Fact Check: Does Activating the Central Nervous System Before Workout Improve Performance?

Activating your central nervous system is crucial for any weight training. (Image via Pexels / Allan Mas)
Activating your central nervous system is crucial for any weight training. (Image via Pexels / Allan Mas)

Have you ever heard that you need to “activate” your central nervous system for optimal training? You could be doing the best routine with perfect sets and reps, but unless your central nervous system is ready for action, you're going to be at a disadvantage.

Warm-ups have proven to be highly effective in waking up the central nervous system, reducing the risk of injury and increasing adherence to training programs. While many advanced strength trainers have either experienced or heard about the positive effects of proper warm-up routines, there are often misunderstandings as to how they really affect your workouts.

The ultimate purpose of a warm-up is not to elevate your body temperature to improve your performance during weight training or improve flexibility; rather, it's to communicate with the central nervous system so that you're better prepared for your workout routine.

It is easy to activate your central nervous system while you workout. Regardless of whether you are just beginning a bodyweight workout or are an advanced lifter, it is possible for you to take your results to the next level by exercising in this fashion.

Function of the Central Nervous System

Your nervous system acts like a communication network. Your nervous system runs through your entire body but is connected to your brain and spinal cord, which is called the central nervous system. The peripheral nervous system (which includes nerves outside the central nervous system) sends messages from your brain and spinal cord to your muscles, fibers, and organs as well as back to your brain.

Why you should activate your central nervous system?

Activating your central nervous system (CNS) is an important part of weight training. Think of it as a way of letting your body and brain know what you're about to do so that you can perform better. The process is called post-activation potentiation (PAP).

PAP helps your body produce more force and power when you lift weights. That benefits you because it not only makes it easier to lift heavier weights, but also helps prevent injuries.

Training your central nervous system to wake up and pay attention can significantly increase the likelihood that you will develop a solid mind-muscle connection, which will carry forward into future training.

How to Activate Your Central Nervous System?

Although the process of triggering your central nervous system isn't simple—neurons fire to produce impulses that travel along your spinal cord and into your muscles—you can make the process easier by taking a few steps after you've finished warming up.


Before you begin any workout, it is a good idea to perform a general warm-up. This can involve any aerobic activity, so choose what you like best. You might try using a rowing machine, elliptical trainer, stair climber, treadmill, or even some bodyweight movements (like light jumping jacks) or jogging in place.

Light dynamic movements with bodyweight will help you ramp up before more explosive movements. Use the rating of perceived exertion scale (RPE) of 1 to 10 to help ensure that you are warming up at the right level of intensity.


For a dynamic warm-up:

  • 30 seconds skipping
  • 30 seconds hopping
  • 30 seconds squatting
  • 30 seconds right power kicking, and 30 seconds left power kicking
  • After that, hold a plank for thirty seconds.

To get your nervous system primed for lifting weights, perform a few explosive, multijoint movements that also incorporate power and speed. These activities—such as plyometrics—are excellent warm-up exercises and can save you time in the gym.

Before your heavy training, light up your nervous system with a proper dynamic warmup


Seated box jumps, jump squats and kettlebell swings are all excellent options. Clean or snatch from the floor, or snatch from a dead start or beyond the range of kettlebell swings. These power movements will not only stimulate your nervous system and improve your hip mobility, but they are also great builders of power off the floor for deadlifts.

Here are a few ways to maximize your effectiveness during your explosive warm-up:

  • Choose a movement that corresponds with the main body part you're training.
  • Perform the exercise before your set and/or in between sets.
  • Keep the movement short so that you don't fatigue your muscle.
  • Use maximal effort during the movement.
  • Try performing two sets of 3 to 5 reps per body part you work that session.


If you're just starting out, try a simple vertical jump training exercise. Stand on a box or chair with both feet and step down onto the floor with one foot. Then step down with the other foot, jumping as high into the air as you can. Perform five to 10 repetitions of this exercise.

Bottom Line

Whether you're a strength expert or a layperson looking to improve athletic performance, priming your nervous system can help you get an edge. Activating the CNS prior to exercise can be done in a number of ways: through cardiovascular activity, self-myofascial release (SMR), or through controlled activation and relaxation techniques that are particular to the type of workout to perform.

It's important to note that studies have shown priming your nervous system prior to workout can help you increase power output, reduce injury rates, and boost performance overall. The bottom line? It might be time for you to rethink your warm-up—and it might change the way you look at physical training as a whole.

Poll : Do you do warm-ups before workout?

Yes; everyday


53 votes

Edited by Sabine Algur
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