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Biohacking Your Nervous System with Dr. Ruminder Birk

By Ryan Munsey

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The Central Nervous System is king.

Comprised of our brain and spinal cord, it governs everything we do, from locomotion to cognition.

Dr. Ruminder Birk is on the Optimal Performance Podcast today to explain how the CNS impacts our physical, emotional, and chemical systems - and how we can "biohack" it for increased immunity, strength, and brain function.

Meet Dr. Ruminder Birk

Born and raised in Manitoba, Canada, Dr. Ruminder Birk attended the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba before attending Life Chiropractic College West in San Fransisco, California where he graduated with honors, including the prestigious and coveted Clinician Award for Outstanding Service.

Dr. Birk is an author (Back To Life), lifetime learner, and member of several Chiropractic trade organizations, including the International Chiropractic Association, International Chiropractic Pediatric Association and California Jam.

His practice, Atlantis Chiropractic focuses on holistic health and wellness, and has been open since 2000 and he treats patients from 1 day old to 90 years young. 

Biohacking Your Nervous System For Optimal Performance

Strength can be increased 6-16% with increased neural drive

There is a compelling body of research to support something that powerlifters and Strongmen have intuitively known for decades - if not centuries.

Recruiting more motor units (increased neural drive) causes more muscle fibers to fire, which increases expressions of strength.

In the research, this increased neural drive, measured by EMG, leads to increased strength and increased Rate of Force Production (explosiveness) anywhere from 6-16%. [1,2,3]

As far back as 2005, I read this article on a technique called Supramaximal holds that "tricks" your nervous system into being able to handle more weight immediately.

The concept in not complicated. You hold a weight that is 125-140% of your maximum for 5-10 seconds, then rest 60-90 seconds before performing a work set with your 1-3 rep max weight. The increased neural drive will enable you to lift more wight than ever before or get more reps than you previously have. 

I've used these holds with great success in my own training and with many of the athletes I've trained over the years. (Before you add this to your training, please the article above and the one below to fully understand what you're doing.)

Here's another gem from the same author, neurophysiologist Chad Waterbury: The Secret To Motor Unit Recruitment. This is agreat article to understand how neural activation impacts muscle recruitment.

 

Neuroplasticity is increased by increase neural input

Increased neural activation leads to increased learning/cognitive function via neuroplasticity.

Inflammation reduces signal clarity throughout the CNS, so reducing systemic inflammation increases signal strength, increasing neural drive and activation.

As Dr. Birk points out on the OPP, inflammation can be reduced by eating an Anti-Inflammatory diet, avoiding environmental toxins and chemicals, re-wiring negative thought patterns, improving postural awareness, and lowering stress.

Learn more and listen to the whole show here: 

Links and Resources

Atlantis Chiropractic Website

Atlantis Chiropractic on Facebook

Dr. Birk's book: Back To Life

Supramaximal holds to increase strength via increased neural activation

More on neural activation for strength and performance

Even more on neural activation for strength

5 Ways to Increase Neural Drive

The Braverman Test PDF

Studies Mentioned on the show:

Full Paper on Chiropractic and strength gains

Full Paper on Windsor Studies

Dr. Heidi Haavik

Dr. Haavik's Research

Chiropractic and Immune System Function:

"Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to boost the coordinated responses of the nervous system and immune system.

One of the most important studies showing the positive effect chiropractic care can have on the immune system and general health was performed by Ronald Pero, Ph.D., chief of cancer prevention research at New York’s Preventive Medicine Institute and professor of medicine at New York University.

Dr. Pero measured the immune systems of people under chiropractic care as compared to those in the general population and those with cancer and other serious diseases.

In his initial three-year study of 107 individuals who had been under chiropractic care for five years or more, the chiropractic patients were found to have a 200% greater immune competence than people who had not received chiropractic care, and 400% greater immune competence than people with cancer and other serious diseases.

The immune system superiority of those under chiropractic care did not diminish with age. Dr. Pero stated:

When applied in a clinical framework, I have never seen a group other than this chiropractic group to experience a 200% increase over the normal patients. This is why it is so dramatically important. We have never seen such a positive improvement in a group…

- Pero R. “Medical Researcher Excited By CBSRF Project Results.” The Chiropractic Journal, August 1989"

AMA vs. Chiropractic Anti-Trust suit from 1980's: "AMA had entered into a long history of illegal behavior”. Did NOT endorse Chiropractic, saying there is ”not scientific evidence to call it valid medicine” but it did condemn the AMA for attacking it.

In the interest of transparency, I did find this review concluding that "there is no evidence to support direct sports performance improvement from chiropractic adjustment" 

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