Your neurological profile tells you exactly how to train.
Why Your Training Program Isn’t Working
Have you ever finished a training program without seeing results? Was it a smart program designed by a respected coach? Did your friends do the program and get great results, but you didn’t?
Have you ever had to force yourself to complete a workout plan because it just didn’t motivate you? Maybe you even felt guilty about it. Or maybe when you didn’t see any gains, you just assumed that your “bad genetics” were the cause. Or did you think that the program just sucked, even though other people seemed to love it?
This is common. And the problem isn’t the program, your work ethic, or your genetics. The problem is that the training program didn’t fit your psychological and neurological profile – basically, your personality type.
This isn’t fluffy, pop psychology either. Your personality profile is genetically determined by the balance of your neurotransmitters. And your neurotransmitters control everything.
The Nervous System is the Boss
The nervous system is responsible for the recruitment of muscle fibers, determining how many fibers you can stimulate to grow. It’s also responsible for coordination and performance on the big lifts.
You knew that, but here’s something you may not know: your nervous system is also the control center of motivation. It even plays a huge role in your response to stress, and in how much energy, focus, and work capacity you have in a workout session.
The key to training success is simply this: train hard in a focused way. You can’t do that, at least not for long, if you’re not motivated by your program. And to be motivated by your program it has to fit your neurological profile. Training to take advantage of your neurological nature will also make you feel better overall and you’ll become more productive in other parts of your life.
Neurotransmitter Balance and Your Personality
Your personality gives you clues about your neurotransmitter balance – which neurotransmitters are high and which are low. Your behavior is heavily influenced by these levels, whether you realize it or not.
That’s why I evaluate the personality profile of every bodybuilder, athlete, or CrossFitter I train. This evaluation gives me a very good idea of his or her neurotransmitter balance. I then use that information to plan their training accordingly.
If the training doesn’t fit well with your profile type it can create fatigue, drops in motivation, a higher stress response, and even lead to injuries. And it certainly leads to lack of progress. That’s why you can be on “the best program in the world” and not get results. For optimum results, you must train right for your type.
In the Neuro Typing System, I’ll explain the three main personality types, which neurotransmitters are high or low for each, and how that should influence your training, nutrition, and supplement choices.
The 3 Neuro Types
I’ve experimented with several personality tests and assessments over the years. I’ve also consulted with psychologists and other experts to find the best method. The Cloninger Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) is the most widely accepted in the scientific community and I’ve tested it on hundreds of lifters and athletes.
The TCI is an inventory for personality traits based on a psychobiological model. In a nutshell, people have different personality types because they have different genetic levels of certain neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When scientists measured neurotransmitter levels and compared them to the personality types, they indeed found them to match up.
There are three main profile types:
- Type 1: This type has low dopamine levels, so he or she seeks out novelty or new things to stimulate their naturally low dopamine. They are, in a way, adrenaline junkies. In psychobiology, they call this the novelty seeking type.
- Type 2: These types have low norepinephrine levels. Since norepinephrine is associated with confidence and a sense of well being, these people seek out rewards to boost their norepinephrine levels – from social rewards (like being a people pleaser) to achieving goals. It’s referred to as the reward dependant type in science.
- Type 3: This type is associated with low serotonin. They don’t like change; they like to master a repetitive activity. “Technique geeks” fit this profile. In psychobiology, they call this the harm avoider type.
You don’t have to take the formal test to get a good idea of which type you are. Here’s the breakdown below.
Type 1: The Novelty Seeker
This type is associated with low dopaminergic activity. This means your decision making is run mostly by your need to increase dopamine. Baseline dopamine is low and your receptors are sensitive. Under the right circumstances, these receptors can produce spurts of dopamine.
Since the receptors are so sensitive you can become “addicted.” You’re always seeking that next dopamine rush. If you fall into this category, you need excitement and intense or high-adrenaline activities. You also get bored easily, are naturally curious, and can be short tempered.
This type requires a variety of stimuli and challenges. They’re naturally attracted to non-repetitive activities. They get bored from repetitive events like endurance training or lifting programs that are repeated over and over. They aren’t good at endurance events mostly because of boredom, but also because they tend to have high serotonin levels. When dopamine levels are proportionally lower than serotonin, work capacity goes down.
Novelty seekers are extroverts and do well in social situations. They’re also very competitive. They welcome challenges and love learning new skills. This type gets excited about learning a new exercise or lift, even if it’s tough for them. It’s “new” and stimulating, and that’s all that matters.
When it comes to sports, they’re more attracted to extreme sports, contact sports like football, and fighting sports. They do very well in individual events, especially events of short duration (sprints, throws, jumps etc.).
They tend to be more attracted to performance sports than physique competitions like bodybuilding. They’re the ones who become good CrossFit athletes. Elite powerlifters can also fall into this category, especially those who are naturally attracted to a Westside-type system with lots of variety.
They do well on a lower carb diet, normally having their carbs only around workouts, but they need more frequent refeeds, every third or fourth day. These types also do better on a higher protein intake.
Type 2: The Reward Dependant
This type is associated with low baseline levels of norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter, along with amping you up, creates a sense of overall well being and confidence. Low levels of norepinephrine lead to a depressive state, lack of arousal, and low motivation. To counter this, this profile type seeks out “rewards” to increase norepinephrine levels, but this can cause them to have a higher risk of addiction.
This is your typical “people pleaser” whose self-esteem is based on how others perceive him. It’s very important for these individuals to be liked, respected, and even admired.
They’re equipped to do well in social situations because they need to feel appreciated. They’re sociable, empathic, and have a high sensibility to social cues which helps them make friends, which they need. They genuinely care for other people. But because of their affection for others and the desire to please them, they can be easily taken advantage of.
This type of personality will do anything to help others out, even depriving themselves. They’re driven by wanting to look good in front of others and be liked. Nothing is worse for them than disappointing someone. Because of that attitude, they’ll go to great lengths to reach their goals.
They tend to choke more during individual events because they put a lot of pressure on themselves. As such, they rarely do well in individual sports, but they make great teammates. They’re rarely the “superstars” but they’re willing to do anything to help the team and earn respect.
They’re attracted to bodybuilding and physique sports because “looking awesome” is a way to earn the admiration of others and build self-worth. However, when it comes to competitions (bodybuilding, figure etc.) they can have a much harder time peaking because the stress of being judged can jack up their cortisol levels, which increases water retention and makes it harder to properly load the muscles with glycogen.
They’re normally good at sticking to a diet if they’re held accountable. They do well because they want to please their diet coach. But because food can be seen as a reward they can easily become addicted to cheat foods. These are the people who must ban “bad” food from their diets and refeed only with foods that are already in their regular diet.
Type 3: The Harm Avoider
Harm avoidance is associated with a low serotonin level which affects your way of acting and feeling. Low serotonin can make you more easily tired or have a lower baseline of energy. If you fit this profile, you want to avoid unpleasant situations, punishment, and conflicts much more so than other people do. You’re most comfortable in familiar situations you can control.
These people tend to be more shy and introverted. They have a higher vulnerability to criticism; even constructive criticism creates anxiety. Their higher level of overall anxiety leads to an overproduction of cortisol, which can negatively affect muscle gains.
Unexpected changes of plans really upset them and cause a huge stress response. They’re careful planners, especially when a situation represents a potential harm or risk. Because of that, they’re very well organized. But under stress they can feel inhibited by anxiety, which leads to procrastination and having a hard time making decisions.
The driving force of harm avoiders is to stay away from stress and injury. When it comes to training, it makes them attracted to more repetitive activities that they’ve mastered. Unlike the novelty seeker, this type dislikes variety and new things in the gym. They get stressed when learning a new complex lift for example.
But they have great focus when they train. They’re perfectionists and often “technique geeks.” However, they tend to be more conservative with their weight selection. They’re great at sticking to a plan, sometimes bordering on training OCD.
This type is more attracted to sports where fewer unpredictable events occur and with a lower risk factor. They don’t like contact sports or sports where random events are an important part of the game.
They do better on a more “static” program where exercises don’t change and other variables (methods, loading schemes, and rest intervals) change only gradually. A good example would be 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler.
They have a higher cortisol response to stress than other people because of their higher anxiety level. So although they have a very high work capacity, doing too much volume can actually limit their gains because of the overproduction of cortisol.
They don’t do great on a diet where carbs are restricted. They need at least a small amount of carbs at every main meal, both to lower cortisol levels and to avoid tanking serotonin even lower. Carbs pre-workout (to lower cortisol output) and at night (to boost serotonin) are especially important.
What’s Your Type?
What’s your neurological type? And what does that mean when it comes to your training and nutrition program? That’s what the rest of this series will cover. By the end, you’ll know exactly how you should be training and eating to reach your goals.
Once you’ve chosen the right program for your type, you’ll be shocked by the gains you’ll make. Make no mistake, this is the future of training.