NSD Drills with Vince McConnell

Rick – Hey Vince, we have been in touch on Facebook but many people might not know who you are. Could you let people know a little about who Vince is?

Rick, it’s great finally having the opportunity to chat. I’ve been in the fitness and strength & conditioning field since 1983. My initial work was primarily working with junior and professional tennis players back when it was rare to find tennis players doing much more than spending up to 6-8 hours on a tennis court. I helped introduce many players to the benefits of off-court training, which included resistance training, plyometrics, speed work, and various forms of stretching.

Being that I was a dedicated martial artist, and had a background in other sports such as baseball, football, basketball– as well as tennis–I clearly understood the value of the type of training that I was doing and how it would benefit a tennis player or any other athlete. This was back when strength training, in general, was discouraged by the majority except in football. I realize that if I was not living the example I was teaching, little I said would have been received as anything more than jibberish. Wow, have times changed in the last 20+ years!

I have since owned and operated a few different training businesses and facilities. Since 2004, I have owned and operated a private training facility, McConnell Athletics. My clientele is a “bizarre” base and ranges from 9-year-old athletes to professionals, and general clientele from those in their 20’s to come in their 80s.

Rick – One thing that caught my eye when I was looking at your site was Nervous System Development (NSD). What is NSD?

Rick, I’m a coach who emphasizes “the how” when working with either a competitive athlete or general client rather than getting too caught up in “the what and why.” I say this simply to illustrate that there are plenty of other professionals out there who are better qualified to scientifically describe what a method is and/or why we use it.

That being known, in a nutshell, NSD, or nervous system development, is a training application that targets the “ignition switch-to-spark plug” aspect of muscular activity. Think of your muscles as the engine and the nervous system as the electrical connection that sends the signal to the muscles to not only contract but to contract at the necessary potential for the job at hand.

In other words, no matter how much “potential” that engine may possess, if the electrical signal is either weak or nonexistent, the engine is of little use, and actually, its size will be more of a burden than any benefit. By training our nervous system to fire both efficiently and powerfully, we tap into the performance potential of our muscular system.

An athlete can have a well-developed physique in regards to surface assessment yet still be deficient in the function required by their specific activity. Interestingly, the reciprocal can be true as well. Nearly everyone reading this has witnessed a seemingly average-looking individual perform a task with a level of strength and power that far surpasses their appearance. Of course, most athletes prefer to have the best of both (appearance of strength with the goods to back it up!) and that’s my typical objective in working with athletes.

Regarding the type of exercises for NSD, this would include medicine ball drills and plyometrics of various styles. The key to success in these drills is for the client to stay fresh–both muscularly and systemically.

The reps will be moderate at most and I’ll keep the general work-to-rest in a 1:3-5 ratio depending on the reps and intensity.

This is NOT the time to seek fatigue. For instance, doing plyo pushups to failure is counteractive to improvement in nervous system development. As you can see, boot camps are not the best stage for NSD drills!

I must add that even with my general clientele, I implement some NSD work in their programs as well. I have observed far-reaching benefits to the health and performance of all clients by training to keep the nervous system fine-tuned along with other attributes, including mobility, body composition, and endurance.

Rick – How does NSD fit into your program design?

In regards to program design, I have found the best place to put our NSD work is either in the later stages of our prep phase (aka warm-up) for general clientele or right after the prep phase bi-placed with core stability work or a mobility drill. By combining the NSD drills with a non-competing drill such as a particular core stabilization exercise or mobility drill, I’m able to keep the density of the training session higher without the compromise of fatigue becoming an issue.

Another way I’ll implement NSD drills into a program is through contrast sets. This is an excellent variation to the above that I cycle in. I’ll have a client perform a strong set of 5-7 reps followed immediately by an “explosive” exercise stopping short of failure.

I’ve found that by timing the explosive part of the contrast set (as opposed to counting reps) there is better efficiency and quality of each rep. Again, we are not looking for failure here, just explosiveness. An example would be a horizontal press like a barbell bench press followed by a plyo push-up with hands on a bench. The fact that we are doing back-to-back exercises here mandates that the NSD drill is of lesser intensity (plyo push up on a bench rather than the floor) than would be the case if the NSD drill was being done by itself. Again, enough rest to make certain the performance with each contrast is consistent.

Rick, I hope that gives a decent understanding of how we implement training the nervous system into our programs.

Rick – Do you have an example of an NSD drill?

You bet, here you go:

Rick – Where can people get more information about you?

Our website, which is about to be upgraded, is www.mcconnelltraining.com, and you can find McConnell Athletics on
Facebook. My email address is [email protected]

I always welcome feedback and questions. I try to personally answer every message as soon as possible.

Also, please check out www.movementlectures.com where I have a lecture you can order, the “Role of a Personal Strength Coach,” and I have more lectures on the way that will be up on the site soon. Laree Draper is doing a magnificent job with this new venture, which will continue to be an invaluable resource for continuing education for anyone interested in all aspects of fitness, well-being, and performance.

Thank you, Vince.

Rick Kaselj, MS

Primer Workout System