Nueral Potentiation – Mike McGurn

Nueral Potentiation


Nueral potentiation has been widely used by athletes from many sports before competition.

I have used it myself when working with St. Helens Rugby League Club and it inadvertently coincided with the period of our greatest successes, winning World Club Championship, Super League, and Challenge Cup Final.


It is worth highlighting at this stage, that our gym was approximately 10 metres from our home dressing shed, so the initiation of firing up the CNS was far more difficult when playing away. (for this we used powerbags, and occasionally brought Olympic bars and weights with our kit man, but space was always an issue)


Once the players bought into the practice it was only a matter of the players going into the gym before the match (at home) doing 3 x 6/8 reps of cleans, jammer, squats, bench throws or whatever suited them individually. At any time between 10-25 minutes before kick off.

The players reported (whether placebo/psychological or not ?????) they where starting and getting into the game quicker, we generally scored first (which is also down to the fact we had some class players) and the players felt they did’nt have to get ’their second wind’

The reason for sharing this, today I had a personal experience of potentiation (although totally unplanned) and it reminded me of how it can benefit performance.

Arranged to meet a training partner at 9.30 this morning, to do a high intensity power session, so with this in mind I got to the gym early and prepared myself, he as is usual turned up late.

The first lift we planned to do was 100 Kg Chain Squats-1 X 6, 110 Kg -2 X 4, 120 Kg- 2 X 2

We completed the first, second, and I managed the third set, unfortunately my training partner blew his back on set 3.
So being the good Samaritan I helped him out of the gym, into my car and drove him home, gave him loads of anti inflamms, and some food, and being the perfect gentleman did what every good S+C coach would do, went straight back to the gym to restart my workout.

Driving back to the gym I felt I owed it to my prone (and in serious pain !) friend to dominate the big bad squat rack and chains, so I decided (rather recklessly) to kick off at 120 kg with the chains on my first squat, this was totally alien territory for me, but to cut a long story short my loadings ended up

120 Kg X 6
125 Kg X 4
130 Kg X 4
140 Kg X 2
142.5 Kg X 2

Where my vastly improved performance a result of potentiation ? was it a result of determination due to my mates injury ?
Who knows, who cares ! I was delighted and was able to really push the boundaries. (the rest of my session was not too shabby either !)

Just interested to know of any of your members experiences/knowledge of this


Mike McGurn

National Strength and Fitness Coach

———————————————————————————————————–Thanks for the kind words, and yes some time I must take a few of those points an elaborate a little on them.
I think Precovery is an interesting concept at least – everyone worries about the recovery process but very few worry about the state of the player before training/game/stressing them. So in other words (on a scale of readiness) if two athletes are at a 6 and a 4 before they train – the way they both respond to training – they might be at a scale of 4 and 2 by the end – and how they respond to the (usually the same) recovery protocol (even if it’s just a post workout shake) will be completely different. So can you not prepare an athlete to respond to training better?
As for visiting Ireland – just a note to everyone – falling in love isn’t a garauntee!!! Fitness testing is so time consuming – but you do need some markers and I’m a bit of nut with things like that and try to collect every scrap of data I can to help monitor. Monitoring is the key in my opinion.
Great qoute on the core. Though many groin injuries are attributed to weak cores – I suggest they are attributed to poor technique and imbalanced training programs – not a weak core.
The only time I use Tempo is with a beginner – after that I think it’s pointless, but for beginners I think it’s useful to prevent ballistic movements and limited ROM’s with lifts. I think you hit the nail on the head with Hypertrophy – especailly for sport – increase the sets and essentially TUT and total volumes.



Mike, very interesting post buddy – and impressive session.

Reminds me of stories of Bulagrian lifters lifting frequently throughout the day!

Neural Potentiation is very interesting and I looked a little at it before and have spoken to some people about it to try and understand it more. There is seems to be a balance between cns excitation and cns fatigue that is very delicate – but you guys are obviously smart enough and experienced enough to tread along that line. It is a great way to fire up the CNS and get things moving and players buzzing.

There were two interesting papers published in the past few months on similar ideas/themes and I’ll see if I can dig them up – where front squats contributed more to starting speed and back squats to longer distances when the sprints immediately followed the lift.

Another interesting concept, from sprinting, is the idea of structuring the week to build/develop/maintain CNS excitation over a week leading to a game/final etc removing the stress from the legs – but maintaining the neural potentiation. So for example, the idea is that the last heavy or explosive leg weights day might be Wednesday, explosive Push WO on Friday, explosive pull on Sat 30 mins pre game. The theory is that CNS excitation or Neural potentiation can be started and maximised on the Wednesday, maintained through Wednesday, and buzzed again on Saturday – and all the time leg fatigue is avoided by doing this. Of course in sprinting this is very important and perhaps in Rugby it’s not as critical a factor, but I’ve found it to work well (albeit in a limited context).

I’ll see if I can get those papers

By the way – I don’t believe those numbers Mike! (Joking)


Great work Mike, I remember what Poliquin used to say about coming back in the afternoon and perfroming exactly th esame workout you did in the morning with a significant increase in loading from the morning workout, an interesting personal account with St. Helen’s I have always thought that the Charlie Francis/Ben Jonson stories of him squatting big before he sprints spot on with the time frame and energy requirements of the event but thought the transfer to our gamne maybe not be there but to get a jump on the opposition for the first 10 minutes makes good sense, thanks for sharing, ash

Here are those two papers … quite interesting actually – especially since they were done in rugby … don’t say I don’t stay up to date – JUNE 2008 … the ink is still wet!

Influence of recovery time on post-activation potentiation in professional rugby players (Journal of Sports Sciences, June 2008)

Following a bout of heavy resistance training, the muscle is in both a fatigued and potentiated state with subsequent muscle performance depending on the balance between these two factors. To date, there is no uniform agreement about the optimal acute recovery required between the heavy resistance training and subsequent muscle performance to gain performance benefits. The aim of the present study was to determine the recovery time required to observe enhanced muscle performance following a bout of heavy resistance training. Twenty professional rugby players performed a countermovement jump at baseline and *15 s, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24 min after a bout of heavy resistance training (three sets of three repetitions at 87% one-repetition maximum squat). Power output, jump height, and peak rate of force development were determined for all countermovement jumps. Despite an initial decrease in countermovement jump performance after the heavy resistance training (P50.001), participants’ performance increased significantly following 8 min recovery (P50.001) (i.e. jump height increased by 4.9%, s¼3.0). The findings suggest that muscle performance during a countermovement jump can be markedly enhanced following bouts of heavy resistance training provided that adequate recovery (*8 min) is allowed between the heavy resistance training and the explosive activity.

This one then kinda contradicts a little what we were talking about …

Effect of order of exercise on performance during a complex training session in rugby players (Journal of Sports Sciences, June 2008)

In this study, we examined the acute effects of manipulating exercise order when combining countermovement jumps and loaded parallel squats in a complex training session, and the acute effects of countermovement jumps and loaded parallel squats on sprinting performance. Eight rugby players participated in five trials, including two that involved performing loaded parallel squats followed by countermovement jumps or vice versa in a randomized cross-over design. Peak rate of force development and peak force were measured during countermovement jumps and loaded parallel squats. Peak power, jump height, and duration of amortization phase were also determined during the countermovement jumps. Peak force during squatting was significantly greater in both cross-over treatments (loaded parallel squats–countermovement jumps and countermovement jumps–loaded parallel squats) compared with the control (P 0.05), although no significant interaction effects were observed. Prior countermovement jumps resulted in slower 5-m split and overall 20-m sprint times compared with the control (countermovement jumps vs. control: 5-m split, 1.23 s, s¼0.11 vs. 1.13 s, s¼0.11; overall 20-m, 3.29 s, s¼0.19 vs. 3.18 s, s¼0.18; P50.05). It is possible to combine heavy resistance and plyometric exercises without detriment to training performance, but sprint training should be performed independently to minimize any potential interference from
prior resistance training.

There were others I had recently I must look for to compliment these …


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