“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” -Anais Nin
The epitome of explosiveness; the central nervous system in action.
One strength and conditioning falsehood that never seems to die is the notion that the Central Nervous System cannot be effectively trained. In other words, much like speed, you’ve got what you were born with, and nothing much can be done about that. The close cousin to this thought is the idea that weight training will make one muscle-bound and slow. Actually the latter idea does have a bit of merit, in that *improper* training (or periodization) can actually blunt optimum CNS functioning, thereby making an athlete slower and less powerful. That, though, is another story for another time.
And let me just add here, that the exercise selection for the purposes of “training fast” does not have to be overdraught with highly technical Olympic lifting. Oly lifts and derivatives can certainly be a part of the mix, of course, but basic compound exercises — loaded and performed with the proper “speed” techniques — can be just as effective. Think jump squats and reactive push-ups, dips, and pull-ups. Oscillatory dumbbell presses and split squats. Low on technical ability, high on safety and investment return.
So, like speed, an athlete’s reactivity, rate of force development, and ultimate power production (and absorption) can be safely and effectively trained. There’s no turning a Clydesdale into a quarterhorse — genetics do factor into the equation quite heavily (thus the emphasis on recruiting speed) — but that Clydesdale can sure as hell train to be quicker, faster and more powerful than before.
Now, CNS optimization applies to high-end athletes; those who have the time and need to schedule this type of training into a highly monitored and periodized overall scheme. Does the general trainee, the beginning trainee, or the health and/or body composition-only trainee need to worry about any of this? Probably not. Work capacity and strength need to be the bedrock of any S&C program. However, I do escew “forced-slow” training, and purposely work some “ballistic” type work into my Efficient Exercise clientele’s overall programming. Why? Because even in a relatively “safe” environment, normal people still accidentally step off curbs and into divots. Falls happen and heavy things teeter and must be caught or braced. Gravity is, like it or not, ever present. And, it’s a real bitch. Being able to react positively to it, without getting hurt, is a big plus.
So let’s give this idea some context: A big engine alone — strength and hypertrophy for hypertrophy’s sake — won’t cut it in sports. That engine *has* to be finely tuned as well; instantaneous power production and speed rule in the realm of sport. And the same idea applies to endurance sport, though the time parameters obviously change considerably.
In my mind, Cal Dietz, of the University of Minnesota (and author of Triphasic Training), is the best in the business at administering this kind of training philosophy in a sporting population. If you want to learn everything there is (currently) to know about the training of explosive/speed athletes, he’s the man.
So what’s my contribution in all of this? Well, as I see it, taking my working experiences in a high level S&C environment, and distilling the major portions of that knowledge and experience into useful take-aways for the trainee like me: that person who wants to maximize performance while juggling a hectic, “other life”. My “contribution” is in teasing out those aspects of periodization, autoregulation, and specialized speed work that can be implemented within a real-world workout scheme. In other words, melding high-end athletic training ideas to a real-world trainee’s goals and Five T’s.
That said, here are a couple of pertinent Cal Dietz videos on the subject. The first, “High Velocity Peaking Methods and Techniques in Sports Specificity Part 1”
and part 2…
Now this is for sure upper-level stuff, and meant to be applied to upper-level athletes. But the basic ideas of “accumulation, intensification and transmutation” hold true. The basics of Autoregulation are ever present. And above all, you’ve got to have a firm grasp on your particular goals and Five T’s.
For example, there is a huge contingent of folks who merely want to train for health/fitness or for body composition purposes (bodybuilding/bikini competition). Would a trainee who is solely concerned with health and general fitness results need to spend valuable time working ballistics and speed work? How about a bodybuilder? No, as there are much better, return-on-invest means available to accomplish those tasks.
But if you *are* an athlete, you’re simply leaving a hell of a lot of performance on the table by not specifically targeting the Central Nervous System in your overall training scheme.
A few related posts:
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