How to Maximize High Quality Reps with Potentiation Clusters

Posted by Matt Jackson on Nov 13, 2017 9:59:44 AM
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As Strength and Conditioning coaches we are always looking to find an advantage in the weight room to help better our teams on the field. As a Strength and Conditioning coach, we are constantly repeating ourselves about how our athletes are performing high quality reps. What is the definition of a high quality rep? A high quality rep is done at maximum power and speed. The problem with this though is that power and speed tend to quickly drop off after two to three reps.

There are a few methods out there that have been proven to work. One such training is complex training or the complex method. A “complex” is a heavy set followed by a plyometric movement that mimics the same pattern (e.g., Heavy Back Squat Pair with a light Squat Jump). Furthermore, the “contrast" method is a Heavy set followed by a drop set (e.g., Heavy Back Squat Pair with an assisted band jump). One other way that has become popular in recent years is French Contrast Method made digestible by Cal Dietz but initially developed by Gilles Cometti a French track and field coach. The French Contrast method is the combinations of both the complex and contrast methods, molded into one. The idea is to push the physiological response of the athlete and train along the force-velocity curve by using four exercises (e.g., compound exercise paired with plyometric, paired with weighted jump, and paired with accelerated plyometric). This is an excellent way for improving sports performance in sports that require high rates of force output. Though the quality of reps drops off as fatigue sets in and this might not be ideal, when trying to peak an athlete.

 

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If the goal is maximizing the number of high quality reps. A better approach that has similar effects as the French Contrast Method is Potentiation Clusters. Potentiation Clusters mostly involve a single rep at maximal intended in the lower 80’s % of 1RM, followed right away by an unweighted max effort Plyometric that mimics the same movement. After resting 20 seconds the pair of exercises is repeated, around six and eight reps. You may be thinking well that’s just two exercises that has rest in the middle, and you are corrected, but it is imported to understand what is going on in your body when you do this.

The first exercise is the priming exercise that stimulates the nervous system for max effort. The theory of loading a movement prior to an explosive action increases motor unit recruitment and the nervous system. The second exercise is the at most important and should be the one you really care about, max effort plyometric, this is where we want to see max quality. One thing to remember is that if maximal intended isn’t given on every rep, the athlete will not see maximal carry over to the field.  So how do you apply this method to your training program? Below I will give you the guidelines and examples of Potentiation Clusters.


Potentiation Clusters Guidelines

When do I apply this Method?

  • It is always imported that your athletes have a good foundation, this being said you could implement the method after six weeks of  strength training of loads at or 80+%.
  • This method is best used as a Peaking method, and there should be a good foundation of strength training.

Can anyone use this Training Method?

  • Yes, after what you read you many only see this method just for advanced athletes with a far amount of experience. The thing to remember is that you are focused on high quality. There for it can be incorporated with the novice athletes. You could implement this when you are about to start bringing plyometric into their program.  

How many Sets?

  • Off-Season- (well trained) (3-4 sets)
  • In-Season/close to competition (1-2 sets)

How Many Reps?

  • 5-8 Reps with 20 seconds in between each rep.

What Should the Load Be?

  • I would recommend that the first two to three weeks I would keep the load at or just below 80%. Then I would drop the weight around 60% for another two to three weeks. Weeks leading up to competition I would cut the load to be around 40-25% range.

How Much Rest?

  • 2-3 mins of active rest

What Exercise can I use?

  • Some examples

                          Priming Exercise

                             Max Effort Plyometric

                                    Power Clean

                                               Hurdle Jumps

                                     Hang Clean           

                                               Vertical Jumps

                                        Snatch

                                                   Box Jumps

                                     Back Squat

                                    Depth Jumps 12-18in high

                                    Front Squat

                                                 Broad Jumps

                                       Deadlift

                                                  Split Jumps



Examples of Potentiation Clusters



  • Acceleration Focus best used during a speed strength cycle

1 Rep Back Squat 65-80% Pair with 1 Box Jump 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Back Squat 65-80% Pair with 1 Box Jump 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Back Squat 65-80% Pair with 1 Box Jump 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Back Squat 65-80% Pair with 1 Box Jump 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Back Squat 65-80% Pair with 1 Box Jump 20 seconds rest

Rest 2-3 mins 2 to 4 sets.


  • Top-end Speed Focus best used during Heavy Strength cycle and looking to develop joint stiffness qualities.

1 Rep Power Clean 65-80% Pair with 1 Hurdle Hop 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Power Clean 65-80% Pair with 1 Hurdle Hop 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Power Clean 65-80% Pair with 1 Hurdle Hop 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Power Clean 65-80% Pair with 1 Hurdle Hop 20 seconds rest

1 Rep Power Clean 65-80% Pair with 1 Hurdle Hop 20 seconds rest

Rest 2-3 mins 2 to 4 sets.


  • Peaking Focus best used two to four weeks before competition

1 Rep WT Squat Jump 30% Pair with 1 Drop Jump 12-18in 20 seconds rest

1 Rep WT Squat Jump 30% Pair with 1 Drop Jump 12-18in 20 seconds rest

1 Rep WT Squat Jump 30% Pair with 1 Drop Jump 12-18in 20 seconds rest

1 Rep WT Squat Jump 30% Pair with 1 Drop Jump 12-18in 20 seconds rest

1 Rep WT Squat Jump 30% Pair with 1 Drop Jump 12-18in 20 seconds rest

Rest 2-3 mins 1 to 3 sets.


In conclusions, Potentiation Clusters are an excellent tool for your coaching tool boxes. If you are looking for high quality reps and want to see your student athlete’s performance increases, I would give this method a try.

Topics: Potentiation Clusters, Maximizing Reps

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