Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is a very real phenomenon that is not well-understood. The theory goes like this: Want to perform your absolute best in a sprint? Then you should lift heavy a few minutes prior to beginning the sprint. The neurological effect of the heavy lifting primes your nervous system and allows you to perform better. Yes, the heavy lifting creates fatigue. But with the right amount of heavy lifting and the right amount of rest, the net effect can actually be positive.
Today’s study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research takes a look at how to maximize this phenomenon. Specifically, how long should you rest between heavy lifting and sprinting to maximize the effect? Ten male subjects performed five deadlifts at 85% 1RM as their heavy resistance activity. After a few minutes of rest, they were asked to perform a 30-second max effort sprint on a stationary bike. Researchers ran trials with rest intervals of 5, 10, 20, and 30 minutes. They also ran a trial with no heavy lifting at all to get a baseline.
What rest interval between the deadlifts and the sprint resulted in the best sprint performance? Ten minutes. Not only was a ten minute rest the clear winner – the other rest intervals didn’t even come close. Therefore, if you’re looking to maximize sprint performance after heavy lifting, ten minutes rest between the lifting and sprinting is what you’re looking for.
Interestingly, no matter how long the rest interval between the lifting and sprinting, the results were always better than with no heavy lifting at all. Other literature indicates the effect isn’t very noticeable for sprints longer than 30 seconds, so this might not be the best idea for an 800m repeat.
Next time you set out to PR on a short sprint, think about lifting heavy for a few reps and then resting ten minutes before you start. Science says you’ll be faster because of it.
1. Thatcher, R, Gifford, R, and Howatson, G. “The influence of recovery duration after heavy resistance exercise on sprint cycling performance.” J Strength Cond Res 26: 3089–3094, 2012.
2. Jo, E, Judelson, DA, Brown, LE, Coburn, JW, and Dabbs, NC. “Influence of recovery duration after a potentiating stimulus on muscular power in recreationally trained individuals.” J Strength Cond Res 24: 343–347, 2010.
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