Part 1 – Nonstop Natural Gains: The Neuro Typing System

Part 2 – Unlock Natural Gains: Neuro Type 1

Part 3 – Double Your Natural Gains: Neuro Type 2

Part 4 - Never-Ending Natural Gains: Neuro Type 3

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. Part 3 covers Type 2: the reward-dependant profile. Part 4 discusses the harm avoider type.

Now let's dig deeper into each type, talk about specific programming, and cover mixed neuro types.

Neuro Type 1A and Type 1B

All Type 1 lifters need intensity. They're neutrally driven. For them, performance is more important than getting a pump or mind-muscle connection. Methods where the nervous system is the most active will lead to the most improvements. In fact, they often find isolation or pump work boring and annoying.

The two subtypes differ in two ways: how much volume they can handle, and how much variation they can have within one workout.

In both cases, it depends on their acetylcholine levels. Having high acetylcholine allows a Type 1 to be able to handle more volume. How? By decreasing the reliance on adrenaline. When you have more acetylcholine, you don't need the same amount of adrenaline to perform well. Acetylcholine increases contraction strength of the heart and muscles. It also increases vasodilatation and focus.

Remember, adrenaline (epinephrine) requires dopamine to be produced. So the more adrenaline you need to produce, the more dopamine you'll "use." That could lead to depletion.

To have high training motivation and aggressiveness you need a high dopamine level, and novelty seekers have a naturally lower dopamine level. So if they produce too much adrenaline they'll quickly deplete dopamine and work capacity will go down. So, if a Type 1 has a high acetylcholine level he can tolerate more volume because he doesn't deplete dopamine as quickly.

Furthermore, people with a higher acetylcholine level are good at multitasking. They can easily switch their attention from one task to the another without any loss in efficiency. Signs of high acetylcholine levels are a great memory and the ability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time and do more than one project at a time.

People with low acetylcholine levels often forget things (losing their keys for example) and might have recollection problems. When they're doing something they almost forget the rest of the world exists. They can have a hard time making a decision when there's more than one option.

Type 1A, Low Acetylcholine

General Training Recommendations

  • High frequency: Train 6-7 days a week.
  • Very low volume, short workouts: This type has the lowest capacity for volume. They should perform 6-12 total work sets in a session, ideally doing workouts lasting less than 45 minutes (or even less than 30 minutes after warm-up).
  • Highest intensity – very heavy loads, low reps: The more neurologically driven a training session is, the better. A good intensity zone is 87-92% of 1RM. They should stick to sets of 1-3 reps, rarely going up to as high as 5.
  • Few exercises in a workout: This type isn't efficient at switching focus. They do best with 2 or 3 total exercises per workout. They don't respond well to isolation work and should only use it to fix a weak point.
  • Moderate to longer rest intervals: While this type does need a fairly fast pace to stay focused, they need a bit more recovery time between sets. While they shouldn't force themselves to rest by the clock, 90-150 seconds between sets is normally adequate.
  • Best training methods: Except for clusters, this type doesn't do well on many other methods since they're more about intensity than time under tension or mind-muscle connection. They do well on 3/2/1 waves and they'll find slightly cheated reps very effective. (Exercises like the snatch-grip high pull and push press are great for them.) They don't respond well to slower tempos nor to accentuating the eccentric. They do better with compensatory acceleration training (CAT): trying to accelerate the weight as fast as possible.

Sample Training Program

Day 1

  • Activation: Medicine ball throw from chest, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Push Press
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 2, 3/2/1 waves (second wave heavier)
  • 120-150 seconds rest between sets

  • B. Bench Press
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 3 x 3 with 85-90%
  • 3 x 3 with 65-70% focusing on maximum acceleration
  • 90-120 seconds rest

Day 2

  • Activation: Medicine ball slams, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Pendlay Row
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets of 3 reps
  • 3 sets of 5 cluster reps (5 reps with 10 seconds rest between reps) using a 3-4 RM
  • 120-150 seconds rest

  • B. Neutral Grip (or Ring) Pull-Up
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets of 3 reps
  • 3 sets of 3 reps with a challenging weight added to the waist
  • 3 sets of 3 reps with bodyweight-only, focusing on speed
  • 90-120 seconds rest

Day 3

  • Activation: Vertical jumps with reset, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Back Squat
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 2, 3/2/1 waves (second wave heavier)
  • 120-150 seconds rest between sets

  • B. Snatch-Grip High Pull from the Hang
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 3 x 3 with 85-90%
  • 3 x 3 with 65-70% focusing on maximum acceleration
  • 90-120 seconds rest

Day 4

  • Activation: Plyo push-ups, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Bench Press from Pins (3-4" from chest)
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets of 3 reps
  • 3 sets of 5 cluster reps (5 reps with 10 seconds rest between reps) using a 3-4 RM
  • 120-150 seconds rest

  • B. Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Push Press
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 3 x 3 with 85-90%
  • 3 x 3 with 65-70% focusing on maximum acceleration
  • 90-120 seconds rest

Day 5

  • Activation: Medicine ball slams, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Seated Cable Row
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 2, 3/2/1 waves (second wave heavier)
  • 120-150 seconds rest between sets

  • B. Snatch-Grip High Pull from Blocks
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 2, 3/2/1 waves (second wave heavier)
  • 120-150 seconds rest between sets

Day 6

  • Activation: Vertical jump with reset, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Front Squat
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 2, 3/2/1 waves (second wave heavier)
  • 120-150 seconds rest between sets

  • B. Romanian Deadlift
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 3 sets of 3 reps with a heavy weight but not all-out (82-85%)
  • 3 sets of 3 with 65-70% using more concentric acceleration

Day 7

  • Off

Another good example of an acceptable training style would be my Bulgarian Training Simplified program.

Type 1B: High Acetylcholine

General Training Recommendations

  • High frequency: Train 5-6 days a week.
  • Can tolerate a high volume of intense work: These are the guys who normally make the best CrossFitters and strength/power athletes (football, track & field, powerlifting). They can tolerate high intensity well like the Type 1A's, but can handle a higher daily workload. However, they need to include restorative (Neural Charge) sessions to prevent crashing. They can handle 12-20 heavy work sets in a session with an occasional Neural Charge workout (once a week).
  • Heavy work, low to moderate reps: This type does very well on reps ranging from 3 to 6 on the big compound movements. They aren't as de-motivated by isolation or pump work as the Type 1A's but it still shouldn't be a huge part of their workout, except to fix a specific weakness. When they do isolation work they should still avoid extra-high reps. Sets of 6-8 are a better. Even with isolation exercises they need to feel like they're lifting fairly heavy.
  • More exercises or methods in a workout: To feel stimulated they need variety either by using many different exercises or various training methods in a workout. For example, my Layer System, which only uses one main lift but four different methods would be okay for them. If a workout is both minimal in exercise selection and has repetitive methods or loading schemes it'll be de-motivating.
  • Short rest intervals: Rest periods should be a little shorter. They can afford to do that because the acetylcholine will protect them against overproducing adrenaline, which would crash their dopamine. A workout with a fast pace will always yield better results.
  • Best training methods: This type does well on methods that are heavy and have a low-rep feel. Clusters, where you do 5-6 total reps with 10-15 seconds between each rep; rest/pause where you do 4-6 reps on the initial part of the set; 5/4/3 waves; or EMOMs with 2-4 reps per set are all good choices.

Sample Training Program

Day 1

  • Activation: Medicine Ball Throw from Chest, 3 sets of 3 reps
  • Preparation: Band Pull-Apart, 3 sets of 8-10 reps

  • A. Bench Press
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 2, 5/4/3 waves
  • 90 seconds rest between sets

  • B1. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row
  • 4 work sets of 4-6 reps

  • Alternate with B2
  • 30-45 seconds rest

  • B2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
  • 4 work sets of 4-6 reps
  • 75-90 seconds rest

  • C1. Close-Grip Floor Press
  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps

  • Alternate with C2
  • 30-45 seconds rest

  • C2. Neutral-Grip Pull-Up
  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • 75-90 seconds rest

Day 2

  • Activation: Vertical jump with reset, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Back Squat
  • 3 gradually heavier preparation sets
  • 2, 5/4/3 waves
  • 90 seconds rest between sets

  • B1. Romanian Deadlift
  • 4 work sets of 4-6 reps

  • Alternate with B2
  • 30-45 seconds rest

  • B2. Machine Hack Squat
  • 4 work sets of 4-6 reps
  • 75-90 seconds rest

  • C1. Glute-Ham Raise
  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps

  • Alternate with C2
  • 30-45 seconds rest

  • C2. Farmer's Walk
  • 3 sets of 20-30 seconds (walking under control with solid position, not running)
  • 75-90 seconds rest

Day 3 (Neural Charge)

  • A1. Vertical Jump, 3-5 reps
  • 30-45 seconds rest

  • A2. Medicine Ball Throw from Chest, 3-5 reps
  • 30-45 seconds rest

  • A3. Box Jump 3-5 reps
  • 30-45 seconds rest

  • A3. Medicine Ball Slam, 3-5 reps
  • 1 minute rest
  • Perform the circuit 4-5 times.

Day 4

  • Activation: Medicine Ball Throw from Chest, 3 sets of 3 reps
  • Preparation: Band Pull-Apart, 3 sets of 8-10 reps

  • A. Bench Press from Pins (2-3" from chest)
  • Ramp up to 3RM in 6-8 sets
  • 75-90 seconds rest

  • B. Bench Press from Pins (2-3" from chest)
  • 90-95% of 3RM
  • 3 sets of clusters for 5-6 reps, 10 seconds rest between reps
  • 90-120 seconds rest

  • C. Bench Press from Pins (2-3" from chest)
  • 80-85% of 3RM
  • 3 sets of max reps / rest 15 seconds / max reps

  • D. Bench Press from Pins (2-3" from chest)
  • 80-85% of 3RM
  • 3 sets of 3 close-grip + 3 wide grip + 3 normal grip

Day 5

  • Activation: Vertical jump, 3 sets of 3 reps

  • A. Front Squat
  • Ramp up to 3RM in 6-8 sets
  • 75-90 seconds rest

  • B. Front Squat
  • 90-95% of 3RM
  • 3 sets of clusters for 5-6 reps, 10 seconds rest between reps
  • 90-120 seconds rest

  • C. Front Squat
  • 80-85% of 3RM
  • 3 sets of max reps / rest 15 seconds / max reps

  • D. Squat
  • 80-85% of 3RM on front squat
  • 3 sets of 3 front squats with narrow stance + 3 front squats wide stance + 3 back squats

Day 6

  • Activation: Medicine Ball Slam, 3 sets of 3 reps
  • Preparation: Band Pull-Apart, 3 sets of 8-10 reps

  • A. Neutral-Grip Pull-Up
  • 3 preparation sets
  • 2, 5/4/3 waves
  • 75-90 seconds rest

  • B. Seated Cable Row
  • 4 rest/pause sets (4-6 reps, rest 15 seconds, 2-3 additional reps)
  • 90-120 seconds rest

  • C. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row (chest on incline bench)
  • 4 sets of 4-6 reps holding peak contraction 2 seconds per rep
  • 75-90 seconds rest

  • D1. Bent-Over Lateral Raise
  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps holding peak contraction 2 seconds
  • D1 & D2 are a superset, no rest after D1

  • D2. Band Pull-Apart
  • 3 set of 8-10 reps
  • 75-90 seconds rest

Day 7

  • Off

My Layer System would also be a good plan to use for this type. They'd also do great on the Indigo-3G® strength program: Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3

Neuro Type 2A and Type 2B

While acetylcholine levels can have a small impact on the Type 2's capacity to tolerate volume, it won't be as impactful since Type 2's don't have low dopamine levels and are very sensitive to adrenaline.

However, they can be heavily influenced by GABA levels. A higher GABA level will give them better motor control and less anxiety, leading to a more positive attitude and more self-confidence.

Type 2's With Low GABA

They are people pleasers but they wait for others to give them respect, admiration, and positive feedback. If they don't get it, they close up on themselves. In a group where they aren't automatically the center of attention they tend to withdraw or become invisible, which also gives them a lot of anxiety.

Type 2's with low GABA have less motor control, aren't as good at learning new skills, and don't do well on explosive work.

Type 2's With High GABA

They're also people pleasers and depend on the admiration and respect of others to build their self-worth, but they actively try to get that respect. They're more proactive and are great at mingling in groups. They instinctively mimic the attitude of the person they're talking too. They're great at one-on-one conversations. But they aren't as comfortable when talking to several people because they don't know how to adjust their behavior. They always want to avoid conflicts and will almost always agree with the person they're talking to.

Type 2's with high GABA have good motor control, are less prone to anxiety, and do great on explosive work as well as "playful" training sessions. They like training programs with a theme or challenge. They do well on CrossFit-style training but without the high skill level.

Type 2A, High GABA

General Training Recommendations

  • High frequency: Train 5-6 days a week.
  • Focus on explosiveness and higher skill exercises: This type does great on Dynamic Effort style work, compensatory acceleration training, jumps, throws, sprints, variations of the Olympic lifts, and skill work. They can be really good CrossFit athletes.
  • Can do volume work, but not too heavy: They have a very efficient nervous system for explosive work but they're not as good with weights above 90%. These are lifters that are faster than they are strong. They can move big weights, but only if they can use acceleration to do it. If they can't use the stretch reflex or create acceleration from the start, they won't be good at lifting very heavy. They gas out quickly.
  • Can use fairly heavy weights, but not in the 90% plus zone: When they lift for strength, the 80-87% zone will be more effective. Sets of 3-6 reps on the big movements work well for them.
  • They can do a moderate amount of isolation work: Isolation work isn't a burden like it is for others. For isolation work they should use methods focusing on the mind-muscle connection, not on the amount of weight lifted.
  • Do great on complexes, circuits, and challenges: Anything fast and fun.
  • Best training methods: Anything explosive will agree with them. Jumps, throws, striking a tire with a sledgehammer, sprinting, or Olympic lifting. Unconventional methods appeal to them because they look like fun: gymnastic ring work, kettlebell work, etc. They also respond well to using tools like chains, bands, weight releasers, hanging band technique, etc.

Examples of programs that work well for this type:
The Zombie Apocalypse Workout
Hard Body Training for Women (Yes, guys can do it too.)
HSS-100

Type 2B, Low GABA

General Training Recommendations

  • Moderate frequency: Train 4-5 days a week.
  • Moderate intensity: This type does better when focusing on feeling the muscles or on perfect technique rather than on moving more weight. They need both a great mind-muscle connection and a feeling of being competent on the exercises.
  • Does not do well on heavy work: While an occasional bout of heavy lifting in the 82-87% zone is okay if the volume is kept low, if they do too much heavy lifting too often they won't get maximum results. Training above 90% isn't really for them. They'll get better results from moderate weight focusing on solid form and mind-muscle connection. They easily get injured from heavy work. They also get a magnified cortisol response from very heavy work, which decreases gains.
  • Greater isolation work ratio: They need to feel the muscle to get into the workout. They need a strong muscle contraction and a good pump to be satisfied with their workout and keep motivation up.
  • Fast training pace, short rest intervals: A fast training pace will keep their adrenaline high, which they need to be motivated and focused (more so than the other profiles). It also facilitates building up a good pump. If they don't feel a pump or if adrenaline goes down during the workout, their motivation to train will drop.
  • Slower tempo: They don't do well on explosive work. They'll get a better response by using a fairly slow tempo that allows them to focus on flexing/contracting the target muscles.
  • Best training methods: They do great on anything that either increases mind-muscle connection or the pump: drop sets, mechanical drop sets, partials after a set of full reps, 21s, slow tempo, adding pauses and squeezes during a set, etc. They also do well on methods that increase workout pace: antagonist supersets, pre-fatigue supersets, post-fatigue supersets, circuits, giant sets, etc.

Programs that work for this type:
Vince Gironda style programs
Growth Factor style programs such as Growth Factor Shoulder Training and Growth Factor Chest Training.

Neuro Type 3

General Training Recommendations

  • Lower frequency: Train 3-4 days a week. This type overproduces cortisol but can do plenty of volume. They actually need the volume to stimulate growth since they don't respond well to heavy weights. But because they overproduce cortisol they need more rest days to grow.
  • Very little variation: Stick to the same exercises for 8-12 weeks or more, especially in the case of the big lifts. When you introduce variation, go with changes that don't affect the feel of the workout – changing rest intervals, exercises order, tempo, reps (while staying in the 6-20 range), etc.
  • More emphasis on movement precision than weight: They should focus on slower tempos to be able to maximize muscle tension and contraction during every rep. It's more important for them to create maximum fatigue in the trained muscle than to add more weight, although this will become necessary eventually.
  • Higher volume, more muscle fatigue: They'll get more growth from a higher volume of work leading to more muscle fiber fatigue. They can get the same amount of muscle growth from lighter work than from heavy work if they create enough fiber fatigue and lactic acid accumulation, which stimulates the release of local growth factors. This is especially true for this type. They'll feel heavy work mostly in their tendons, joints, and structure, not in the muscles. They'll be turned off by that and are more likely to become injured.
  • Low intensity, high reps: Since they respond better to fatigue than loading, higher reps with a slower tempo and more focus on fatiguing the muscles will be more effective than heavy weights with low reps.
  • Rest periods: They can handle short rest periods since they naturally have good resistance and endurance, provided they don't let themselves get out of shape. Shorter rest intervals will allow them to create more fiber fatigue without having to use heavy weights, which fits their profile. Even on big movements they can take as little as 60 seconds of rest between sets.
  • Best training methods: Slower tempo, the inclusion of pauses and holds during the reps, drop sets, and rest/pauses with a higher starting rep number are all good methods. While they physically can do supersets, neurologically it's not the best method. They can do antagonist pairings though.

A good program for them would be German Volume Training.

Mixed Types

The profiles are a continuum in the order presented and they go from high intensity to high volume. The continuum is:

  • Type 1A
  • Type 1B
  • Type 2A
  • Type 2B
  • Type 3

From the top of the list to the bottom, intensity decreases and volume increases.

When you take the formal TCI test you might find that you either have a strong dominance or that you're a mix of two types. You can be:

  1. A mixed Type 1 and Type 2. In this case, train like a Type 2A but with a slightly lower amount of volume.
  2. A mixed Type 2 and Type 3 Train like a Type 2B but with only 4 training days per week.

Related:  Ask Christian Thibaudeau Questions Here