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To get warm and loose, a light jog on the treadmill and a dynamic warmup are must-dos before any training session. But it turns out that there’s a third piece to the pretraining puzzle that you’re probably missing: CNS priming.
Short for “central nervous system,” your CNS is your body’s control center. It acts as the middleman between your brain and your muscles. For example: Let’s say you’re deadlifting—your feet are in place, your hands are gripping the bar, and you’re ready to drop your hips and pull. To initiate any of these actions, your brain shoots off a signal to your CNS, which then causes your muscles and joints to react accordingly.
Like your muscles—which can underperform if they’re not well rested or you didn’t warm up properly—your CNS can be fatigued. As a result, you’ll feel tired and slow, and weight that may normally be easy for you will start to feel like a grind, according to Andrew Triana, a trainer to elite-level Strongman competitors and the co-owner of the Performance Vibe (theperformancevibe.com), a fitness community that offers nutrition and performance coaching.
“Luckily, we have the power to prepare our CNS to train,” Triana says. “When your CNS is excited, or primed, you feel you can flex hard and focus deeply. Imagine it as paving the way for your middleman to hit less traffic and make all the green lights on the way from your brain to the muscular contraction.”
To achieve this, Triana recommends performing any of the plyometric moves, or primers, outlined on the following pages. They’ll wake up your CNS without burning you out to get you ready for big lifts.
Start out by performing just one or two of the moves you see here before a training session, and be sure to keep track of how many reps it takes for you to feel “turned on.”
“When you’re ready to go, it’s very noticeable,” Triana says. “You’ll be sweating slightly, you’ll feel mentally in the zone, the reps will feel easier, and you should feel lighter and more nimble.” All five of these moves are similar in terms of how they prime you to lift, so feel free to pick a few favorites and stick with them or cycle through them. “Think of them as tools to have in your toolbox,” Triana adds.
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