Neuroscience and Fitness Training

I've been reading Dr. Joe Dispenza's book, Evolve Your Brain, and in this book he writes about a neuroscience experiment done by Alvaro Pascual-Leone. The experiment compares the effects on the brain of four different activities: practicing a consistent piano sequence every day for a week, playing the piano in random patterns every day for a week, visualizing (without actually touching a piano) playing a consistent piano sequence every day for a week, and doing nothing related to the piano whatsoever.

The group of people who practiced the same piano sequence daily showed development in new areas of the brain; they literally added a new, functional neural network. The group who visualized themselves playing the same sequence every day demonstrated the same, positive neurological adaptations. The groups who played random piano sequences every day showed the same results as the group who played no piano at all: no new neurological development whatsoever.

So, what are the ramifications of this study? First, since visualization created the exact same neurological development as actually practicing the piano, we see that visualization techniques are tremendously valuable. Second, the concepts of consistency and specificity become incredibly important in training.

The group that randomly practiced the piano put in the same amount of effort as the groups that practiced the same sequence over and over again (whether on a physical piano or in their minds), but achieved none of the results. Many athletes who lift chest one day, do cardio the second day, arms the third day, hot yoga the fourth day, and legs the fifth day see the same pattern: effort in the gym does not translate to results on the field, court, ice, etc. Consistency of stimulation, we see, is required to create adaptation in the nervous system. And since we know the nervous system controls all of our movement, consistency is an absolute necessity for effective training.

Let's look at training to sprint, for example. Effective training requires consistently activating the neurological patterns that create the powerful movements of a sprinting stride. One possible way of training is to simply go out on the track and sprint. If this sprinting is done correctly (position) and maximally (velocity), that can work. As every track athlete knows, however, it can be difficult to maintain maximal velocity for longer than 2-3 runs of 100 meters. That means anywhere from 20-40 seconds of proper neurological programming.

What if, instead, there was a tool that allowed you to get 300 continuous seconds of that exact same neurological programming, consistently, in every workout? Fortunately this tool exists -- it's called the extreme isometric. And when done according to our specifications, this technique improves sprinting in exactly the same way as repeatedly practicing a piano sequence improves the ability to play the piano: it consistently programs the same pattern into the body so that the new pattern takes hold.

The other major takeaway from this experiment, visualization, also plays in to our system. When you participate in extreme isometrics with us, we instruct you to visualize your outcome for the duration of the exercise. When your brain sees the end, it can take you there. And the ability to see the end from the beginning is what empowers us to do great things.

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