Understanding Neuromuscular Adaptations in High Performance Athletes: Part 2

So after we have covered the fundamental principles of muscular strength development lets have a look at a few more variables that need to be considered.

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Its important to understand that the brain is able to adapt to any stimulus that it is exposed to as long as it has repeated exposure for a pro-longed period of time.

Thus, from a strength-training point of view, if we progressively overload our athletes, we should theoretically find that they keep getting stronger.

However, if we continuously expose them to the same / similar stimulus we will probably find that they plateau in their strength development. This not only due to a decrease in morphological but also neuromuscular adaptations


It is for this reason that S&C specialists need to understand how various loading parameters may affect either morphological or neurological adaptations.

Aagard, 2003, proposed that although loads ranging from 1 – 12 RM have affects on both morphological and neurological characteristics such as, STRENGTH, POWER and RATE OF FORCE DEVELOPMENT. It was in fact loads between 1- 6 RM that have a greater effect on these characteristics, due to the neuromuscular adaptations.

Thus, in turn suggestion that it was the neurological adaptations that may be of greater benefit to elite level athletes.

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So from a practical programming perspective we can use the figure above as a “blue print” to our resistance training prescription.

In the early stages of training most athletes experience an increase of strength due to neural adaptations. However, this decreases during “early” training phases, with morphological adaptations playing “catch-up”.

At this time, if a new strength-training stimulus is not added to an athletes training routine, he/she may plateau and not experience any further adaptations. However, the converse is also true, if the stimulus is adjusted too often, you will find that the athletes do not have sufficient time to recover or adapt to the stimulus and thus not improve their performance.

Secondary neural adaptations can be expected if a change is stimulus is imposed on an athlete through the utilisation of various advanced strength-training methods and sufficient recovery time.


Take Home Message:

All strength training program prescription should follow a logical order, and each phase should compliment the next in order to get the best training results. Enhancing the neuromuscular ability of athletes leads to the greatest potential for training transfer into their sporting performance. Although important, to a certain extent and depending on the sport, morphological adaptations should not be the sole focus of any elite level athletes resistance training prescription.

Remember we are training athletes to be great at their sport not great at gym!

Therefore training transfer should be the primary emphasis of all strength & conditioning programs for High Performance Athletes.  



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