Post Activation Potentiation for Vertical Jump Performance

>> December 07, 2018

Many sports require explosive power as a foundational element of movements. As power is highly related to sports performance, it is important to carefully look into factors that can optimize muscular force and power (training performance) in order to maximize training effectiveness.

At present, coaches use post-activation potentiation (PAP) to achieve this intent.

The theory behind PAP sounds like "contractile history of a muscle influences the performance of subsequent muscle contractions" as described by Robbins (2005). In other words, PAP is a phenomenon where a more powerful contraction of muscle can be produced as a result of its previous muscular (i.e. conditioning) activity.

However, muscle performance can also be impaired by a fatiguing conditioning activity - too much "conditioning" and insufficient rest are not good for PAP.  This warns practitioners that PAP protocol requires a sufficient rest period before performing a subsequent explosive movement.

So what is the best way to perform PAP protocol? Of note, Ben Johnson did not do "3 reps bench press @ 190kg" right before the 100m finals of the 1988 Olympics, as claimed so by some people.

But I had personal communication with German scientist Dietmar Schmidtbleicher who told me, high-caliber athletes, Valeri Borzov and German Bobsleigh team used heavy squat as pre-stimulus to improve their sprint performances.

An example of PAP protocol that can be used to maximize jump height and power production during a vertical jump performance is as follow:

PAP protocol (sequence: a, b, c) for optimizing power production

This protocol is based on a recent study (systematic review and meta-analysis) by Dobbs et al. (2018) that have examined the magnitude of the effect of PAP on explosive vertical power.
A new PAP study by Dobbs et al 2018

The main findings of this study are described, briefly.

If one wishes to apply PAP to improve vertical jump performance, fatigue-potentiation relationship (rest duration between conditioning and actual activities) is critical. This study suggests that when implementing the PAP protocol:

a) length of the rest interval is the most important factor contributing to performance
b) should be done using intensities of at least 80% 1RM, and rest duration of 3-7 minutes
c) done only by trained individuals using dynamic strength movements (e.g. normal squatting exercise), and not isometric.

Enhanced performance is possible when implementing PAP protocol using these strategies. Other PAP protocols include conditioning activity by using the power clean, plyometrics, sleds etc. It is important to know that, according to Robin and Thomas (2017), some athletes are "positive responder" (i.e. performance enhanced after a pre-conditioning activity) to PAP protocol, and others being "negative responder" (performance impaired), "non-responder" (neither enhanced or impaired), and "inconsistent responder" (some days positive the others not).

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