Right here’s How Your Nervous System Performs a Main Function In Sports activities Efficiency

Imagine your body as a Ferrari, with your nervous system as the intricate electrical system controlling every move, every breath, and every heartbeat. Just like the Ferrari depends on the efficiency of its wiring, your physical potential is directly linked to how well your nervous system operates.

For lifters looking to maximize their strength, enhance their mobility, and shed a few stubborn pounds, understanding and optimizing our nervous system isn’t just beneficial—it’s essential. Here, with the help of Tim Anderson of Original Strength and author of The Simple Book Of Strength, we’ll journey into the core of our body’s electrical wiring, helping you unlock your true strength.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Understanding Your Nervous System

The nervous system is at the heart of every biceps curl and is the forgotten hero of your workouts. Please think of the nervous system like air traffic control at the airport, as it directs traffic and ensures messages get from your brain to your muscles swiftly and efficiently, explains Anderson.

“The nervous system governs everything about us: moving, thinking, and feeling. It controls all our functions and systems. It is the wiring and the operating system for our total physical being.” says Anderson.

Your nervous system has two major players: the central nervous system (CNS), comprising your brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which branches out to deliver messages to the rest of your body. Understanding the nervous system’s workings is handy for those focused on strengthening and building muscle.

Let’s briefly dive in on how they work together.

The CNS is like the bossman, making the big decisions, while the PNS acts as the diligent worker, carrying out these orders. When they work together in unison, they coordinate every aspect of your workouts, from the initial thought of “I’m going to lift this heavy *&^ weight”  to the complex coordination of muscles needed to do it. As Anderson explains, we are born with it.

“We are born with specific movement programs in our nervous system designed to wire our brains and knit our bodies together. This is the secret to unfettered strength and our foundation for strength expression,” says Anderson.

The two systems discussed below determine the types of messages the CNS delivers to the PNS.

The Sympathetic And Parasympathetic Nervous System  and Their Role In Building Strength

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are branches of the same tree of the CNS and serve as the yin and yang, or like peanut butter and jelly, balancing each other to maintain harmony.

Here’s a brief description of how they work to ensure better strength and recovery.

The SNS Your Body’s Turbo Button

The sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear when you’re getting after it. This is your turbo button, initiating the fight or flight response that pumps adrenaline through your veins, increases your heart rate, and sends more blood to your working muscles.

The PNS Is The Unsung Hero of Recovery

The parasympathetic nervous system is your body’s built-in recovery mode. When you let it take over after the workout, it helps your body to rest, digest, and repair. This system lowers your heart rate, conserves energy, and starts healing, ensuring your muscles recover and grow stronger.

Balancing these two is critical to unlocking your full strength potential because if we live in one or the other, it is terrible news for our strength, according to Anderson.

“When it comes to strength training, if we live in a sympathetic state, we will not have full access to our strength potential,” explains Anderson.

Everyday Tips To Strengthen Your Nervous System

Jacob Lund

Incorporate High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Why It Works: HIIT stimulates the SNS, enhancing its ability to kick into high gear when you need that burst of energy and strength. By alternating short, intense bursts of exercise with less intense recovery periods, you’re training your SNS to respond more efficiently.

How to Do It: There are many ways to go here. Start sprinting at total effort for 30 seconds, followed by a 1-minute walk for recovery. Or use your favorite cardio machine and perform the work-rest intervals like 20/10, 10/20, 30/60, or 20/40. Doing HIIT once or twice a week will get your SNS at the top of its game.

Man-Meditation-Yard-GrassZdenka Darula / Shutterstock

Practice Deep Breathing Exercises

Why It Works: Deep breathing exercises are one of the most effective ways to engage the PNS, which is crucial for initiating the body’s rest-and-recover response. By focusing on slow, deep breaths, you’re sending a signal to your brain to calm down and switch from the high-alert state to a restful PNS state.

How to Do It: Again, you can go in many ways here, but try the 4-7-8 technique. Breathe deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 4 minutes or until you feel relaxed.

Muscular-Man-Deadlifting-Heavy-Weights-Struggling-workout-Partner motivating partner to get over his fitness plateau using the progressive overload methodOleksandr Zamuruiev

Breaking Down Mental Barriers For Improved Strength

Improving strength is not just a physical challenge; it’s a mental one, too. Fear, anxiety, and stress can be significant barriers to realizing your true strength because you’re living in sympathetic mode, according to Anderson.

“ When we are there, we cannot thrive. This means our strength training efforts won’t be as fruitful as they would be. When we live in a fight or flight, we cannot rest and recover from the day’s events. When we live in fight or flight, our bodies and lives are out of balance.” explains Anderson.

For those committed to improving their strength and fitness, tackling these barriers is as crucial as the workout. Stress and anxiety trigger the sympathetic nervous system, priming your body for fight or flight. While this response is beneficial in short bursts, over-activation may impair recovery, reduce performance, and even lead to overtraining.

Here are two tips to better handle stress and anxiety to improve your state of mind for a better workout.

overweight man looking into the mirror in the gym trying to fix his bad habitsMotortion Films

Recognize and Redirect

Why It Works: When you realize the presence of fear or anxiety and approach it without judgment, you can redirect your energy toward more productive, positive outcomes. This technique helps reduce the stress response and refocus your mind on training or the task.

How to Do It: When you notice these feelings popping up,  take a moment to pause and breathe deeply. Acknowledge the feeling, then consciously focus on a positive affirmation such as “I am strong and capable of crushing this workout.” Or, as Ronnie would say, “Lightweight baby, lightweight.

Master-Planner-Postit-Calendar Hoxton/Tom Merton / Getty

Visualization and Goal Setting

Why It Works: Visualization and goal setting are potent mind-body tools for improving strength. They help create a clear vision of success, which can motivate and guide you through challenging workouts.

How to Do It: Spend a few minutes each day visualizing yourself achieving your fitness goals. Imagine how it feels to rip that heavy weight from the floor and pair this with specific, achievable goals for each workout, focusing on your progress towards your overall goal.

“ What we rehearse in our minds gets expressed through our bodies. This is why rehearsing and practicing positive, true thoughts can be so powerful. This is also why having verses and positive practices is so important – they are information that tells the brain, “I am safe.” When the brain knows we are safe, it grants us access to our strength.” explains Anderson.

Workouts To Improve Your Nervous System and Reach Your Strength Potential

Tim Anderson presents some examples of ways to access your full-strength potential. The foundational strength training example is perfect for recovery days between workouts to enhance PNS action, and the brain and body example is a fantastic way to add spice to your conditioning/cardio work.

Everyday foundational strength training:

  • Practice deep belly breathing for 2 minutes.
  • Practice moving your eyes and head for 2 minutes.
  • Practice rolling on the floor for 2 minutes.
  • Practice rocking back and forth on your hands and knees for 2 minutes.
  • Practice crawling for 2 minutes.

Everyday brain and body strength training:

  • Leopard Crawl in the direction of your choice for 10 minutes.
  • Suitcase Carries for 10 minutes.
  • Brisk Walk for 30 minutes – swing your shoulders to match the swing of your hips.

Examples of how this works and what this might look like can be found in A Simple Book of Strength.

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