Background: Post-activation potentiation (PAP) can elicit acute performance enhancements in variables of strength, power, and speed. However, it is unresolved whether the frequent integration of PAP eliciting conditioning activities in training (i. e., complex training) results in long-term adaptations. In this regard, it is of interest to know whether complex training results in larger performance enhancements as compared to more traditional and isolated training regimens (e. g., resistance training). Thus, this systematic literature review summarises the current state of the art regarding the effects of complex training on measures of strength, power, and speed in recreational, subelite, and elite athletes. Further, it provides information on training volume and intensities that proved to be effective.
Methods: Our literature search included the electronic databases Pubmed, SportDiscus, and Web of Science (1995 to September 2013). In total, 17 studies met the inclusionary criteria for review. Ten studies examined alternating complex training and 7 studies sequenced complex training.
Results: Our findings indicated small to large effects for both alternating complex training (countermovement jump height: + 7.4 % [ESd = -0.43]; squat jump height: + 9.8 % [ESd = -0.66]; sprint time: -2.4 % [ESd = 0.63]) and sequenced complex training (countermovement jump height: + 6.0 % [ESd = -0.83]; squat jump height: + 11.9 % [ESd = -0.97], sprint time: -0.7 % [ESd = 0.52]) in measures of power and speed. As compared to more traditional training regimens, alternating and sequenced complex training showed only small effects in measures of strength, power, and speed. A more detailed analysis of alternating complex training revealed larger effects in countermovement jump height in recreational athletes (+ 9.7 % [ESd = -0.57]) as compared to subelite and elite athletes (+ 2.7 % [ESd = -0.15]). Based on the relevant and currently available literature, missing data (e. g., time for rest interval) and diverse information regarding training volume and intensity do not allow us to establish evidence-based dose-response relations for complex training.
Conclusion: Complex training represents an effective training regimen for athletes if the goal is to enhance strength, power, and speed. Studies with high methodological quality have to be conducted in the future to elucidate whether complex training is less, similar, or even more effective compared to more traditional training regimens. Finally, it should be clarified whether alternated and/or sequenced conditioning activities implemented in complex training actually elicit acute PAP effects.
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