Other/Mixed Studies on strength/hypertrophy training effects on the nervous system

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
I commonly see online that strength training can "drain the CNS," but I have also seen this debunked:


My question is less about "the CNS" and more about the effects on sympathetic/parasympathetic balance. I plan on looking into this as I can, and will definitely post any useful info I find. I do have focal dystonia in the right hand (which has been getting better through an unbelievable amount of work and patience) and have posted about it before; long story short my sympathetic nervous system is on a hair trigger and likes to get stuck "on."

I find that if I train intensely, even if just for one or two sessions, my nervous system feels "frazzled" for days following. The coordination in my hand is worse, my mood is worse, energy suffers a lot....etc. This is a bit frustrating because I would (ideally) like to do some actual hypertrophy training ("getting a pump with a heavy weight") but whenever I do it I suffer said consequences. I have gotten around this pretty well by doing something sort of close to "easy strength" (high frequency and low-moderate intensity), but even this, if not closely monitored, will backfire on me.

So I am asking for any info anyone might have about the effects of training on sympathetic/parasympathetic, or even just CNS function. Thanks all!
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
@bluejeff, good question.
I haven't tried heavy barbell stuff, but I can easily feel overtaxed by intense workouts.

Most of the stuff that I do actually goes back, at least partially, to @Geoff Neupert:
- OS resets with relaxed breathing and neck nods (rolling and rocking are quite soothing)
- Splitting sessions into parts to minimize fatigue
- Watching more comedy to unwind - especially with social distancing and everything (have some fun everyday)
- Diaphragmatic breathing after a session for 5-10 minutes (hey, even 2 minutes!) to calm down the CNS and activate the parasympathetic nervous system
- Hot/cold shower

In one of his intense fat loss programs, you are supposed to do a 20-minute cooldown (breathing, self-massage, stretching, cold-shower, sauna, etc.) after each session, to balance the stress.

--

I don't have studies at hand, but from what I remember, a couple of different directions are discussed:
- Hormonal balance: How much and how quick does your body release cortisol when triggered by stressors?
- General balance between parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system (HRV for example)
- The functional state of the vestibular system (--> OS resets, esp. neck nods)
- Tightness in certain areas can put pressure on nerves
- CNS as central governor: Are the stressors perceived as a danger (by the CNS)? If so, a lot of functions will be shut down. Less mobility, more residual tension, etc. . Again: Breathing and neck nods help :)
- Balance of positive and negative emotions play a role too. Not the intensity, not the duration, but actually quantity of good vs. bad moments (as perceived subjectively) during a day.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
I have read some interesting texts about CNS fatigue by Chris Beardsley. Maybe worth checking out.

I think one thing that stood out that isn't typically considered important was inflammation. One can affect it through diet and life choices in general.

When it comes to training, I think GTG is your best bet. And even if it slightly deviates from the party line, I think GTG works great with longer sets as well.

If you haven't yet done it, some kind of breathing or meditation practice could be great for you.
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
I commonly see online that strength training can "drain the CNS," but I have also seen this debunked:


My question is less about "the CNS" and more about the effects on sympathetic/parasympathetic balance. I plan on looking into this as I can, and will definitely post any useful info I find. I do have focal dystonia in the right hand (which has been getting better through an unbelievable amount of work and patience) and have posted about it before; long story short my sympathetic nervous system is on a hair trigger and likes to get stuck "on."

I find that if I train intensely, even if just for one or two sessions, my nervous system feels "frazzled" for days following. The coordination in my hand is worse, my mood is worse, energy suffers a lot....etc. This is a bit frustrating because I would (ideally) like to do some actual hypertrophy training ("getting a pump with a heavy weight") but whenever I do it I suffer said consequences. I have gotten around this pretty well by doing something sort of close to "easy strength" (high frequency and low-moderate intensity), but even this, if not closely monitored, will backfire on me.

So I am asking for any info anyone might have about the effects of training on sympathetic/parasympathetic, or even just CNS function. Thanks all!
I'm a bit dumber than majority of the members of the forum.

Are you getting your blood work done? If so how often? What are your testosterone and cortisol levels like? How is it effected pre and post intense session?

This would be interesting to know.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
I commonly see online that strength training can "drain the CNS," but I have also seen this debunked:


My question is less about "the CNS" and more about the effects on sympathetic/parasympathetic balance. I plan on looking into this as I can, and will definitely post any useful info I find. I do have focal dystonia in the right hand (which has been getting better through an unbelievable amount of work and patience) and have posted about it before; long story short my sympathetic nervous system is on a hair trigger and likes to get stuck "on."

I find that if I train intensely, even if just for one or two sessions, my nervous system feels "frazzled" for days following. The coordination in my hand is worse, my mood is worse, energy suffers a lot....etc. This is a bit frustrating because I would (ideally) like to do some actual hypertrophy training ("getting a pump with a heavy weight") but whenever I do it I suffer said consequences. I have gotten around this pretty well by doing something sort of close to "easy strength" (high frequency and low-moderate intensity), but even this, if not closely monitored, will backfire on me.

So I am asking for any info anyone might have about the effects of training on sympathetic/parasympathetic, or even just CNS function. Thanks all!


You might want to look into Cluster Set approach. It seems to generate a fair amount of metabolic stress and tension while being pretty easy on the CNS aspect.

Disclaimer: after looking into it, I am not convinced CNS fatigue is a major component of overtraining fatigue or if it is even real, but something sure happens.


“I think so. The evidence suggests it does have an effect, however the more recent research suggests it occurs to a greater extent with lower intensity, long duration exercise.

I do know that after doing 30 minutes of overcoming isometrics with maximal voluntary contractions, I feel fried...for about 1-2 hours. Then I feel great, relaxed and loose. The following day it appears to have zero negative effect on force production or muscular endurance.

I have noted that recovery time in terms of respiration and HR are directly linked to two things - total amount of muscle mass actively involved in a lift, and how close to fatigue you train. The difference between certain lifts at opposite ends of the spectrum are quite pronounced, so how you match and order exercises can have a big effect on recovery both during the session and afterward.

More likely this is tied to metabolic or nutritional issues. Training at high intensity it is extremely beneficial to get a high carb/protein bolus within 30-45 minutes. There is a window where glucose storage and glycogen synthesis operate at heightened efficiency. Ingestion of carbs in this window will not reduce fat burning for maintenance and physical/mental recovery is far more rapid compared to waiting a few hours. Total restoration of glucose stores can take a day or longer if a casual approach is taken.

Dehydration is also a major issue, I routinely lose as much as 3lbs of water weight in 45 minutes or less. Not a good idea to let that go very long.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
@Bauer Thanks! It's interesting to note that I noticed an overall moderate improvement in the dystonia symptoms after starting a regular OS practice. I attribute it to the contralateral movement and the vestibular stuff.
Balance of positive and negative emotions play a role too. Not the intensity, not the duration, but actually quantity of good vs. bad moments (as perceived subjectively) during a day.
This actually is something that I notice plays a huge role, and is something I am acutely aware of. It's helpful to be reminded.

I'm a bit dumber than majority of the members of the forum.

Are you getting your blood work done? If so how often? What are your testosterone and cortisol levels like? How is it effected pre and post intense session?

This would be interesting to know.
Yep. Got it drawn back in January, and should be getting it again before too long. Back then the doctor told me that I had better testosterone than most of her clients/patients. Cortisol was surprisingly ok too, given that I consider myself to be easily stressed out. It would be interesting to figure out how it looks before and after intense training.

You might want to look into Cluster Set approach. It seems to generate a fair amount of metabolic stress and tension while being pretty easy on the CNS aspect.
Good idea. I like the idea of clusters.

More likely this is tied to metabolic or nutritional issues. Training at high intensity it is extremely beneficial to get a high carb/protein bolus within 30-45 minutes. There is a window where glucose storage and glycogen synthesis operate at heightened efficiency. Ingestion of carbs in this window will not reduce fat burning for maintenance and physical/mental recovery is far more rapid compared to waiting a few hours. Total restoration of glucose stores can take a day or longer if a casual approach is taken.
This, interestingly, is something that has been "popping up" in the world (media and whatnot) around me. I have been a lower-carb guy for years, and occasionally have wondered what would happen if I went higher with them again.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
This, interestingly, is something that has been "popping up" in the world (media and whatnot) around me. I have been a lower-carb guy for years, and occasionally have wondered what would happen if I went higher with them again.
Two Summers ago I was training pretty hard, pretty high intensity. My mental and physical state after cooling down was not ever pleasant. I would whip up a high everything (carb/fat/protein) shake that more or less restored me in about 30 minutes. YMMV.
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
More likely this is tied to metabolic or nutritional issues. Training at high intensity it is extremely beneficial to get a high carb/protein bolus within 30-45 minutes. There is a window where glucose storage and glycogen synthesis operate at heightened efficiency. Ingestion of carbs in this window will not reduce fat burning for maintenance and physical/mental recovery is far more rapid compared to waiting a few hours
My post-workout meal is usual regular lunch or dinner. But when those get postponed for some reason, I sometimes crash energy-wise. Maybe I should snack something in the meantime to prevent crashing. Thanks for pointing it out.
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
@Bauer Thanks! It's interesting to note that I noticed an overall moderate improvement in the dystonia symptoms after starting a regular OS practice. I attribute it to the contralateral movement and the vestibular stuff.

This actually is something that I notice plays a huge role, and is something I am acutely aware of. It's helpful to be reminded.


Yep. Got it drawn back in January, and should be getting it again before too long. Back then the doctor told me that I had better testosterone than most of her clients/patients. Cortisol was surprisingly ok too, given that I consider myself to be easily stressed out. It would be interesting to figure out how it looks before and after intense training.


Good idea. I like the idea of clusters.


This, interestingly, is something that has been "popping up" in the world (media and whatnot) around me. I have been a lower-carb guy for years, and occasionally have wondered what would happen if I went higher with them again.
I'd be very interested in your bloods before and after intense training. A bit of a masochistic request but if you could do that so we can compare the difference, we may be able to find answer there.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
My question is less about "the CNS" and more about the effects on sympathetic/parasympathetic balance. I plan on looking into this as I can, and will definitely post any useful info I find. I do have focal dystonia in the right hand (which has been getting better through an unbelievable amount of work and patience) and have posted about it before; long story short my sympathetic nervous system is on a hair trigger and likes to get stuck "on."

I find that if I train intensely, even if just for one or two sessions, my nervous system feels "frazzled" for days following.
@bluejeff, do your strength training at about 1/2 maximum reps for any given weight. Use a range of 1/3 to 2/3 max reps, e.g., if you can do 9 of something train doing 3, 4, 5 or 6 reps of that thing.

Track your average intensity - do the math, and this time aim for 3/4 1RM average intensity, using a range of 65 to 85%.

Keep your training sessions short and your total volume low.

All this because, whatever's wrong, you need to recover from it before addressing any other physical concerns. Get well first and only then concern yourself with improving. You sound overtrained, a condition that can take a long while to recover from.

-S-
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
@bluejeff, do your strength training at about 1/2 maximum reps for any given weight. Use a range of 1/3 to 2/3 max reps, e.g., if you can do 9 of something train doing 3, 4, 5 or 6 reps of that thing.

Track your average intensity - do the math, and this time aim for 3/4 1RM average intensity, using a range of 65 to 85%.

Keep your training sessions short and your total volume low.

All this because, whatever's wrong, you need to recover from it before addressing any other physical concerns. Get well first and only then concern yourself with improving. You sound overtrained, a condition that can take a long while to recover from.

-S-
That's how I usually train. I push it from time to time to see where I'm at, but try to keep it away from high intensity. I'm sort of trying to see how different kinds of training affect me, and also find out what kinds of training affects the nervous system and in which ways. It's not that I'm overtrained (at least I'm pretty sure), it's that I have a weird and sort of rare nervous system issue in which my sympathetic side is overactive. I am in the process of rebalancing it, but it's something that will take years to "recover" from, and I may never fully "recover" from it, only learn to manage it better. It's a complex topic that would literally take books to really get into.

You always have great and kind advice that I appreciate though :)
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I have a weird and sort of rare nervous system issue in which my sympathetic side is overactive.

I hear what you're saying, but it sounds like you've decided on your own diagnosis. If you've had your suspicions about your nervous system confirmed by a doctor, that would be interesting to know in the context of what you've posted. Speaking for myself, if left to my own devices, I'd always overtrain, and did just that for a few decades as an amateur endurance athlete.

Focal dystonia has afflicted a number of prominent musicians, which is why I'm perhaps more familiar with this term than some might be, but my lay understanding of it is that, among other things, it's still quite poorly understood - and it does take years, if ever, to recover from.

I find that if I train intensely, even if just for one or two sessions, my nervous system feels "frazzled" for days following.

A man goes to the doctor and say,

"Doctor, it hurts when I raise my right hand over my head."

The doctor says,

"Stop raising your right hand over your head. Next patient, please."

You always have great and kind advice that I appreciate though
You're very kind - thank you.

But if you're experimenting on yourself and you can't use your right hand normally, I'd stop experimenting.

-S-
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
Focal dystonia has afflicted a number of prominent musicians, which is why I'm perhaps more familiar with this term than some might be, but my lay understanding of it is that, among other things, it's still quite poorly understood - and it does take years, if ever, to recover from.

I recall you having posted that you're a music teacher, yes? perhaps if you meet anyone with dystonia, refer them to this man:

There's actually a man by the name of Dr. Joaquin Farias who mostly works out of Toronto who has worked with all kinds of people afflicted with all kinds of dystonias (as well as studying them). He has done so for something close to 3 decades now, with a pretty good success rate. I went to a seminar with him in Toronto. There were only a handful of people there; so it was very hands on (no pun intended!). So that's why I'm pretty certain about the diagnosis. Dr. Farias is convinced that dystonia is the end result of a more systemic nervous system imbalance. I have been using an online recovery program developed by him with great success, although recovery is more of a tangled mess than a linear line.

Due to the individual nature of dystonia, as long as something is not (generally) causing my hand to misbehave (flat hand on the floor is no problem, so pushups are fine, for example) it's accepted that it is an okay activity to do. Of course there is a HUGE amount of grey area there. But I've dealt with this now for almost 6 years.

In any case, I think this has served to remind me to watch my training intensity more closely. Thanks again for being a voice of reason. 🙏
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I recall you having posted that you're a music teacher, yes? perhaps if you meet anyone with dystonia, refer them to this man:
Yes, I am. My casual observation about focal dystonia in musicians is that it seems to happen in very high level performers much more than in those whose performance skills are at a lower level. I don't know if that's just because those performers are better known, though.

Best of luck to you and we look forward to hearing of your progress.

-S-
 

Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
I commonly see online that strength training can "drain the CNS," but I have also seen this debunked:


My question is less about "the CNS" and more about the effects on sympathetic/parasympathetic balance. I plan on looking into this as I can, and will definitely post any useful info I find. I do have focal dystonia in the right hand (which has been getting better through an unbelievable amount of work and patience) and have posted about it before; long story short my sympathetic nervous system is on a hair trigger and likes to get stuck "on."

I find that if I train intensely, even if just for one or two sessions, my nervous system feels "frazzled" for days following. The coordination in my hand is worse, my mood is worse, energy suffers a lot....etc. This is a bit frustrating because I would (ideally) like to do some actual hypertrophy training ("getting a pump with a heavy weight") but whenever I do it I suffer said consequences. I have gotten around this pretty well by doing something sort of close to "easy strength" (high frequency and low-moderate intensity), but even this, if not closely monitored, will backfire on me.

So I am asking for any info anyone might have about the effects of training on sympathetic/parasympathetic, or even just CNS function. Thanks all!
Interesting article, Thanks. Concerning para. and sym.systems, look into a book titled: Accessing The Healing Power Of The Vagus Nerve by Stanley Rosenberg. You could jump to the end of the book to give the exercises a heat check.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
@bluejeff
Just curious... do you incorporate any locomotive cardio into your training/
I like to do different flows and crawling and such. I used to run quite a bit, but once my goals shifted to strength, that took a big back seat. What kinds of things did you have in mind?

@Don Fairbanks thanks for the suggestion. I am very slowly getting though a book on polyvagal theory. It's tough to do much extra reading with my school load though.
 

Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
I like to do different flows and crawling and such. I used to run quite a bit, but once my goals shifted to strength, that took a big back seat. What kinds of things did you have in mind?

@Don Fairbanks thanks for the suggestion. I am very slowly getting though a book on polyvagal theory. It's tough to do much extra reading with my school load though.
Check your local library system. Go to the exercises at the end. For me the ebook was 500+ pages, last 10-20 pages have the exercises.
My version of CliffsNotes man, save you some time. Rosenberg teaches with Porges, so you're already reading the material.
 
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