Postactivation Potentiation & Complex Training

An appropriate warm-up prior to physical exertion has been shown to improve subsequent performance however multiple muscular contractions will cause fatigue and reduce subsequent performance capability. If the resultant fatigue can be reduced while still maintaining the "potentiation" caused by prior muscular activity subsequent performance can therefore be increased. This phenomenon has been termed postactivation potentiation

Complex training involves the execution of a heavy strength exercise followed by a biomechanically similar power movement e.g. bench press followed by medicine ball chest pass. The goal of complex training is to use the principles of PAP to potentiate the muscle for subsequent power-based efforts within the prior heavy strength exercise. 

The learning resources below are all on this topic and cover a range of contemporary issues such as what the mechanisms are that lead to PAP, the difference between PAP and PAPE and guidelines related to the exercise prescriptions and timings that have been shown to optimise a PAP effect. 

Key Chapter

Esformes, J.I. and Moody, J. (2021) Postactivation potentiation and its role in performance enhancement. In I. Jeffreys & J. Moody (Eds.), Strength and Conditioning for Sports Performance (2nd Ed.) (pp 535-544). Routledge. 

Image from: Cormier, P., Freitas, T. T., Loturco, I., Turner, A., Virgile, A., Haff, G. G., ... & Bishop, C. (2022). Within session exercise sequencing during programming for complex training: historical perspectives, terminology, and training considerations. Sports Medicine, 52(10), 2371-2389. 

References & Further Reading

Baker, D., and Newton, R.U. (2005) Acute effect on power output of alternating an agonist and antagonist muscle exercise during complex training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 19(1):202–205.;2 

Blazevich, A. J., & Babault, N. (2019). Post-activation potentiation versus post-activation performance enhancement in humans: historical perspective, underlying mechanisms, and current issues. Frontiers in Physiology, 10, 1359. 

Boullosa, D., Beato, M., Iacono, A. D., Cuenca-Fernández, F., Doma, K., Schumann, M., ... & Behm, D. G. (2020). A new taxonomy for postactivation potentiation in sport. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 15(8), 1197-1200.  [commentary on Boullosa et al]

Cormier, P., Freitas, T. T., Loturco, I., Turner, A., Virgile, A., Haff, G. G., ... & Bishop, C. (2022). Within session exercise sequencing during programming for complex training: historical perspectives, terminology, and training considerations. Sports Medicine, 52(10), 2371-2389. 

Cuenca-Fernández, F., Smith, I. C., Jordan, M. J., MacIntosh, B. R., López-Contreras, G., Arellano, R., & Herzog, W. (2017). Nonlocalized postactivation performance enhancement (PAPE) effects in trained athletes: a pilot study. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 42(10), 1122-1125. 

Dobbs, W. C., Tolusso, D. V., Fedewa, M. V., & Esco, M. R. (2019). Effect of postactivation potentiation on explosive vertical jump: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 33(7), 2009-2018. 

Ebben, W.P. (2002) Complex Training: A Brief Review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2002) 1, 42-46 [full text]

Esformes, J. I., Cameron, N., & Bampouras, T. M. (2010). Postactivation potentiation following different modes of exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(7), 1911-1916. 

Healy, R., & Comyns, T. M. (2017). The application of postactivation potentiation methods to improve sprint speed. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 39(1), 1-9. 

Horwarth & Kravitz [no date] Post-activation potentiation - A brief review 

Kilduff, L.P. et al. (2008) Influence of recovery time on post-activation potentiation in professinoal rugby players Journal of Sport Sciences Vol. 26, No. 8, 795-802 

Lorenz, D. (2011). Postactivation potentiation: An introduction. International journal of sports physical therapy, 6(3), 234. 

MacIntosh, B. R., Robillard, M. E., & Tomaras, E. K. (2012). Should postactivation potentiation be the goal of your warm-up?. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 37(3), 546-550. 

MacIntosh, B. R., & Shahi, M. R. S. (2011). A peripheral governor regulates muscle contraction. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 36(1), 1-11. 

McGowan, C. J., Pyne, D. B., Thompson, K. G., & Rattray, B. (2015). Warm-up strategies for sport and exercise: mechanisms and applications. Sports Medicine, 45(11), 1523-1546. 

Ng, C. Y., Chen, S. E., & Lum, D. (2020). Inducing postactivation potentiation with different modes of exercise. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 42(2), 63-81. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000522 

Prieske, O., Behrens, M., Chaabene, H., Granacher, U., & Maffiuletti, N. A. (2020). Time to differentiate postactivation “potentiation” from “performance enhancement” in the strength and conditioning community. Sports Medicine, 50, 1559-1565. 

Robbins, D.W. (2005). Postactivation potentiation and its practical applicability: a brief review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(2), 453-458. 

Santos, E.J.A.M. and Janeira, M.A.A.S. (2008) Effects of complex training on explosive strength in adolescent male basketball players Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Vol.22, No.3, 903-909 

Sale, D. G. (2002). Postactivation potentiation: role in human performance. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 30(3), 138-143. 

Scott, D. J., Ditroilo, M., & Marshall, P. A. (2017). Complex training: the effect of exercise selection and training status on postactivation potentiation in rugby league players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 31(10), 2694-2703. 

Seitz, L. B., de Villarreal, E. S., & Haff, G. G. (2014). The temporal profile of postactivation potentiation is related to strength level. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(3), 706-715. 

Seitz, L. B., & Haff, G. G. (2016). Factors modulating post-activation potentiation of jump, sprint, throw, and upper-body ballistic performances: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 46(2), 231-240. 

Suchomel, T. J., Lamont, H. S., & Moir, G. L. (2016). Understanding vertical jump potentiation: A deterministic model. Sports medicine, 46(6), 809-828. 

Suchomel, T. J., Sato, K., DeWeese, B. H., Ebben, W. P., & Stone, M. H. (2016). Potentiation following ballistic and nonballistic complexes: The effect of strength level. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 30(7), 1825-1833. 

Tillin, N. A., & Bishop, D. (2009). Factors modulating post-activation potentiation and its effect on performance of subsequent explosive activities. Sports Medicine Vol.39, No.2, 147-66.  

Wilson, J. M., Duncan, N. M., Marin, P. J., Brown, L. E., Loenneke, J. P., Wilson, S. M., ... & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2013). Meta-analysis of postactivation potentiation and power: effects of conditioning activity, volume, gender, rest periods, and training status. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(3), 854-859.  doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2bdb  

Zimmermann, H. B., MacIntosh, B. R., & Dal Pupo, J. (2020). Does postactivation potentiation (PAP) increase voluntary performance?. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 45(4), 349-356.