 

If you’ve been researching strength training for a while, you’ve likely heard of the idea that exposing muscle to heavy loads and then, shortly after, making it do explosive movement can help produce greater fast-twitch fiber recruitment and a higher degree of stimulation of the nervous system. To say it in simple words – it makes us produce more power.

There are some training methods that use this principle, the most popular ones being the so-called “complex and contrast methods.” The complex method involves the athlete performing a heavy strength exercise and following it up immediately by performing a lighter load power exercise involving the same muscle groups. A good example is doing back squats and then a few box jumps. On the other hand, the contrast method focuses on switching between power and strength exercises every set. 

It all sounds great to this point, right? Well, the French Contrast Method (FCT) combines both contrast and complex training. It’s an advanced training protocol that was first discovered by French track and field coach Gilles Cometti and then gained popularity due to its widespread use at the University of Minnesota. 

How Does the French Contrast Method Work? 

The French Contrast Method usually works like this. Each set of the workout has to include the following:

  • A heavy compound exercise: think about squats, deadlifts, and all kinds of lifts that use multiple muscle groups.
  • A power plyometric movement: That’s typically a movement that forces the athlete to produce a maximum force on each repetition, and it usually has a longer ground contact/stretch reflex time. 
  • A speed-strength move: Usually an exercise that requires the athlete to move at high speed with maximum load.
  • A speed plyometric movement: Most often, it’s an exercise that requires the athlete to accelerate, and it typically utilizes a band to boost speed. 

It’s key to mention that all four exercises in this set have to follow a similar movement pattern – pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, and so on. They should also be performed in this exact order, without too much rest between each movement. Here the key is to pick the most effective exercises, even if they slightly defer from the traditional lifts we do. For example, for the power plyometric movement, you can incorporate a hex bar squat – an extremely effective exercise that’s rarely done in a gym environment. 

By combining all of these different moves in one set, you manage to involve the whole strength-speed/speed-strength spectrum, which over time, can help you get both faster and stronger. 

Examples of French Contrast Method Programming 

To make this training method even more understandable, let’s take a look at some programming examples. That way, you will be able to see the logic that’s followed, and you can decide whether it’s something you want to test out or not.

Example 1: Lower Body Push

Let’s take a look at how you can apply FCT to squatting. This example can be particularly helpful for athletes that want to work on speed and vertical jumping ability. 

1A: Safety bar box squat – 3 reps at 80% of one rep max

1B: Hurdle hops – 3 reps

1C: Resisted sled push – 20 meters

1D: Assisted squat jumps – 5 reps

Example 2: Upper Body Push

This example here showcases how you can apply FCT for athletes that need to either punch, throw or push in their sport. 

1A: Close Grip Barbell Bench Press – 3 reps at 80% of one rep max

1B: Med Ball Chest Pass – 5 reps

1C: Dumbbell Push Press – 5 reps at 60%

1D: Band-assisted plyometric push-up – 5 reps 

In both of these examples, you can clearly see how one muscle group is being targeted in several different ways, which makes it produce more power and can lead to speed and strength gains over time. 

In Conclusion 

We hope that this article helped you learn all about the French Contrast Method. Please share with us in the comments if you’ve used it for your own training needs and what benefits you saw. We would love to hear your thoughts.