The central nervous system is like the electrical circuit system that runs your body. It controls all muscle movements and is responsible for neurological messages that get passed from the brain to the rest of the body. The central nervous system is important to bodybuilders because it determines the amount of stimulus a muscle can take, plays key role of muscle recovery and growth and sets the physical bar as to how much a person can train before reaching a level of over training. The more you train, the greater your mind-to-muscle control becomes. This means that you can consciously force your muscle to perform at a higher percentage of its maximum output than before. The most common risk for bodybuilders regarding the central nervous system is over training.
Over training the central nervous system
Every time you exercise, you overload your central nervous system. It will grow stronger as a response to this, just like how a muscle grows as a response when being stimulated. However, the central nervous system does not get enough rest, unlike muscle groups, because it is 'trained' every time we work out. For example, in a 5 day split you might only work the chest muscles once a week, but you are working the central nervous system 5 times a week. The rate of which the central nervous system recovers is often (almost always) at a slower rate than it is stimulated through intense training like weight lifting. This means that over time, the central nervous system will have a cumulative stress that it needs to recover from. This is one of the main reasons why it is recommended to take a rest week every two months.
Signs of an over trained central nervous system
If you have the following symptoms, there is a high probability that your central nervous system is being over trained.
Decreased immune strength
You immune system and your central nervous system are two totally different systems, but they are very closely interlinked regarding the extent to which they affect each other. It is common for you to notice that your immune system is low before noticing that you central nervous system is causing the weaker immune response. A stronger central nervous system (because it stimulated to improve via exercise) supports better immunity, which is one of the reasons why people who exercise get sick less often. If you are getting sick more often than usual, it could be that your central nervous system is the one that needs a break.
Decreased physical performance
If you simply can't do what you usually can in the gym, even though you have been doing the exact same thing, it could be the central nervous system as it gets weaker from more stimulus than rest. Of course, the central nervous system is not always the cause of this symptom alone. It could also be a lack of sleep, poor diet and supplementation, stress etc.
Longer recovery time
The central nervous system has such a great role in muscle growth and recovery that when it gets weaker, it impacts your muscle directly. If it is taking your body longer to recover from the same exercise, the central nervous system probably needs a break. This symptom is not always present in cases of central nervous system over training though, as muscle often get more time to recover than the nervous system does.
Muscle twitches are common and occur with almost everybody; even people who don't exercise at all. It is also hard to figure out what they are caused by because it could be a variety of things like stress, muscle damage, hypertrophy (muscle growth), atrophy (muscle breakdown), a lack of minerals or a whole host of other possible reasons. It is, however, a common symptom associated with over training or stress of the central nervous system.
Energy levels are very largely determined by your central nervous system. Stimulants like caffeine actually stimulate the central nervous system in order to provide your body with more energy. Decreased energy levels are a good indicator that your central nervous system needs to recover.
MoodBecause energy levels are closely affected by your central nervous system, your mood will be affected as well. Symptoms of mood changes from a weakened central nervous system can be anger or frustration, depression or sadness, lack of motivation or will power and decreased 'zest for life'.
SleepThe central nervous system requires sleep to recover. If you find that you need more sleep or are more tired during the day, it could be a symptom of central nervous system over training. Some people also experience trouble falling asleep as a result of central nervous system over training.
Boosters and hampers
Other things can also affect your central nervous system. Stimulants like caffeine will temporarily boost it, but too many stimulants over long periods of time can negatively impact your central nervous system as it is forced into a roller coaster of up-down-up-down motions without being able to naturally regulate itself. Minerals and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are needed by the central nervous system to function properly. Glutamine can also help support and speed up recovery of the central nervous system.
Look after your central nervous system and it will look after you. STAY STRONG!