In most sports, power and explosiveness are essential physical attributes to reach elite level status, especially in basketball. In training to achieve this elite level status, it is vital to challenge the body in sport-specific ways rooted in sports performance science. I will describe a new training technique that can enhance; vertical jump, speed, and first-step quickness.
Complex Training or Post-activation potentiation (PAP) has been used to enhance athletic tasks, such as jumping and sprinting. PAP is an exercise training theory in which the contractile history of a muscle influences subsequent muscle contractions’ mechanical performance. PAP training increases muscle force and rate of force development due to the previous activation of the muscle via a complex neurological mechanism. PAP involves combining a potentially heavy, loaded exercise followed by a biomechanically similar plyometric activity that is sports specific. (Robbins, et al. 2005) For example, a heavy weighted squat exercise, a 4 minute rest period, followed by plyometric box jumps. The athlete would perform for 3-4 sets of 6 reps.
Cluster sets are sets of exercises with built-in intraset rest periods allowing for more weight to be lifted per set. For example, a squat would be performed 3-4 sets of 2+2+2 versus 4 sets of 6 continuous reps. The athlete would do 2 reps take a break of 4 min and then repeat 3-4 times.
What happened in the study?
In the study by Dello Lacono et al., 26 professional male basketball players were randomized into 2 groups, one doing PAP with cluster sets (3 sets 2+2+2) and the other doning PAP with traditional sets (3 sets 6 reps). (Dello Lacono, A. et al. 2020)
What did they find?
⇒ A rest period between sets of 4 min was better than 30 seconds leading to greater jump height.
⇒ During the cluster set protocol, participants were able to produce a higher vertical impulse, greater peak ground reaction force, increased vertical stiffness, and less eccentric displacement during the countermovement jump, compared to traditional sets.
The bottom line, PAP and cluster-set, led to superior performance across all time points in increasing vertical jump.
How can you apply this?
First, after a proper warm-up, determine the athlete’s max lift of a given exercise. Take 85% of the max lift to use during the cluster set.
- 1. Have the athlete perform 2 reps of the leg exercise (squat, deadlift, leg press, split-squat. etc)
- 2. Perform a non-leg exercise or mobility exercise between sets (upper body pulling exercise, upper body pushing exercise, side plank series, plank series. etc). This will account for the rest period during the cluster set.
- 3. Perform the plyometric exercise (box jump, countermovement jump, drop jump, sprint. etc.). Make sure the exercise is performed at a high level of intensity.
- 4. Perform a different non-leg exercise or mobility exercise between sets (upper body pulling exercise, upper body pushing exercise, core exercise, side plank series, plank series. etc). This will account for the rest period during the cluster set.
- 5. The above would be considered one total set. Repeat this 3-4 times.
In a given training session, you could use 2-4 lower extremity exercises following the above procedure. You would want to perform this routine 2-3 times per week with at least 48 hours of rest and recovery between training. This type of training would be a great way to optimize time in getting a full-body workout while optimizing power production to increase vertical jump, first-step-quickness of sprint speed.
Dr. Mishock is one of only a few clinicians with doctorate-level degrees in both physical therapy and chiropractic in the state of Pennsylvania. He uses the combination of the two to help his patients. He has also authored two books; “Fundamental Training Principles: Essential Knowledge for Building the Elite Athlete”, “ The Rubber Arm; Using Science to Increase Pitch Control, Improve Velocity, and Prevent Elbow and Shoulder Injury” both can be bought on Amazon.
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