In the ongoing quest for bigger and better “cotton candy” muscles, many curl jockeys have overlooked one key factor: Central Nervous System (CNS) overload. CNS overload occurs across three different stages, informally known as 1) the “shakes,” 2) tendon distress and, finally, 3) CNS burnout.
The key to CNS overload is lifting heavy. Doing 10 supersets of curls will give you cotton candy muscles galore, but will not challenge your motor pathways–doing 5 reps of curls with breakneck weight will. How do you know if you’re lifting heavy enough? You will be shaking violently, almost uncontrollably, as evidenced during the bench press and dips here. This man’s CNS is taking such punishment that it will have no choice but to adapt and make mad gains.
Shorty after–if not during–your shaky lift, you will begin to experience tendon distress, not to be confused with tendon eustress. The joints most involved in the lift will feel as if they were about to buckle under the weight, and afterwards will be a kind of sore that leaves you slightly worried. Ignore these concerns, load up on your creatine and wait for next time.
CNS overload will not give you the mass you desire, but will increase motor control of your existing muscle fibers, allowing you to lift more weight. This will often prompt others to ask you “if you even lift,” to which your response will be to overhead press them through the nearest window with your fibrous, sinewy arms.
Congratulations! If you have made it to this stage, your body has either suffered severe overtraining and joint damage, and/or it has been told that it better put up or shut up. You will be very aware when you reach this point. It is important to punish your CNS over and over again before it can completely regenerate.