Maximising athletic potential is essential for sporting success. Beyond the weeks and weeks spent in the gym to develop an individual’s fitness, strength and power, Neuromuscular Priming can provide additional short-term improvements to athletic potential.
Firstly, what is neuromuscular priming, and how does it work?
Neuromuscular Priming or NMP involves individuals performing low volume resistance training exercises in the days leading up to an event (this event could be a game day, trial match, carnival day just to name a few), with the intention of being able to produce more force (be stronger) at a quicker rate (more powerful) during the upcoming event.
The effects of NMP often present as greater strength power output (often shown presented through greater jump heights and distances) when compared to athletes who haven’t performed any priming. These effects have been shown to last for up to 48 hours post priming, with some research finding that NMP has led to neuromuscular benefit for up to 72hrs post activation. Therefore, for a Saturday game, a Thursday night or Friday morning NMP session would be ideal for performance gains.
Most of the research suggests loads of 30-90% 1RM is most ideal to elicit performance improvements for upwards of 48 hours. Priming sessions which gradually progress through loads to a high resistance (>80% 1RM) and use few reps (<6) appear best. It is important that overall load of the session remains relatively low as to not fatigue the athlete prior to the match. Ironically, too much priming – exposing the athlete to too much volume – will negate the positive benefit the NMP session is trying to achieve in the first place.
One downside to NMP is that it is very localised to the area that is being trained. So, a priming session which primarily involves squats or deadlifts will not improve an individual’s upper body capabilities within the window of physical improvement, and vice-versa for upper body priming and lower body priming
The below graph highlights the benefits of neuromuscular priming due to elevated potentiation levels following a priming stimulus. Note the timeframe at which potentiation and neuromuscular performance peak (~6-12 hours post stimulus) and how long elevated the elevated performance levels last for.