Neuroathletics is considered a new training approach in the fitness and health industry in terms of athletic performance but also in therapy in relation to pain. So far, it is mainly anchored in professional sports (mainly football), but is increasingly coming into focus in private and also group training as well as in therapy. In this article you will learn what neuroathletics actually is and why, especially in combination with the bellicon mini trampoline, it can increase your performance, sustainably relieve and eliminate tension in the neck, back and hip area, and why it is so good for your coordination.
What is neuroathletics anyway?
In a nutshell, neuroathletic training (NAT) is based on sports and neuroscientific findings that summarise all the research on the structure and function of the nervous system and translate it into a neurocentric training approach. Ultimately, the neuro-centred approach differs from classical training and movement theory in that it places the musculoskeletal system at the centre of everything. It is based on the assumption that our musculoskeletal system initiates every movement, which means: every movement originates in our muscles.
NAT proves, however, that movement does not originate in the muscle, but is only carried out via the musculoskeletal system. This method focuses on the nervous system. It is therefore the central nervous system that is significantly involved in the planning and control of movement. They therefore assume that movement occurs in the brain. Exactly where pain, emotions and much more is initiated.
What does neuroathletic training look like?
Neuro-athletic training wants to check and continuously improve the functioning and interaction between the central and peripheral nervous system. In this way, neural stimuli should gradually increase performance, but also relieve pain and reduce the risk of injury.
How did you get into neuroathletic training?
In my work, I always try to deal with what is new or up-to-date in terms of training methods and trends. Of course there is also a lot of nonsense, but also important things that you should and must deal with. I first came into contact with neuroathletics about four years ago at the Functional Training Summit, and so I did my first training and then got into neuroathletics because of what I experienced there. There I simply noticed that it is sometimes unbelievable what can be achieved better on the neuronal level or via neuro-centered training than with all other training methods that I have come to know so far. Just because I understood that the nervous system and our brain can be the basis for our movements, our state of health, our performance, and also for pain. I've definitely noticed that neuro-athletics is an incredibly important area to incorporate into my training. In the meantime, I no longer only integrate this into my training, but I would say that it is now my main training component. In combination with my previous functional training approach, a neuro-centric functional training is now emerging.
What are the advantages of the NAT compared to conventional methods, which are currently more familiar from personal training?
It is always about the efficiency of the training. In my training, I always want to achieve a great effect with little effort and ideally with the greatest possible sustainability. Since our nervous system transmits information in milliseconds, I can also show much faster success than in previously used training methods. NAT always aims to improve communication between the nervous system and the body. And ultimately there is no movement that is not controlled without the nervous system. So NAT tries to improve this communication. We try to improve the information that is perceived by the body or the nervous system, the interpretation of this information and the result. So for example, the movement that should be the end result. But that always refers to the entire spectrum, like strength, endurance, coordination, pain - that no longer plays a role.
Do you have a specific example of this? How can we imagine that?
Yes gladly. In principle, neuroathletics is very individual. Not everyone experiences pain, balance deficits, or performance issues for the same reasons. This is also related to the fact that our nervous systems have experienced completely different stimuli or receive them every day.
On the example of pain, for example back pain, I can now say from experience that it is a major stress-related issue for many of my clients. Pain is often also sent by the nervous system as an output. It wants to draw your attention to it: “Something is hurting here right now!” And your brain tries to tell you: “Try to change something so that I no longer have this pain.” That can do a lot for me as a trainer as I can offer possibilities.
Of course, pain can have a lot more reasons than an actual injury. It is also possible that your nervous system only uses the action signal pain to change your current situation. And that's where it gets exciting: There are also studies on this and my experience as a neuroathletic trainer has often shown me that back pain occurs because it has an enormously high stress potential. Back pain is only an example here, it can be any pain. This means that pain in the body results from a number of negative factors that affect your own nervous system and then at some point make the body says 'That's it!'. Examples of these negative influencing factors are things like not enough sleep, poor nutrition, too little or the wrong exercise, stress in the office or everyday life - the well-known things. And everyone has an individual threshold of stress resistance, up to which point they can withstand it. And then, when I cross this threshold, it can happen that I get this back pain as an action signal from the nervous system, with which my body tells me: 'Hey, you have to change something, you have to take action!'
That's why it's also called an action signal, that I myself take action to actively change something. Together with my clients, I then first try to find out and define these stress factors and then regulate them. It can be something like psychological factors that can be improved with for example breathing exercises, poor posture or tension.
But I can also work on nerve mobilization in the back area to change or improve the impulses that are sent out from the nerves: “Everything is fine in that area, I can move my back, without pain.” I then go into certain exercises step by step to show that these exercises can be done without pain. Then my clients are also concerned with finding out whether the pain is not (additionally) coming from something else, such as an injury, which then of course needs to be treated.
So there are really different causes of pain from A to Z. But if you find and treat them, they can be improved really quickly - and sustainably. And that's what's really innovative and good about neuroathletics: It may take a little longer to find the right spot at the beginning, but in the end it's highly effective and sustainable once you've found and solved it.
You mentioned that coordination is a big issue. To what extent is this a central role in NAT?
So NAT is an umbrella term for all movements that we make physically. So all actions. And coordination is part of that and implemented by specific areas. For example, the cerebellum is responsible for certain movements in combination with the frontal lobe. And this coordination can be tested with certain exercises, how the communication between the two brain areas works. And then you can improve it with targeted exercises. Ultimately, of course, this helps coordination itself, but also all other areas and systems. Because our brain works, just like our body itself, in holistic systems. If I activate an area, I also activate all other areas. And that shows again here: I work specifically on a problem area and can correct or improve the entire system.
And how can the bellicon be combined with NAT?s
The bellicon can as a trampoline of course be used to make certain exercises more difficult. Due to the unstable surface and the upward/downward movement, I have an additional activation of your balance and equilibrium. On the bellicon itself, I can then integrate all the exercises that I normally do on the floor, as long as it doesn't get too difficult. Here I also have the advantage of the movement of bounce, which is much more pleasant than on a normal trampoline due to the bungee ring suspension of the bellicon, which is more gentle on the joints and requires less movement per se. And for some of my clients it was much more pleasant to start on the mat and with a soft bounce than when we do it statically on the floor. But of course this is also very individual, because the training or the exercise inevitably becomes much more unstable. This means that for some it will be much more difficult to cope with this instability and for others it is exactly the intensity they need to activate the balance system that it then becomes better and more stable in reverse.
As an example: I have a client who has problems with her balance system due to a stroke. I worked with her on the bellicon and after a few activations I was able to activate her balance system so that she was absolutely stable afterwards. And that was a training time of maybe ten minutes. But it is important to always find the right intensity for all exercises, especially in the beginning.
So can it be said that the exercises are favoured by the bouncing movement on the trampoline?
It depends on the exercise and my clients. If I were to put someone with severe balance difficulties directly on the trampoline, it would be rather counterproductive. In general, however, I have the possibility of using the vibration in combination with other NAT exercises to provide several stimuli at the same time. Some clients benefit when the exercises become more complex, but for others it is counterproductive.
For pure NAT training, however, the bellicon is too one-sided. Because I only have the movement up and down, so for balance. But the mini trampoline is of course a very pleasant training device because of the soft bungees. And I can do many combinations, which are of course fun. I have received feedback from my clients that the exercises on it are also very fun. And so I can then combine exercises that are perhaps less fun statically, but have the desired effect or can simply be made more strenuous. Of course, the possibility of combining exercises with weights, balls or other additional equipment is great. So I can incorporate coordination games very well and work with catching and hand-eye coordination, which is also a very large neural area. And finally, jumping alone gives many clients an advantage for their balance system. So in short, I like to work a lot with the mini trampoline as it is a good addition to my training.