Neural warm-ups are essential. They will produce higher performance and give you the edge you need on the court before the game. However, just standing in line shooting free throws, and jogging back and forth will not sufficiently do it. You need to do something more. Your fast-twitch fibers firing and ready to play will take your game to a different level.
What is a Neural Warm-Up?
A neural warm-up stimulates the brain, muscles, and nervous system to start working together. It supercharges neural activity, mainly in your fast-twitch fibers, to be explosive and fast. First, however, to use your fast twitch fibers, you must switch them on and wake them up.
Many times, you don’t see athletes doing neural warmups. And they are losing out on valuable performance potential. To hone in and optimize your athletic potential, you must activate your fast-twitch fibers using the stretch-shortening cycle and post-activation potential.
One important thing to understand about performance is that you need to feel it to be able to move or do it. You can’t just max your vertical jump without activating the correct muscles and fibers. One reason a neural routine is essential.
- Neural activation routines should be performed after your body is physically prepared sweating.
- These routines and drills awaken your nervous system before your game or training in the gym.
- Doing this will produce faster reaction times, quicker reflexes, explosive movements, and increased speed on the court.
Before you see how to do a neural warm-up, first, you must understand fast twitch fibers, post activation potential (PAP), and the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC).
Fast Twitch Fibers
Your fast twitch fibers work in two different ways. First, when the weight is heavy; like using your one to three rep max. The other way when doing fast, explosive movements like sprinting or plyometrics, using 50% of your one rep max to no weight.
Now that you understand fast twitch fibers, you can understand PAP better.
What is Post Activation Potential (PAP)?
PAP occurs in a few different ways. One common way is training it in the gym using complex training. Complex training is paring heavy squats with vertical jumping, in other words, you are paring fast-twitch heavy with fast-twitch light for speed. In addition, complex training utilizes resistance training to supercharge the fast twitch fibers so they can be explosive dynamically in the second exercise. This type of training is integrative, more purposeful, and effective than resistance training alone.
You should do complex training as a part of your in-season strength training routine. It will change and improve the way your neuromuscular and nervous system functions at a greater level. And your neural warm-up will compliment it.
Complex training is excellent to do 20 minutes before your game. But accessibility to the weight room at that time is difficult. However, another way to do an effective neural warm-up is using isometrics, resistance bands, med balls, etc., before your game to activate your nervous system. It is much easier to bring that equipment to the court.
How PAP Works?
PAP works by activating and stimulating your stretch-shortening cycle. When your SSC is primed and ready to perform, it will boost your speed, enhance your power, and make you quick and agile.
The SSC is used when jumping, sprinting, throwing, and for changes in direction instantly!
What is the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC)?
The trampoline is probably the best way to describe the SSC. It acts as a spring-like mechanism. The harder and faster you jump on the trampoline, the higher you can jump in the air. Your muscles can do the same. Compressing your muscles fast or with force eccentrically, activates the stretch reflex and fast twitch fibers to produce a powerful and fast countermovement.
The SSC is a quick rapid eccentric contraction followed by a concentric contraction. That is the SSC.
How the SSC Works?
For example, if you do a fast eccentric squat before the concentric jump phase, your jump will be higher than if you did a slow squat before the jump. So, when you do your neural warm-up, it takes a few sets to turn on the fast twitch fibers and prime them to optimize the SSC to enhance the power of your jump. As I said, moving what you can’t feel is harder. So, you must learn to feel the SSC.
The SSC happens during jumping, rebounding, sprinting, running, lowering, and raising your arm, just like in basketball.
Here is an excellent way to warm up your nervous system before the game. Don’t think about training. Instead, think about activating and stimulating.
Basketball Neural Pre-Game Routine
The neural pre-game routine should be done about 20-30 minutes before the game. If more time passes, like an hour, the muscles start to turn down, and you lose the elastic energy storage capacity.
The Basketball Neural Activation drill is done using sport-specific movements using resistance bands. For me, resistance bands work perfectly to stimulate PAP and activate the SSC. Do this drill 20 minutes before your competition.
- Resistance bands work best because you can use light to heavy resistance, which can be done on the court.
- Do not train to fatigue. Simulate to activate, don’t annihilate. Rest a few minutes after each exercise.
Remember that the in-season training routine and your development are established from your off-season program. Therefore, complex training during your season will make your neural warm-up faster, more efficient, and more effective.