Gym-based primer sessions 1-2 days before a game: Do they work?

A Performance Digest Snippet

James de Lacey

By James de Lacey
July 30th, 2019 | 3 min read

Contents of Article

  1. The Objective
  2. What the researchers did
  3. What the researchers found
  4. Practical Takeaways
  5. Authors comments
  6. References
  7. About the author


It has been suggested that a resistance training (RT) session performed 24-48h before a competition/game or a high quality training session may enhance athletic performance. However, there is limited evidence regarding the effects of resistance training on subsequent explosive muscle performance.

Hence, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether a low-volume, power-type RT session enhances neuromuscular performance of the legs in the following 24 to 48h.

What the researchers did

17 national-level male power- and team-sport athletes took part in 4 different sessions (2 experimental and 2 control). Subjects were first familiarised and then tested for baseline measures on 1RM half squat (90 degree knee angle), CMJ, drop jump (RSI), isometric maximum force (leg press 90-100deg knee angle), and rate of force development from the isometric leg press at 0-100, 0-200, and 0-300ms.

After the baseline tests, the experimental group performed a warm-up of 1×6 @15% 1RM and 1×4 @30% 1RM jump squats. Once warm, subjects performed 5×4 jump squats with 40% 1RM (approx. 65kg) with a 90-100deg knee angle. Explosive performance was measured 24 or 48h after the intervention for each group. The control group also had explosive performance measured at 24 or 48h, but with no intervention.

What the researchers found

CMJ in the 24h condition was greater than baseline (5.1 ± 1.0%) as well as in the 48h condition (3.0 ± 0.7%) in the experimental trial, while there was no difference in the control trials. RSI in the 24h condition was greater than baseline (10.7 ± 2.1%), while scores in the 48h condition were not statistically different.

No significant interactions were found between conditions or time to maximum isometric force. However, RFD 0-100, 200, and 300ms were significantly greater in the 24h condition compared to baseline (18.3 ± 4.1%; 10.2 ± 3.3%; 9.7 ± 3.4%, respectively). Only RFD 0-100ms was greater than baseline in the 48h condition (9.8 ± 3.1%).

Practical Takeaways

This paper shows that a low-volume, power-type resistance training session results in moderate to large improvements in explosive performance 1 and 2 days later. In particular, CMJ, RSI, and RFD all experience significant improvements, however, no improvements in peak force were observed. The improvement in explosive exercises, but not peak force, could be due to the exercises performed in the intervention. Hence, 24-48h enhancements may be velocity specific, where the jump squat closely mimics the CMJ and DJ.

Based on this study, the use of the jump squat can be used as a “primer” 1 or 2 days out from competition to enhance neuromuscular performance. Other velocity-based movements could also potentially be used to enhance performance, such as sprinting or varying medicine ball throws. Since subsequent performance seems to be velocity specific, strength-based “primers” may be useful for sports that require high forces rather than high velocities; an example may be working up to a 90% 1RM squat or bench press.

Authors comments

“This performance enhancement effect lasted up to 48h in this study. However, performance enhancements can be seen in as little as 4-6 hours after training (see article linked below). This provides a large window where a “primer” could be used before competition and may depend on the individual athlete as to how they respond. Performance enhancements seem to be dependent on the exercises chosen during the “primer”, so for velocity -based improvements, select velocitybased exercises. In contrast, for forcespecific improvements, choose forcebased exercises.

A tip taken from Nic Gill (New Zealand All Blacks S&C Coach) at a conference in New Zealand, is that primers should always remain the same from week-toweek as you don’t want to create unnecessary muscle soreness each week.”

This Performance Digest snippet was taken from issue #23, Sept 2018. Members, you can access the full issue by following this link here. Alternatively, if you aren’t a member yet, fill out the form below to find out how The Performance Digest can transform your coaching now!


  1. Tsoukos A, Veligekas P, Brown LE, Terzis G, Bogdanis GC, Delayed Effects of a Low-Volume, Power-Type Resistance Exercise Session on Explosive Performance 2018. Journal of Strength and Conditioning research, 32(3), pp 643-650
James de Lacey

James de Lacey

James was the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Romanian Rugby Union. He has previously worked in America’s professional rugby competition Major League Rugby with Austin Elite and the NZ Women’s National Rugby League Team. He is a published author and has completed a MSc in Sport & Exercise Science from AUT, Auckland, NZ.

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