CNS Burnout and Lifting: CNS’s Effect On Strength Gains

The body is a slave to the mind. It cannot do anything without authorization from the head. One of the brain’s roles is to function as a central processing unit (CPU).

Some people have the amazing ability to generate an enormous amount of force thanks to their powerful CNS. One could say that those individuals have really strong CPUs that can overclock to impressive frequencies.

However, even if you have a CPU capable of insane overclocking, sooner or later, the temperature will reach high levels, and the fun will end.


When exposed to high enough temperatures, even the most efficient CPU has no choice but to burn to death. This is when we experience CNS burnout.

What happens when we try to lift heavy weights?

If you want to lift a heavy weight, the CNS/CPU has to be cool/fresh to allow the muscles/software to run as smoothly as possible. You cannot expect from a computer with a CPU running at high temperatures to perform as well as a properly cooled unit.

Computers may have advanced air and water cooling systems but with humans, it’s not that simple. We are not machines. Our cooling system is called time/rest.

They say that time heals everything, or at least most things. I am not entirely sure about that. Some problems just get worse with time, but one thing is certain – the morning is wiser than the evening. That’s why people often sleep with an idea overnight before making a big decision.

The rest days between lifting sessions have the same purpose – to rebuild the body and the mind.

Even if all structural elements involved in a certain task are ready to go, nothing will happen when the brain is overloaded and unable to give efficient commands.

Sometimes the CNS needs a lot more time than the body to recover.

A good example would be a heavy deadlift – one of the exercises that require the CPU to run at very high speeds. The day after a heavy deadlift session most humanoids feel extremely tired. The CPU is still smoking and just thinking about exerting anywhere near the same amount of force sickens your deepest layers.

The CPU needs a lot of time to recover and prepare for its job as a chief commander. The body cannot do what the mind cannot conceive.

This is also one of the reasons why powerlifters take 5-10 days off before a competition. They want their CNSs and muscles as fresh as possible for the challenge ahead.

How do you know when your CNS needs to rest?

If before a lifting session you are thinking “Oh, no! I have to do this again!”, you may be experiencing CNS burnout. However, there is a difference between being lazy and overtrained.

Sometimes the body is giving mixed symptoms which are hard to interpret when you don’t have experience. The fact that you don’t feel like lifting does not mean that your CNS is in sleep mode. You can’t always be happy to touch the weights.

One of the most obvious signs that CNS burnout is taking place is feeling weaker during warm-ups. Usually, this type of fatigue is accompanied by lethargy and overtraining symptoms.

Similar effects can be experienced even when it comes to sports that are not strength related. When I was in high school, I wanted to become a professional skateboarder. I trained almost every day. Consequently, I experienced CNS burnout on a frequent basis.

One time I was so tired that even a massive coffee overdose didn’t save me. The accumulated fatigue over the previous weeks was simply too strong. My mind was unable to concentrate, and I couldn’t do even simple tricks. I had no choice but to go home and jump straight into bed.

This is a perfect example of overtraining and CNS burnout.

CNS Overclock

During extreme cases, the CPU is immediately overclocked. By extreme I mean extreme. The highest level would be a life threatening situation.

Many years ago, I and a group of local boys decided to borrow/steal fruits from a small semi-public garden. In the middle of our mission, a middle-aged man holding a heavy cudgel appeared out of nowhere. Our reaction? Run and don’t look back.

Unfortunately, there was only one direction – straightforward. In order to reach the street, you had to jump off a 2-meter garage. We jumped right away without even thinking, except for one boy. I remember jumping without hesitation, landing like one of those parkour guys and running downhill like a madman. I didn’t even look for traffic. Since you are probably wondering, I will tell you. The boy that we left behind got beaten by the guy. It was not that bad, though.

A similar CNS overclock happens during heavy attempts – your heart starts beating faster; the present disappears; the only elements that exist in this world are you and the barbell. For a few seconds, you collect all that you have and get ready for a battle. The CPU is working at 100%. After the attempt, you are drained. The only way to repeat the same process is to rest as long as needed.

P.S. The post exposing the natty potential has been updated.

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