Use of loaded conditioning activities to potentiate middle- and long-distance performance: a narrative review and practical applications

The warm-up is an integral component of a middle- and long-distance athlete’s pre-performance routine. The use of a loaded conditioning activity (LCA), which elicits a post-activation potentiation (PAP) response to acutely enhance explosive power performance, is well-researched. A similar approach incorporated into the warm-up of a middle- or long-distance athlete potentially provides a novel strategy to augment performance. Mechanisms that underpin a PAP response, relating to acute adjustments within the neuromuscular system, should theoretically improve middle- and long-distance performance via improvements in sub-maximal force-generating ability. Attempts to enhance middle- and long-distance related outcomes using a LCA have been used in several recent studies. Results suggest benefits to performance may exist in well-trained middle- and long-distance athletes by including high-intensity resistance training (1-5 repetition maximum) or adding load to the sport skill itself during the latter part of warm-ups. Early stages of performance appear to benefit most, and it is likely that recovery (5-10 min) also plays an important role following a LCA. Future research should consider how priming activity, designed to enhance the V[Combining Dot Above]O2 kinetic response, and a LCA may interact to affect performance, and how different LCA’s might benefit various modes and durations of middle- and long-distance exercise.