It is often said that training begins in the head. This usually means motivation, also will, ambition. But the core of this statement goes much deeper. Because by stimulating the brain and nervous system, your training can be taken to the next level.
“Neurocentric training is based on the principle that movement occurs in the brain,” says Berlin personal trainer Luise Walther, who has specialized in the new training approach. Together with her, we will explain to you what is meant by neuroathletics and how you can use it for yourself. And first of all, a tip for all bodyweight fans: This way to our training plan for attractive muscles.
What is neuroathletics?
In short: all neurological and neurocentric processes, including movement and pain perception, are coordinated by the brain. It determines how strong, fast, agile or persistent you are through the movement control. If the brain is weak, it has a negative effect on physical and athletic performance. This is where neuroathletics comes in and tries to steer, especially with regard to possible obstructive complaints.
Unfortunately, despite sufficient exercise and good training methods, everyday life cannot be imagined without pain and injuries. Incorrect strain, poor posture and shortened muscles can also become a problem. This is exactly where neurocentric training comes in: the focus is shifted from muscles, tendons and ligaments to the brain. The aim is to find and improve errors in communication between different parts of the body and the brain.
Why neuroathletics optimizes training
The brain is neuroplastic, which means that it can always change and optimize. It is therefore possible for him to adapt his structure and function to his use even into old age.
In neurocentric training, for example, so-called sensory priming is used to better network the brain, nervous system and muscles. A strong, positive stimulus (for example a certain exercise) is used to increase the activity of certain areas of the brain so that the subsequent training stimulus can be better integrated.
The brain’s protective reflex also plays a role here. In everything you do, the brain asks itself the question: How dangerous is what is happening? If the incoming information is classified as unsafe, the body automatically takes protective measures, which in turn reduce performance. The clearer the information, the higher the security in the sequence of movements and thus the performance.
The brain receives this information from the body’s 3 movement-controlling systems: The visual system controls movement through everything that is perceived through the eyes. The vestibular system, also known as the organ of equilibrium, aligns the movements against gravity in space. And the proprioceptive system controls the self-perception of the body in the room. “The information from the systems is passed on to the brain through the central nervous system. Everything is interpreted and integrated there, the information is more or less combined,” says Walther. Our tip: This is how you clear your memory.
What does neuroathletics bring?
It is often used in top-class sport in order to exploit the full potential of professional athletes. How well this can work is indicated by the world championship title of the German men’s national soccer team in 2014. Because in preparation for the tournament, neurocentric exercises had a permanent place in training.
What works in top-class sport also works for amateur athletes? Yes, and that is precisely why the idea is so brilliant: It can also be applied to recreational athletes and pain patients. “It does not matter whether a hobby runner wants to achieve her best time or whether it is young mothers struggling with pelvic floor problems – everyone benefits from neurocentric training,” says the expert. And if you want to strengthen your pelvic floor in a balanced way after giving birth: Click here for our postnatal training plan.
How neuroathletics improves your workout too
Even those who simply cannot make progress in training or suffer from recurring pain will benefit from neural stimulation.
For example, if you do strength training 3 times a week but don’t see any results, it may be because the stimulus intensity is too weak and your brain isn’t being challenged. After injuries it can happen that you train into a bad posture because the nervous system has forgotten how the movement should feel correctly. The more precisely your brain knows how the joints should be, where your eyes should be and how good your sense of balance is, the better the movements. “You can achieve a high effect extremely quickly with even small exercises – because the nervous system reacts immediately,” says Walther.
Bad posture or pain have not disappeared immediately, but with the right input, an immediate improvement is noticeable. Nevertheless, it is difficult to recommend basic neurocentric exercises: “Every central nervous system and therefore every biochemical process is different. That is why you cannot say: You have back pain, then do this exercise. Every nervous system reacts differently.”
How better breathing increases the training effect
There are many neurocentric exercises that can generally help create new stimuli or reduce pain. But the focus on breathing is particularly important. Due to stress and a lack of exercise, many people often breathe too shallowly in everyday life and thus promote tension or headaches. Because breathing has a strong effect on the central nervous system and the brain. And do you already know Yoga Nidra? This is how you increase your well-being in yogic sleep.
To counteract shallow breathing, you can consciously make sure to inhale deeply and exhale longer. To improve breathing rate and volume, you can easily tie a fitness band around your costal arch and breathe in and out deeply. “The costal arch is stretched, the lungs react and notice that I can use not just 20 percent, but 80 percent of my volume,” explains the expert.
The breath is held during the exercise so that the body learns to metabolize the available oxygen and to regulate breathing automatically. An example: Before each squat take a deep breath, hold your breath and tension, repeat, exhale deeply. You not only train your breathing, but also your body tension.
What other tips from neuroathletics are there?
For example eye training. 80 percent of the input that is processed in the brain comes through the organ of vision. To train the eyes, you can, for example, practice jumping. In doing so, you alternate your gaze between an object that is close to you and one that is further away. In this way you train the visual functions of the eye, improve the reception and processing of visual stimuli and increase your general visual and perceptual performance.
Another tip from professionals to integrate neurocentric training into everyday life is neural warm-up. You rub all areas of the body that are used during training to activate the respective receptors. It sounds silly (and maybe looks like it), but it actually has a greater effect on training preparation than conventional warming up on the cross trainer. Here’s why warm-up is so important.
The effect of neurocentric methods is immediate and you can reap benefits immediately. If your eyes, your sense of balance and your body provide the brain with the right information, this can improve your training performance enormously. The more precisely your brain knows how the joints should be, where your eyes should be, and how good your sense of balance is, the better the movements.
The 3 best neuroathletics exercises
Curious? OK. So that you can start training straight away, we have put together 3 simple and effective neuroathletics exercises for you:
- Breathe better: Muscles can only relax when everything is in balance there too. So feel inside your body and localize possible pain points. Inhale deeply and exhale – it helps immediately.
- Mirror yourself: Does your right knee hurt? Compare the pain with the left knee to activate the mirror neurons and reduce the pain in perception. The pain also arises in the brain, so there does not always have to be tissue damage when it pinches.
- Move slower: Do not fall into shock, but move! Carry out the painful movement consciously and slowly. If your back hurts, do the cat-cow move out of yoga, with minimal speed and minimal range of motion. Here’s how your brain learns, step by step: if it’s slow, it’s not a threat. And if there is no threat, the protection voltage is released. So you can go on with the movement execution.
Do you feel like doing neuroathletics and want to train your brain in addition to your fitness? Then it’s best to start right now with our neuroathletics exercises.