Post-Activation Potentiation: A Pitching Velocity Phenomenon
by Brent Pourciau · March 20, 2012
My biggest pitching idol growing up was Nolan Ryan. I worshiped his Pitching Bible like it was, “The Bible.” In this book he lists his everyday routines as a professional ball player, from what he ate to his strength training program. This was the first time I had ever heard about a pitcher lifting weights. What absolutely blew my mind was when he talked about his weight training circuit he would do just before pitching a game. I thought this was revolutionary. Why was he doing this and was it the secret to his success? I never discovered the answer to this question until trying it in my own career and also learning about a muscle phenomenon called, Post-Activation Potentiation.
I was a year out of surgery and nothing was getting better. I decided to stop listening to the conventional wisdom of the game and just completely take a new course. This is when I was introduced to the power Olympic Lifting and a whole new approach to training the athlete. Time was always an issue, so I decided after a few months of training this way to get my lifts in before I went to pitch in my summer season. I would NOT recommend this to everyone, so do not try this on your own, until you are experienced in what you are doing. I was able to complete a 2 hour strength training program before driving to my game and pitching 7 innings. I noticed initially an increase in performance. I quickly embraced this routine and continued it through the year because of the success I was having on the mound. I did this the entire summer and by the end I had added 8 mph to my fastball. Finally, my career was changing and all it took was letting go of the limitations of following the conventional wisdom of the game and taking a more athletic approach to pitching.
Post-Activation Potentiation and Pitching
The day I learned of this phenomenon, I immediately thought of the Pitching Bible and my experience of increasing my pitching velocity after surgery. The more I learned, the more I realized that I had once again discovered a revolutionary approach to increasing pitching velocity. This muscle phenomenon is new and I am now launching it to the pitching world, so others can benefit from this secret as I, Nolan Ryan and many other high velocity pitchers have.
Here is a short summary of the Introduction to Post-Activation Potentiation, from the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, of what this muscle phenomenon is:
Strength is the ability of the muscle to exert force or torque at a specified or determined velocity,while power is defined as work per unit of time (force times distance divided by time) or as force times velocity (distance × time)….
Traditional weight training with relatively heavy loads (80-90% of 1 RM) for relatively few repetitions (4-8 repetitions) has shown the ability to improve an athlete’s strength and is reported to enhance power to a greater extent than light loads…..
Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is a theory that purports that the contractile history of a muscle influences the mechanical performance of subsequent muscle contractions….
Fatiguing muscle contractions impair muscle performance, but non-fatiguing muscle contractions at high loads with a brief duration may enhance muscle performance.The peak torque of an isometric twitch in skeletal muscle is transiently increased after a brief maximum voluntary contraction. Thus, PAP is the increase in muscle force and rate of force development (RFD) that occurs as a result of previous activation of the muscle, as well as the force and power of evoked high velocity shortening contractions, and the maximum velocity attained by evoked shortening contractions under load. In other words, excitation of the nervous system produces an increase in contractile function due to a heavy load conditioning stimulus. The most common indicator of PAP is increased evoked isometric twitch force observed following an evoked isometric tetanic contraction….
Based on muscle fiber type, athletes who perform in maximal intensity activities that depend on Type II muscle fibers (i.e. sprinting, weightlifting, throwing, jumping) would also show the greatest PAP in muscles involved in their sports performance.
I have found that most athletes can relate to this phenomenon in the weight room. It is what is happening when you perform your second or third set of back squat at or above 75% of your 1 RM and you notice that the weight gets easier to move.
How to Use the PAP Phenomenon to Increase Pitching Velocity
Based on this muscle phenomenon, it is advisable to increase performance to perform a few high load strength or power movements before a performance. The problem is the studies used to test this phenomenon have shown that the longer you wait in between the lifts and your performance, the lesser the effect but these studies have stated that there could be an effective way to enhance performance long term with this phenomenon. Until I or someone proves the best practice to use PAP to enhance performance long term, I will use my experience and the theory behind this phenomenon and recommend to those pitchers who have been through the 3X Pitching Velocity program to take the power lifts from the performance weeks of the Fusion system and perform the lifts only 1-2 sets each. DO NOT PUSH TO FATIGUE. This should follow the Soft Tissue Program and Dynamic Stretching Programs in the 3X Programs. The key is doing these lifts as close to your game as possible for the best result.
I also recommend that between innings, just before you run out to pitch again, do some plyometric jumps like: squat jumps, drop jumps or counter movement jumps, at high intensities to try and trigger this phenomenon. This may not work for every pitcher but it is definitely worth giving it a chance to add a few mph for the day or to help trigger your lower half to work a little harder. Trying it once or twice isn’t enough to test this muscle phenomenon on your overall performance. I would give it a few weeks and first try it out in practice before instituting it into your game routines. If you have any questions or concerns about this pitching velocity tip then post them in the comments section below or start a new topic in the forums.
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