Maximize Performance with Neuro Muscular Efficiency Training

Strength training is a key component to performance in sports, but it can be tricky to know what the best approach is. One way athletes can get the most out of their strength cycles is through neuro muscular efficiency. This article will discuss how neuro muscular efficiency can help athletes maximize their performance.

What Is Neuro Muscular Efficiency Testing?

Neuro muscular efficiency testing (NME) is a process that measures an athlete’s ability to recruit muscle fibers for a massive effort, say a 1RM Strict Press or Back Squat. Testing for NME doesn’t result in a good or bad assessment. It simple helps coaches identify weaknesses what method of training will have the most impact and benefit.

How Does It Work?

A common way of testing for NME is ad follows:

build to a back squat 1RM, then after 10-mins of rest, to do as many reps as possible at 85%

Based off the results from this test you will fall into one of three categories for NME, high, moderate or low. Again this is not good bad or anything other than great data your coach can utilize to program most efficiently for you.

High NME ( 1- 3 ) reps. You can recruit a large amount of muscle fibers for each rep, however you do fatigue faster.

If you get 4-7 reps, you’ve got roughly average or moderate NME. Meaning you are somewhere in between the high and low.

If you get 8+ reps, you’ve got low NME. You recruit less muscle fibers for each rep, giving you an ability to endure and continue working.

The Benefits of NME for Athletes

The main benefit of NME for athletes is improved performance and decreased risk of injury. By identifying weak areas in an athlete’s technique, coaches are able to design programs specifically tailored to address those weaknesses and improve overall performance. In addition, NME provides valuable insight into an athlete’s movement patterns and muscle fiber recruitment  that can be used to adjust current strength training programs accordingly. Finally, NME gives coaches the tools they need to modify exercises as needed in order to maximize performance.

Neuro Muscular Efficiency (NME) can help athletes get the most out of their strength cycles by measuring muscle activity during exercises. With improved performance and reduced injury risk, NME is a great tool for any serious athlete looking to take their game to the next level!

Good Better Best, Interval Training Done Right part Deux (that’s Fancy for 2)


While HR Zones is a much better and objective measurement than feel, it is certainly not the best metric at our disposal. The reason it is not the top of is because it is an extrapolation derived hopefully from accurate metabolic testing, not math. The only way to know your TRUE HR Zones is to test using devices built for testing VO2 Max etc. Once you know your HR Zones you are on your way. Except, that they might not always be exactly the same from day to day, week to week or month to month. As your fitness increases/decreases the initial HR Zones may no longer apply. Even worse you wouldn’t know until the next time you test and establish your up to date HR Zones.

This could result in various training session that missed the point or were not as efficient at eliciting the intended stimulus as we hoped for.


This leads us to probably the best way to truly know if you are pushing your physiology on any given day to any given stimulus; NIRS. Near-Infrared Spectroscopy or NIRS is utilized in measuring SmO2% at the primary working muscle or secondary muscles to determine a whole host of limitations. It can also be utilized on a daily basis to measure muscle saturation/desaturation during training intervals.


In steps MOXY (Muscle Oxygen Monitor). Why would we want t monitor the amount of oxygen consumption during exercise? Oxygen transportation and utilization is critical in determining athletic capacity. MOXY allows us to measure the SmO2 optically with Near Infrared Light and as such is completely non-invasive.

Much of the work we do during whether intervals of high intensity of high load movement such as 1 rep max lifts our musculature is dependent on the creation of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). We primarily are creating ATP utilizing on Phosphocreatine (PCr) energy system in order to maintain cellular balance. To accomplish the replenishment of this energy system O2 is necessary. Muscle oxygenation almost immediately responds to the onset of exercise, indicating that high intensity training is correlated to oxygen availability in the muscle.

So, why is MOXY the best method for guiding interval training? Simply put by identifying SmO2 for that training session we are able to utilize real time biofeedback data to determine training intensity, recovery and duration.

The Training Session

What might a MOXY Interval training session look like? After completing a thorough warm up in which we push SmO2 as high as possible (70-90%) we are able to establish parameters for the training intervals. I’ll cover in closer detail a proper warm up utilizing MOXY. The first % achieved during the warm up is your ‘recovery baseline’ this is the % we would want to return to after the high intensity intervals. Then we need to determine our ‘performance baseline’ this will be our minimum SmO2 reached during the strenuous high intensity work.

Once these 2 primary parameters are establish we can build our training intervals based on SMo2 with proper recovery to ensure that we can come back to baseline or Complete Recovery after each interval work load. This allows for us to accurately determine when the athlete is ‘ready’ to perform the next interval in optimal condition. This ensures that we are able to get the most out of each interval set without wasting energy or time.

Example Training Session

So back to our example Echo Bike training session. Now we will look at how we would accomplish it with MOXY. after warm up we establish the athlete to have a Recovery Baseline SmO2 of 80%. We establish after a high intensity sprint n the Echo Bike that the athlete is able to ‘desaturate’ to SmO2 of 30% or their Performance Baseline..

We can now build the training session as follows:

8 x Max Intensity Echo Bike to 30% SmO2 or within 10% of that Performance Baseline.

The next interval DOES NOT begin until the athlete has reached the Recovery Baseline of 80% or within 10% of that baseline.

The athlete will continue doing the interval training until the 8 intervals are completed or they are no longer able to get within 10% of the recovery or performance baseline.

Do we always have to recover back to baseline? Absolutely not. This would take away all variance in the physiologic realm. There are actually 4 recovery protocols that Ill cover in a future blog (Hypoxic, Complete, Incomplete, Enhanced). Stay Tuned.



Good Better Best, Interval Training Done Right

Objective rather than Subjective

Data should be the driver of fitness simply because of its objectivity. How often have we heard, I ’feel’ rested only to then have sub-optimal results in our training. If we think of it in terms of good, better, best in utilizing objective measures to drive our training sessions then we can think of Time, HR Zones or SmO2 as tools to guide us.

Lets use an example interval training session and break it down for each of the above categories. The intended stimulus for this training session will be increasing ‘anaerobic’ threshold. This is the very top end of our athletic ability or when the lactate coursing through your body sets you on fire. We will increase anaerobic threshold utilizing the Echo Bike, what can I say, I am a fan of human suffering.


Utilizing structured work: rest intervals will create a magnificent stimulus for the largest part of the population eliciting health benefits much needed. If you are someone that wants to have overall general fitness that translates to an active lifestyle and quality of life, then by all means proceed with utilizing intervals and going off of ‘feel’.

Example Training Interval

8 x :20 Work / :40 Rest

Like most people utilizing this type of interval, you rip into that echo bike ramping up through the :20 seconds. The first 1-3 intervals you can hold a high pace. As the lactate builds with nowhere to flush our system finds it more difficult to create the same muscle contractions and as such your output begins to decrease with each subsequent interval.

Did you get a great workout? Yes. Your quads probably feel 3 times their usual size and your lungs are on fire. Was this an optimal use of the training session to increase ‘anaerobic’ threshold? Probably not, we can definitely be more efficient. Utilizing this type of interval, we don’t even know if we got to our threshold as we have to go by ‘feel’ rather than any objective measure.


However, ‘feel’ is very subjective and how you feel today is not necessarily how you will feel tomorrow. So what tools can we introduce that will allow us to work from objective data rather than subjective feel? Two main tools that have been utilized to great success within the sporting community like cycling, running etc. are Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and HR Zones. Ill focus more on HR Zones here but if you want to read a little further on FTP read this.

HR Zones

The reason why your output or speed decreases through intervals is because you are simply not respecting the vital part of the interval; rest. In order to achieve the intended stimulus of increasing endurance or getting faster you have to ensure your body is receiving the appropriate amount of rest. Too often we short change the rest and waste a perfect good training session by getting less than desired results.

Interval Training Session with HR Zones

Let’s build an example interval training session utilizing the Echo Bike to increase top end threshold (what some folks call anaerobic) or zone 5. If you love lactate and how it makes you feel then you are crazy. Seriously, the best way to build top end threshold is quite literally hitting intervals in this Zone 5.

Example Z5 Training Interval

8 x :20 Zone 5 Echo Bike / Recover

Like most people not familiar with using HR Zones for interval training, the time doesn’t start UNTIL you get to HR Z5. Let me repeat this very important point. If you are training Z5 your work interval does not begin UNTIL you get to Z5. If you are working Z5 for :20 and it takes you :15 seconds to get your heart rate to Z5 then you only did the intended stimulus for :5. This completely misses the intended stimulus for the interval.

As such, you probably see now that we have established when the work begins, that recovery is the most important aspect. Otherwise, you might only be able to hit Z5 2 or 3 times. So, when does recovery start when using HR Zones? When you are back in Z1. This might take :40, 1 minute, 3 minutes it doesn’t matter. The only important thing is that your system is recovered back to Z1 to allow you to be able to ramp back to Z5 for :20 7 more times or until you’re unable to get to Z5!

Let this sink in. A session that might under ‘traditional’ go by feel methods take 2 minutes, might now take 20 minutes. However, do we do a better job of increasing ‘anaerobic’ threshold? Absolutely, because we have the objective data of our HR Z5 to let us know we spend :20 in Z5 for 8 intervals.


So, what is the best method we can utilize for interval training? Stay tuned, I’ll cover that in the next blog post.

How Should We do Interval Training?

Interval Training

Well, the short answer is; it depends. If you are using interval training (and there are arguments to think of almost all training as interval) then what is your intended stimulus? Are you trying to get stronger by doing heavy sets of back squats, how long is your rest interval? Want to create muscular endurance by hitting interval training on the Echo Bike or Concept2 Rower, what is your work: rest ratio?

All across the country in the functional fitness space or sport of fitness this is what that might look like:

-Build to a Heavy 5×5 Back Squat E2MOM (every 2 Minutes on the Minute)

-6 Rounds Echo Bike for Cals :20 Work :40 Rest


Simple enough training but what is the intended stimulus. Let’s think through the back squat first. If your intended stimulus is to build muscular strength then the rest period is crucial to ensuring that you are able to build to heaviest set of five back squats possible for that day. Doing 1 set every 2 minutes might work for some athletes but for others it might not, resulting in a less than optimal training session. Rather than building muscular strength or endurance we miss lifts and are left frustrated that we didn’t perform to the best of our ability.

What about the Echo Bike, we are resting twice as much as we are working. Test this out and see if you are able to do more, the same or less calories each round. If we are trying to build muscular endurance then we should be able to do the same or better each round. If in practice we are doing less calories each round then that means we aren’t getting the intended stimulus and as such didn’t utilize the training session in the best manner.

Why might this 20:40 work for some but not others. Simply put, you are not all the same. Every single athlete is unique, with varying degrees of fitness. My ability to recover may be much lower than yours due to varying factors such as age gender etc. Take it a step further, my own ability to recover isn’t the same even from day to day. My sleep possible was terrible or I didn’t fuel properly for the training session. Factors like hydration, stress, menstrual cycle and many others all impact your athletic performance from day to day.

Well, what now?

If this isn’t the best way to do interval, then what is? We’ll discuss some methods for getting the intended stimulus right every single time. Stay tuned.

Why You are doing Intervals All Wrong

In training intervals 20 seconds work, 40 seconds rest is a common example frequently used in sports. While this is a highly effective interval in creating a stimulus, the important question no one seems to ask is… is it the correct stimulus?

We very often are doing things we read or see and are simply copying it in hopes of duplicating the results. However, we lack the technical background to understand the why. Why are you doing that specific training and what stimulus and what outcome do you expect to get out of it.

Let’s take for example a 400m sprint workout. I would hope that your intention is to get faster or increase speed endurance. What might this workout look like within the CrossFit community. Very often we might have a 1:1 , 1:2 or even 1:4 work: rest ratio for this type of interval.

We’ll use a hypothetical workout (but I have tested this) using a 1:4 work: rest ratio meant to “increase” speed. I put increase in quotations for a very important reason I’ll mention at the end.

10x150m Sprints. With times as below:

:26, :25, :26, :28, :29, :31 etc.

The athlete taking roughly 4 times the amount of ‘work’ is resting close to 2 minutes between bouts of work. However, we can clearly see the intended stimulus is not what we are getting out of this training session. In fact, the athlete is getting SLOWER. The fact that the athlete is not properly rested is resulting in slower 150m sprint times each interval. Rather than making your athlete FASTER, you are actually creating the opposite stimulus and making them SLOWER.

Within the CrossFit community you see training programmed like this all the time and it is not only wrong but it has the unintended consequence of making athletes slower not faster when using intervals. So, how should we be using intervals correctly to create the intended stimulus? Next time you do interval training check your results, did your times stay the same, get faster or slower? Did your work output go up, down or remain the same? Once you’ve checked this, did the results match your intended stimulus? You might be surprised by your findings.  Stay tuned, I’ll share more in the next blog as to how to properly train intervals.

Respiratory System Limitations

As we have introduced the three physiological systems that fuel elite athletic performance in previous posts, we will now delve into each individually. The starting point of any elite athletic performance should be the respiratory system. Without an efficient ability to take O2 from your surrounding environment to help fuel you on race day you will find it incredibly difficult to get the results you want.

Respiratory System

The respiratory system is made up of your lungs, inspiratory and expiratory muscles. Within the functional fitness community this might be the most overlooked and misunderstood of all the systems. As you have probably heard many exclaim during or after a particularly challenging workout, ‘I just couldn’t breathe!’. Why? You would think we would spend more time understanding this system, identifying limitations and training them.

On average we take 20,000 breaths per day and probably don’t ever even think twice about how it all works. On each of these breaths your lungs are taking available O2 from your environment. Our body has to somehow convert this gas so that it can be delivered and utilized internally. This gas exchange occurs at the alveoli. The alveolar sacs are surrounded by capillaries, as such deeper breaths that fill alveoli are beneficial to O2 delivery to the muscles.

We may think that as such whatever genetics we have are what we are stuck with. While initial capacity is important, both the inspiratory (diaphragm and external intercoastal) as well as expiratory muscles (abdominals and internal intercoastal) both react to training stimulus.

Capacity VS Capability

Limitations in the respiratory system usually center around one of two main categories, capacity or capability. Where as capacity refers to the total amount that can be contained produced, capability focuses on the ability to utilize said capacity.

Capacity limitation is present when an individual has a capacity lower than what would be normal for their age, sex, height and ethnicity using spirometry to test the individual. There are various reason for this type of limitation such as, asthma, EIB or COPD. They could also have a structural limitation such as limited thoracic and rib mobility that limits their ability to take in the necessary oxygen.

How is it Measured?

Capacity is measured in litters through a FVC (Forced Total Capacity). An individual upon taking in a deep breath will then use a spirometer to measure the amount they can exhale in 6 seconds or FVC6. Along with this measurement we want to know how much of that were they able to exhale in the 1st second or FEV1 (Force Expiratory Volume). For example, a male Caucasian that is 5’6 should have a FVC6 of 4.48L and FEV1 of 3.61. Measurements lower than the predicted values would mean this individual has a respiratory capacity limitation.

Once the capacity has been established then capability can be measured using oxygen/metabolic testing to determine if the individual is able to utilize said capacity. If either the capacity or the ability to properly coordinate their breath during exercise are present, then this individual has a respiratory limitation. Any protocol other than respiratory training is simply training compensators and not the root issue (respiratory limitation).

It would be more valuable to add respiratory training protocols to your training to properly address this limitation in conjunction with the ongoing training. There are many tools on the market that can assist with respiratory training. Some are more effective than others and we will get into these tools in later posts.

Stay tuned!


The Three Main Physiological Systems

In our last blog we introduced the limiters to Elite Athletic Performance. Now we can delve a little deeper into why they each matter to being able to maximize your training. We can break the limiters down to either a supply or utilization limitation. You are the owner of the most complex piece of technology you will ever have, your body.


Your respiratory system is made up of your lungs and the inspiratory and expiratory muscles. They are solely responsible for being able to take in oxygen (O2) and expel carbon dioxide (CO2). This entire gas exchange is primarily done by the lungs. As you breathe in the lungs take in O2 and through a series of alveoli in your lungs is able to dissipate the O2 into your blood cells.

Why is this important?

Primarily we want to understand that oxygen is an integral part of being able to perform your best on race day. Without being able to appropriately utilize the air we breathe we will be at a distinct disadvantage from those that are able to utilize their O2 more efficiently. If you are able to breathe out during spirometry testing a volume of say 8lt/breath and only are capable of achieving exhalation of say 4lt/breath during testing then you aren’t even using 50% of your respiratory capacity. This would severely limit your athletic performance.


Our cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) and the blood. The blood contains vital nutrients and O2 brought in by the Respiratory system. The veins and blood within carry these essential nutrients to all parts of your body and then returns with waste products like carbon dioxide (CO2) so they can be removed.

Why is this important?

Muscular contraction is the end game with athletic performance. The longer you can sustain muscular contractions the better your chances of wining the race. The capillaries are responsible for final delivery of O2 to your muscles which assist in contraction. Proper training can increase the number of capillaries available at the muscle and such can influence oxygen delivery and utilization.


Your metabolism is the process which refers to a breakdown of nutrients and compounds your cells are able to utilize for energy. Your body secretes enzymes to break down food you consume into sugars, proteins and fats. The cells in your body are then able to use these in the different energy systems to fuel (create ATP) athletic performance. You may typically hear things like anaerobic and aerobic when discussing fuel systems. We will delve a little deeper into fuel systems and why anaerobic and aerobic isn’t exactly correct, in the next blog.

Why is this important?

Your mitochondrial density is the most important part and structure of the muscle specific to muscle metabolism. Think of it as having a bunch of nuclear power plants in your body (and by a bunch I mean Millions) which drives creation of ATP. The number of mitochondria within the muscle is vital to the creation of energy that will fuel your performance.

The ability of the human body to supply oxygen and nutrients from the lungs and through the blood to the muscle for utilization is the difference between winning and losing the race. Your body is a complex network where these systems must interact in order to produce maximum energy for athletic effort. It is much more complex than “push harder” or “train more”. While all of these systems are 100% trainable, knowing where your limitation(s) exist has t be the first step. Without appropriate testing you could very well be training a compensator rather than a limiter to the detriment of overall performance.

If you have ever hit a plateau in your training then you have most likely been training a compensator. Stay tuned for more on how we can better focus on limiters to maximize our training and performance.

Know Your Limiters

Why Start with Testing?

Using proper testing to gather data and understand what physiological limiter/s you have is the first step in achieving elite athletic performance. Any protocols based on anything other than data acquired from testing is a generic protocol and will result in at best generic results. Does this mean you should complete abandon your training protocols? Absolutely not. What testing will allow for is a much higher efficiency in your training protocols.

Think in terms of your car. If the A/C in your car stopped working, would you change the tires? Probably not, because this wouldn’t fix the issue. Identifying whether your limiter is metabolic (muscular), Cardiac (cardiovascular) or respiratory (pulmonary) is going to allow for more focused training protocols to rectify that specific limiter.

What is a limiter?

Simply put, the limiter is the why behind your performance. You couldn’t hold that 6 minute mile pace? Why? Couldn’t hold the prescribed watts on an interval ride? Why?

Your ability to use breathe oxygen to fuel physiologic responses that will result in muscular contractions is the foundation of athletic performance. Everyone is going to be limited by either supply or utilization of oxygen in the body. The supply side of the equation can be broken down into 2 separate categories:

Respiratory (pulmonary) where your lungs are synthesizing O2 from your environment and supplying it to the hemoglobin in your body.

Cardiovascular (cardiac) where the hemoglobin now supplied with O2 is being delivered to the working (contracting) muscles by the heart and vessels.

Once the O2 has been delivered to the working muscles now it is up to our metabolic system to unload and utilize the O2 at the muscle.

The utilization part of the equation is:

Metabolic system (muscle). How well is your muscle able to utilize the O2 delivered to create energy which will be used for muscular contraction.

Each of us will have some sort of limitation in one or more of these areas. Once identified we can put in place proper training to correct the limitation and improve overall athletic performance. To what level that performance will be, will be dependent on how severe the limitation(s) may be. If you want to learn more about these systems and how the interact stay tuned for the next blog!



Testing for Elite Athletic Performance

Quality of Life

Most of us are after a level of fitness that will allow us to enjoy a high quality of life. Whether going on adventures or just playing in the backyard with the grandkids, we are simply trying to stave off the nursing home. For us a daily routine of functional fitness that keeps us mobile and builds our cardiovascular system is priority numero uno.

Elite Athletic Performance

For those of you looking to compete in the sport of CrossFit then we will need to dig deeper in order to be able to fully maximize our potential and win on race day. If you fall into this category then you will want to stay tuned because we will break down why your training could very well be ALL WRONG.

Every single one of us has a physiological limiter at some level of intensity. Every. Single. One. From Mat Fraser on down there will be some limiting factor that will rear its ugly head at a specific intensity in a specific modality or mix of. The point of testing is to find this limiter and train it until it no longer is. The problem with most CrossFit protocols is that you simply don’t know what your limiter is.

Think of what is holding you back to achieving the performance you want. Chances are you are thinking of either specific movements, combination of movements, strength numbers or benchmark times. While it is good to know and understand all of these metrics, they are the wrong metrics to be focused on. It is misguided to think that a 2k Row ‘test’ or Fran ‘test’ will give you the reason ‘why’ you achieved the times you completed them in. Why did you complete Fran in 2:38? Why was your 2k row time 6:42? Simply trying to analyze the times you completed these workouts in will leave you with little to base future training on. You usually hear blankets statements such, as do more intervals, move heavier loads or get more proficient at butterfly pull ups.

There is physiology behind why you achieved those times and proper testing is necessary to determine what your physiologic limiter was. In order to attack limiters with specific training protocols, rather than generic training programs you need data first. To set the wheels in motion we need to have a few basic terms defined.

What is the difference between test, analysis, measurement and assessment?

Test – requires a device or product designed to accurately test a specific set of variables (cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic fitness).

Evaluation – is comparing the data collected during the test and comparing them to norms (VO2peak scored compared to ACSM guidelines for VO2 max by gender and age) to rank the athlete accordingly.

Analysis – figure out WHY they scored what they scored (fatigued at the end of the test due to poor respiratory fitness) that specifically leads you to be able to identify what physiologic limiter needs to be addressed. (in this example it would be respiratory training)

Assessment – used to evaluate the effectiveness of your training protocols. This will assist in being able to adapt your protocols as necessary to maximize efficiency and results.

If you are not able to analyze and determine why athlete did poorly then it is not a test, it is an assessment. Training built on this could very well lead to training compensators rather than limiters. Anything less than true testing is simply guessing and could result in inefficiencies in your training protocols.

Running is the Worst Exercise to Lose Weight

“Ok, I am going to get to work and lose some weight.” Millions of Americans say these same words every year, motivated to get in shape and drop a few pant sizes. In the United States, a nation with the highest obesity of any in the developed world, running is and has been the most popular ‘workout’ activity. The reality of it all is, as far as losing weight/fat, running is the least efficient way to do so.

Muscle Burns Fat

Resistance has been shown to be the best method for losing fat. Why is this you ask? Muscle needs more calories to work and nothing builds muscle like resistance training. Add to that the fact that your body is smart (big surprise, I know). Your body when faced with repetitive training like say, running, will adapt. Day after day your body will begin to burn less calories for the same amount of work.

Increased Chances of Injury

Approximately 10 millions runners clocked in at least 100 days of running, according to a recent study looking at risk factors and the mechanisms of knee injuries in runners. This is associated with a high risk of injury with up to 50% of runners reporting an injury. This could result in a quick derailing If you are just getting started with your fitness journey. If you happen to start using running to shed a few unwanted pounds, this could result in an even higher rate of injury. Those extra pounds could actually cause an even quicker lower extremity injury.

Metabolism Adapts

As mentioned above your body when confronted with the same rate of work will adapt to utilize less calories. This is a simple survival mechanism we are all born with. Calories mean life we want to hold on to as many as possible for that rainy day, bummer, I know. You must routinely not have a routine! Being able to constantly vary your workouts will go a much longer way to keeping your metabolism firing on all cylinders and burning the most efficiently.

We are all Unique

Like little snowflakes, we are all unique. What works for one may not work as well for the next. This is where getting a knowledgeable trainer and nutritionist can come into play. Furthermore, proper testing must be done in order to analyze what your body is currently doing and how to get it moving in the right direction. Without metabolic testing and analysis you are simply shooting darts in the dark and hoping you hit the target. The biggest question is, are you even shooting darts at the right target?

Moral of the Story

Test, Measure, Evaluate and Analyze. This is the only way to craft the fitness program that will best work for you and your weight loss goals. Anything less is a generic plan and will give you only generic results. Check with the Coaches at Revolt Fitness or the Nutrition Consultants at RevEssentials to get started.