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What is Neural Training?

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  • Written By: Nicki Howell
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2016
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Neural training is a method that uses intense explosive body movements to strengthen fast-twitch muscles. This training approach can be helpful for athletes who practice often because it slows down the aging process in the muscles. Going this route might improve long-term performance.

Resistance training that targets fast-twitch muscles appears to improve the ability of the central nervous system to build muscle. Fast-twitch muscles work by activating the nervous tissues responsible for quick movements. This process allows muscle fibers to fire, improving performance in activities such as sprinting and high jumping. Even the strongest athletes do not necessarily have the stamina to sprint short distances, because strong fast-twitch muscles are required. Since fast-twitch activation usually is utilized during sprinting periods, runners generally need to target fast-twitch muscles during workout sessions.

Studies show that runners using traditional strength training approaches can increase performance by 2 percent. Runners using the neural training approach, however, could experience an 8-percent improvement. Although strength training can build more muscle, neural training usually will increase the ability of the body to achieve faster movements.

There are dozens of exercises that activate the fast-twitch muscles and can help improve performance. Fast feet drills, fast arm drills, and step up exercises without the use of dumbbells are a few examples. Other exercises to consider are punching bag drills, and throwing and catching tennis balls against a wall. Moving weights very fast during weight lifting sessions also can build fast-twitch muscles.

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When practicing quick movement exercises, it can be important for a person to watch themselves in a mirror to maintain form and help prevent injury. Also, it usually is recommended that both the lower and upper body muscles be exercised to preserve symmetry and to gain maximum benefit. Training sessions typically should be conducted on a soft surface, such as grass or a rubber-based track. Staying off concrete and other hard surfaces usually will minimize the chance of injury by reducing shock to the body.

Neutral training usually will leave the trainee fatigued, especially during the early months of training. Before starting an exercise routine that targets fast-twitch muscles, building up the leg muscles first can help achieve the best results. Also, lower body training typically should be avoided on neural training days. Muscle fatigue and damage usually can be prevented by limiting neural training sessions to one to two times each week.

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