Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Three-System Approach to Training the Body

In fitness training, there are three main systems that we train within the body:

• The Muscular System
• The Nervous System
• The Energy System

Most training people do in the gym tends to focus exclusively on the muscular system. Both gym members and trainers tend to obsess over the size, shape and tone of specific body parts. This type of training is called Muscular System Development (MSD), and it’s activated when we do straight-up strength and hypertrophy training work (the progressive increase of load on a muscle or group of muscles). Lifting weights is a perfect example of MSD.

But just like in eastern medicine, where the body is treated systemically and every part is considered to impact every other, in training it’s crucial think about how the Nervous and Energy Systems affect an individual’s capabilities and overall fitness. If we ignore these elements, we’re missing 2/3 of the picture.

Training the nervous system is called Nervous System Development (NSD). Anytime we bring speed, power, agility or skill work into our training, we’re directly using and developing our nervous system. An example would be explosive lifts such as Olympic lifts or kettle bell work. A little of these type of exercises go a long way toward making you faster, stronger and more resistant to injury.

The Energy System is engaged when you do cardio and long-duration conditioning work such as distance running, cycling or swimming. In other words, any physical activity that requires stamina and endurance results in Energy System Development (ESD).

Together, the health and development of these three systems leads you to your peak performance and total body fitness. When you integrate these three training modes every week, your fitness increases in each category steadily and you don't overdo any sinlge one. It’s easy to overdo any one of these by making it your sole focus.

With my clients, I focus on finding a balance between MSD, NSD and ESD and ensuring they all develop steadily.

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