Back Squats Just Prior Improve Vertical Jump Performance

Post-Activation Potentiation or PAP – what is it? It means if you squat heavy, you can jump higher. Science looks at how much weight it takes to activate this potential and how you can apply it, too.

You’ve read a lot about post-activation potentiation (PAP) on Breaking Muscle lately. PAP goes like this: lift something heavy, rest a little, perform above expectations on a light-weight activity. It’s been proven useful for sprinting and rowing.Today’s study examines whether PAP can be useful for vertical jump.

The study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, used 13 young adult men to test the effect of heavy back squats just prior to performing vertical jump. Researchers wanted to determine two things: How heavy should the back squat be loaded? And how much rest is optimal between the squats and the vertical jump? Participants got a short warmup and then performed back squats at 56%, 70%, or 93% of 1RM. Then participants were tested on vertical jump immediately after the back squat and again at 2, 4, 8, and 12 minutes after the squats.

The results? First, the lowest intensity squats at 56% 1RM had no effect at all – either immediately after the squats or after any amount of rest. Apparently, if you want the PAP effect then you must lift heavier. The 70% intensity squats definitely had an effect. Vertical jump peaked at 4 minutes after the squats and returned to normal after 8 minutes. The highest intensity squats at 93% 1RM had the greatest effect. Vertical jump peaked at 8 minutes and returned to normal by 12 minutes.

These results tell a pretty clear story. Higher intensity lifts give a greater PAP effect than lower intensity lifts. However, higher intensity lifts require a little longer for the effect to peak. In all cases, it appears that the PAP effect is active from about 4 to 10 minutes after the heavy lifts, and the effect is totally gone 12 minutes after the heavy lifts.

So if you want to perform your absolute best at some type of lightly loaded activity like sprinting, rowing, or jumping, then consider using PAP. Choose a lift that activates the same general muscle groups that you’ll be using during the unloaded activity. Lift a few reps at 70-90% of 1RM for the greatest effect. Rest at least 4 minutes, and then enjoy a new PR.


1. Lowery, Ryan, et. al. The Effect of Potentiating Stimuli Intensity Under Varying Rest Periods on Vertical Jump Performance and Power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26:12, 3320-3325, Dec 2012.

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