Programming the Novice Power Athlete, Part 2

Field Athlete

Programming the Novice Power Athlete, Part 2

Complex Training


As I said in Part 1, Complex Training is a method of training that was developed in Eastern Europe to blend results of heavy weight training with plyometrics. It consists of four components:


  1. Resistance Training
  2. Plyometric Training
  3. Sprint Training
  4. Sport Specific Training


When these components are worked separately, they will make a good athlete. However, when they are worked together, they will make a great athlete.

Complex Training is a combination of heavy weight training and plyometrics in the same workout session. Plyometrics are used in between sets or even part of the working weight training set. For example, if a workout calls for 4 sets of Squats, the athlete will perform box jumps between sets. This is known as a Complex Training set, and the athlete doing it enjoys the best results and benefits most from their training.


Resistance Training


Resistance Training is not just weight training. It encompasses throwing medicine balls, mobility using tubing and bands and performing body weight exercises.  It is classified as anything that makes a muscle work harder.

Strength training raises the body’s ability to excite the motor neurons by nearly 50%. As a result, this gives the nervous system more involvement in the workout, which in turn, prepares the muscles for even greater challenges.

The activity must be at a high intensity of strength training to achieve best results. The resistance-training portion of the complex training will consist of low repetitions of moderate to heavy loads. This style of training produces the greatest amount of motor neuron firing and muscle fiber recruitment and therefore prepares the body for explosive plyometrics.

For example, you could perform 3 reps with a heavy load as possible in the Bench Press followed by a Medicine Ball Chest Press throwing exercise or Plyometric Push Up for the same muscle.


Plyometric Training


Plyometrics consist of jumping, hopping, skipping and throwing activities designed to make you faster. During the plyometrics component of Complex Training, you must train at maximum explosive speeds for maximum results. If you want your muscles to perform at higher speeds, you must train them at higher speeds.

Whatever you put into your training, you will get out.

When performing quick explosive movements, you must allow for minimal contact for the ground (lower body) or hand contact surface (upper body).

Lower body Plyometric exercises emphasize quick foot movements and the ability to get off the ground quickly. Upper body Plyometric exercises emphasize using medicine balls to teach the muscles to respond more quickly to external forces.


Sprint Training


Speed movement depends on two factors: Stride Length and Stride Frequency.

Stride Frequency is largely dependent on the genetic makeup of your muscle fiber tissue. It can be improved by pushing harder and faster off the ground. It is more difficult to improve stride frequency due to your genetic makeup.

Therefore athletes look to improving Stride Length. An increase in stride length allows athletes to cover the same distance as athletes with greater stride frequency in the same amount of time.

In order to increase the ability to push off the ground with more power, your workouts may have to be shorter but at a much higher intensity with longer rest periods between sets. Quality not quantity is essential here.

Care must be taken as these workouts are extremely stressful on the nervous system. Therefore adequate rest must be taken in between sets. Recovery is paramount. Rest times should vary between 90 and 180 seconds.


Sports Specific Training


When training specifically for your sport, you must try to re-create the exact or very similar movements that are required and occur as part of your sport. The movements must be copied and applied to a working set of resistance training.

Complex training allows the athlete to work muscles in such a way that their slow twitch endurance fibers behave like fast twitch explosive power fibers. It is these fast twitch fibers that are a key to a powerful athlete.

The idea is to stimulate the fibers you want with resistance training, then perform a sports specific movement or movements.

For example, a basketball player or a rugby union lineout jumper needs to train their jump power in order to improve their jump height. The player should perform a heavy set of double or triple Squats or Squat variation and immediately follow this with a set of repeated box jumps or rim jumps. See below for more exercise pairing examples.


Example Pairing Exercises:


  • Front Squat/Box Jumps
  • Bench Press/Medicine Ball Chest Pass
  • Lat Pulldown/Underhand Medicine Ball Throw
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press/Overhead Throw
  • Crunches/Sit-up Pass
  • Incline Bench Press/Plyometric Push-Up
  • Split Squat/Box Jumps/Depth Jumps
  • Seated Cable Row/Standing Backward Medicine Ball Throw
  • Squat/ Lateral Hurdle Hops
  • Hang Cleans/Hurdle Hops


We have only just scratched the surface here. But this is the direction you must go and the steps you must take in order to maximize your potential.

In my facility, and with these programming models and modifications, I have turned average overweight, unconditioned athletes into lean, powerful, functional movement efficient elite machines.

Like everything worthwhile, the challenge is immense, it is difficult but the rewards are great. Be great.