Understanding Your CNS & Recovery Needs

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by RICK SCARPULLA

Understanding Your CNS & Recovery Needs
Working with athletes online allows me access to a wide range of folks I may otherwise not ever have the privilege of working with, and many of them are CrossFitters. Often people contact me when they are not making the progress they want and they need help — usually they are frustrated with their training or their box. I truly enjoy working with these folks in particular.

The primary problem I see is that most folks I deal with just do not understand how to get stronger all that well.
Ironically, the very root of the discipline of weight training  is to make its participants stronger, yet that seems to be the hardest part for some of these athletes. How the heck can a discipline that is solely designed to make you stronger not be making you stronger? You must be doing something wrong. My athletes continue to make gains at every level all the time. Real gains, not 2 kilos a year.

I hear people talking about training for 6 months and adding 2 kilos to a barbell lift. Really? Two kilos in six months to a year? As a coach and as an athlete, that is suicide watch for me if that’s all I am gaining in a stretch that long. These clients tell me all about how hard they are working and how much effort they extend in areas like diet and time spent at the gym. They buy the best gear, sleep right, live a healthy lifestyle, and still are not seeing real gains. What the heck?

I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble here, but most of these folks are not at the top of the charts in any area of strength. For example, if you’re a man and your back squat is 325lbs, you should be able to put 2 kilos a month on with half the effort they seem to be currently applying. Ladies who squat 115lbs, same story — too much effort with too little result. It is much easier to get stronger when you are in the first few years of a training career.

The primary problem I see is that most folks I deal with just do not understand how to get stronger all that well. This situation is something I see over and over in CrossFit.

Are You Recovering Enough?

While there are many factors that go into the strength equation, one of the keys to the whole process is an understanding of your own central nervous system (CNS) and recovery needs as well as what your individual developmental training needs are.

The fact that CrossFit is so diverse in its aims serves to heighten further the need for a better understanding of the CNS and its role in your training. The more diverse your training, the greater the role of the CNS, since you have much more to adapt to.

For comparison’s sake, consider that my young male athletes in top physical shape, who are also bull-strong (I have 142-lb lifters deadlifting 570lbs) will have different needs and recovery ability than a middle-aged office worker. In the case of my West Point athletes, they must meet rigid conditioning standards as well as strict physical requirements, so don’t think we just lift heavy and don’t do all the other things CrossFit does, because we do. (The 142-lb athlete I referred to above also runs 2 miles in just under 13 minutes.)

And yet I find sometimes the office worker may be doing more work than my 23-year-old athletes. This is not because they have a greater CNS recovery ability; I assure you our athletes are running at peak performance. It is because they think more is better, and in many cases it is not.
Learning to set your training schedule (or recovery schedule) up properly will help you more than you can imagine.
Understand that unless you are properly recovered, training again only slows down the whole strength gain process. In fact, it slows down the entire process CrossFit is geared toward improving. I hear of people training big compound movements and then doing similar work the next day, working the same areas they just cooked the previous night. They come in a day or two later and do it again. This process goes on over and over. Then they wonder why they are getting hurt and not making gains.

You must learn to understand your recovery ability and how important it is to your overall development. You simply can’t train effectively if your body is not recovered. Learning to set your training schedule (or recovery schedule) up properly will help you more than you can imagine.

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