Everyone wants to get the most out of their time spent in the gym. Your goal may be to lose weight, gain muscle, or to simply be more functional in handling daily activities. Lifting more weight (with proper form) allows you to get the most out of your workouts and achieve your goals quicker. I would like to share a trick that will help you achieve lifting more weight: fire up your CNS prior to your workout!
Your CNS, or central nervous system, consists of your brain and spinal cord. It is your operating system for telling the body how to perform a task. During weight lifting, your CNS operates by receiving information and then telling your muscles how much force to apply and how many muscle fibers to recruit in order to perform an exercise. If your CNS is not ramped up and fully firing, you could be leaving weight on the table.
One way that most people already activate their CNS prior to workout is by doing a general warm up, and then a couple of specific warm up sets prior to their first exercise. A warm up not only “warms up” your muscles, but it also starts to prepare your CNS for the upcoming challenge. While I still recommend doing a warm up, there is another way to fire up even more activation of your CNS. After your general warm up, add in an explosive movement similar to the one that you’re about to perform.
Performing an explosive movement, with intensity, will cause your CNS to ramp up and begin to fire on all cylinders. It will set you up for maximal performance going into your first exercise. Some examples of explosive movements include plyometrics, ball slams, and banded exercises. According to Andrade et al, 2015: “We recommend that specific low-volume, high-intensity fast muscle actions be included during warm-up before performance events.”
Here are some example compound exercises and the corresponding explosive exercises that I would recommend:
Barbell Back Squat: Box jump or squat jump
Barbell Bench Press: Clap push-up or med ball chest pass against wall
Barbell Deadlift: Broad jump or ball slam
Pull-up: Banded straight arm pull downs
Your focus should be on the speed and explosiveness of these exercises, not the weight. Perform 2 sets of 5 repetitions of the explosive exercise, so that you prime your CNS, but don’t fatigue yourself.
There is, however, also a small catch to this trick. After firing up your CNS, it will only be turned on for so long. Once you’ve performed your explosive movement make sure you start performing your exercise within 3-15 minutes, otherwise your body will ramp down since the CNS can’t stay fired up forever.
Another way to fire up your CNS, or to add explosive exercises into your training, would be by using our new EGYM equipment. EGYM machines feature a training mode that they call “explonic”. In this mode you focus on how much force you can apply during a repetition, and the machine then shows you on the screen how much wattage you produced. You could use this modality as a new workout in itself, or use it as part of your warm up before an exercise.
Here are a few example exercises and the EGYM machine that I would recommend:
Barbell Bench Press: EGYM Chest Press
Barbell Back Squat: EGYM Leg Press
Pull-up: EGYM Lat Pulldown
Military Press: EGYM Shoulder Press
The explonic training mode can be a fantastic way to fire up your CNS and add explosive movements into your workout. This mode is one of the unique features that EGYM offers that makes this equipment so intriguing. I suggest setting up an EGYM onboarding appointment and then giving it a try next time you get a chance!
Andrade, D. C., Henriquez-Olguín, C., Beltrán, A. R., Ramírez, M. A., Labarca, C., Cornejo, M., Álvarez, C., & Ramírez-Campillo, R. (2015). Effects of general, specific and combined warm-up on explosive muscular performance. Biology of sport, 32(2), 123–128. https://doi.org/10.5604/20831862.1140426.
Personal Trainer Josh Lewis M.Ed., NSCA CSCS has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from UW-Eau Claire and a Master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. When he’s not at the gym he enjoys hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and watching sports with family and friends. Josh’s love for being active, along with the enjoyment he receives from helping people reach their goals, is what led him to become a Personal Trainer.
Contact Josh Lewis at (507) 287-9335 ext. 351.