When you’re new to weightlifting and going to the gym, almost anything you do has an immediate effect. For a few weeks, you may not notice much difference in the mirror, but you will quickly find yourself tossing heavier plates on the bar, reaching for larger dumbbells, and eschewing lesser resistance bands in favor of more challenging ones. After roughly a month, your results begin to take on more visual quality. Your arms begin to stretch your shirt sleeves, your legs begin to strain your inseams, and your significant other begins to cast you more adoring glances.
Going to the Gym Should Not Be Taken as Grinding
Unsurprisingly, this is also the point at which many men begin to consider their daily workout in the gym as less of a grind and more of a peak. Enjoy this. Rarely will your improvement be as fast as it is at the start of a new training program — and no other time will the lesser-known neurological component of strength be more apparent.
What Are Strength Training Neural Adaptations?
When the majority of individuals consider gaining strength, they only consider muscle growth. Weightlifting causes muscle fibers to adapt by growing in size and contractile power. Muscular adaptations cause the growth that motivates you to shop for tight shirts and athletic-cut pants, but they take longer to manifest than neural adaptations, which refer to the effectiveness with which your neurological system activates your muscle fibers.
To be clear, neural adaptations are not synonymous with “mind-muscle connection,” which occurs when you concentrate on a particular muscle and feel it contract during an exercise in the gym. While neural changes occur subconsciously, the mind-muscle connection occurs consciously. However, they have one thing in common: both can assist you in unlocking greater power by increasing the efficiency with which you activate your muscles.
How Can People Strengthen Their Neuromuscular System?
According to research, skewed workouts toward heavy lifting can result in stronger neural adaptations — and consequently overall strength — than training with lighter loads (although both deserve a place in a well-rounded training program).
Additionally, it’s critical to incorporate instability training into your program and to keep your weekly routine different (e.g., by not doing the same workout in the gym every day). In summary, focus not only on absolute strength development but also on dynamic strength application to maximize your gains in this critical athletic skill.