Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Supervisor

Robert. U. Newton

Second Supervisor

Gregory. G. Haff

Third Supervisor

Maria Nibali


Post-activation performance enhancement (PAPE) is a phenomenon characterised by the acute enhancement of muscular performance consequent to prior voluntary, dynamic contractile activity, and is the premise underpinning complex training (CT). CT involves alternating a conditioning stimulus (CS) with a lighter load biomechanically similar ballistic exercise (complex-pair), separated by a defined intra-complex recovery interval. One of the key benefits of CT is the ability to train both extremes of the forcevelocity curve within a single training session, offering a potentially efficient and effective means of augmenting both acute explosive muscular performance and chronic training adaptations in maximal strength and power. The challenge for sports practitioners is to design CT protocols that facilitate PAPE of muscular power characteristics of the individual athlete within the constraints of a team sport environment. Consideration of the factors that modulate the expression of PAPE in the design of CT protocols is essential. Specifically, consideration of the mode, volume, and intensity of the CS, the intra-complex and inter-set recovery, and the influence of athlete strength characteristics is required. More importantly, the influence of performing multiple complex-sets, the effect of sequencing lower and upper body complex-sets, and the impact of performing ancillary exercise within the intra-complex recovery on the expression of PAPE warrants attention.

Purpose: The primary purpose of this series of studies was to investigate the influence of CT protocol design and the factors that modulate the expression of PAPE of acute explosive performance in developing and trained team sport athletes. Outcomes arising from this work are aimed at providing a practical framework for sports practitioners to better inform the design and implementation of CT protocols in high-performance strength and conditioning programs.

Methodology: The first study examined the effect of CS intensity on the magnitude of PAPE of countermovement jump (CMJ) performance over multiple complex-sets and further investigated if athlete relative strength level is a criterion for identifying responders to PAPE. The second experimental study addressed the parameters of CS mode and intensity in CT session design, examining the efficacy of varying load jump squats (JS) on acute drop jump (DJ) performance. Lastly, the third experimental study investigated the effect of CT session design on PAPE of loaded JS and ballistic bench throws (BBT)—more specifically, if manipulating the sequence of upper and lower body complex-sets and interspersing ancillary exercise within the intra-complex recovery period modified the expression of any PAPE.

Results: CMJ peak jump height was enhanced in response to both moderate intensity (65% 1-RM) and high intensity (87% 1-RM) conditioning stimuli. PAPE of several DJ kinetic and kinematic variables following JS performed at both 30% and 50% 1-RM back squat loads was observed, however, the frequency and magnitude of PAPE was greatest in athletes following the 30% 1-RM CS load. Small magnitudes of PAPE were observed in various JS and BBT kinetic and kinematic variables in each of the three CT protocols examined, yet no clear or consistent performance benefit was present across sets. Associations between relative strength and PAPE are dependent on CS intensity and CT protocol design.

Conclusions: The most important finding of this thesis is that the sequencing of multiple lower and upper body complex-sets and the performance of ancillary exercise within the intra-complex recovery are not detrimental to subsequent explosive performance. Furthermore, PAPE of JS and DJ performance is achievable with a range of CS intensities and appears to be dominant in variables with a prevalent eccentric component. Finally, the influence of relative strength on the expression of PAPE is dependent on CT session design. The application of CT has merit in training team sport athletes and affords practitioners the ability to provide both heavy-resistance and ballistic training stimuli in a time efficient manner.


Author also known as Nick Poulos