Complex Training is the pairing of a Plyometric movement (a type of exercise that uses explosive movements to develop muscular power) with a biomechanically similar strength movement. Although complex training methods vary in exercise order and rest intervals, for the purpose of this article focus will be on a low RM strength exercise followed immediately by a similar plyometric exercise. Additionally, focus will be on the long term chronic effects of complex training as a training parameter and not the acute effects on performance.
WHY INCORPORATE COMPLEX TRAINING INTO YOUR TRAINING?
The logic behind these matched pairs of exercises is that the resistance work gets the nervous system into full action leading to a greater training benefit. Complex training takes advantage of post-activation potentiation (PAP), which is the transient increase in muscle contractile performance after previous contractile activity. The increase in performance is due to greater Ca2+ sensitivity in the muscle and greater recruitment of muscle fibers. PAP increases the rate of force development and thus increases speed and power. The rationale is that by repeating PAP exercises, complex training will produce long-term changes in the ability of a muscle to generate power[i].
To develop the rate of force development, and therefore increase strength and speed, the Type IIb muscle fibers need to be targeted as these are ones that produce force most explosively allowing for maximum power. Additionally, PAP itself is greater in type II fibers. The sorts of exercises that develop the Type IIb fibers are:
- Speed strength exercises, e.g. weighted squats jumps
Plyometric exercises, e.g. bounding.
WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?
There have been a variety of experiments done on the result of complex workouts. Because of the differences in experimental procedures, there have been a range of outcomes. However, when the relevant experiments are narrowed down to those using experienced athletes and using a consistent workout plan of a 3-6 RM (at least 60% of 1RM)[i] followed by a similar plyometric exercise, there does seem to be a consensus. One study conducted at the University of Utah by Adams et al. (1992); utilizing 48 male subjects, found that those who trained using a combination of squat exercises and plyometric exercises increased their vertical jump significantly (10.67 cm) over those who trained on squats (3.30 cm) and plyometrics (3.81 cm) alone, over a six week period. This seems to be the only comprehensive long-term experiment done on Complex training; the benefits of complex training to sport performance is unknown.
Complex training has been shown to increase vertical jump in both acute and chronic adaptation, and may have the most benefit in sports that involve short-term power events.
HOW TO INCORPORATE
There is evidence that complex training only increases plyometric ability in strong, well- trained athletes[iv],[v], so it should be reserved for experienced lifters and performed near the end of the off-season. As complex training is most beneficial to type II fibers, it is not time efficient to perform complex exercises for predominantly slow twitch muscles, and results may not be seen in individuals with a greater percentage of slow twitch. In addition, females may not show significant strength gains from complex training and prepubescent people should never complete complex training.
Complex training should be done fresh (first in a workout), on a rested body that has not recently performed exhaustive aerobic exercise. Avoid static stretching before or during complex training (reduces force production potential). Always go for quality: all reps should focus on explosiveness with enough rest.
Complex training is usually done in the specific phase just prior to season. The exercises are specific to each sport. Typical complex set: 5RM squat (at least 70% of 1RM) immediately (10-15 sec, longer you wait, more PAP dissipates) followed by 5 jump squats, then rest for 3min.
[i] J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Feb;19(1):135-9. Short-term effects of selected exercise and load in contrast training on vertical jump performance.
[ii] J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Nov; 14(4):470-476
[iii] J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Feb; 17(1):68-71
|Chiu LZ, Fry AC, Weiss LW, Schilling BK, Brown LE, Smith SL.||
Related Articles, Links
|Postactivation potentiation response in athletic and recreationally trained individuals.
J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):671-7.
[v] J Strength Cond Res. 2003 May; 17(2):342-344
|Hodgson, Matt; Docherty, David; Robbins, Dan|
|Post-Activation Potentiation: Underlying Physiology and Implications for Motor Performance.[Review]|
|Sports Medicine. 35(7):585-595, 2005.|