The Importance of Complex Training in Developing Rate of Force Development and Explosive Power

It is no secret that athletes who are larger, stronger, faster and more powerful than their opponents have a higher success rate in sports competition. For most sports competition, however, it seems that the distinguishing factor that improves athletic performance is increased speed and power (Tricoli, Lamas, Carnevale, & Urgrinowitsch, 2005). The ability to jump, sprint, shot-put, throw the javelin, or perform fast starts are a few examples of an athlete’s conversion of energy into muscular power. Muscular power is defined as the time-rate for doing work (Hatfield, 1989). Increasing muscular power results in a concomitant improvement in techniques that are necessary for sport success. For example, increasing muscular power improves an athlete’s first-step quickness, agility, top-end speed, and vertical jump performance. In today’s ultra-competitive sports environment, all of these variables are critical for success.

Sport coaches and athletes are constantly searching for effective methods of improving sport-specific power and rate of force development. However, there is a great deal of controversy among sports conditioning professionals regarding the effectiveness of various methods used to improve power and rate of force development. One of those methods is complex training.

According to Baechle and Earle (2002), many athletes successfully improve rafetof force development and power output from baseline using complex training methodology in their strength and conditioning programs. Introduced by Verkhoshansky in 1966, complex training is a method that alternates biomechanically comparable high load weightlifting or resistance exercises and plyometric drills in the same training session (Ebben, Jensen, & Blackard, 2000). An example of complex training would include performing a set of back squats at 85% of one repetition maximum (high resistance) followed by a set of box jumps or barbell jump squats. Similarly, another example would include performing a set of barbell bench press followed by a set of plyometric push-ups.  We can even see complex training methods used on the playing field. Prior to going to the plate for an “at bat”, a baseball player may swing a bat with a weighted ring attached for his practice swings. When using a heavier bat, the player’s warm-up set becomes the heavy resistance set. The actual “at bat” with a regular bat is the power set. The hitter generates more power during the swing at the plate creating more bat speed and consequently hits the baseball further. This is complex training!

Example of complex training pair designed to improve acceleration and rate of force development-

A1. Hex Bar Dead Lift  4 x 3 (85%)

Paired w/ Rest 2:00 

A2. Seated Box Jump 4 x 5 (25% of Body Weight)

Example of complex training pair designed to improve top-end speed-

A1. Barbell Squat   4 x 3 (85%)

Paired w/ Rest 2:00

A2. Linear Hurdle Jump Rebound 4 x 5 (Body Weight)



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