Post-Activation Potentiation

The theory and practice of Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP) revolves around prepping the nervous system for heavier maximal loads. This is known as Post-Tetanic Facilitation, this states if you lift a heavy amount usually a single, double or triple-you'll be able to lift a heavier amount with a higher rep range (ex: you'll be able to lift a heavier 6 rep after a heavy single, as opposed to just doing 6's) or create more power if you're doing a plyometric. In summary it's the method of priming the nervous system by creating a more effective neural drive.

When working with our athletes we facilitate this into the programs of some of our most elite players. They don't realize it at the time, but they're practicing a method that has long been used to create power and strength increases in a plethora of athletes. Hockey players have a demand for strength and speed in their game, thus making our form of PAP a useful tactic for increasing both at once.

An example of PAP we use with our athletes...

A1. Back squat - 3 reps, 40X0, 10 sec rest, 8 sets

A2. Depth jump - 6 reps, X, 4 min rest, 8 sets

Another example might be...

A1. High handle sled push - 10 meters, X, 0 sec, 10 sets

A2. Sprint - 10 meters, X, 3 minute rest, 10 sets

This example includes a heavy strength movement (3 rep back squat) and a plyometric (depth jump), both effective for hockey players. We combine these movements to increase a player's recruitment of muscle fibers when producing power. It's important to point out the rest time in-between each set--make sure to take a longer rest after the second movement when practicing PAP. The reason for this is the increased demand on neural drive, the body needs adequate rest to keep performing at an efficient rate.

PAP can be an effective change up when increasing one's strength/power production. It can be used combining different movements other than the one's used above (ex: 1 rep back squat, followed by a 6 rep back squat). It's also important to note that this method should be used sparingly, it's taxing on the nervous system and should be used strategically with your in/off-season schedules--this will help avoid burnout or any form of strength backtracking.

Important takeaways

  1. Use sparingly, there's a time and place in everyone's training program when PAP could be more or less effective.
  2. Allow adequate rest time.
  3. Combine movements that benefit and facilitate well together.
  4. If you're new to lifting this method won't benefit you as much as an advanced, trained athlete.