Training is no longer simply an act of getting the muscles used to lactate or teaching the lungs how to breathe harder. It’s also about getting your brain to accept new limits…
— Ross Tucker, researcher, Sports Science Institute of South Africa
If you’re only focusing on your muscles – you are missing a lot.
With all the focus on the gas pedal,
you may not realize you are driving with the brakes on.
Once your brain recognizes that you’re not going to damage yourself, it’ll be happy to let you go.
— Carl Foster, professor, exercise and sports science, University of Wisconsin
This NY Times article with the above quotes explains another tidbit about the role of the brain in strength and fatigue. Physiologists are realizing that exhaustion isn’t just in the muscles but also involves the brain.
“We know that people speed up at the end of exercise,” says Ross Tucker, the researcher mentioned in the article. “If calcium or other biochemical changes in the muscles caused muscle failure, this would be impossible at the end, when these changes are at their greatest levels.”
How Do I Get My Brain to Accept New Limits?
Or “Take the Brakes Off”
First, realize strength is a skill. The RKC system reduces the threat response (the brakes) in the body with special high tension methods and power breathing techniques. You are stronger immediately — and thus, safer. And there are a number of RKC training principles, such as our focus on quality over quantity (the perfect rep principle).
Other ways to take the brakes off involve your proprioception, visual and vestibular (inner ear) systems. Amazing, but true:
- Poor mobility in your feet, for instance, can limit how heavy you can lift (proprioception)
- Where your eyes are looking makes a difference (visual)
A RKC kettlebell instructor (like me) is trained in these aspects of the nervous system to compliment your movements and muscles.
For many people, increasing performance levels simply means getting out of pain, stiffness, or weakness. In other words, so you can get out of bed in the morning without stiffness. Or your low back or knees don’t hurt anymore.
Don’t Get Threatened!
More importantly, if you ignore your nervous system, and train in such a way that you are constantly invoking “survival” reflexes in your body – your form, posture, joints and health will all suffer.
Signs of ‘survival mode’:
- grimace on your face
- loss of technique and form
- ragged breathing
Then what happens? You’re fighting survival reflexes.
One of the hallmark “survival” activities of the body is flexion. In other words, when we’re “threatened” we try to get small. You don’t want this while lifting a kettlebell.
If you are this way all day, the chronic, low-grade excessive flexion activity in the body will eventually contribute to a whole host of training injuries. It’s common sense: stress (threat) causes lousy posture and poor movement skills.
By understanding that reflexive, survival activity governs the functioning of the body, you can factor in the effects of your brain in your kettlebell training.
Your performance levels can increase tremendously.
That’s why RKC’s repeat and repeat:
Practice, instead of ‘workout’
Train, don’t strain.
It’s not about the kettlebell. The kettlebell is just a tool for better, stronger movement.
Train smarter, not harder.
Take the brakes off.