By: Regan Quaal
The Nervous System consist of three major parts the central nervous system (CNS), peripheral nervous system (PNS), and autonomic nervous system (ANS). Each system is a complex collection of nerves and neurons that transmit signals between different parts of the body, it’s basically the bodies electrical wiring.
The part of the nervous system that is most important to us is the autonomic nervous system. This part of the nervous system supplies all our internal organs based on the information it receives about the body’s state and the external environment surrounding it. Some of the body’s functions the ANS controls are
Autonomic Nervous System
The ANS has two main divisions the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic Nervous System responds by stimulating those functions to prepare the body for stressful or emergency situations, examples below:
The Parasympathetic Nervous System responds by downregulating those functions to bring the body back to homeostasis to allow for rest and digest, examples below:
What Does This Mean To You?
To maximize training adaptations, you need to take advantage of the effects of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system is most beneficial to us because it is the state we want to be in all day, every day outside of the time we are training. This is the state our body recovers most efficiently in due to the relaxed state and increased absorption/digestion of nutrients.
Engaging the parasympathetic nervous system can also be very beneficial in your daily training routine during cool downs after training, to shift your body immediately into a recovery state. It would also be beneficial for individuals who tend burn out early in workouts to be in a parasympathetic state prior to training.
Inducing the effects of the sympathetic nervous system for its benefits also has its time and place. Specifically, before an important session in a strength cycle or one where you will be attempting a new personal record for a lift. Everyone knows the weight feels lighter when your surrounded by your yelling training partners while the music is blasting. This environment ignites our SNS, giving us tunnel vision and causing short/shallowing breathing as we brace for the big lift.
Although it feels great to hit those PR’s relying on the SNS for prolonged periods of time can lead to burn out/over training. This is due to the higher level of cortisol release and fatigue buildup it causes. A perfect example of this burnout is any young athlete (myself included) who just starts Cross Fit. They think it is the best thing ever, they don’t take rest days and go 100% every workout. Pretty soon they find themselves either extremely run down or injured.
That’s why it is ideal to only rely on the SNS sparingly when you have a very important training session or competition. This approach will lead to steady improvement over long periods of time versus large improvements initially that plateau quickly. In one of the following articles I will go over different techniques to either stimulate the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system.
By: Regan Quaal
When discussing lower body training, it’s not uncommon to hear athletes bring up the following – “ugh, deadlift KILLS my back!” or “whenever I go heavy on back squats, my lower back starts to bug me…” This even comes from athletes who are relatively competent in the movements, but, for some reason, can’t withstand much of a load when training. They’ve tried RDLs and Hip Thrusts at the end of their sessions because they’ve been told to work on activating the posterior chain (mainly glutes and hamstrings), but they still come away with lower back pain and tightness, along with a negative outlook on heavy lower body training.
Addressing a lack of glute and hamstring development isn’t easy, but it’s very important because hip extension is the basis of virtually every movement performed in sport and life. Most trainers address these issues by prescribing glute activation exercises in the warm up, like clamshells. Even though these type of exercises have a time and place, they don’t cause enough stress for any real adaptations in the posterior chain to take place. The Reverse Hyperextension is the perfect tool for individuals lacking posterior chain development because it adequately stresses the hamstrings and glutes while minimally stressing the lower back.
In the 1970’s, the great Louie Simmons invented the Reverse Hyper machine. He used it to develop his posterior chain as he was recovering from major back injuries. Below are many reasons why the Reverse Hyper should be regularly implemented in an athlete’s training program.
Unfortunately, many gyms are not lucky enough to have a Reverse Hyper machine. Below, I have attached a video of how an athlete can utilize standard gym equipment to mirror the motion of the Reverse Hyper machine to achieve similar results for posterior chain loading and activation.