Basically, anything that increases adrenaline production will work. If you’ve been reading my most recent articles you know that 6 elements can contribute to increasing adrenaline (and cortisol):
Volume: obviously not an option as an activation tool
Intensiveness: Not an option either; doing sets to failure prior to your main work is not conducive to peak performance
Psychological stress: Not a huge idea with less experienced individuals. But could be used by advanced strength athletes in the form of supramaximal squat walk-outs or bench holds.
Neurological demands: This is the best option for amping up the CNS without negatively affecting performance. High force, high speed and high coordination all increase neurological demands.
Density: I instinctively do this… very short rest periods during the prep period to give the workout a sense of urgency, it also helps to get into the zone and put you in the right mindset.
Competitiveness: This is not really applicable, it will happen naturally if you are a competitive person or are in a competitive setting. However it tells us that in competitive situations, you should do less activation work because, since the competitiveness already increases adrenaline, you risk getting overactivated if you use too much activation work. This could lead to loos of coodination/timing, muscle stiffness, overthinking, overreacting, etc.
The best activation tools are thus either:
High force, but with minimal fatigue. I like overcoming isometrics and loaded carries for this
High speed: likely the best option most of the time as there is less risk of injury and fatigue than high force methods.
High coordination: the more complicated a motor task is, even without high force or high speed, the more the brain needs to be involved and the more adrenaline you produce to get the brain up to speed to perform the task. In the past I’ve used juggling to get prepared for a snatch or clean & jerk session. A lot of Crossfit athletes that I know instinctively. walk on their hands to prepare for a session.
As long as the physical fatigue is similar, both approaches should work the same.
The one case where the gymnastic drills might not work as well is if they are low skill movements for the person who do it. For example if someone is a skilled gymnast, a front lever might not be demanding enough to maximally activate the brain. Similarly, if someone can hold a solid front lever, a tucked lever hold might not lead to maximal activation.
Jumps and max effort overcoming isometrics automatically amp up the nervous system by their nature. Gymnastic exercises need to be technically challenging, but not physically fatiguing.
Coach what are your thoughts on trigger / feeder sessions. Mindpump guys use bands (2-3 sets of 10-20 reps across 4-6 exercises) to “pump” blood and get a little stimulus on offdays in between whole body.
Can be done 2x-3x a day, which is a boon for 2A’ers like myself who don’t know what to do on rest days.
The band work on off days is supposed to dramatically increase gains (constant muscle stimulus signal on offdays, minimal tissue/cns burden because of bands) and also help with recomp (fat loss/metabolic effect).
I tried it myself last night and am feeling it a bit this morning. I’ve always found tempo prescriptions a bit tedious, not to mention distracting. I believe in the ideal world, it would be useful to have a training partner counting this out.
For me, I have found that it really only works when you have the mind muscle connection really dialed in; ensuring you are contracting the working muscles as much as possible without losing the tension, i.e. not locking out, taking pauses between reps or resting at the bottom. This was hammered home to me by Scott Stevenson.
I didn’t do the conditioning part afterwards due to time constraints and also knowing it would likely impact on my recovery. I plan to do some neural charge stuff and LISS on off days.