What is neuromuscular training? How do I do it? What makes it different? Neuromuscular training or neural training is training the nervous system rather than the muscular system. Are both still involved? Yes, of course. The muscles are still contracting, load is involved and the neuromuscular system is being stressed. The basic difference is twofold: 1. The volume is in terms of sets over reps and 2. There is speed or extreme load involved in the movement.
Volume in terms of reps over sets
The workout is prescribed as 10 sets of 3 rather than 3 sets of 10. The volume is the same, but the load/speed of the movement is much greater in 10×3 than in 3×10. The greater the load/speed, the greater the neural demand.
Since the reps are so low, the speed and/or the load is going to be very high in terms of neural demand, especially when combined. High speed/load sets are extremely demanding and need increased rest and recovery in order to train for quality.
Rest between sets is generally 2-3 minutes when very high speed/load sets are prescribed. Why? Remember, the ATP-CP energy system takes 3:00 minutes to be 93-97% recovered. Recovery can take 48 – 72 hours in order to be ready to train again above 93% in any given session. Doubt this? Compare your vertical jump or long jump on any given day in order to determine your nervous systems readiness for training. If it is not above 90+% of your best, why attempt to train above 90%?!? You are under recovered or over trained for any given days training session.
Why train neuromuscularly?
Only if you want to train for speed or power. Only if you want to train fast twitch muscle fiber. Only if you want your intermediate muscle fibers to mimic fast twitch muscle fibers. Only if you want to be explosive and have burst. Only if you train for performance. If you just want to work out, never mind.
Dilemma – You want to work out, but you need to recover. You need to train to feel good about your self but you know you are needing recovery. What to do . . . . ? Do a recovery circuit. Build in stretching, foam rolling, easy cardio creating a circuit that will prepare you for tomorrows session of intense training. What would this look like? Check out the sample below:
10 Kg Plate Squat 10 Reps
Row 2:00 Hard
Foam Roll Glutes 10 Reps 5/5
Glute Ham 10 Reps
Jacobs Ladder 2:00 Fast
Alternate Mountain Climber Medicine Ball Stretch 10 Reps 5/5
Rotational Push Ups 10 Reps 5/5
Airdyne 2:00 Hard
Foam Roll Quads 10 Reps 5/5
Pretzel Stretch 10 Reps 5/5
TRX Incline Pull Ups 10 Reps
Stick Drill for Shoulders 10 Reps 5/5
This type of workout is very beneficial to your body recovering. It is actually better than rest alone!! Next time you need a break, try this workout out and I bet you feel better and train with more quality at your next session.
Recovery and Regeneration are the limiting factors to much of our training prescriptions. I know with more control over the athletes’ recovery and down time, the better quality and quantity of training I can prescribe. When our NBA and NFL athletes are here for combine preparation we greatly influence their rest, nutrition, supplementation, recovery and regeneration as well as their training programs. This allows us to prescribe programs of great volume that include intense quality movements and exercises.
Sleep is a critical part of recovery. Most athletes need 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night beginning and ending at about the same times. Too much sleep, too little sleep or long naps can inhibit the bodies ability to adapt to the stresses of training. Deep sleep will encourage the release of hormones for recovery of muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the immune system. Lighter sleep stages will help to reinforce neural patterns stimulated during training sessions. Drugs, alcohol, environmental changes, delayed bed times and illness can all disrupt normal sleeping patterns and recovery.
General Post Training Strategies
Ten to fifteen minutes in a swimming pool of movement consisting of large general movements of the body can relax, refresh and speed the process of recovery. A
3 – 4 minute hot tub alternated with a 30 – 60 second cold plunge repeated for three reps can greatly foster the recovery process. For relaxation, end with a warm environment which will encourage sleep. For recovery between training sessions, end with a cold bout. The cold tub should not exceed 10 degrees Celsius.
Specific Post Training Strategies
Metabolic fatigue – is volume related such as training for over an hour in length, multiple training sessions as well as the overall cumulative effect of fatigue and can be recovered by the use of re-hydration and refueling immediately after training and competition. Metabolic fatigue can be recognized by early onset of fatigue, normal training seems more difficult or the athlete struggles to complete the session.
Neural fatigue of the peripheral nervous system – is also volume related and caused by high intensity sessions or long low to moderate sessions of training and can be recovered by hydrotherapy, light active and static stretching as well as massage. Neural fatigue is expressed by low power output, heavy/slow feet and poor technique.
Neural fatigue of the central nervous system – is caused by low blood glucose levels brought on by high pressure training sessions involving rapid decisions and reactions or just training monotony. This type of neural fatigue is expressed by lack of motivation/passion and can be recovered by steady intake of carbohydrate during and after training, rest and alternative activities such as music, movies and video games.
Psychological fatigue – is caused by team conflict, competitive pressures or other outside stressors such as school and personal or social conflicts. This type of fatigue is expressed by loss of confidence and/or lowered self esteem; poor interaction and communication among team members; negative attitudes; increased anxiety and poor sleep patterns. This fatigue can be recovered by activities such as reading, movies, books, video games, etc.
Environmental and Travel fatigue – is caused by disruption of normal routines such as sleep patterns, meal timing, increased sitting or standing requirements, cultural changes, climatic differences and time change. This fatigue is usually expressed with longer warm-up needs and slower starts to the workout, increased unforced errors in early competition and earlier onset of fatigue. Recovery strategies for this type of fatigue include proper preparation and planning for training and travel: adequate hydration and refueling patterns; limiting climate stressors such as extreme heat or cold; minimize visual fatigue with sunglasses and limited computer time and minimizing hearing fatigue by wearing ear plugs on long flights and limiting loud music on mp3 players.
Post Training Recovery Schedule
Restore fluid and glycogen levels by drinking .6 –1 L of sports drink
Eat quality protein and low glycemic carbohydrate snack
Stretch lightly with active and short duration static (10 seconds or less)
Walk or jog lightly to assist lactate recovery
Check weight to gauge sweat loss
Listen to relaxing music
Continue to rehydrate and refuel
Shower and end with alternate hot/cold showers (30 seconds each) for 3 – 5 reps
Have a balanced meal of quality protein, low – moderate glycemic carbohydrate
Utilize a relaxation or music to unwind
Bath to relax
Long stretches and/or PNF
Self massage – foam roll
Prepare for bed
Incorporate visualization and/or relaxation techniques
If unable to sleep – get up – jot down the problem(s) or make a list
Monitor your body – respiration and heart rate as well as how you feel
Record in your training journal
I hope this article will help give you insight into the art of the application of the science of recovery and regeneration. It is easy to read but can be very difficult to put into practice. I would like to thank Angela Calder of the University of Canberra in Austrialia for much of the body of this article. She is an expert in the field of recovery and regeneration. For more information see www.ais.org.au or the reference for this article “Recovery and Regeneration” in FHS issue 22 from 2003.