Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dissecting the French Contrast

When I was an intern at the University of Minnesota back in 2009, I had the opportunity to work under renown S&C coach Cal Dietz.  Cal is known for his Tri-Phasic training principles, and within the tri-phasic program he has taken The French contrast method and brought it to public awareness. 

The French Contrast was originally developed by the French track and field coach, Gilles Cometti, but it has been Dietz who has taken this method and molded into a digestible piece of for S&C coaches. 
The concept of the French Contrast is it’s a combination of complex and contrast methods, molded into one.  The idea is to use 4 exercises, to push the physiological responses of the athlete and train all along the force-velocity curve.
Here is Dietz chart from Tri-Phasic as his parameter for developing a French Contrast.  As you can see, you go from a heavy compound lift and follow it up with a plyometric activity (complex training).  Then you perform a power movement with about a 30% load (contrast training from main compound), and finally finish it up with an Accelerated or Assisted plyometric activity. 

(Photo Credit: Triphasic Training - Cal Dietz)

As I’ve gone through years and years of playing around with the French Contrast, I’ve made some modifications in terms of order, rest periods, different names, and specifications for certain types of athletes.  Much is still the same, but what I tend to do now is just travel right down the F-V curve, but I also allow 30-40 seconds between each exercises – Deitz recommends only about 5-10 seconds of rest.

So here’s what our typical template will look like.

Now with many exercises, you can’t always perform an assisted method, so in those cases this is what our template looks like.

Now most templates I’ve seen on the French Contrast are the exact same, and lack some specificity to the athletes adaptation needs.  The lower body protocol is typically the approach I see, but as you will see we’ve rounded up a small sample of protocols we’ll use for specific adaptations or for specific athletes’ needs.   

Before we start, understand the French Contrast is not for novice athletes – it’s for athletes with some solid experience and good levels of strength.  With that being said, I still use this with young athletes (9-10th Grade) who have been with me for sometime and exhibit proficiency in their movements.  On the other hand, just because I have a Senior in college or a professional athlete, doesn’t mean I’ll use the French Contrast – again as long as they exhibit quality movement and have solid strength levels I’ll program some different French Contrast protocols - it comes down to demonstrating movement competency rather than just purely age.  

Lower Body Protocol

1. Back Squat
2. Hex Bar Jump Squat
3. Hurdle Hops
4. Band Assisted Jump Squat

Upper Body Protocol 

1. Swiss Bar Bench Press
2. Explosive Bench Push-Ups
3. Supine Med Ball Punch
4. Band Assisted Push-Ups

Single Leg Strength Protocol

1. Split Squat
2. Lunge Jumps
3. S/L Hurdle Hops
4. Band Assisted Split Squat

Max Velocity #1 Protocol
  1. Step-Up
  2. Sprinters Step-Up
  3. Single Leg Bound
  4. Wickets or Flying 10-20's

Max Velocity #2 

1. Band RDL
2. Lunge Scissor Jumps
3. Speed Reverse Hyper
4. Wickets or Flying 10-20's

Acceleration Protocol

1. Hip Thrust
2. Jammer Sprint
3. Single Leg Sled Bound
4. Band Assisted Acceleration

Acceleration #2

1. S/L Hip Thrust
2. Band Accel
3. Alternating Bound
4. Falling Start

Vertical Protocol

1. Hex Bar Deadlift
2. Band Resisted Jump Squat
3. Depth Jump
4. Band Assisted Jump Squat

Horizontal Protocol 

1. Hip Thrust
2. Band Resisted SLJ
3. Repeated Sled SLJ
4. Repeated 3-SLJ

Lateral Protocol 

1. Lateral Lunge
2. Lateral Sled Pull
3. Heidens
4. Russian Plyo’s

Rotational Protocol

1. Lateral Lunge
2. Jammer Rotate & Punch
3. Lateral Bound to Med Ball Punch
4. Lateral Rotational Bound

Go Get 'Em!


  1. hey thanks for the great summary, cool protocols! what would be your weekly split lets say for a basketball player in off-season?

  2. Peter, depends on a number of factors but we'll throw in French Complexes during Isometric Phases, Eccentric Phases, and Peaking phases. I would say we typically throw them in 2xweek with a different protocol emphasis… so Monday might be a vertical protocol and Friday might be a lateral protocol.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to lay out some excellent protocols. I have a question for you. What protocol would be appropriate for a football player trying to run a faster 40 yard time in the off season? How many times a week should I train a week? I access to everything, except the jammer machine.

    1. Sedric, the best would be Max Velo #1 & #2, Acceleration #2, and Horizontal.

      Perform these 2-3 times per week

  4. what would be your weekly split lets say for a basketball player in off-season?

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  5. What would you recommend for a hockey player to develop a powerful stride to breakaway from players and overall explosion in his stride?