What is Power?


Power is the product of force times velocity. Force is found by dividing time by the amount of work we produce. And velocity is found by dividing time by force, plus displacement.


In other words, the moving of ourselves from one position to another.


Power = Force x Velocity


In order to create power and then to translate that to activity, we must first look at our body’s abilities and to learn and develop a few things:


  • You must know how to transfer forces in your body. An example of this is absorbing the weight during a descent of a squat, and then shifting your force to explode out of the hole.


  • You must have a solid base of muscle and neural understanding built before you can truly dive into specialized power training. You will need to understand each movement and how to execute them properly while maintaining control throughout the entire movement.


  • You need to understand what you are going to put yourself through, and how your body is going to respond to the training. Structured programming is absolutely essential. Haphazard programming can end in overuse, regression and injury setbacks.


What is Post-Activation Potentiation?


Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP) is a style of training that develops power. Basically, it’s the pairing of a heavy-loaded strength movement and an explosive, plyometric movement.


PAP creates a higher neural drive that brings about more muscle recruitment. This is accomplished by pairing a strength movement and a complimentary plyometric movement together. With increased muscle recruitment and neural drive, you will be able to perform at much higher levels than before.


There are four key points that you must consider when programming PAP:


Your Training Age

Training Volume

Exercise Selection

Training Cycle


Your Training Age


You must have the training history to support the stress PAP is going to put on your body. In most cases, athletes will be perfectly fine with using traditional methods of training power, but PAP is demanding and may be overreaching. Take stock and be aware of your abilities and capabilities.


For example, if you are newer and haven’t built a solid base of muscle, PAP training will most likely not be needed for growth. You must first focus of the fundamentals and build a solid foundation. Newer athletes can also improve by doing progressions through basic plyometrics and see great progress. Such as starting with regular jumping movements, then moving on to box jumps, and then on to depth jumps.


Training Volume


PAP style training demands much more from the muscular and nervous systems. You cannot just jump in the deep end here. Too much volume will actually have negative effects and will result in possible injury, overtraining and regression.


On your training day, you will have to account for the volume you’re going to program for that particular day. It is recommended that after PAP training, you drop your accessories to about 60% of normal volume, which in turn will help save the nervous system. With many athletes, it is actually counterproductive to be sore for multiple days after one workout.


Exercise Selection


Exercises should be selected that are transferable to the task at hand and that are going to create a carryover for you and your activity. If you program exercises where the you don’t find carryover with, or aren’t proficient in (for example, doing depth jumps without mastering the depth jump) you will be wasting training time and putting yourself at risk of causing possible injury.


Training Cycle


PAP focused training works best when you are in the off-season. Once in-season kicks in, the sport and maintenance are the main concerns. The added neural stress associated with PAP combined with the stresses of the in-season can be counterproductive and will result in over training and performance fatigued. Off-season programming provides you with ample time and allows you to build up to PAP training.


Once you’ve considered these four factors into your program, you can then start to implicate PAP style training.

Example Training Blocks of Post-Activation Potentiation

Lower Body Sample 1:

Back Squat x 3 reps (85% 1RM)

Rest 15-sec – Then:

Hurdle Jumps x 3

4-minute rest

Regarding the number of sets, If you are a well-trained athlete, program 3-5 sets, if you are less trained, program 1-2 sets.


Bar Speed should be relatively quick. A 2-3 second eccentric phase is a good tempo for speed. The reason for this, and with all types of PAP combinations, is the longer you put the body under the heavy load, the lower your performance will go down in the plyometrics.


You want to increase drive and stimulation, but not cross over the fine line into a fatigued state.


You must not perform the plyometric in a fatigued state. It is absolutely essential that you perform it as fast and explosively as possible. You are training your neural pathways to react quickly. Train fast, be fast, train slow, and you will be slow.


Lower Body Sample 2:

Front Squat x 4 reps (75%-1rm)

Rest 15-sec – Then:

Broad Jumps x 5

4-minute rest

The Front Squat is a great way to train your Quads and your Posterior Chain. The front loading also works on core stability and upright posture. These are all important components for explosive movement mechanics.


Also, most athletes will be doing less weight with the Front Squat compared to the Back Squat. This is useful for athletes who require less muscle gain, through the means of loading the hips and spine.


Lower Body Sample 3


Barbell Side Step Up x 3 (70%-1rm)


Rest 15-sec – Then:


Single Leg Box Jump x 3


4-minute rest


While unilateral lifts of this type of load should be used sparingly, this is a great exercise pairing for a well-trained athlete lacking unilateral explosiveness.


The side step up paired with a single leg box jump is a fantastic pairing because, while it’s demanding on the body, if done properly the athlete really has to focus on developing unilateral power with proper mechanics.


The PAP approach is not limited to the Lower Body. Upper body strength is one of the most underrated components of developing speed and all round power. Understandably, much of the PAP attention is on the lower extremities but a strong upper body is essential for an explosive whole body.


Upper Body PAP Pairings:


Bench Press – Plyometric (Hand Clap) Push Ups


Overhead Push Press – Vertical Med Ball Throw


Weighted Chins – Ball Slams


With Post-Activation Potentiation training, speed development is the main focus. But you must balance structural development of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments with targeted strength and accessory work for both the upper and the lower body. Once your house is in order, PAP will truly empower your performance and take your explosive power to the next level and beyond.


Field Athlete