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Unread 10-28-2015, 07:20 AM
beatle beatle is offline
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 67
Default What are neural gains?

I see this term used a lot and I realize that I don't really understand what this means. Newbie gains are mostly "neural" means to me that more muscle fibers, that are already there, are "recruited" to do work. I'd like to know more about what these new neural connections mean in the context of training and also when the body is at rest, if there is more to know. If I have missed it on the site, please point out the appropriate article.

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Unread 10-28-2015, 08:34 AM
eattoshred's Avatar
eattoshred eattoshred is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 314
A Quick Tangent into Some Neurophysiology
When you look at strength production, the body has essentially two methods to increase force output which are
Muscle fiber recruitment
Rate coding
Muscle fiber recruitment is exactly what it sounds like, how many of the fibers within a muscle are actually being recruited. Contrary to the exceptional silliness which is endlessly repeated in books and on the internet, most people can actually get pretty close to 100% fiber recruitment (itís a little bit lower in the lower body but, in the triceps for example, people can get near 100% recruitment).
Rate coding referes to how quickly the body is sending electrical signals to that muscle. As rate coding goes up, the muscle fires harder.
Now, in the muscles weíre interested in from a sports or bodybuilding standpoint, the body will generally use recruitment to increase force production up to about 80-85% of maximum force output (in the lab, this is measured with Maximal Voluntary Isometric Contraction or MVIC, which is effectively 1 rep maximum weight). Beyond 80-85% of maximum, it uses rate coding.
Iíd note for completenes that this isnít true for some muscles in the body, notably stuff like the eye muscles and finger muscles. In those muscles, recruitment is used up to about 50% of MVIC and rate coding handles the rest. Which is a lot of why studies looking at the thumb muscles arenít really relevant to most training applications. But I digress.
Anyhow, now we have the next part of the picture, the body will recruit more fibers up to about 80-85% of maximum; above that point, there is no further recruitment and force output is improved via rate coding.
I should note that even at lower intensities, as the individual goes to fatigue, eventually all muscle fibers will end up being recruited. But they wonít have been recruited until fairly late in the set (e.g. the last few repetitions).

Rate coding is literally the rate at which neural impulses travel from the brain to muscle. As rate coding increases (up to a point at least) so does force output. I canít explain it any better than that.
neural fatigue that takes at least 48 hours to subside
^^^This was referring to sprinting so may not necessarily apply to resistance training. Still thought it was interesting enough to note.

in case you wanted "alotta more" on neural gains, read this

Last edited by eattoshred : 10-28-2015 at 08:36 AM.
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Unread 10-28-2015, 08:50 AM
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lylemcd lylemcd is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
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On The Main Site
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Unread 10-28-2015, 06:34 PM
beatle beatle is offline
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 67

Thank you. My personal interest is coming from an endurance athlete perspective, though I am a sprinter (cycling) if anything. I find it interesting that recruitment goes up even at low intensities if the stimulus lasts long enough. It reminds me of some coaches advocating long low intensity rides for this reason, among others.

Looks like I have some reading to do...

Last edited by beatle : 10-28-2015 at 06:38 PM.
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