Following a bout of high-intensity exercise of short duration (preload stimulus), the muscle is in both a fatigued and a potentiated (referred to as postactivation potentiation) state. Consequently, subsequent muscle performance depends on the balance between these 2 factors. To date, there is no uniform agreement about the optimal recovery required between the preload stimulus and subsequent muscle performance to gain optimal performance benefits. The aim of the present study was to determine the optimal recovery time required to observe enhanced muscle performance following the preload stimulus. Twenty-three professional rugby players (13 senior international players) performed 7 countermovement jumps (CMJs) and 7 ballistic bench throws at the following time points after a preload stimulus (3 repetition maximum [3RM]): baseline, approximately 15 seconds, and 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20 minutes. Their peak power output (PPO) was determined at each time point. Statistical analyses revealed a significant decrease in PPO for both the upper (856 +/- 121 W vs. 816 +/- 121 W, p < 0.001) and the lower (4,568 +/- 509 W vs. 4,430 +/- 495 W, p = 0.005) body when the explosive activity was performed approximately 15 seconds after the preload stimulus. However, when 12 minutes was allowed between the preload stimulus and the CMJ and ballistic bench throws, PPO was increased by 8.0 +/- 8.0% and 5.3 +/- 4.5%, respectively. Based on the above results, we conclude that muscle performance (e.g., power) can be significantly enhanced following a bout of heavy exercise (preload stimulus) in both the upper and the lower body, provided that adequate recovery (8-12 minutes) is given between the preload stimulus and the explosive activity.
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