The Potential of Potentiation


After discussing this with John Grace I figured this would be a nice follow up to one of his most recent blogs on ELITETRACK. The following is a preview of some of the material from my book The Sprinter’s Compendium. The material below comes from a sub section of my chapter on warm ups.

Post Activation Potentiation (PAP) is a nervous system phenomenon that can be used to improve performance in speed power events. Essentially, with a larger load then traditionally experienced in a sporting event the bodies Central Nervous System (CNS) will respond by providing a temporary improved power output. Most commonly sprinters can initiate the bodies Post Activation Potentiation with depth jumps, weighted vest, or heavy medicine ball. Studies are still needed to get the best possible data on PAP to maximize its effectiveness for coaching. However, current studies have discovered some useful hints. PAP is real but is not long lasting. Data would suggest your performance needs to happen shortly after activities to elicit PAP. The more specific the drill the better the PAP will be for the sport you’re competing. For example, counter movement jump works best with jumping; slightly heavier implements work better with throws, etc. Evidence of PAP’s benefits was seen in the research study Acute Effects of Different Warm-Up Protocols With And Without A Weighted Vest On Jumping Performance in Athletic Women by ARNE G. THOMPSEN, TED KACKLEY, MELINDA A. PALUMBO, AND AVERY D. FAIGENBAUM the warm up with a weight vest resulted in a 2.5% better performance in long jump distances. Standing long jump marks are a great measuring tool for a sprinters potential starting strength and block clearance. The loading for PAP must be appropriate.

One particular study showed interesting data on PAP with 4 rep max load squat and 100 meter sprint times. The research article showed a .2 tenths of a second improvement for the 100 with a 4 rep max squat load before a timed 100 dash with college woman. Certainly, PAP is something to be experimented with as we know a .2 difference in the 100 dash at the highest levels is an incredible time differential. More on this study can be found in the research article Effects of preload 4 repetition maximum on 100-m sprint times in collegiate women. Linder EE, Prins JH, Murata NM, Derenne C, Morgan CF, Solomon JR. SourceDepartment of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. I would not use this as a training method without some serious experimentation. It could also be impractical at meets because very few people would have access to a squat rack let alone be able to time the PAP to be useful in a meet. However, PAP is real and can be taken advantage of with counter movement jumps, weight vest, or heavy medicine ball.

As a coach trying to use PAP I would start my sprinters with a weight vest, medicine ball, or sled at 10% body weight when experimenting to find what works best. Any larger of a load during your PAP work could potentially exhaust the nervous system and get diminishing returns. It is important to note 10% body weight as a load has shown to elicit PAP in some studies when the speed of movement is appropriate. If you mistakenly use to large of a load it could potentially cause injury. PAP experimentation should be done with consistent conditions along with timing systems like FreeLap.

For more on the Freelap timing system and its application in practice please visit A good choice for a repeatable test can be timed 30meter(Standing and Flying) trials. Activities used for PAP can be modified accelerations with a weighted vest; depth/counter movement jumps from a box and my favorite a Heavy Over the Head Medicine Ball Toss Sprint Combo.

Timing is important when doing these activities to elicit PAP. A coach and athlete must consider the positive effects of post active potentiation has shown to last between 4 to 6 minutes and other studies show PAP arrives at 8mins the disapears at 12mins.  The amount of time that PAP lasts is not long when you consider meet conditions. This limited amount of time leaves very little margin for error. Therefore, it’s important the athletes in practice and a meet do their PAP activities at the correct time. Timing factors and activity choice for PAP in meet like conditions will take some trial and error. These activities done properly can truly improve power output for sprinting performance.

NOTE: It is important to experiment with PAP in a practice first before attempting to take advantage of it in an actual competition. I would suggest using a time trial/testing to figure out what PAP methods works best for your event/warm up.