Manipulation of Power (Post Activation Potentiation)

Having spent time across multiple sports including boxing, rugby, weightlifting, powerlifting, and other endurance based sports, the greatest aspect to concentrate on is – “in this sport, where should the optimal expression of power be positioned on the force-velocity curve?”


I like to utilise the method of post-activation potentiation (PAP).


What is this? It is a short-term improvement in performance (power exercise) following a conditioning activity (strength exercise). This short-term improvement is thought to be related to an increased potentiation of motor units following a high motor unit activity in the muscle. An example of this is an improvement in counter movement jump following a heavy back squat.

There is quite a lot of evidence showing different effects following a conditioning activity to get the required potentiation which relates to the fitness-fatigue paradigm. I am not going to go into that though.

My research is anecdotal, and comes from experience, with results.

Guidelines on post-activation potentiation are currently unclear but they state anywhere between three (3) and twelve (12) minutes rest following a conditioning activity will elicit the desired response. The stronger an athlete is the better the response. The heavier the weight used, the longer the rest, the lighter the weight, the shorter the rest. I use post-activation potentiation as a velocity-dependent activity.

So here are a couple of steps I take:

  • I determine the depreciation in mean velocity of light to heavy weights. Greater depreciation limits the PAP effect, less depreciation enhances PAP effect.
  • Time within a session; this determines if it is a strength-dominant sessions or velocity-dominant session (think, rest periods).
  • Choose relative exercises; a deadlift and vertical jump is not relative. Deadlift is a hinge, vertical jump is a squat. Deadlift and broad jump is relative.
  • Determine sport relevance; is it a high velocity sport, or high force sport?
  • Last step: training or competition? Can you use this prior to competition? Or do you want to use this short term effect in training for greater effect in competition?


Now I am going to run through each step with examples and you’ll get a good idea of how I utilise PAP throughout training as it can be extensive.


  • When dealing with athletes, there are those that grind weights up and then there are those that lifts weights fast. You can manipulate this with appropriate programming so that the mean velocity at a heavy weight is quite fast. Now if you perform an exercise slowly, the next relative exercise you perform will go slowly. I guarantee you to try this as it will be true. If you squat slowly and lighten the weight your first rep will be slow, the following reps will be faster. In my experience; ensure the athlete can lift without moving through a slow sticking point -then use a weight between 10% and 60% of the maximal weight and you’ll find a good potentiation response. You can also manipulate this to create what I call a (and this is not a scientific name) ‘potentiated potentiation’.
    • When you’re lifting maximum weight and you perform a slow lift, within 60 seconds, cut the weight by 40% and perform two reps fast (remember, the first will be slow), then rest 6 minutes and add weight to your maximum lift. You will not only be stronger, but that lift will be faster than your previous lift.


  • You have two types of sessions; long rest or short rest. The heavier the weights are the longer rest you require before completing a lighter relative exercise. So if you are working with a boxer, the exercises use approximately 70% strength and 10-30% of strength exercises respectively, and this will create a really good velocity-dependant PAP set. These sessions aim to keep velocity high with a short rest period. I use 15-60 second rest periods.
    • Examples of this are: bench press at 70%, count down 15 seconds, strip the bar to 10% on smith machine and then throw as hard as you can. A good test and re test of this is throwing the light weight without completing the prior bench. Mean power will increase approximately 30% after completing the heavy bench press.


Relative exercises are simple so here are some PAP sets I use:

    • Bench press, bench throw (press)
    • Squat, depth jump (squat)
    • Squat, clean (hip extension/squat)
    • Deadlift, broad jump (hinge)
    • Cable pull, med ball wall throw (reverse rotation PAP to forward rotation)
    • Power snatch, med ball wall throw (hip extension)
    • Med ball wall throw, shadow jabs/hooks (hip rotation)


Sport relevance is huge and pretty basic to understand so here are a few examples of intensities:

    • Rugby league – Heavy power clean, heavy squat (reverse PAP)
    • Hockey – deadlift, single leg bounds
    • Boxing – Incline bench press, med ball chest throw
    • Rowing – Banded squat, counter movement jump
    • Tennis – Pullovers, overhead med ball wall throw


Training or competition dictates the intensities you work at and how long the PAP sets will last for. During training the PAP sets should rely on increasing length of power excitation, which can ultimately enhance power within competition. Expression of power will increase so when performing in the sport you will notice a higher level of power and also that it will last for longer. So during training you look for short-term response for long-term benefit.

Competition PAP is different. Research has shown PAP can last for up to 30 minutes after a heavy set of exercise. Rowing, sprinting, any sport lasting a very short period of time can benefit from this. During competition complete a warm up and then finish with heavy sets of something, and then get ready to compete. I won’t list examples of this as it is very specific and you need consult with a professional who knows how to implement PAP for this to work without risking injury.

Post-activation potentiation can be used really well within training but these are a few considerations when implementing it. It can create brilliant results or you could be wasting your time. Consult with an Accredited Sports Scientist on how to get the best out of it. One of my boxer’s hip extension mean velocity went from 3.8m/s to 5.4m/s after implementing PAP within their sessions. Think of that as a preloading for the power required to punch – 5.4m/s behind a punch, plus the speed of the hand throwing at an opponent – quite powerful behind a fast punch.

Implement PAP appropriately and watch the athlete’s performance flourish!

Always consult with a professional, such as an Accredited Sports Scientist, who knows how to implement PAP for this to work without risking injury.