Do Post Activation Potentiation Workouts Work?

Do Post Activation Potentiation Workouts Work?


If you did P90X2, you might remember P.A.P workouts (also known as complex training). P.A.P. stands for post activation potentiation. The idea behind it is that the power of muscles is enhanced after heavy weight lifting. So, you should, in theory, perform better at a plyometric (jump training) exercises after lifting weights. An example of P.A.P would be 5 squat repetitions (heavy weights) and then 5 squat jumps (plyometric). But does the science support this practice?


The Studies:

The results of studies on post activation potentiation are inconsistent, with some finding an improvement in muscle power and other finding no difference. One study had Collegiate athletes do 1 countermovement jump, then 5 squats and then 5 countermovement jumps at intervals of 10 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes and 4 minutes after the squats. Power (as measured by the countermovement jumps) was actually hindered immediately after the squats and there was no significant difference at 1, 2, 3 and 4 minutes. The researchers noted that there was a slight positive trend at 1 minute onwards though.

Complex training chart


There have only been a couple of studies that look at the long term results of post activation potentiation programs. One found that doing plyometrics before lifting weights or doing P.A.P. over a 6 week period led to similar results. Another found that results from doing plyometrics after lifting weights and P.A.P were the same for 9 of 10 measures. The P.A.P. group did improve their vertical jump to a greater degree though. Some authors have suggested that the inconsistent results of the studies is due to the multiple variables involved. A recent meta analysis, though, may help to determine when P.A.P is most successful. It found that potentiation was greatest following multiple sets, at 60% to 84% of participants’ 1 rep maximum, when resting 7 to 10 minutes after lifting on average.


P.A.P rest periods


Results were greater the more strength training experience participants had, with trivial benefits for beginners, small benefits for intermediates and moderate benefits for athletes (see below).


P.A.P. sets


The reason appears to be that there are two conflicting after lifting weights: potentiation and fatigue. Highly trained athletes don’t experience as much fatigue and so gain more of a potentiation benefit from P.A.P.



Combining strength training and plyometrics is clearly effective, the timing of the exercises don’t seem to really matter for beginners though. If you’ve been lifting for over a year or are an athlete, you might want to give P.A.P a try. If so, perform multiple sets, at 60% to 84% of your 1 rep max and rest 7 to 10 minutes before plyometric exercises.



Alemdaroğlu, Utku, et al. “The effect of exercise order incorporating plyometric and resistance training on isokinetic leg strength and vertical jump performance: A comparative study.” Isokinetics and Exercise Science 21.3 (2013): 211-217.

Burger, Troy. Complex training compared to a combined weight training and plyometric training program. Diss. University of Idaho, 1999.

Docherty, David, Dan Robbins, and Matt Hodgson. “Complex Training Revisited: A Review of its Current Status as a Viable Training Approach.”Strength & Conditioning Journal 26.6 (2004): 52-57.

Ebben, William P. “Complex training: A brief review.” Journal of sports science & medicine 1.2 (2002): 42.

Jensen, Randall L., and WILLIAM P. EBBEN. “Kinetic analysis of complex training rest interval effect on vertical jump performance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 17.2 (2003): 345-349.

Scott, Stefan L., and David Docherty. “Acute effects of heavy preloading on vertical and horizontal jump performance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18.2 (2004): 201-205.

Wilson, Jacob M., et al. “Meta-analysis of postactivation potentiation and power: effects of conditioning activity, volume, gender, rest periods, and training status.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 27.3 (2013): 854-859.