By Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS ProSource
People often say time is the most expensive currency. Many times I oblige and agree with a courteous head nod; but after time and consideration, I often disagree.
Time is a limited resource--the most finite in the world; there's no disputing that. But the true value of time is held in how it's invested. Time wasted is cheap, but time spent in fun and purpose builds value. To wisely invest time, energy must abound. The problem is--even though it's a renewable resource--energy is often running low. However, a few short, energy-boosting workouts per week will keep your energy bank full.
Priming the Energy Bank
When most people talk about energy the mind moves quickly in the direction of metabolism. It's not off base--metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions that take place in the body. In essence it is energy. Unfortunately, though, discussions on energy often neglect the human body's nuclear powerhouse--the nervous system.
Energy Boost Achieved Via Workout Adaptations
You can also improve nervous system output by continually adapting to nervous system stimuli. That's accomplished by including weekly neural charge workouts. Neural charging workouts boost alertness, improve energy and, when used regularly, promote a state of constant neural adaptation--boosting strength and recovery potential. But as with all training stimuli--there are components to include and parameters to follow.
Each neural charge workout will be comprised of a few exercise components--a jump, a high-threshold core stability exercise, a throw, a concentric only Olympic lift and a dynamic pressing movement.
Jumps: Box jumps, vertical jumps and broad jumps all work well. The strong, powerful and brave may even employ jumps holding dumbbells. Focus must always be on jumping as high, or as far, as possible.
High-threshold Core Stability: These are the "ramp-up" exercises that send a strong neural signal throughout the body. They also help to engrain the co-contraction of key muscles--namely the glutes, lats and abs. Plank and planche variations work well to meet this end--as do front levers. These are done for only five to ten seconds--any longer and we'll limit their positive, stimulatory effect.
Throws: Slams, chest passes, overhead throws and press throws are the throwing mainstays. Throws allow for completely ballistic movement without deceleration--aka--they juice up the nervous system.
Concentric-only Olympic Lifts: The intramuscular coordination required for the successful completion of an Olympic lift has a dramatic positive effect on the nervous system. Tons of muscle mass must work together to move a bar quickly. To limit muscle damage, however, start each lift in the dead stop position (off of pins in a squat rack) and don't drop under the bar--stay tall at the finish.
Dynamic Pressing: By now I'm sure you've caught on to our neural charge theme--move weight, or the body, quickly. Dynamic pressing variationsâ€”such as speed bench press or overhead pin press--close out our high rate of force quintuplet. These pressing variations require high neural output while causing little muscle damage.
To get the most out of the exercises above, they must be applied within specific, neural charge parameters. They are as follows:
Only 2-3 reps per set.
Weights should be light. The bar, ball or body should move quickly during each rep.
Circuit the movements
Avoid fatigue; feel fresh at the onset of each set.
Session should last for fifteen to thirty minutes, or until you feel "awake"
Don't draw sessions out past thirty minutes, fatigue will set in and the session is counter productive
Combinations of components that fit into the parameters of neural charge training are vast; but it never hurts to have a couple of examples. Below are two nervous system cranking neural charge workouts that turn the body into an energized power plant.
Exercise Sets Reps
Vertical Jump 1 3
Plank 1 :05
Medball Slam 1 3
Dead Stop High Pull 1 3
Push Press 1 3
Exercise Sets Reps
Broad Jump 1 3
Planche on Dumbbells 1 :05
Medball Chest Pass 1 3
Dead Stop Clean 1 3
Speed Bench Press 1 3
In both workouts, circuit each exercise for fifteen to thirty minutes--taking adequate rest between exercises. If you wear a heart rate monitor while training, it's likely that you'll be ready to go again when your heart rate is close to 100. Remember, fatigue is the enemy! Jump high, throw hard and move fast.
When to Use Neural Charge Workouts
Since these workouts cause limited muscle damage, and are by nature stimulatory, they can be done every day. I'm sure, however, that doesn't fit with your current training schedule.
To boost energy, promote neural recovery and charge the nervous system, complete neural charge workouts on your days off from heavy lifting.
The Final Charge
The nervous system is the body's powerhouse--the true administrator of bodily energy. Sure, we could focus on metabolically driven training to boost energy, but why not cut right to the source? Include one to three neural charge workouts per week and turn your body into an energy producing powerhouse.