Yet the neurological aspects of exercise are much more important than the muscles themselves, for it is the nervous system that activates and coordinates them.
With that in mind, it is extremely important to be aware of the neurological demands of an exercise.
Certain exercises are neurologically demanding so it is essential that you don’t put more of them in one workout than your nervous system can handle.
This fact is crucial. The high-energy demands of such exercises mean your chances of training with poor form increase much faster than with conventional bodybuilding or machine-based exercises.
So being conscious of the neurological load of an exercise means that you are better able to avoid degeneration of form. Your body learns to move by performing the exercise. This is particularly the case with neurologically demanding exercises.
Failure to end your workout before form deteriorates will result in faulty programming. This is where the saying “training to failure equals training to fail” comes from.
By training to the point your form fails, you not only risk injury, but you train your body to remember the improper form.
Always Sequence Exercises in Descending Complexity
In essence, you should always order your workout in such a way that the most challenging exercises are done highest in the order of execution.
This does not mean, however, everyone will have the same ordering of exercises for their workout. What may be a tough exercise for one may prove an easy exercise for another.
One’s own motor skills will dictate the best order. This is another principle that is generally lost on fitness professionals today.
There has been a huge influence on resistance training by exercise equipment manufacturers. Their fixed axis machinery tricks you into thinking you are training well, but the reality is that the number of muscles being used and the necessity of balancing your own body and the load being lifted is no longer an issue. Thus, the neurological complexity/demand of the exercises is dramatically reduced.
An additional caveat for those of you wanting to burn fat is to remember that how your metabolism responds after a workout is very much hormonally driven.
Research in strength training now shows that short intense workouts of 30-40 minutes are far more effective at stimulating natural growth hormone and testosterone release than the typical long torturous workouts many people do in the gym today.
Many of my clients are surprised at the results when they stop talking to their friends in the gym, time their rest periods with a stopwatch and get serious!
On the hand, if your goal is to get stronger, your workout should be shaped by different principles. For improved strength, you should not let any set last longer than 60 seconds. For example, if you do a set of squats, from the time you start the set to the time you rack the bar should be no longer than 60 seconds. Going longer will develop endurance, not strength!
You will also need to increase the number of sets of the key exercises that make you strong in your pattern(s) of choice.
EG if you want to have a big squat, do lots of squatting. If you want a big bench press, you better do lots of bench pressing. Finally, my own observations reflect that most people can only train hard for two to three weeks before the body produces a stress response.
The stress response is marked by elevated stress hormone (glucocorticoids) levels. After some experimentation with your body, you will find every third or fourth week should be what I call a “volume week.” During these times, the intensity stays the same, but the volume is cut in half as a form of active rest. This can dramatically increase strength gains!
Many people diligently trying to lose fat or build muscle over-train. The result is excess production of stress hormones, which are catabolic (tissue-destructive).
Whenever excessive stress hormones are produced, you are likely to lose as much or more muscles as fat. This is a disaster since muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body and is vital to keep your fat-burning metabolism elevated.
Always remember this simple rule: If you can’t improve your performance by 1-3 percent each time you come to the gym, you are not rested and should stretch, meditate or get a massage. In other words, do some relaxing instead of training.
When you mix weight training with other methods of exercise, such as aerobic classes, biking, spin bike classes or martial arts, you must again apply the most to least complex rule and prioritize what is most important to you.
The body can only handle so much volume. Some people do other forms of exercise on what should be rest days.
Then, they can’t figure out why they are always tired! Finally, the most important thing to remember when designing your own exercise schedule is that the under-trained athlete will always out-perform the over-trained athlete!
When you are out of gas, you are out of gas!
It is a lot easier and safer to come to the conclusion that you can handle more than it is to find you’ve over-trained and are now injured as a result.
Or, worse yet, you’ve exhausted your adrenal glands and are now chronically sick in the name of fitness!
I am forever instilling in my clients that exercise is as much about relaxation/regeneration as getting fitter.
In other words, exercise should leave you feeling invigorated and refreshed – not even more tired and exhausted than you already were!