weight training

Neuromuscular Training – WHAT? HOW?

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.

Extreme speed/load
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.

How many reps should I do …. ?

Workouts are often designed by fitness enthusiasts that are not coaches, do not have training in human performance or are workouts to test you rather than train you for a specific goal. In performance training, there are rep ranges based upon loads that should be followed for performance enhancement of strength, speed and power. If ignored, overtraining often occurs at best, while illness or even injury occurs at worst.

Alexander Prilepin was a coach for the USSR junior national team from 1975-80 and the national team from 1980-85. During his career as an Olympic weightlifting coach he worked with 9 Olympic champions, 3 silver medalists and 7 world champions. In addition to actually getting it done at the highest levels as a coach he revolutionized training. His chart is still widely accepted as the key to training volumes when volumes are related to load.

Prilepin’s Weight Training Chart

Percentage                                                                        Approximate                                                                      Optimal Total                                                                                  Training Effect
of 1 Rep Max                                                                     Number of                                                              Reps per Workout
Reps (with range)

95-100                                                                                  3 – 1                                                                        7 (4 – 10)

Max Strength (power if Olympic lift)

85-95                                                                                      6 – 3                                                                    10 (6 – 14)


75 – 85                                                                                   10 – 6                                                                  5 (10 – 20)

Hypertrophy and Endurance

65 – 75                                                                                    20 – 10                                                             18 (12 – 24)

Explosive Power, Endurance and Hypertrophy

55 – 65                                                                                    35 – 20                                                             24 (18 – 30)


45 – 55                                                                                    50+ – 35                                                          100 (50 – 150) Endurance

Great chart for squats, dead lifts, cleans, pulls, etc.

Bench can be a little more volume.

Can you do more volume than is recommended? Sure. Are you then training or working? If you do more than is recommended, what is your reasoning? Remember, volume is the cause of injury, not load! Just because you can does not mean you should!!

Tips For Teaching the Hang Clean

The clean should be taught from the top down. The human mind can only focus on one cue at a time when learning new skills. I prefer to keep it simple in order for the athlete to internalize the cues quickly and remember them easily. When teaching any ground based skill it is critical to teach the base of support/stance first.

The stance
The stance can be taught several ways. Have the athlete jump up 3 times and land in a quarter squat on the third jump. Have the athlete assume their high bar squat stance. Have the athlete place their heels under the hips and externally rotate the feet out at 7-15 degrees. External rotation of the feet is important any time the athlete has load through the spine. Being able to squat with the feet straight ahead is a function of hip external rotation mobility. Squatting with the feet straight ahead with load is an excellent way to cause back strain and injury. Back to teaching the clean stance. This stance is the basic athletic stance for jumping and landing.

The knees are flexed with the kneecaps even with the toes. The torso is upright at this time. The abs are braced, the shoulder blades are retracted and the wrists are turned straight down OR the elbows are turned out. Why are these the cues and why are they important? The knees are flexed so that they are in a position to jump, but will not move/flex in the slide of the bar down the legs. The abs are braced in order to protect the lumbar spine and transfer force. The shoulder blades are retracted in order to better transfer the power from the legs and hips through the shoulders to better move the load on the bar with speed. The wrists turned down/straight OR the elbows are turned out in order to create an upright row path of the bar in order to keep the bar close to the center of mass, a much stronger position to impart force.

Teaching the Hang Clean

When the athlete understands and can execute the stance and the posture, the hang clean techniques can be introduced. The first is to hinge at the hip and execute a bend over. The body weight should stay centered on the foot with the load being full footed but NEVER “on the toes”! The body weight can be SLIGHTLY forward on the forefoot (I will grab the athlete and let them feel their weight centered on the foot, back on the heel and forward on the forefoot by having them lock their body and rocking them back and forth so they can understand how slight the change is in their center that can change the entire movement). I have them bend over, bend over and then jump. We will execute this movement several times. Then the athlete will execute an upright row, putting the “hands in the armpits” with a grip so that the hands are outside the edge of the legs. The elbows will be high and wide. This can be done with body weight, a dowel rod or a bar. Next I will have them put it together so that they will say OUT LOUD “Feet”, “Knees”, “Chest”, “Wrist” in order to set up and then they ONLY NEED TO DO 2 MOVEMENTS – ONE AT A TIME! The movements are “Bend Over” and “Jump” and the jump should be HIGH! The bar should remain close, go to the mid-chest area and the elbows should be high and wide. The jump will cause the athlete to leave the ground, but the stance upon returning to the ground should be the normal clean stance, which is also the normal squat stance.

The RackThe rack is a rack – NOT A CATCH! Many times people will “catch” the bar, and it will land on them with a thud on the shoulder, which is very uncomfortable for young athletes or very lean athletes, both of which have very little muscle mass on the upper shoulders. The key to the rack is to keep pressure on the bar at all times. The pull converts to a push as the bar passes the upright row phase into the rack onto the shoulders. This in turn allows the athlete to rack the bar at a position in which the load is absorbed at the highest level of the front squat. If the rack is smooth, the load will be absorbed by the legs and hips; with the torso being stabilized and braced for protection. When the load is heavy, the rack will be accomplished with a low front squat where if the load is light, the rack will be in a high front squat position. In other words, the load will determine the depth of the squat on the catch.

Flaws, Problems and Corrections –
Weight misplaced in the base of support – Too far forward and the athlete will have to jump to the bar, lean back on the rack or reverse curl the load up to the rack position. Too far back and the bar will hit the belt or belly on the way up or there will be no power transferred into the bar.
No Shrug – The shrug is a key component of the high pull and the last bit of force imparted to the bar on the upward path before the pull force changes to the push force of the rack.
Lazy Elbows – The elbow quite often gets lazy and the bar will begin to drift away from the center or torso, requiring the athlete to again reverse curl the bar or lean back on the rack.
Rounded upper back or lazy shoulder blade retraction – This results in a portion of the power generated in the hips and legs being lost in the upper back as the torso flexes and the taps stretch, absorbing force that should be transferred into the bar. If the flex continues down the torso into the lumbar spine, injury can occur and could be quite serious.
Soft Core – Many times a beginner will not maintain a braced core, and the body will look as if it is flexing through the torso as the lift is executed. This flex is wave like in appearance and is due to the abs not being braced. While not too dangerous in terms of injury (unless it is excessive or the load is great), the resultant lack of transfer of force will seriously limit the ability of the athlete to generate force into the bar and move the weight with speed.
Landing in a wide stance after the pull/jump – this denotes a lack of leg strength in the ability of the athlete to squat with load. This is remedied by prescribing more squatting activities.

Teaching Drills –

Slide shrug or high pull

Slide, Slide and Shrug, Slide and Hang Clean – This drill is just like it sounds. First, slide the bar down to the hang and then up; Second, slide the bar down to the hang and then up with a shrug; Third, Slide the bar down to a hang and then clean it.
Hang Clean and Front Squat – Again, Just like is sounds. Do a normal hang clean and follow it up with a squat – or multiples of both the squat and/or the clean. If they are weak in the squat, do 1-2 Hang Cleans and 2-5 Front Squats.
Slide, Pause and Hang Clean – This is for starting strength. A normal hang clean is elastic (think rubber band/ball – elastic). Do a normal slide and then hold the hang position for up to 5 seconds before executing the hang clean. This will train the athlete to have excellent form, great back side chain strength in the hang position and good explosion out of the hang or athletic position.

Bar – the traditional implement for use in the hang clean.
Dumbbells – ok to use but will change the elbow position and foster a lazy elbow, which is a common error.
Kettlebells – a somewhat “new” implement for hang cleans and this does mimic the general hang clean pattern that a bar requires for optimal execution.
Ground based trainers – such as a bar type implement that is anchored on one end (think land mine set-up). This is ok in general, but can restrict the ability of the bar to move naturally in the “S” shape if the anchor point does not rotate in a 360 degree ROM but it does enforce good mechanics.

Summary – The hang clean is the usual starting place for learning the clean from the floor, blocks and with other implements. Once the hang clean is mastered, it is relatively easy to introduce the clean from below the knees and then the clean from the floor. The hang snatch is super easy to learn when the hang clean becomes natural as the hang snatch is really even easier to learn.

Beginning Strength Training Loads Based on Percentages of Body Weight

Many times it is very difficult to determine what level of load to use as you begin to resistance train.  I believe you must have the athlete/client demonstrate a certain level of skill with body weight as the resistance before moving on to external resistance loading.  This may be something as basic as the 20 rep rule where the person must be able to do 20 quality reps of a movement before adding external loading.  Being able to demonstrate twenty quality reps of the squat, push – up, lunge, step – up, back raise or glute ham and the pull – up are good base lines to use.  As long as the patterns are clean and the movements are controlled and stable it is now acceptable to add resistance once the baseline threshold has been met or exceeded.  Where do we begin?  Below are some suggested loads to use for some of the exercises and movements we commonly prescribe in resistance training.  There are no set or rep guidelines, those are up to you.  Remember, the chart below is an example of a continuum that can be implemented with respect to the abilities of the athlete/client.  The determination of the sets and reps will move the difficulty up and down the continuum of training.  For example, 3 x 10 will be much more difficult than 3 x 5 at the same relative load due to the simple math of 30 reps (3 x 10) is much greater than 15 reps (3 x 5).


Exercise         Untrained                     Novice             Intermediate               Advanced                Athletic

Squats             Bodyweight(20 reps)      35% of BW           65% of BW                   100% of BW           125% of BW

Increment Change – 10%

Dead Lift          Bodyweight(20 reps)      35% of BW           65% of BW                   100% of BW         125% of BW

Increment Change – 10%

Leg Press           50% of BW                     75% of BW          100% of BW                 125% of BW             150% of BW

Increment Change – 15%

1 Leg Press        25% of BW                    50% of BW            65% o BW                   80% of BW              95% of BW

Increment Change of 10%

Step – Up        Body weight (20)             10% of BW             25% of BW                    40% of BW             55% of BW

Increment Change – 5 % of Body weight

Lunge              Body weight (20)             10% of BW              25% of BW                    40% of BW            55% of BW

Increment Change – 5% of Body weight

Jump Squat      Body weight (20)             2.5% of BW               5% of BW               7.5% of BW        10% of BW

For Power  Increment Change – 2.5%

Jump Squat      Body weight (20)              5% of BW               10% of BW             15% of BW          20% of BW

For Strength  Increment Change – 5%


Exercise               Untrained                 Novice                Intermediate             Advanced                 Athletic

Stiff Leg Dead Lift     20% of BW            40% of BW               60% of BW                  80% of BW              100% of BW

Increment Change 5% of BW

RDL                 10% of BW                30% of BW               50% of BW                 70% of BW               90% of BW

Increment of Change 5% of BW


Exercise                Untrained              Novice               Intermediate              Advanced             Athletic

Bench Press          Push – Ups (20)        25% of BW                50% of BW                  75% of BW            100% of BW

Increment Change 5%

Incline Press    20 Feet Up Push – Ups   20% of BW              40% of BW                  60% of BW               80% of BW

Increment Change 5%

Behind Neck  Prs    5% of BW                15% of BW              35% of BW                  50% of BW               65% of BW

Increment Change 2.5 – 5%

DB Bench               Push – Ups (20)       15% of BW           30% of BW                    45% of BW                60% of BW

Wt in each hand Increment Change 2.5 – 5%

DB Incline      20 Feet Up Push – Ups    10% of BW           20% of BW                    30% of BW                40% of BW

Wt in each hand Increment Change 2.5 – 5%

DB Shlder Prs         5% of BW              10% of BW              17.5% of BW                25% of BW              32.5% of BW

Wt in each hand Increment Change 2.5%


Exercise             Untrained                Novice               Intermediate             Advanced                  Athletic

Pull – Ups        Assisted 50% of BW   Assisted 25%      Bodyweight (5)         Bodyweight (15)         Bodyweight +5%

Increment Change Assisted 10 – 15% Reps +5 per set Weight 2.5% or Pause ea. ¼ rep

Pulldowns                25% of BW         40% of BW               60% of BW                 80% of BW               100%+ of BW

Increment Change 5

1 Arm DB Rows     10% of BW                   17.5% of BW          25% of BW             32.50 % of BW           40% of BW

Increment Change 5%

Individuals will vary greatly from exercise to exercise based on maturity, injury history and training age.  This is a guide to determine a starting point for the individual.  If the individual is overweight, then the load may be set up as a percentage of Fat Free Body Weight.  A functional screen, movement assessment, flexibility test and strength evaluation will assist greatly in determining the actual abilities of the client, athlete or patient.