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Post-Activation Potentiation for Tactical Athletes

Kosta Telegadas
Jun 8, 2023

Post-activation potentiation weight training (PAP) is a training method that has gained popularity among athletes and strength enthusiasts in recent years. This technique involves performing a heavy lift, followed by a lighter or more explosive lift of the same muscle group, with the goal of improving power output during the lighter lift. The theory behind PAP is that the heavy lift activates and “potentiates” the muscle fibers, making them more responsive to subsequent activity. In this essay, we will explore the background of PAP, the science behind it, and its potential benefits.

Background on PAP

PAP is not a new concept. In fact, it has been used by strength and conditioning coaches for decades. However, it was not until the late 20th century/early 21st century that PAP became a widely recognized training method. The term “post-activation potentiation” was coined by researchers in the field of exercise physiology who were studying the effects of heavy lifting on subsequent muscle activity. They found that heavy lifting could increase muscle activation and force production in subsequent activities, which led to the development of the PAP training method.

The science behind PAP is based on the concept of muscle fiber recruitment. Muscle fibers are recruited in a specific order based on their size and type. When a heavy lift is performed, the largest and most powerful muscle fibers are activated first. These fibers remain activated even after the lift is completed, which can lead to greater force production in subsequent activities. The theory behind PAP is that by activating these larger muscle fibers, subsequent lifts will be performed with greater force and power.

Tactical CTA


Benefits of PAP

There are several potential benefits of PAP. One benefit is improved power output. By activating the larger muscle fibers, PAP can lead to greater force production in subsequent activities. This can be incredibly beneficial for athletes who need to generate explosive power within the realm of the tactical setting. This could be seen as breaching a door, jumping for cover from enemy fire, taking down a criminal for an arrest, etc.

The second potential benefit of PAP is increased muscle activation. PAP can activate more muscle fibers than traditional training methods, which can lead to greater muscle growth and strength gains. Traditionally this is particularly beneficial for athletes who need to develop strength and size in specific muscle groups, such as bodybuilders or physic competitors. This can be applied to tactical athletes who are wanting to increase muscle size or body composition while developing some aspects of strength; or overall athleticism. Although, size and strength gains are important to completing the mission. They should not be the only focus. Always make sure to run a needs analysis and testing to see what adaptations the athlete is in need of.

Who Should Perform PAP

Despite the potential benefits, PAP is not suitable for everyone. It is a high-intensity training method that requires a certain level of strength and conditioning. It is also important to properly warm up and prepare the body before attempting PAP, as it can increase the risk of injury if performed incorrectly. This methodology of programming is better suited for intermediate to advanced tenured tactical athletes. Personally, I recommend a lifting tenure of no less than 6 months of consistent training with no recent injuries. However, if the athlete shows their capability, progress as needed.

PAP Examples Based on Tenure


A1. Back squat 80% 1RM 3x3

A2. Box Jump 3x5           


A1. Bench 82.5% 1RM 4x3

A2. MB wall throw 3x4 


A1. Deadlift 85% 1RM 5x2

A2. Broad Jump 3x3          


A1. Clean (from floor) 82.5% 1RM 4x2

A2. Vertical Jump 3x3


A1. Snatch 80% 1RM 5x2

A2. Depth drop jump 3x3

Sled Push

A1. Sled Push 4x10 yards (1.5-2x body weight)

A2. Sprint 4x25 yards


Note: As a coach, the examples above are not set in stone by any means. Please regress or change variations of plyometrics as need be. However, the more specific the goal, the more specific the superset needs to reflect such. For example, if the goal is to increase a vertical jump of an athlete, then the protocol should follow a similar movement pattern. Super setting a squat with a broad jump does not reflect such. This may be good if overall athleticism is the goal, however, a back squat paired with a vertical jump would be ideal if the goal was to increase a vertical jump test. If a broad jump is a goal, then pairing a deadlift variation with a broad jump will better reflect the needs of the test. This is due to the muscles used, angles of force production, etc.


Post-activation, potentiation weight training is a training method that has gained popularity in recent years. The science behind PAP is based on the concept of muscle fiber recruitment, where heavy lifting activates the larger muscle fibers, leading to greater force production in subsequent activities (such as running, jumping, sprinting, etc). PAP can be applied in a variety of ways, and there is evidence to support its effectiveness in improving power output and muscle activation. Make sure to properly warm up and prepare the body before attempting such strenuous training and apply specific programming protocols where needed for the increased likelihood of success. Remember, tactical strength and conditioning have a lot at stake due to the risks that our nation’s heroes undergo, and their ability to perform while putting their lives on the line matters most. 



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