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Neurological Efficiency and Skill Acquisition in Exercise, by Matthew Romans

When a new client begins the Total Results exercise regimen, we use the first few sessions to determine proper machine settings, gauge beginning strength and conditioning levels, identify any joint issues, and teach the exercise protocol. Teaching the protocol is an ongoing process, of course, but the first few sessions are very important in order to establish good habits and the proper mindset for serious exercise. Two important and interrelated factors, one within your control and one outside of your control, have a significant impact on the exercise stimulus that you generate during the course of a workout: neurological efficiency and skill acquisition.

In terms of muscle biology, a motor unit is a group of muscle fibers controlled by a motor neuron. Groups of motor neurons often work together to coordinate the effort of contracting a single muscle group. The All-or-None law dictates that either all of the muscle fibers associated with a neuron will contract in response to a stimulus, or none will contract.

Neurological efficiency is the percentage of muscle fibers that can be recruited in an all-out effort. It is genetically predetermined and cannot be changed. Interestingly, most people's neurological efficiency falls between 15 and 30 percent, but there are exceptions on either side. People who are less neurologically efficient may initially have a hard time maintaining a smooth movement and getting a feel for proper speed while using our exercise protocol. It is rare to find someone with a neurological efficiency of greater than 40 percent; such individuals have been referred to by Ken Hutchins as "alpha subjects.", and he has only worked with two such subjects in his entire career. Since these extremely neurologically efficient individuals inroad their musculature more deeply than most people, they will require fewer exercises in their routine and more time between workouts to recover properly.

You might ask why at least some people don't have a neurological efficiency of 100 percent. This would pose a tremendous threat to the safety of the human body; muscles would probably tear from their musculotendinous attachments, bones would break, and one would reach a state of utter exhaustion. The body has protective measures in place to guard against injury, and while the body interprets intense exercise as a threat, we want to stimulate the body in the safest manner possible.

The body's recovery ability is somewhat fragile; injury and illness can occur if exercise volume and frequency exceed the minimum amount necessary to stimulate the growth mechanism. This is why we only go to positive muscular failure rather than total muscular failure on each exercise.

While we cannot really improve neurological efficiency, we can improve exercise form and achieve a deeper inroad and exercise stimulus by working to acquire skill.

Skill acquisition should be the main objective of both the subject and the instructor in the first several exercise sessions, and it happens by consistently performing specific movement patterns. This is what I often refer to as the learning phase. As the client encounters more meaningful levels of resistance, a greater command of movement speed, pace, smoothness of movement, and turnaround technique is the result. Total Results workouts involve gross motor movements (over a larger range of motion and encompassing a greater amount of muscle) rather than fine motor movements (such as a skill like playing the piano, which involves much less muscle), so they are much easier to learn. Many of our exercises are compound movements; these exercises are generally the easiest for beginners to learn, and they target more muscle in less time.

Once novice clients have mastered the initial selection of exercises, we usually introduce additional exercises and alternate them from one workout to the next. This provides a little variety to the exercise routine. Excellent form is paramount; this makes the exercise safer and leads to a more effective stimulus.

Regardless of how neurologically efficient you are or what genetic hand you have been dealt, through continuously applied effort, a willingness to learn, and a positive attitude you can maximize your genetic blueprint with the Total Results exercise philosophy. Schedule an initial consultation today!

Posted August 26, 2019 by Tim Rankin