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Post-Activation Potentiation and the Nervous System: It’s Complicated

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There has been a lot of contradictory research on post-activation potentiation (PAP) over the last five to ten years. Briefly, this is performing a heavy, slow strength training exercise prior to performing an explosive activity (like a jump, throw, or sprint). The idea is that the heavy strength training exercise will increase neuromuscular recruitment, leading to enhanced performance.   In the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, Thomas et al performed a study to assess whether this approach...

Squats: Form Matters

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The squat is one of the most widely used exercises in athletic strength and conditioning. It’s also one of the most controversial. Over the years there’s been a standard in terms of squatting technique; heels on the ground, push the hips back (as opposed to the knees forward), knees aligned with the toes, etc. However, not everyone agrees with this.   The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has an interesting little study examining the impact of squatting form on...

It May Not Matter What You Train First

Is there a best way to organize an athlete’s training? In other words, should we do plyometrics first because they involve speed and technique? Then, should we follow that with slower strength moves that don’t require the same level of nervous system demands? Or, should we flip that to fatigue the nervous system by doing the slow strength moves first and then requiring it to perform something explosive?   Kobal et al have a really fascinating study that seeks to...

Squats and Shoes: Don’t Drink the Kool Aid Yet

I started out competing and coaching Olympic lifting. Way back when, it was ingrained in all of us that we needed to get special Olympic lifting shoes to be successful in the sport. These shoes have very hard soles that are a little higher than normal shoes. The idea being that normal shoes are something you would sink into when performing the Olympic lifts or squats, so they should be avoided.   A recent study in the Journal of Strength...

Muscles Are Not Recruited Uniformly

The last few years have seen studies showing that the muscles don’t react uniformly to an exercise. In other words, every part of the muscle doesn’t experience an exercise the same way. Different exercises will hypertrophy different aspects of a muscle (for example, some may focus more on the proximal aspect, some on the distal, etc.). It would also make sense that this would extend to how the muscles are recruited by the central nervous system to perform the exercise....