Part 2 – Unlock Natural Gains: Neuro Type 1
Part 5 – The Neuro Type Workouts
Part 1 of this series introduces you to neurological typing. In short, your baseline levels of three neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine) strongly influence your personality and dictate your how you should train and eat for best results. Part 2 covers the first neuro profile: the novelty seeker.
Now let’s look at the best training and nutrition approach for Type 2: reward dependant. This neuro type seeks out rewards to boost norepinephrine levels – from social rewards, like being a people pleaser, to achieving goals.
Optimal Training for Type 2
1 – Training Preparation
Type 2 lifters need to feel competent. Getting into the groove technique-wise and feeling the right muscles doing the work is crucial. So it’s important to put a large emphasis on practicing the main movement pattern of the day during workout prep.
This could mean doing a lot of practice/preparation sets prior to doing the work sets for the main lift. It could also mean doing peripheral activation work for an important muscle in the main lift, like activating glutes prior to squatting. This type doesn’t need the same emphasis on myofascial release (foam rolling) and dynamic stretching as other types.
When ramping up for the big lifts, they shouldn’t waste too much energy because they will actually believe (subconsciously) that they’ll decrease their performance due to fatigue. This will hurt their motivation.
This type has two choices for the warm-up for the big lift:
Use a 1.5 to 1 ratio of preparation sets to work sets, but do fewer reps on the preparation sets than the work sets (e.g. 5 instead of 8, 3 instead of 5, 1 instead of 3, etc.) For example:
- Set 0: Empty bar x 10 reps
- Set 1: 135 x 5
- Set 2: 165 x 5
- Set 3: 185 x 5
- Set 4: 205 x 5
- Set 5: 225 x 5
- Set 6: 245 x 5
- Set 7: 245 x 8
- Set 8: 245 x 8
- Set 9: 245 x 8
- Set 10: 245 x 8
Do fewer ramp-up sets prior to the work sets, a 1:1 ratio, and the same number of reps for the preparation sets as for the work sets. For example:
- Set 0: Empty bar x 10
- Set 1: 135 x 8
- Set 2: 185 x 8
- Set 3: 205 x 8
- Set 4: 225 x 8
- Set 5: 245 x 8
- Set 6: 245 x 8
- Set 7: 245 x 8
- Set 8: 245 x 8
In both cases the rep style should not be too explosive. What this type needs is to work on mind-muscle connection and perfect form. They need to feel competent. A slow eccentric (lowering phase of the rep) and an accelerative but controlled concentric (lifting phase of the rep) is best.
2 – Training Variation
This neuro type needs variation but not as much as Type 1. They need to see that they’re progressing on an exercise before changing. If they change after two weeks it might be too soon for them to see progress. This is mostly true of the big lifts. Remember, progress makes them feel good about themselves and increases motivation.
The bigger lifts should stay the same for at least 4 weeks, likely 6, while simple isolated exercises can be changed more often. They need to feel that their technique is solid. Changing too often can decrease their motivation because they never get to feel like they mastered an exercise.
With the big lifts, one of the biggest de-motivators is not being able to perform an exercise properly. Switching an exercise they’ve just begun to master for one that they’re struggling with will kill motivation.
For isolation work, the most de-motivating thing for a Type 2 is not feeling it in the right muscle. Don’t hesitate to change an exercise if you’re not feeling it.
If you’re a coach, when you change something in the program make sure to address it in a positive way. Saying, “We’ll switch to a goblet squat instead of the back squat because you aren’t capable of doing a proper squat” will zap their motivation.
3 – Training Frequency and Split
This neuro type does better on a “unified” training day – training a single movement pattern or a single muscle group. By focusing only on one thing, they feel more competent and feel a greater local pump. Both elements give them positive reinforcement.
They tolerate frequency well. In fact, it makes them feel good because of the noradrenalin increase. So, they should have 5-6 workouts per week. This can be split three ways:
Movement Pattern Split
- Day 1: Squat and assistance
- Day 2: Bench and assistance
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Deadlift and assistance
- Day 5: Overhead press and assistance
- Day 6: Pulling
- Day 7: Off
- Day 1: Quads
- Day 2: Chest and delts
- Day 3: Off
- Day 4: Back
- Day 5: Hamstrings
- Day 6: Arms
- Day 7: Off
- Day 1: Pulling muscles
- Day 2: Pushing muscles
- Day 3: Legs
- Day 4: Off
The worst thing for this type is having a bad workout. As such, improper rest which leads to subpar gym performance can kill their motivation to train.
4 – Training Volume
The danger with this neuro type is that they can easily become stimulus addicts: they’re the ones who always seek to do more, both to get a higher noradrenalin spike and to gain the respect of others. They’re at risk of killing their gains by taking more pride in how much they’re doing rather than in how much they’re progressing.
This is because of both physiological and psychological factors: the spike in norepinephrine and the desire to impress or gain the respect of others. They can also have self-esteem issues and will see their physique as a way to artificially boost it. So they put a lot of pressure on themselves in the gym, especially if it’s crowded, which can produce excess cortisol.
They need enough volume to feel a solid pump and to feel fatigue at the end of the workout. But too much volume will make it hard for them make progress because of excessive cortisol production. Workouts lasting 75-90 minutes with a total of 20-25 sets in the session is a good starting baseline.
5 – Training Intensity
Type 2’s need to get a good feeling from training. This means either getting a pump or doing fairly heavy work with solid technique. They normally respond better to more traditional bodybuilding methods and techniques, focusing on the mind-muscle connection.
They can train for strength and be quite good at it. Remember, they want to impress others. But they put a lot of pressure on themselves to lift heavy, which can lead to injuries or a lowered rate of progress due to a higher cortisol release. (Incidentally, they’re the ones who tend to exaggerate how much they lift.) They absolutely want to look good, so doing singles and putting them in “competition mode” greatly increases their risk of injuries.
For hypertrophy work they do better on medium-range reps, 6-12. This is what gives the best combination of intense intramuscular tension and pump so it’s the most rewarding.
For strength work they should stick to sets of 3-5 reps. They can even do some doubles (sets of 2) once in a while, but should stay away from sets of 1 (pure max effort) because they subconsciously see that as a test and it will spike their cortisol. These types feel two or three times as much mental stress from a set of 1 as from a set of 3.
6 – Means, Methods and Strategies
This neuro type prefers to change means, methods, and strategies rather than exercises. This is especially true when it comes to the big basic lifts. Not feeling like they’re efficient in an exercise can really hurt their motivation. Changing the big lifts too often can hurt their drive to train and the results they’ll get from a workout.
When it comes to building muscle mass, they do better on slower tempos, including isometric holds in a set, adding partial reps at the end of a set, and methods like drop sets and rest/pauses. They’ll respond well to anything that gives a better pump.
Oddly enough, they also respond well to explosive exercises like Prowler or sled sprints, jumps, and throws. They get a very positive response from low-skill athletic training. This spikes their norepinephrine which makes them feel good. Higher skill athletic work (Olympic lifts or gymnastic drills) can be a double-edged sword because if they don’t feel competent on it, it’ll have a negative effect on their motivation.
They also do very well on short rest intervals between sets. This also favors the release of more adrenaline. But when doing the big lifts, longer rest intervals are better to avoid under-performing.
7 – Exercise Order
The big lift should be done first in the workout or after an activation exercise. This will get this neuro type into a more positive mindset for the rest of the session.
Since they perform better once adrenaline is high and also need to feel competent on the big lift, they should do plenty of preparation sets prior to starting the work sets on the main lift of the day.
They respond well to combining exercises: supersets, complexes, circuits, alternating sets, etc. They also do very well with loaded stretching for the main muscle of the session. This should be done at the end of the workout.
8 – Progression Model
The key for this type is to see progress. For example, block periodization or undulating periodization – where you completely change the type of training every phase – would not work as well as a more linear approach. They do best if they only apply a specific progression model for the big lifts and use more of a fatigue-based model for the isolation work.
For the big lifts, the double progression model is the best approach. This makes it easy for them to see progression, and it can be done without the constant burden of adding weight.
The double progression model is when you select a rep range, like 6 to 8. You use the same weight for all your working sets. For example, 200 pounds for 4 sets. You only add weight when you can do all the work sets with the selected weight at the top of the rep range. In our example, that means they’d only add weight when they can get 4 sets of 8 with 200. If they get 8, 8, 7 and 6 reps with 200 pounds on their four work sets, they’d keep the same weight for the next workout.
They don’t do as well with a progression model based on percentages. On some days the sets and reps at the planned weight will feel too easy and they won’t feel like they’re working hard, killing motivation. On other days the planned weights might feel too hard and it can also wreck their motivation by making them feel incompetent.
9 – Deloading and Peaking
Deloading is a reduction in training stress to re-establish normal trainability. This is done by restoring neurotransmitters, hormone levels, glycogen stores, and inflammation back to normal or optimal levels. Peaking is a form of deloading specifically aimed at placing your body in an optional state to perform on a specific day.
Type 2’s get very anxious when it comes to competitions. They’re the most likely to choke in individual events. That fear of choking often leads them to overdo it during the peaking week. This is mostly true for strength sports like powerlifting and weightlifting where they test themselves and go too heavy too often in the week leading up to the competition. They do this to reassure themselves that they can lift those weights, but it can lead to neural and physical fatigue, making them perform poorly at the competition.
They also build up a lot of stress during the peaking week which can negatively affect performance and recovery. For physique sports like bodybuilding and figure, it can wreck the peaking process by increasing water retention and preventing optimal glycogen storage.
As a coach, a lot of positive reinforcement and control is important during the peak week. Calming work (meditation, massages, contrast baths) may be effective.
If we’re simply talking about deloading, these types do best by keeping the main lift in at pretty much the same weight/sets/reps as the preceding week, but using only neural charge work in place of the assistance work: 20-25 minutes for the main lift, 15-20 minutes of neural charge training.
Optimal Nutrition for Type 2
- This type responds best to a diet with a moderate amount of carbs. A Zone-like diet where you consume 40% of your calories from protein, 30% from carbs and 30% from fat is the best starting point.
- They’re prone to cheating because they see food as a reward. They will “reward” a good workout with cheat food. I’ve actually seen reward dependants gain fat when they start training, so I don’t use cheat days with this personality type.
- Rather, they should have refeed days where carbs are increased slightly. But these refeeds aren’t planned in advance because they aren’t needed often. With 30% of their calories coming from carbs they won’t deplete muscle glycogen easily, leptin won’t crash, and the T4 to T3 conversion shouldn’t be affected.
- They can be good with dieting if they’re held accountable. For example, if they have their bodyfat measured every two weeks they’ll stick to their diets a lot better because the need to please their coach might supersede their need for a reward.
- I’m actually not a big believer in measuring body fat, even with callipers. Most coaches aren’t skilled at it and the measure doesn’t mean anything. But for Type 2 people, the simple fact that they’ll be measured helps them stick to their diets because they don’t want to let their coach down. Having to take pictures accomplishes the same thing.
- This type has more opioid receptors in the brain which makes them more responsive to sugar. They take more pleasure from sugary treats than others and can easily be addicted.
- To have success with dieting, they need to be held accountable, avoid cheat foods, avoid eating while doing something else that’s pleasurable (reading or watching TV) and they need to try to break the food-as-reward pattern.
Next we’ll cover the Type 3 or harm avoidance neuro type.