Neural Charge: A Simple Strategy to Get Stronger and Feel Like a Million Bucks

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I’m slow.

Not in the “I drive 45 MPH in the left lane on the highway” slow or “I need to give exact change to the cashier so let me dig around in my pocketbook for two nickels and three pennies while everyone else waiting in line taps their foot” slow.

No, not quite.  And just so we’re clear:  I don’t own a pocketbook.  I was just using that as a frame of reference, mmmmkay?

What I’m referring to when I say I’m slow is how I lift weights.  I’m just, you know, slow.  I lack explosiveness, pizzazz, “oomph,” whatever you want to call it, I just lack it.

Take my deadlift for example.  I have a decent pull.  My best is 570 lbs at a bodyweight of 190. My goal is to eventually pull 600 at a bodyweight of whateverthef*&k.  I don’t care, I just want to pull 600.  However, the biggest hurdle to jump when it comes to hitting this milestone is my speed off the floor.

To put it bluntly – It sucks!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my fair share of dedicated speed work, working in the prerequisite 45-65% 1RM range and placing an emphasis on bar speed.  But it’s just never panned out for me.  And, if I were to speak candidly, there’s a small part of me that prefers grinding out heavy sets anyways, which is a very ass-backwards way of doing things.

NOTE: For a brief primer on the “Strength Continuum,” and to get a better idea of the ins and outs of what I’m talking about, I’d highly encourage you to check ou this video by Eric Cressey

I’ve been talking about this goal of mine for at least 2-3 years now.  And for the past 2-3 years I haven’t made much of an effort to address my weakness, just assuming that if I grind out enough heavy singles, and if I want it bad enough, it will just somehow magically happen one day.

Well, we all know what they say:  the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

So it’s been within the past month or so that I’ve had an epiphany and decided to nip things in the bud.  In a nutshell I need to get a little more athletic.

As noted in the video above, I’m one of those guys that’s been leaning more towards the absolute strength side of things and completely neglecting the speed side.  Bad Tony!

Now, this isn’t all to say that I’m an un-athletic sloth here. It’s like I look like the Tin Man when I run, I can still throw a baseball in the mid-80s, and I’m pretty sure I could last at least seven seconds in a cage-fight with Gina Carano:

The impetus behind my new found motivation is an article that my pal, Todd Bumgardner, wrote a while back for T-Nation (HERE) where he discussed the benefits of implementing more “neural charge” workouts throughout the week.

What’s a neural charge you ask?  It’s simply a way to train the CNS in an efficient and non-ball busting way (<=== how’s that for science?).

Getting faster is a full-proof way to get stronger.  Likewise, implementing more of this type of training is a great way to improve inter and intramuscular coordination, increase recruitment of high-threshold motor units, increase rate coding, and lets be honest:  it just looks bad ass.

As well, I’d even argue it’s a great way to decrease joint stress (as your utilizing (mostly) concentric based movements), not to mention there’s an obvious metabolic component as well.

Nevertheless the basic premise is this:  you pick 5-6 exercises or drills and perform them as explosively as possible in circuit fashion.  I should also note that it’s important to allow full recovery between each exercise. So when I say circuit fashion it’s not like you’re going to rush through it. And you’re not going to perform many total reps.  I’d say 3-5 max.

Here’s an example of a neural charge workout that I took myself through this past Saturday and Wednesday:

From a personal perspective I’ve been prioritizing more jumps in my training – hence the box jumps and split squat jumps. But the important thing to consider is alternating between upper and lower body exercises, and if you’re going to include things like med ball work, core specific work, OLY lift variations, and the like, you need to put some thought into the order.

From there, as noted above, you’re gong to cycle through the exercises (making sure to recover between each) for a specific number of rounds or for a specific amount of time.  Six rounds takes me around 12-15 minutes which is just about right in my book.

Remember: the idea here isn’t to hate life and train until you shit a liver.  If anything after this type of session you should feel refreshed and ready to take on the world.

I’ve been implementing these twice a week as of late, but I know Todd and other coaches have no qualms going higher than that.  There’s a bit of autonomy and personal preference here, but I’d caution against going overboard.

And it seems to be working.  I walked up to a bar loaded with 500 lbs in the middle of the afternoon the other day, and without warming up pulled it for an easy triple with more in the tank.

Nevertheless, this may be a nice fit for some people who feel stagnant in their training and need a bit of a boost. Try it out and let me know how it goes.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  • Todd Bumgardner

    Awesome stuff, Tony. Glad to hear that the neural charges are working out for you–I seriously believe they were crucial in getting me to a 600 pound pull. Not to mention it’s crazy fun to just go into the gym and jump as high as you can, throw shit as hard as you can and feel like you could attack a Wildebeast with your forehead…the last one might just be me.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Been digging the additional jumping for sure. Here’s hoping it helps get me over the hump!

  • Joshua Raposo

    Question on #7. I’m not ready for full fist pumps. Should I do band assisted fist pumps or just the eccentric portion?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Just crank the Tiesto and everything will take care of itself……;o)

  • Haha, I used to reason with my mother about not cleaning my room like that picture says!

  • ronellsmith

    Tony,

    This is something I’ve informally played around with over the last 6 months, off and on. I love throwing these in from time to time, if only as a change of pace or “mental reward” for hard work done throughout the rest of the week.

    RS

    • TonyGentilcore

      I’m right there with you Ronell. I’ve been doing these once or twice a week for the past 2-3 weeks and really like them. If for nothing else than the little “jolt” of energy they give me.

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