CNS Potentiation for Increasing Sporting Performance

Charlie, a few questions/considerations with regards to potentiating the CNS prior to sporting competition:

  1. In regards to the methods which you employed with Ben Johnson, it is understood that the CNS stimulation/MU recruitment is high for max effort bench pressing. Accordingly, when performed prior to race day, the organism as a whole is neurally primed for competition and no fatigue is experienced in the prime movers of the sprinting action, as any local fatigue, yielded by the upper body pressing muscles,is of little concern for the sprinter.

  2. In regards to shot putters,however, on a few occasions now I have observed various references which site elite level throwers performing, in Beyers’ case, very heavy squats for repetitions, and in Barnes’ case, very heavy bench pressing, both just prior to major competitions. Now, in this case, both the squat and the bench press fatigue, at the local level, muscles which are HIGHLY specific to throwing mechanics.


What I am especially curious about is the reasoning behind performing extremely heavy squats, albeit partial range, and for moderately high repetitions, the day before competition. In my view, very heavy loads and moderately high repetitions would be very risky in terms of yielding DOMS on competition day. Obviously this was not a factor for Beyer.


  1. What kind of success have you had with CNS potentiation methods for jumpers in track and field?

Could a heavily weighted pull up then work? It hits a just about all of the back musculature, much have some neural effect.

In my view, any maximally loaded movement will excite the CNS, the key factor being, however, the carry over to improved sport skill/execution.

Well the idea was excitation by hitting a large amount of unspecific musculature that can be loaded heavy. A pull up does that and I am failing to see, unless I am wrong, where it is specific to the shot? So in effect wouldnt this work like the bench did for sprinters?

In relation to bench press: short sprint, the weighted pullup: throw is a reasonable comparison.

My question, however, is why some throwers will actually perform a lift which directly involves the ‘throwing’ musculature.

Look at the CNS as a whole (as you are), and look at muscle fatigue in this case at the metabolic level (as you are). Then when utilizing any high MU recruited exercise with low volume (1-5 total reps) and high intensity, you’ll have to look at the total amount of CNS fatigue that accumilated, and what musculature you stressed so you can estimate the time for metabolic recovery. For example the legs metabolically recover slower than the biceps, as a whole.

I thought Dreschler talked about precompetition movement selection in his book for optimal stimulation. Don’t quote me on the Dreschler acknowledgement. I’ve read it in 1 of my many books. I would have to dig. I’m pretty sure CT has stated specific movements before a competition as well.

Some of pre-event potentiation is “psycho” and not “physio”.

As in “PRing” in a lift, pre-comp, carrying over to the event performance.
So CNS potentiation is not an easy thing to quantify. Yet I do know a number to coaches that swear by it in some form or another.


Makes sense. I have been viewing the scenario from a completely “physio” perspective.

Good insight.

This is why I am curious as to why squats and bench press would be performed shortly prior to throwing event (which heavily involves the squatting and pressing musculature as well as the neural effects at the central and peripheral level). Other than what CoachMdd has referenced, in terms of a psyche up.

Well that I cannot answer. Maybe a mental thing? To Coach Mdd, I think a high level of strength is needed in the movement for it to potentiate, ie Ben Johnsons bench was sick…so it would stimulate his CNS to a very high degree because of this, where compared to mine for my bodyweight, not the same effect.

1: For sprinting, I liked the Bench for CNS RE-stim to an optimal stimulation level for the first rounds. I say re-stim because it hits about 35% of all MUs whereas the Squat hits over 65% of the MUs. When the squat is done 6 or 7 days out, you hit a level and the bench will prob return you to around that level. If you go above, it won’t be by much but you will leave the prime movers unfatigued. The other thing to remember is that the top Sprinter can hold optimal stimulation longer- and needs to because he can put out so much more while achieving it.

2: Shot Putters have a very different set of circumstances. There is always a balance between the need for muscle pump (more favourable leverage for max strength) and fluidity/looseness (ease and speed of movement). The Shot Putter has a bias towards the former while the sprinter has a bias towards the latter. To achieve his optimal muscle state, the Shot-Putter will lift more and closer in to the comp.

3: Proper selection of CNS stimulation will be within the athlete’s capacity, so DOMS will not be a factor.

4: I only worked with the one jumper- and I never got the chance to find out!

Thanks Charlie. I grow smarter after every one of your responses. I feel like that robot from that 80’s movie Short Circuit …Input…Input…Need…More…Input.LOL

The thought of 2x10@900 in the quarter squat, the day before competition, being within Beyer’s work capacity, borders on the absurd. UNBELIEVABLE

Charlie, do you know what Beyer’s weight was when you saw him in 83, and how tall?

Thanks. I think Beyer was around 6ft 4 or 5in and 330lbs at the time.

There is no question that this guy was strong (2x10x900lb), but when you think about Ben doing 600lb at 173lb, that is just unreal.

Ben wasn’t doing 2 sets of 10 though!

Pffft… Only 900lbs, what a sissy.

Yeah, that’s only 3.41 Daunte Culpeppers sitting on the barbell!! This guy loves weights like he loves his women, by the pound bro, by the pound!


I imagine you’ll cover this in your new book, but what kind of intensities are you using for the bench as a re-stim application? Couple singles of 90%+?

We used doubles at 90% or more. (the closer to the max strength phase, the higher the %)