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Neuromuscular Training Explained (For Coaches)

What is Neuromuscular Training?

The primary goal of this type of training is to improve the communication between the nervous system and muscles. It does so through the specific practice of motor patterns, including precise movements, such as maintaining stability on a balance board. Practicing such movements can have a positive impact on athletic performance and help regain musculoskeletal function following an injury. 

What Benefits Does It Offer?

  • Intermuscular coordination – this type of training teaches muscles how to work together to produce more complex movements, leading to greater efficiency and force output.
  • Intramuscular coordination – in addition to teaching individual muscles to work together, neuromuscular training improves the ability of each muscle to engage. As a result, more motor units activate at the right time to produce muscle contractions and create movement.
  • Balance and stability – certain types of neuromuscular activities, such as those where trainees are challenged to maintain stability on an unstable surface, can improve whole-body balance and stability, which can carry over to athletics and everyday life.
  • Proprioception – neuromuscular activities can have a positive effect on proprioception, which is the body’s ability to sense movement and its position in space.
  • Rehabilitation – neuromuscular exercises can be particularly valuable for improving muscle function following an injury, surgery, or a long detraining period. One effective tactic is to perform isokinetic exercises on special equipment that’s commonly found in physical rehab centers.

    The goal during such activities is to train at a constant tempo regardless of the force output.

Together, these benefits help in rehab settings and can lead to improvements in athletic performance, as noted in a systematic review by Akbar et al.:

“This review implicated that (NT) focuses on exercises that enhance motor skills, which aid athletes in moving their bodies according to their situational needs. The athletes’ slower and faster directions influence their agility, muscular strength, and balance, essential for player performance.”

Can a Regular Coach or Personal Trainer Prescribe Neuromuscular Exercises?

Strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers can prescribe neuromuscular training to clients. However, the extent to which they can do that depends on the client’s abilities and unique needs.

Here are some scenarios where a regular coach can prescribe such activities:

  • To improve training technique – as a coach, a big part of your job is to monitor your clients’ technique and see how it changes as they get tired. Certain exercises (especially activation exercises) can help improve balance, stability, and mobility, leading to better technique on core lifts like the squat.
  • When coaching clients who have been recently injured – if a client has been injured recently and is slowly coming back to fitness with no significant limitations, easing into a workout plan with certain activities at a low intensity can set them up for productive training onward.

That said, some scenarios call for more specialized help, and it may be a good idea to refer a client to a physical therapist if you lack the expertise:

  • To regain range of motion following an injury or surgery – a physical therapist can develop a program that improves active and passive range of motion.
  • To improve sport-specific performance – a sports scientist or physiotherapist can build workout plans that improve sport-specific skills and use biomechanical analyses to better understand how athletes move and what improvements could be made.
  • To help manage chronic pain – a physician or physical therapist can find the root causes of pain, such as muscular imbalances and movement dysfunctions. They often use manual therapy practices to alleviate discomfort.
  • Following a cardiac event – a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist (also known as a cardiac rehab therapist) assists patients who have experienced a cardiac event or have undergone surgery.

Neuromuscular vs. Functional Training

Though similar and with some overlap, neuromuscular and functional training are different in a few ways. 

As discussed, neuromuscular training improves the communication between the nervous system and muscles. This can improve muscle coordination, balance, stability, and proprioception and help during rehab.

Functional training also helps with some of these things, but it’s aimed more at improving people’s abilities to perform better at work, in sports, or in daily life. It often includes movements that mimic everyday activities, as well as job-related or sport-specific exercises that improve strength, endurance, balance, coordination, and grip strength.


1. Why is neuromuscular training beneficial for athletes?

Neuromuscular training improves muscle activation by strengthening the connection with the nervous system. Improved motor control can positively impact maximum force output, power, agility, and other characteristics, as well as performance on tasks that require greater precision.

2. Can neuromuscular training work alongside other modalities?

As a coach, you can prescribe neuromuscular activities (say, balance exercises or balance exercises combined with movement patterns like a hip hinge) to clients who need them. Such activities complement strength, endurance, and flexibility training and can contribute to better long-term training outcomes.

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