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Biofeedback testing is a way to gauge how ready your body and especially your nervous system is on any given day. Better biofeedback results? Go harder. Worse? Back off.
Biofeedback can get way more in-depth than this, though. You can use a whole raft of biofeedback testing techniques to establish how ready you are to perform individual movements. At a yet deeper level, biofeedback techniques have been used to treat nervous system disorders and help people with autism, ADHD and addiction troubles regain control of their lives. While there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this, there isn’t much research to prove he bigger claims for biofeedback testing. There is an avalanche of anecdotal evidence that basic biofeedback testing can be used to guide the level you train at on a day-to-day basis, though, so that’s mostly what we’ll be talking about here.
How does it work?
There are two basic methods. You can assess movement, or you can get a direct physiological reading, which will mean taking your pulse.
How the movement assessment method works:
Basically, you take a movement that’s similar to a lot of other movements, that you don’t regularly train and that pushes you toward performance degradation safely, and test yourself with it before each session. That will give you some idea of how your nervous system is performing on that day.
In this case, I’m going to recommend using a pretty standard biofeedback testing movement.
It’s not something most of us train and even if we do, we can detect flaws and problems in our balance a whole lot better on one leg. It pushes us toward degradation – that is, it makes us likely to wobble or even fall over if our nervous system isn’t firing as well as it might be – and it isn’t dangerous, unless you have a condition that makes it dangerous to stumble, like osteoporosis.
Assuming you don’t, then, here’s what you do.
Start by doing your homework
Build up a baseline idea of your performance by doing a one-leg stand a few times a day for a week or so. That should let you see what ‘normal’ is like for you. Obviously that will vary from person to person. I imagine Jet Li is pretty steady, while I tend to wobble somewhat, but it’s about how you behave on an average day.
Now, try taking that to the gym.
It’s a crummy measure of strength, but it is a great way to find out if your central nervous system is up to the job of pushing for a PR today, or whether you should ease off.
Often, the results will be within a fairly narrow band – as you’d expect. Some days, you’ll be ‘normal but great,’ others you’ll be ‘normal but sucky.’ On the normal but sucky days you don’t need to replace your normal session with nothing but light stretches – just tick the boxes, hit the numbers you came to hit and go home. On days when you test normal but great, push a little bit further.