The human body is an amazing network of wires feeding the brain an enormous array of information from the status of internal systems to how much force is being applied to the muscles, connective tissue, and bone. With the massive role the nervous circuitry plays in every aspect of our lives knowing how we can train the nervous system and how it works will help maximize training in order to become stronger and more efficient in our movement and in our lives.
A basic review is that the nervous system is broken up into two distinct groups. The first is the central nervous system or the CNS and the second is the peripheral nervous system or PNS. The CNS refers to the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord and it can be thought of as generals and officers in an military unit. All the central and major commands are derived from the CNS and all the sensory information or intelligence is passed back up to the CNS for processing. The PNS is the part of the nervous system that gives the the actual orders to be carried out by the muscles and are the primary receivers of intelligence for the CNS to process.
When it comes to controlling muscles for movement the CNS develops patterns of groups of muscles which it uses to efficiently contract muscles in groups in order to eliminate slow and awkward muscle contractions while performing a task. New movement patterns can be taught and refined over time to efficiently perform tasks needed for activities. These patterns are usually developed over time by practicing an activity over and over again. This can be any activity from throwing a baseball to sitting in a chair for hours at a time.
Movement patterns is something that has become a huge center of focus in the rehabilitation and strength and conditioning fields over the past decade or so. It has been shown that in conjunction with traditional strength training that focusing on quality of movement patterns and will reap better results and decrease rate of injury. Gruber(1) showed with a group of recreationally active adults that having subjects perform balance training exercises only on the lower extremities that their force output of the lower musculature increased significantly in four weeks. This was thought to be do to the high and rapid firing patterns needed to improve balance in the ankles in the feet promoted positive changes in firing speed and coordination in the lower extremities.
In addition Duchateau(2) explained in studies with maximum force production of the quadriceps femoris muscle that when researchers were able to decrease the inhibitory muscle tone of the hamstrings that the force generated by the quadriceps femoris was much greater and the neuro recruitment of more muscle units did not increase. This increase in coordination between the quadriceps femoris and the hamstrings is essential to maximize speed and power in the lower extremities. This is the bases of explanation for proper warm ups and why the functional movement training reduces the risks of injury and increases athletic performance.
More time needs to be focused on the fundamentals of movement and increasing mobility through healthy functional movement patterns. Doing this increases power production, efficiency of movement, reduces the risk of injury, and increases stability. It is time to focus on how well you move and reach out to a professional that is able to analyze the quality of your movement. Learn to train smarter not harder and you will reach your goals.
Duchateau, J., Semmler, J., & Enoka, R. (n.d.). Training Adaptations In The Behavior Of Human Motor Units. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1766-1775.Gruber, M., Gruber, S., Taube,
W., Schubert, M., Beck, S., & Gollhofer, A. (n.d.). Differential Effects Of Ballistic Versus Sensorimotor Training On Rate Of Force Development And Neural Activation In Humans. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 274-282.