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Episode 107: Instant Strength Improvement

Video Highlights

- Improve Contractile Mapping.
- Increase Neural Drive.
- Specific instruction on how to apply this to your training.

Hi everybody, Dr. Cobb back. With you today we’re going to talk about how to get much, much stronger 90 seconds at a time.

Guys I’m going to share with you one of the key drills that we teach in our 9S Strength Certification. The reason that this is so important goes all the way back to the stuff we talk about with how the nervous system works. It gets input from the body and the environment. The brain decides what do to with that and then it creates an output. I’m going to say that again. The brain creates the output.

Whenever I’m doing strength training my brain is the initiator of the movement. That is incredibly important to building better strength. Now I am a strength guy. As a martial artist one of the things I love is being strong in weird angles where I might wind up if I’m grappling or whatever. I’ve been exploring strength for a really time. One of the most pertinent ideas or concepts in strength training is what is called neural drive.

Now neural drive is a little bit nebulous. Basically it means now my brain talks to my musculature. Meaning if I say, hey arm I want you to curl really hard. The initiation of that comes from my brain and the ability to maintain it and to increase the intensity of it also comes from my brain and information and activities happen in my spinal cord. What we’re going to talk about today is utilizing isometric exercises to increase neural drive. Simply put, I’m going to show you how to do some exercises where you’re really, really focusing on contracting muscles very hard, because, one of the things that’s come out of research if you really want to be super strong you have to be really awesome at creating tension within muscles.

We like to call it improving your contractile map. Sounds really, really technical, but ultimately muscles contract.

We want to have great maps for making those muscle do exactly what they’re designed to do. Here’s how this is going to work. We’re going to talk about three position isometrics. If I want to improve my biceps strength, my biceps, something I would use to do a pull up. If I was grabbing an opponent and pulling him into me, if I was holding someone tight, whatever. If I need better biceps we have to understand what the bicep does first and foremost.

Because, your muscles need to be able to contract hard at all different lengths. Whenever I teach people initially how to get strong, I say listen I’m going to take every muscle as best we can or every body part and we’re going to put it in three different positions. An extended position. A mid-range position and a closed position. In each place we’re going to do an isometric exercise. Now isometric means no movement or equal movement actually. Basically it means that we’re going to find an immovable object and we’re going to press into it really, really hard. We’re going to focus. Remember we’re working on neural drive.

We’re working on brain, body connection.

We’re going to focus on increasing over time the tension that we’re generating in the muscle. For my bicep what I’m actually going to start off with is I’m going to have my back to an object. Now in this case, I’ve got this handy thing called a gladiator wall which is awesome. Maybe you’re at home. Maybe you can use the counter in the kitchen. You can use a chair. It doesn’t matter. Your arm does not have to be up super high, it can be a little bit lower.

The main thing here is you’re going to get tall. I want you to keep a soft bend in your elbow and you’re going to focus on bringing your arm forward in to this motion, so if this wasn’t here as I start pressing my arm would be coming forward. I want you to imagine that you’re turning on water in the faucet really slowly. You’re here. You’re nice and tall and you’re watching your posture. You’re going to start to contract. You’re adding pressure, you’re adding pressure. Now remember we’re working on neural drive here. I want to you stay focused on your bicep. Stay focused on the front of that arm and keep increasing the tension gradually.

Now at some point you’re going to get to a level where I can’t make it any tighter. Once you hit the I can’t make it any tighter I want you to hold for six seconds. Six, five, four, three, two, one, ahh and gently release. All right, so that’s position one, full stretch. Now we’re going to go to a mid-range position. Imagine I was curling a bar, I would be in the mid-range here. For me I’m going to turn and face this.

I’m going to come to basically a 90 degree bend. Now, because, I’ve done this a lot and I’ve generated a lot of force, I’m going to actually brace myself with my other hand, so that I can pull really hard here. Once again, I’m in a 90 degree bend, nice and tall. I’m going to start to pull. Focus on the brain connection to the muscle. Keep working on feeling it. You can even rub it if you need to to remind yourself of where it’s at. Keep increasing tension.

Once you get to the point where you feel like you can’t create any more, maintain it. Six, five, four, three, two, one, release. In most cases we probably spent somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds in each position.

We’re now on position three which is going to be the fully flexed position. Now for this one, what I’m going to do is I’m going to use this rope just, because, it’s most convenient for me. While I wish I could tear this rope, I probably can’t, so this is actually going to provide me with enough leverage that I can get into a fully flexed position, so I’m really working on my bicep here. Now the other thing that the bicep does is it elevates and brings the arm in.

You’re going to see me try to get into this position. Got the rope, now I’m here and once again I’m going to start to add tension. I’m thinking about my bicep. Really focusing on the neural drive to that muscle. Max tension. Six, five, four, three, two, one, aah and release. Now, why this stuff is so important. You can work through any muscle group in the body or any movement in the body.

The main thing that you’re going to learn from this is that there are going to be areas where you can generate tension easily, usually the mid-range. You’re also going to find that there are areas where you really struggle to generate tension. As an athlete we consider these extended areas where you struggle to create tension potential ranges of motion of injury. What we want to make sure is that we can contract in every single position and the beautiful side benefit to that is even if your primary job in the gym is working on aesthetics and you like body building type of exercises. The simple practice of increasing neural drive to muscle is going to help you get a lot stronger a lot faster.

Guys, now that we’ve talked about this basic isometric process, three different positions, really working on the neural drive component, really focusing on creating tension. The easiest way to apply this is to pick three different muscle groups and work on those muscle groups 90 seconds a day four days a week.

If you do that and give yourself a little bit of time you’ll progress through the body and in that you’re going to find your ability to generate tension which eventually equates to strength skyrockets so good luck with it.

Let us know if you have any questions.

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