A 2002 study by Maffiuletti et al. titled
Effect of combined electrostimulation and plyometric training on vertical jump height took an interesting spin on complex training. Rather than combining plyometrics with the muscle contractions caused by lifting weights, they combined it with muscle contractions caused by electrostimulation. The results were impressive: a 21% gain in vertical jumping ability in just four weeks of thrice-weekly training. This is significant when you consider that vertical jump height is known to be one of the best indicators of overall athletic ability. The problem, of course, is that it just ain’t practical for the rest of us to go getting electrostimulation machines and strapping in to them three times a week.
A 1996 study by Holcomb et al titled The Effectiveness of a Modified Plyometric Program on Power and the Vertical Jump found nothing very interesting, just that people become more powerful when they do plyometrics or weight training. The aim of the study was to compare the effectiveness of different plyometric drills, but they found no significant differences, and even if they had, their sample sizes are so small it would not be very telling.
A Comparison of Plyometric Training Techniques for Improving Vertical Jump Abilityand Energy Production was published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 1998. It compared the effectiveness of depth jumps, the orignal Soviet plyometrics exercise, and in my opinion still the best, to tat of countermovement jumps, which is simply jumping from a standing position with a slight duck first. Not surprisingly, depth jumps proved more effective than countermovement jumps
Does plyometric training improve vertical jump height was a meta-analysis that pooled the results of 26 studies on the effects of different plyometric exercises on vertical jump ability.
The Optimal Complex Training Rest Interval for Athletes From Anaerobic Sports was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2006.
Complex training by definition involves doing a strength exercise, waiting a while, then doing a plyometric exercise. The researchers aimed to find out how long this wait should be. They got very messy results, from which it is hard to draw any conclusions. The take-home point for your own training is that you will have to experiment to find out the optimal training interval for you.
A review of combined weight training and plyometric training modes: Complex training is a 1998 article by William P. Ebben, and Phillip B. Watts. It give an overview of the effects, possible mechanisms, and practical considerations involved in combining weight training and plyometrics. Highly recommended.
Complex Training: A Brief Review was published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine in 2002. It was written by William P. Ebben, also the author of A review of combined weight training and plyometric training modes: Complex training. This article reviews research on the acute effects of weight training on performance in plyometric exercises, both for the upper and lower body. It then looks at the research on the more long-term adaptive responses to complex training programs. The review of the research suggests that 3-4 minutes of rest between weights and plyometric exercises may be optimal, that complex training may be more effective for men than women, and that the more strength the athlete has to begin with, the more effective plyometrics is likely to be.
Soviet Strength and Conditioning: Complex Training was published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 1986, during the Cold War. The researchers has travelled to the Moscow Institute of Sport to learn about the training methods of the now-legendary Dr Yuri Vehoshansky, author of Supertraining. They give a brief description of the methods of combining explosive power and slow strength training exercises into complex sets, and of combining sets for antagonistic groups of muscles.
Complex Training Revisited: A Review of its Current Status as a Viable Training Approach was published in Strength and Conditioning Journal in 2005. This goes into detail about the physiology of ‘postactivation potentiation’, a possible explanation for the effectiveness of complex training.
Effects of Complex Training on Explosive Strength in Adolescent Male Basketball Players. A ten-week intervention studdy tthat found a significant increase in upper-body and lower-body explosive power in 14-15 year old male basketball players given complex training compared to controls.
Comparing Short-Term Complex and Compound Training Programs on Vertical Jump Height and Power Output is a particularly interesting study because it isolated the variable of doing plyometrics and weight training consecutively. The ‘complex training’ group did weight training followed immediately by plyometrics and increased vertical jump height by 9% in three weeks. The ‘compound training’ group did exactly the same amount of work, but on a different schedule, one where plyometrics and weights were ddone on different days, and they improved jump height by 5%.
Identifying the optimal resistive load for complex training in male rugby players is a useful study. There is some doubt as to whether very heavy weights should be used in complex training to best potentiate the muscles, or whether medium weights should be used to avoid exhaustion. This study aimed to clear up this doubt. They compared complex training consisting of a drop jump done after three reps of squats using either 65%, 80% or 93% of the max. The answer? The heaviest weights produced the biggest acute increases in drop jump performance.
Analysis of Acute Explosive Training Modalities To Improve Lower-Body Power in Baseball Players divided baseball players up into three groups: one that only did weights, one that only did plyometrics, and one that did both together in a complex. The complex training group showed the biggest gains.
Complex Training with Combined Explosive Weight Training and Plyometric Exercises was written by William P. Ebben, one of the big names in recent research in plyometrics and complex training.
We know that strength training like squats combines well with plyometrics. This paper asks an intriguing question: What if explosive Olympic-style weightlifting combined with plyometrics forms an even more potent cocktail?
The authors introduce the helpful vocabulary of a maximal strength exercise (like a squat) plus a plyometric exercise (like a depth jump) forming a ‘complex pair’. They suggest this could be combined with an explosive weightlifting movement to for a ‘complex triad’. It seems very likely that this would be effective, though hard data is lacking.