Neuro Athletic Training (NAT) is the evolution of athletic training while using the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) as the driving forces of human performance. NAT improves the way an athlete trains by focusing on and improving the connection between the brain and the body. NAT is an individualized rehabilitaiton, prevention and performance approach based on neuroscience and the ‘Z health education‘ philosophy.
The best athletes in the world are those who move perfectly. Perfect movement prevents movement induced injuries and determines peak performance. The decisive question is what is perfect movement and how can you train it?!
The best athletes are those with the best movement software in the brain. They receive the clearest signal input from the body’s periphery. Conclusion: To create injury-free worldclass peak performance and to prevent movement induced injuries the foundation is a perfect movement software in the brain which needs daily signal input from the body’s periphery and its three big systems: The movement software determines via the signal input the elite performance output.
- visual system
- vestibular system
- proprioceptive system
The three big systems – what do visual, vestibular and proprioceptive have to do with athletics?
The three big systems have a clear hierarchy. The eyes and the visual system are potentially the most important sensory organs for human motion and for safeguarding the ‘survival’ in the surrounding elements. Combined with the vestibular system of the inner ear, we navigate through space – precision, accuracy, stability and balance of each movement are tied to these systems and therefore heavily influenced by them; they deliver input to several brain areas, which are involved in motion control. Our brain absorbs this information and analyses it in order to determine the motoric output. The visual system is therefore not only about ‘good vision’. Vision, especially in sports, comprises of many different visual proficiencies, which are all trainable, for vision does not occur in the eyes, but in the brain and is trainable due to the brain’s plasticity – depth perception, rapidness of change of perspective, rapidness of near-far-focus, speed of accommodation or peripheral perception. If these proficiencies improve, the body will not only move more efficiently, but – due to the improved perception – will also be able to react earlier to a situation, therefore react quicker.
What does the vestibular system do? Grossly simplified, it tells us where above is and how to navigate through space. This equilibrium organ primarily controls our movement through space, meaning, grossly simplified, that virtually all human movement interacts with this organ and is in turn influenced by the quality of its signals. Neuronally, the eyes and the equilibrium organs are very closely interconnected to the postural control – posture that is – and directly influence the muscles, which are responsible for our posture. ‘Unspecific’ backaches can be a prompt consequence from bad signal quality. Only improved signal quality leads to improved motoric output.
What about the proprioceptive system? It includes data from all nerve-endings in the body. It supplies the brain with information necessary to three-dimensionally navigate through space. All data from the various nerve-endings involved in movement are transported to the brain, analyzed, interpreted and then realized as movement output. The proprioceptive system is therefore heavily involved in the quality of movement. The better and more precise the information from this system is, the better and clearer is the information that is transported to the brain – and the more efficient and sophisticated it can react. And if this information is false or distorted our movement is neither predictable nor controllable for the brain in that instant. Therefore the brain takes safeguarding measures, such as ‘shifting down’ a gear or two. Of course this reduces the performance drastically: the range of movement, the strength, the reaction time. Since from the brain’s perspective there is a risk of injury. Therefore the proprioceptive system is highly involved in our performance capacity. The better my proprioceptive system is trained, the less protective reflexes – and pain – I have. As a result, I work a lot harder and have much more strength. Therefore, the better the quality of the signals transported to the brain, the better the brain may work, realize patterns and plan movements.
Why and how does NAT works – it’s all about Input- Interpretation – Processing – Output.
Dr. Cobb explains in this video in an easy way this complex topic. To summarize it: As clearer the information from the three big systems as better the performance output via the CNS.
The movement map in the brain
The movement map in the brain is controlled by the movement software. After injuries athletes have ‘blind spots‘ on their movement map like a ‘software bug’ resulting from an unclear signal input to the brain from the injured area. When you don’t improve the ‘bug’ in the movement software a higher risk to follow up injuries, development of compensation patterns and performance plateaus develop. The movement map needs a daily software-update via clear signal input from the three big systems and the body’s periphery. As already mentioned the perfect performance output is the result of the signal quality and clearness of information.
What makes NAT different to other athletic training, rehabilitation and prevention?
It’s a holistic brain based performance approach. Which is more effective, more efficient and more precise in comparison with traditional biomechanical approaches. Ultimately, all established training systems and theories, even the seemingly innovative ones – for example those, which concern themselves with functional motion analysis, with fasciae or with motoric basic patterns – incorporate the viewpoint of a nominal-actual comparison, along the lines of ‘This is what we found and this is the mechanical background’. This type of thinking is still closely aligned along a mechanical basic structure. But man is not a robot. NAT observes peoples’ individual and present status quo and tries to figure out the neuronal background of the respective current situation – an analysis, as individual as the human fingerprint. To figure out the individual neuronal background at first we conduct a comprehensive anamnesis (medical history) and record the athlete’s physical condition via extensive testing. Then we take a look at the neuronal background; this involves visual, vestibular, proprioceptive tests, tests of the functionality of the cranial nerves and specific brain areas. Follow up an individualised intervention including an individual and sportspecific performance enhancement programme. The result is a huge competitive advantage for the athletes and a huge reduction of movement induced injuries. Further benefits are no time loss for the team training structures because NAT can be integrated in daily routines.
Important reminder: Our (‘old’) brain is evolutionary made to detect danger in our environment and to protect us from external and internal hazards – the ‚old brain‘ it‘s a reflexively driven, unconsciously running survival system. We talk about and work primarily with the ‚older parts‘ of the brain!