Your central nervous system is the most vital area in terms of sports performance improvement.
Good to know.
Training to failure using compound movements will overtax the nervous system and stop gains from being made.
Need to know.
Both of these statements are based around similar ideas and are expressed in ways that can be helpful to a trainer or trainee in developing strength programs.
How do you know the difference between the two however and why is one good to know and the other a need to know piece of information?
Walk the line
If I told you your CNS was important and sent you on your way, it would be a good piece of information to give you, and many coaches and trainers stop there. Some stop there because that's all they know – they learned a touch of information and then moved on so they could pretend to understand the concept and use it as a way of justifying their training.
Other coaches and trainers stop at the good to know because they want to hold back so they have more to give later. They fear that if you know too much then you will not need them and you will move on.
The reason you do not want to stop there is because just knowing that the CNS is important does not drive changes to a program, unless you understand the various methods in which the CNS can be trained in order to drive adaptation in athletes and clients . There is the rub. It is in understanding that working to failure repeatedly will cause your CNS to become worn down and halt increased performance gains.
Having clients brutally beat themselves into the ground in order to make each single workout painful is like watching the biggest loser's last chance workout. Anyone can make people sweat and lose breathe, it is a proper coach and trainer with an understanding of program design and the accumulation of fatigue properly that will increase the chances of a successful program.
How do we learn the difference?
There are three ways we can force our way to a good answer in training to get the essential concepts that drive performance gains.
1. Ask more questions : If someone says that lifting 8 to 12 reps increases muscular size, that's good to know. However, what weight to use, what rest periods to use, time under tension, and nutritional support to that rep range are also vital to come to the need to know level of understanding. Do not ever be satisfied with the good to know answer, ask questions until you find the essential.
2. Never stop learning : Every person who has an answer to a question at one time did not have that answer. They either bought the answer from someone who had previously learned its mastery, or they practiced its theory until it was a usable idea. If you stop learning and stop seeking answers on your own you only have one choice and it is a combination of these first two rules.
3. Find a coach : It seems self serving to provide this as an answer but I believe in its message. Each person in the world was preceded by someone else who knew more than them at one time. Finding a coach or mentor who can provide the answers is the easiest way of achieving success the fastest. Coaches have spent the time finding the answers and deciphering their use, take advantage of that and achieve performance faster!
How do we tell a good coach?
It goes back to the first rule; if we ask questions and there is no understanding beyond the good to know, why do we need the coach or trainer? It is in access to the need to know that coaches and trainers develop their value. If you ever find yourself asking the value of what you want out of a coach or trainer, remember to use this article as a way of getting closer to the right answer.