Neural Activation Training – Supercharge Your Workouts

  • If you’re reading this article, I am pretty darn sure that you are interested in making your body healthier, fitter, stronger, faster, leaner, better.
  • I am also pretty sure that you work really, really hard trying to improve your body.
  • I am even more sure that you arrived at this article in the hopes of finding a new tool to make your hard work even more effective.

Luckily for you, I am even more sure that neural activation training can help improve the efficiency of your current workouts and take your training to a whole new level.

Neural activation training is designed to:

  • eliminate nervous system fatigue,
  • help you recover from workouts faster,
  • improve your workout performance, and
  • see better results…faster

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In today’s article, I am going to explain:

  1. the goal(s) of Neural Activation Workouts
  2. how to design your own Neural Activation Workouts, and
  3. how to incorporate them into you overall training program.

The Goal(s) of Neural Activation Workouts

There are three main goals to these workouts.

  1. recover faster from your “regular” workouts
  2. prevent neural fatigue / overtraining
  3. improve neuro-muscular co-ordination, speed & power

The Basics of Neural Activation Workouts

  • Compound exercises only – squats, lunges, presses, pulls, jumps, throws, etc
  • The focus is on speed & power – light weights – between 10-30% of 1 RM
  • Focus on movements instead of muscle groups – horizontal push v.s. dumbbell fly
  • Circuit training
  • 3-5 exercises per workout
  • 3-5 reps per set

Note – Neural activation workouts are very short. They are never longer than 10 minutes and most often quite a bit shorter. As soon as your body starts feeling good and ready to go….STOP THE WORKOUT.

I know it sounds weird, but that’s the deal.

DIY Neural Activation Workout

As I mentioned above – choose 3-5 exercises from the list below. Choose a nice variety – some upper body, some lower, some push, some pull.

Perform them in a circuit – moving quickly between sets – focus on the speed of the movement without sacrificing proper form – 3-5 reps maximum



  • Push-Up – flat, incline, decline, wide grip, narrow grip, staggered grip, etc…
  • Plyo Push-Ups
  • TRX / Suspension Trainer Push-Ups…
  • Band Chest Press
  • Med Ball Chest Throw
  • Barbell/Dumbbell Chest Press – this is my least favorite


  • Bodyweight Row – various grips, angles, etc
  • Band Rows


  • Med Ball Overhead throw – straight up, up & back, up & forward
  • Barbell/Dumbbell/Band Push Press
  • Barbell/Dumbbell Clean & Press


  • Kipping Chin-Ups (only for the very strong trainees – remember 10-30% 1RM)
  • Jumping Chin-Ups
  • Band Pulldowns
  • Straight Arm Band Pulldowns
  • TRX/Suspension Trainer – Straight Arm Horizontal Pulldown
  • Band Pullovers


  • Vertical Jumps (single/multiples)
  • Broad Jumps (single/multiples)
  • Side to Side Jumps (single/multiples)
  • Shuffle Lunges/Scissor Lunges/Dynamic Split Squats
  • Bulgarian Squat Jump
  • Speed Squats
  • Box Jumps
  • Depth Jumps


  • Power Cleans
  • Power Snatches
  • Power Clean & Press
  • Swing Snatch
  • Snatch Jumps
  • Weighted Sled Push / Weighted Sled Pull
  • Sledge Hammer Slams
  • Med Ball Slams

When to do a Neural Activation Workout

As long as you keep them short & the resistance low (10-30%), you can do this workout every single day if you want.

  • Do it a few hours before your scheduled workout and you will improve your athletic performance.
  • Do it on off days to improve recovery & prevent overtraining.
  • Do it 2-3 times in a single day in lieu of your “normal” workout.

Give it a try & let me know what you think.

Sample Neural Activation Workout


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  1. So basically these are intense warm ups that helps your body prepare for or repair from your daily/weekly work out routine correct?

  2. sort of…..the goal is to help the nervous system recover faster…not the muscles.

    Up until now, the nervous system has been ignored by the mainstream fitness biz. Elite level Athletes & the coaches have focused on it for years and their influence is finally spilling over to the rest of us

  3. That makes sense, the focus on quick & explosive gets the neurons firing faster and better, while leaving the muscles relatively unaffected.

  4. I love this post Doug! but if you don’t mind I would like to add a few points on my personal understanding of Neural Activation. Ofcourse there is always room for differences in schools of thought and I’m certainly not debating, just adding.

    Neutral activation/integration work has been used in sports for years as you said in the comments section of this post.

    according to NASM and the NSCA in both strength and conditioning essentials/CPT texts..

    ..the typical definition of neural integration is that it’s a staple of the warmup routine to get the nervous system active and ready for explosive compound movements.

    Speed,agility and quickness routines pre workout will help prevent injury and get the nervous system primed for activity. At my club in NYC we always include a neural activation/integration routine prior to a workout.

    They key to a successful NI/A workout is minimal touch time, meaning fast repeditive movements with minimal contact time from the appendage to the ground.

    This will always ensure a client gets the absolute most from the heavy compound lifts that should make up the bulk of their programing (skill level dependent of course.)

    I hope this doesn’t come off the wrong way. I always love your articles and recommend you regularly. Please tell me your thoughts.


  5. Neural Activation – focus on movements instead of muscle groups. This is key in my opinion.

    Nobody thinks about push vs pull exercises, only what muscle groups they are targeting.

    Thanks for the great post.

  6. […] up to you.It all depends on your goalsIf your main goal is strength & power, you will perform Neural Recharge workouts –Here is a sample workoutIf you want to improve your cardio, do cardioIf you want to improve […]

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