Central Nervous System (CNS) Recovery

The Central Nervous System (CNS) plays a massive role in determining how high you can jump. Too much volume of high intensity jumps and heavy weight training causes the CNS to fatigue. When this happens you won't be able to train as hard, run as fast, or most importantly jump as high.

With that in mind it is stating the obvious that maximizing CNS recovery is something that every vertical jump and power athlete should take very seriously. So what can you do to improve your rate of recovery? Read on to find out.


Essentially the concept of CNS recovery is to counteract the demands you have placed on it lifting heavy weights and jumping or sprinting explosively. These activities require your CNS to be in an excited state to maximize performance. As mentioned too much excitement then leads to CNS fatigue.

How naturally excitable your CNS is actually one of those intangible factors that separate why some people seem to be able to really fly and others struggle. The natural high flyers have a CNS that is simply more excitable and as such they are able to more readily turn on their muscles and generate power.

Back to the topic at hand, as CNS fatigue is caused by excessive CNS excitement it therefore makes sense that CNS recovery is all about reducing that excitement level. This is best done using several well known methods: sleep, relaxation, and stress reduction (and sometimes a combination of all three).


I always ask people who are not making gains in their vertical jump how much sleep are they consistently getting. In this day and age with the internet, online video games, 24 hour cinemas, shops, and clubs, it is not uncommon for people to routinely not be getting anywhere near enough sleep.

sleepingSLEEPING: The most important recovery technique

Regularly getting a solid night of several cycles of deep, non-rapid eye movement sleep will do wonders for your CNS recovery (not to mention your muscular recovery). Insufficient sleep is the single biggest factor in any recovery program. You will not be maximizing your training results if you do not ensure you are consistently getting around 8 hours per night.

As an extreme example look at a cat! It basically sits around and sleeps all day. However when it goes hunting for food its movements are fast and explosive. If that same cat spent all day trying to chase birds it would soon tire out and not be able to pounce with the same speed and force. Obviously humans are not cats but you can see the point.


The more relaxed and calm you are feeling the faster your CNS will recover. When you are not training you should be actively looking to reduce your excitement levels the rest of the day.

There are many things you can do to help relax. Two of my favorites are meditation and massage. Meditation is an interesting one as advanced practitioners such as the Tibetan monks can replicate the same level of brainwave activity whilst they meditate as people who are sleeping.

meditationMEDITATION: Not just for hippys!

Of course for the average Joe they might not be able to achieve the same trance like states, but they can still derive great benefits from regular practice. One way to improve your meditative state and therefore improve the impact it has on CNS recovery is through the use of a Sound and Light device that can assist the un-trained/non-Tibetan monks among us help achieve a deeper state of relaxation. I own one and have found it to be very effective at relaxing and calming the mind.

Massage is also great at relaxing you. I mean who doesn't feel great after a massage? There is actually a bit of contention about how effective massages are for reducing muscular soreness, but there is no debating the fact that they feel great. The down side is regular massage can be expensive.

Other methods of relaxation that have a beneficial effect on calming your CNS include certain styles of yoga (some style scan be very demanding so if you do some yoga make sure you don't end up in an advanced class), regular stretching, and even something as simple as taking a warm Epsom salt bath.

Actually taking a warm Epsom salt bath right before bed is a great way to help you relax and get to sleep. This is due partially to the warming of the body temperature, and partially due to the ability of the low stimulus environment of the bath allowing your mind to wind down.

The other way to trigger a more relaxed state is through dietary and supplemental means. From a dietary point of view there are certain foods that contain certain vitamins and minerals that help put you into a relaxed mood. Turkey for example is high in tryptophan which encourages the production of serotonin. This helps you sleep.

Certain herbal teas, such as camomile can also help you de-stress and relax. There are a number of vitamins and dietary supplements that have also been shown to aid in CNS recovery. The zinc, magnesium and B12 complex (commonly referred to as ZMA) is a popular night time supplement for its ability to help you relax and achieve a better quality of sleep.

herbal teaHerbal tea can be very calming (and is full of anti-oxidants)

The other side of the relaxation coin is stress. By removing the things in your life that are stressing you out you can aid your CNS to recover. All stress is just a response to something that is taking you away from your regular equilibrium. For example some highly stressful events are moving house, exams, work deadlines, bad relationships, family loss etc. all of these events have one thing in common – they take you out of your daily routines.

Daily routines are a very good habit to develop. They help eliminate small stressful events and assist in preventing them building up into big stressful events. Routines allow you to get good at your life. When you get good at your life you get faster and better at doing it. This frees up time to deal with the things that are not routine and to enjoy your hobbies such as training and recovery.

Life will always be throwing up things to challenge us, it is just the way it is. If you have your routines in place you will find that you are so much more capable of dealing with those challenges because you will have the essentials already sorted out.

Developing good routines with your diet, with going to bed, with training etc are all great ways, believe it or not to assist your rate of recovery. If your life feels chaotic then the chances are your body is constantly in a heightened state of readiness. This is not good if you want to train hard and jump high.

Something everybody should do at some point is to prepare a weekly plan.

weekly planner"Failing to plan is planning to fail" - Pat Riley


At the start of this article I mentioned that the CNS controls everything when it comes to vertical jump performance. This is true. And it isn't just CNS recovery that can make a big difference to your vertical. Essentially ALL vertical jump workouts are really just about training your CNS to rapidly fire more muscles units.

Athletes with a naturally excitable central nervous system are at a HUGE advantage because they are more keenly tuned to be explosive on the field. Their CNS readily activates a lot of muscle units allowing them easily generate high levels of athletic power.

Vince Carter: This is what a naturally excitable CNS looks like

So what can you do to increase your CNS efficiency? Well there is a specific training technique that can really help close the gap on the naturally gifted athletes and generate some great vertical jump gains.

You can read about it in Game Changers: The Most Powerful Vertical Jump Training Methods Known To Man.



CNS recovery plays a huge role in determining how much you gain from your training efforts. Taking a few proactive steps such as those outlined here will yield immediate and measurable differences in your performance. So if you are up late surfing the internet right now and reading this looking for answers as to why your training is not going anywhere, I hope you turn of your computer right now and go to bed.

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Plyometrics Part 1 - Part 1 of our 2 part plyometrics article covers some of the theory involved in this type of jump training.