If you want to tap into new levels of physical performance, you’ll need to pay attention to your nervous system. The nervous system is often the most overlooked aspect of fitness. We all have various goals but rarely do we pay attention to the health of our nervous system. To maximize your performance in any fitness activity, your nervous system will have to be functioning well. In terms of physical performance, every elite athlete has a highly efficient nervous system. In general, your nervous system is responsible for things like your digestion, quality of sleep, and ability to process information as a few examples.
If you want a strong and healthy nervous system, your spinal health will have to be a priority. Your body functions based on the information your brain sends to your spinal column. If you’re spine is out of whack, you won’t be able to function or perform at your best in any activity. One of the biggest culprits of spinal deterioration is sitting. When you sit, you’re decompressing the spine.
The solution to this is doing spinal hygeine exercises. I recently learned about them through listening to a podcast by Chiropractor Dr. Tommy John. I’ve been using these exercises for months now and have reaped the benefits. Two things I notice from doing these exercises is that my spine feels a lot better and I can think more clearly as a result. I usually do each of the spinal hygiene movements repeatedly for 3-5 minutes. You can spread them out how you want or do each of them consecutively as part of a spinal hygiene workout. Below are some of the spinal hygiene exercises I do. I also shared a video at the bottom of the page of a spinal hygiene routine.
- Head Nods- move your head up and down as far as possible.
- Head Shakes- Turn your head side to side the way you’d do when shaking your head. Turn your head far enough that you’re looking over your shoulder.
- Cross-Crawl Superman
Cross-Crawl movements can help your nervous system tremendously. This is due to the fact that they cause both of your brain hemispheres to work together simultaneously. My favorite cross-crawl movement is the leopard crawl. However, there’s many other movements to choose from. Below are the top 3 cross-crawl movements for nervous system health.
- Leopard Crawl
- Cross-Crawl Superman: Anything that fits in multiple categories is a must do!
- Baby Crawl
Hands and Feet
If you want to maximize your nervous system health, you’ll have to address hand and foot health. There are so many nerves in your hands and feet that any disfunction in those areas of your body will have an impact on the rest of your body. Why do you think people often lift weights barefoot or use flat shoes? Or why squeezing a bar tightly boosts your lifting performance?
- Dead Hang Stretch for time
- Barefoot walking
- Standing Straight Leg Raise- 5 minutes each leg
High Stress Exercises
The hardest way to optimize the health of your nervous system is through high stress exercises. High stress exercises force your nervous system to upgrade in order to be able to do them again. The key to doing high stress exercises is to give your nervous system time to recover from them. The other keys to a healthy nervous system will help speed up that recovery. Below are the top high stress exercises to boost your nervous system health.
- Heavy Farmer Walks
- Heavy compound lifts
- Extreme Isometric Lunges- 5 minutes on each leg
Breathing exercises are your nervous system’s best friend. Too much stress can inhibit your nervous system’s capabilities. One way to balance out the stress you face in training and in life is through breathing exercises. Breathing exercises will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the rest and digest function of your body.
- Alternative Nostril breathing
- Wim Hof Breathing
Your beliefs will dictate your actions and your outcome. If your beliefs are not in line with your goals, you’re going to have a difficult time. The key to getting your beliefs to align with your goals is to work with your subconscious mind through repetitive positive thought. This can be done in a number of ways.
- Positive Affirmations
- Writing and re-writing goals
Anytime you perform a complex movement, you’re developing new neuropathways in your brain. This means you’re using your brain in a way it’s never been used before and further develops it. When I talk about complex movements, I’m talking about the circus tricks you see people perform in the gym to get social media likes. I’m talking about movements that require high levels of coordination and brain usage. Below are some examples.
- Using opposite limb, something as simple as brushing your teeth with your opposite hand.
- Cross-Crawl movements as previously mentioned
- Any movement you’ve never tried before
Building a powerful nervous system will not only help you set new weight lifting records and excel at your sport, it’ll also make you better at every area of your life. It’ll also improve your overall health tremendously, since every function of your body is a result of the nervous system.
Video of Dr. Tommy John Spinal Hygeine routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iryqejKOUXU&t=101s
Leopard Crawl Exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY-PDU_LhUI
Straight Leg Raise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJvrDA6f2U0