The Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP) Cycle of Field Strong will lean heavily on the fundamentals of Power Athlete programming for the next six weeks, including a lot of hard, heavy, and fast training. The barbell will be loaded up daily through heavy squats, pulls, and presses, paired with dynamic movements and plyometrics to tap into explosive potential. We have some fun training techniques this cycle that prime the Central Nervous System (CNS) to drive the specific adaptations towards increasing your strength and power.
What is Post-Activation Potentiation
Bookworm definition of potentiation: change in the force-velocity characteristics of the muscle’s contractile components caused by a stretch ex. stretch reflex. Post-activation potentiation is when the preparatory stimulus is produced by maximal or dynamic work using heavy weights to elicit a positive after-effect in the CNS, which produces an influence on coordination and an improvement in speed and strength (1).
Each training day you will see barbell movements paired with an explosive, coordination dependent movement like trampoline sprints or shin hops to exploit the after-effect phenomenon of heavy strength work. While you may feel the activation under the barbell the second or third sets where the weight moves faster, we’re actually using the barbell to improve your ability to execute the coordination dependent movement! This approach to training is a great way to target speed development in the weight room, especially when coaching and training athletes remotely. We set you up then set you free to navigate space and solve problems with your body quickly.
The PAP approach is not limited to the lower body this cycle. Upper body strength is one of the most underrated components of developing speed. Much of the attention is on the lower extremities understandably. But there’s so much opportunity for empowering an athlete in training the upper body just as hard, especially with PAP! Sure, you’re upper body is going to get jacked on this cycle’s PAP party. Bonus: you’re also stimulating your CNS which knows GO, not necessarily body parts. We also create a greater capacity for the arms to counter balance (control) the massive tree trunks that we will be coming away with after this cycle. Powerful stuff. This reminded me of a quote from Charlie Francis about the importance of the bench press for his sprinters. Coaches, listen up. Athletes, listen closely too.
“The reasons sprinters do bench press is because High Quality Performances are the result of High Quality Training. What this means is the benching you have a way to quickly develop a large portion of the body and additional CNS Stimulation (which causes greater Super Compensation). The general effect is a stronger bench and bigger upper torso. The specific effect is your body is used to that much more CNS stimulation so when you taper, and drop volume, that much more CNS reserves are available.” – Charlie Francis
Examples of application you’ll experience in this cycle include:
PAP Training Examples:
We’re going heavy throughout the cycle in sets of 5’s, 3’s, and working our way up to 1’s to get your body firing on all cylinders, increasing the muscle action potential (potentiation) for the dynamic movements that follow each heavy set. An example we apply on the first training day of the cycle is 5 sets of 5 reps, increasing the weight each set. After each set of 5, you re-rack the weight and step onto a trampoline for an all-out 10 second set of tramp sprints.
Stretch reflex, overspeed, and coordination are the names of the games here. Whether we are working the upper or lower body, we target an explosive movement to take advantage of a heavy barbell’s after-effect. Three go-to’s for this cycle are variations of shin hops, trampoline sprints, or med ball work. All are explosive in nature:
- Shin Hops Variations: you the athlete are tasked to explode vertically and redirect force horizontally.
- Trampoline Sprints: force you to slow down the high knee action and redirect it downward.
- Med Ball: challenging the body to reduce and produce force through multiple planes of motion.
Experienced athletes in the weight room may have experience with variations of PAP, but this cycle’s approach is slightly different and unique in John Welbourn’s application. While speed development is the focus, John is balancing structural development of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments with targeted strength and accessory work for both the upper and the lower body.
Expect to pack on muscle over these six weeks with the opportunity to coordinate your new mass each day through PAP training. We had an amazing conversation on Power Athlete Radio, Episode 352 with Dr. Keith Barr that explores musculotendon training and adaptations you’ll be experiencing the next six weeks. Definitely worth a listen.
What is Field Strong?
If you’re new to Power Athlete, Field Strong is a performance based training program for field and court sport athletes, fighters and anyone who is looking to put pinnacle performance in front of anything else. John Welbourn, 10-Year NFL Veteran and Founder of Power Athlete, exposes members of Field Strong to the advanced training techniques that contributed to his career playing professional football.
Cycles are typically written in 6 week training blocks, with occasional 1 – 2 week “reload” weeks that offer loyal residents an optional deload from the training.
Do you like what you’re reading here? Thinking you want to take a run at Field Strong?
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Are you a Field Strong Athlete? How are you enjoying the program so far?
PODCAST: Power Athlete Radio Episode 352 w/ Dr. Keith Barr – The Future of Muscle Tissue
BLOG: Field Strong Equipment Starter Kit by Carl Case
BLOG: The Bench Press: A J-Curve or Vertical Bar Path by John Welbourn
BLOG: Power Athlete Squat with a Staggered Stance by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: Amortization Phase by John Welbourn
PODCAST: On The Long Road w/ Dr. Fred Hatfield
1. Siff, M., and Verkhoshansky, Y. Supertraining. (6th Ed.) Denver, CO: Supertraining International; 32, 96, 105-107, 2009.
MS, CSCS, SCCC, CHES
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Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.
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