If you spend much time at all around bodybuilders who are dedicated to the sport, you’ll find that many of them seem to focus quite a bit on the nervous system. Understanding the role that the nervous system plays in bodybuilding is important for sculpting the body you’ve always wanted.
The Autonomous Nervous System
If you think about the purpose of bodybuilding, it’s all about first putting stress on your body, and then allowing it to recover before stressing it again. Both Stress and Recovery are controlled by the autonomous nervous system, or ANS, which is comprised of two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is where the excitement comes from, and it is responsible for the majority of your “fight or flight” instinct. By contrast, the parasympathetic portion is responsible for inhibition, and it helps you Rest and recover.
Understanding the Balance
Before you get excited about learning how to control your ANS, remember that these processes are completely automated by the body. They happen on a subconscious level, responding only to stress and the lack thereof. Compare the balance between the two parts of the ANS to a car; most people shift between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system all throughout the day without even realizing it. The goal, then, is not to gain control over your nervous system; it is to create and remove stress in such a way that you balance your ANS and optimize it for Bodybuilding.
Tips to Improve Your ANS and Your Performance
Optimizing your fluctuating ANS for bodybuilding is mostly about common sense, and while some of the tips below may seem simple, they go a long way toward helping your body become better at doing what it was designed to do all along.
- Intense workouts require intense recovery. Because the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems must work together at all times to create balance, you must do your part to help them. Make sure that your recovery is on par with your workout or Competition. In short, if you go hard make sure you rest hard, too.
- Learn how to disengage. For the majority of athletes, the sympathetic nervous system tends to dominate. You must learn how to disengage from reality from time to time in order to train your parasympathetic nervous system to “kick in”. Play a video game, read a book; do anything that takes your mind away from bodybuilding.
- Learn when to be aggressive. Be aware that the action of the sympathetic nervous system is designed to be short-lived. Make the most of it by revving yourself up, burning your fuel, and then shutting yourself down. For instance, it makes no sense to excite yourself prior to your biggest sets; by the time they come, your sympathetic nervous system will already be on the downswing.
To put it simply, the key to managing your overall wellbeing as a bodybuilder has to do with Training your autonomous nervous system to work in such a way that your bursts of energy and excitement come only when needed, then fade away when it is time to relax. Doing this improves not only your physical condition, but your mental condition, as well.