Upper-Body Post-activation Performance Enhancement for Athletic Performance: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis and Recommendations for Future Research

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Research on post-activation performance enhancement (PAPE) is dominated by lower-body conditioning activities/performance test complexes. Despite the contribution of the upper body to many sporting actions, no review on upper-body PAPE currently exists.

The aim of this systematic review with meta-analysis was to provide a synthesis of the available research on the inclusion of upper-body PAPE conditioning activities to improve athletic performance.

A review of the literature was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analyses guidelines, including a literature search of EBSCOhost, SPORTDiscus, PubMed and Google Scholar databases. A total of 127 studies were identified through database searches, and were assessed against the following criteria: (1) randomised controlled trial or pre-and-post study design; (2) studies explored the effects of prior voluntary muscle activity, and not electrically induced contractions, (3) evidence, or lack thereof, of PAPE was quantified by the monitoring of individual performance to commonly applied physical tests or sport-specific tasks; (4) conditioning activities and performance tests were primarily upper-body; (5) detailed description of a standardised warm-up; and (6) full-text versions of studies could be accessed in English language peer-reviewed journals. Studies were quality assessed for methodological quality via the PEDro scale and ranked accordingly.

Thirty-one studies met the inclusion criteria. Studies were classified into different conditioning activity modes: bench press variations, sport-specific (modified implement throws, swing-specific, cable pulley, elastic resistance, combination) and bodyweight activity. Acute performance enhancement in several movement-specific combinations was found. A meta-analysis revealed that bench press at  ≥ 80% one repetition maximum significantly (p = 0.03; ES = 0.31) improves subsequent power output in the ballistic bench throw at 30–40% one repetition maximum, following 8–12 min recovery. Additionally, sport-specific overweight implement throws improved subsequent throwing distance at competition weight by ~ 1.7–8.5%; ES = 0.14–0.33, following 3 min recovery. Sport-specific lighter weighted bat swings and swing-specific isometrics resulted in improved subsequent competition weight bat swing velocities, ranging from ~ 1.3–3.3%; ES = 0.16–0.57.

This review presents several upper-body movement-specific conditioning activities that could be considered by coaches and practitioners as part of complex or contrast training, or used in pre-competition warm-ups to acutely enhance performance.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalSports Medicine
Early online date26 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Nov 2021


  • Athlete Performance
  • Systematic Review


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