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Adapting Training Based on CNS Intensive Training

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Adapting Training Based on CNS Intensive Training

By: Michael Boyle

In March of 2007 I wrote an article for discussing the concept of Central Nervous System Intensive Training. The purpose of the article was to introduce a concept that might be unfamiliar to many and to discuss how a coach might construct a training program to decrease the stress on the central nervous system. The reality is that we probably overwhelm the central nervous system by continually adding training techniques to further develop the power capabilities of our athletes without thinking about how to manage these techniques in a weekly plan.

The CNS article on t-nation was more of an opinion piece. The purpose of this article is to get into the nuts and bolts of designing a new training program. The reality is that team sports require a consistent pattern of concurrent periodization. All types of training methods are concurrently used to improve speed and power, which is the obvious end goal in team sports. Strength is developed, not for strengths sake but, rather to facilitate the further development of power and speed. Speed work and plyometrics are also done, as is sled training for specific power.

The key is to be able to manage all of the stressors provided. As we have often said, the desire to emulate the training of powerlifters or Olympic lifters is a misplaced one as these athlete need only move weight. They do not need to possess or develop the broad range of qualities necessary for team sports.

The chart below shows a proposed system of organizing and administering the various techniques. Those familiar with my work will see that the information in the chart goes against some of my fundamental beliefs. However, the key to progress is change. You need to be ready to go, as I said in my CNS Intensive DVD "back to the future”.

Weekly Depiction of a Program Designed to Limit CNS Stress

  Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Power/ BW Linear Plyo/ Double Lateral Plyo/ Bound Linear Plyo/ Single Lateral Plyo/ Hop
Resisted Speed Heavy Sled- pull+cross None Heavy Sled-push+cross None
Power Snatch None Hang Clean None
Strength Pair 1 VPull w/Front Sqt. HPush w/ Prehab/ Core VPullw/1 Leg Sqt. HPush w/ Prehab/ Core
Strength Pair 2 HPull w/ SLHE VPush w/ Prehab/ Core HPull w/ BLHE VPush w/ Prehab/ Core
    Bicep/ Tricep   Bicep/ Tricep
Cond. Tempo Slideboard Interval Slideboard

Why back to the future? Because the day two and four workouts go back to old school chest-shoulder–tricep days. I can honestly say I have not done workouts like this since the early eighties when I didn’t know any better. I don’t if it should make me laugh or cry to think that designing these types of workouts would be considered progressive.

The key to the system is to group all of the exercises that would be considered Central Nervous System intensive on the same days. Asd you can see in the chart his means that explosive lifts and squats are done on the same days. In addition linear plyometric work, short sprints and sled work are also done on these same days. This means that days one and three are “big work” days. One school of thought would be to try to spread the work over the week. We are looking at the exact opposite. For the past ten years we have used an Olympic lifting influenced program that had our athletes doing Olympic lifts every day and, lower body work every day. Combine this with four days of plyometric work and four days of conditioning and, you have a formula for overtraining. As I said in the t-nation article the progress of inexperienced lifters may have lulled us to sleep a bit. These changes are designed to benefit the advanced lifter, although the concept will certainly work for a beginner.

Intense conditioning will only be done once per week on day three, which is one of our two CNS intensive days. This means that the intense interval work will never effect he quality of the lower body workouts. The remaining three days will be lower intensity interval conditioning days. Two days will be slideboard work, which can be done at a moderate pace with great knee bend. This will lower the energy system stress but, will increase lower body muscle endurance.

One additional benefit. This winter I used a version of this program with my Combine Prep/ College Football group. They loved it. The “back to the future” idea really appeals to the bodybuilder in all of us. For two days a week we go back to almost Muscle and Fitness style workouts with a chest exercise flowed by a shoulder exercise and finishing with arm and or shoulder work. An intense lower body oriented day is followed up with an upper body day that is enjoyable. The athletes I train have never had the opportunity to perform this type of training and thoroughly enjoy it.


  • Group stressful exercises on the same day to maximize recovery time. This means squats and Olympic lifts are done the same day. It should be noted in the table that Jump Squats or snatches are used on day one. This is intentional. Most strong athletes don’t want to hang clean heavy prior to squatting. This model takes that into consideration. Hang cleans are followed by single leg exercises on day three. Again attention is played to quality. A heavy hang clean workout is followed exercises that will tax the legs but, not the spine, the reverse of day 1.
  • Use one hard conditioning day per week and three lower intensity days.
  • Use day two and four for upper body only days.

Don’t be afraid to change. The truth is no one I know who is training athletes in a drug free environment has figured out how to train an advanced athlete for continued strength gain. An approach based on managing CNS stress nay be the key.



About The Author:

Michael Boyle is one of the foremost experts in the fields of strength and conditioning, performance enhancement, and general fitness. He currently spends his time lecturing, teaching, training, and writing. For more info, visit his site: Body by Boyle


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