As human beings, it’s in our nature to want to do better, find that edge, and succeed. This couldn’t be truer than in sports, where winning and losing are often separated by tenths of a seconda success scoring attempt in the later stages of a gameor a decision in a fraction of a second.
There is therefore always a need for effective and legal strategies to boost performance. “Priming” is a tool arouses more and more interest of athletes, coaches and scientists.
The good news is that it’s not just for elite athletes.
Not just a warm up
Priming, also known as “morning exercise”, “pre-activation” or “pre-competition training”, has been attracting renewed interest among scientists in recent years. Many sports teams are already in on the action, with more than half of coaches use priming to help their athletes gain a performance advantage.
Typically, a relatively brief, non-strenuous exercise session is performed the day before or the morning of a competition – somewhere between one hour and 48 hours in advance. This muscle stimulation results in “delayed potentiation”. In other words, the muscles may function better after several hours of rest than they would have without the priming exercise.
In contrast, a warm-up takes place much closer to the competition. Interestingly, the benefits of priming last much longer than those typical of warm-up activation strategies. This is disconcerting because we know that the increase in muscle temperature, metabolism and potentiation of the nervous system with warm-ups, get back to base levels in minutes.
Warm-ups are still important, but priming sessions could provide an added benefit. Sports scientists have reported improvements in running, jumping, throwing and weightlifting abilities as much as 4%. It may not seem like much, but it’s crucial when the difference between winning and losing can be measured in fractions of a percentage point. The physiological mechanisms that cause the priming effect are not yet well understood, but neuromuscular and hormonal changes have been suggested.
And it may not just be the muscles that benefit. Researchers have long known that priming exercise can improve weightlifting performance in anxious athletes. More recent research reinforces the idea that priming activities can help the psychological state and stress level of athletes.
Find time to play, train and practice
Very few of us are full-time elite athletes. Finding time to train and compete, even at the community or sub-elite level, is tough – let alone make time for extra priming sessions. But priming drills can be done with minimal equipment in minimal time.
Basic exercises such as squats and bench presses with relatively heavy weights (about 85% of your maximum capacity) for a few repetitions are enough to improve performance later in the day.
Don’t have a weight rack lying around? Its good. Explosive bodyweight activities such as a few sprints Where skip still have the potential to improve athletic performance. stronger people seem to respond better to primingprobably because they recover faster some exercice.
Ideally, choose an activity that uses the same muscle groups that you will use during your sport and do the primer exercise 6 to 33 hours before your event, as this seems to offer the most benefit and practicality. And remember, more is not better. You may be able to incorporate your priming session into your existing workout routine.
I don’t do sports, what does that bring me?
Priming doesn’t just apply to sports; it can help in the gym and learning new skills.
A 2014 study showed that bench press and squat performance were better in the afternoon if used as the same morning kick-in exercise.
And 10 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve reaction time, memory and attention. Moderately intense cycling has been shown to help musicians learn the piano. However, these changes seem more immediate and short-lived than those related to athletic performance, taking effect and lasting minutes rather than hours.
What we still don’t know
There are still issues to be resolved with regards to priming.
Could priming be useful in sports like rugby, football and basketball? These sports require multiple high intensity efforts coupled with dynamic decision making to score and beat an opponent.
More research is also needed to determine what is going on in the body and what exercises should be done when for the most effective priming. As researchers, we explore the effect of different priming routines on muscle strength and power, as well as sprint performance repetition and reaction time in strength athletes and soccer players.
In particular, weightlifting protocols that provide strong stimulation but minimize fatigue show promise. We hope the results will be useful to coaches and athletes who want to improve their athletic performance.