• Ballistic exercise as a pre-activation stimulus: a review of the literature and practical applications

      Maloney, Sean J.; Turner, Anthony; Fletcher, Iain M.; (Springer International Publishing, 2014-06-19)
      Post-activation potentiation (PAP) refers to the acute enhancement of muscular function as a direct result of its contractile history. Protocols designed to elicit PAP have commonly employed heavy resistance exercise (HRE) as the pre-activation stimulus; however, a growing body of research suggests that low-load ballistic exercises (BE) may also provide an effective stimulus. The ability to elicit PAP without the need for heavy equipment would make it easier to utilise prior to competition. It is hypothesised that BE can induce PAP given the high recruitment of type II muscle fibres associated with its performance. The literature has reported augmentations in power performance typically ranging from 2 to 5 %. The performance effects of BE are modulated by loading, recovery and physical characteristics. Jumps performed with an additional loading, such as depth jumps or weighted jumps, appear to be the most effective activities for inducing PAP. Whilst the impact of recovery duration on subsequent performance requires further research, durations of 1–6 min have been prescribed successfully in multiple instances. The effect of strength and sex on the PAP response to BE is not yet clear. Direct comparisons of BE and HRE, to date, suggest a tendency for HRE protocols to be more effective; future research should consider that these strategies must be optimised in different ways. The role of acute augmentations in lower limb stiffness is proposed as an additional mechanism that may further explain the PAP response following BE. In summary, BE demonstrates the potential to enhance performance in power tasks such as jumps and sprints. This review provides the reader with some practical recommendations for the application of BE as a pre-activation stimulus.