Already at the "Sommermärchen 2014" (FIFA World Cup Brasil) Lars Lienhard was a small piece of the puzzle of success. At that time he helped soccer stars like Per Mertesacker, Mario Götze or Benedikt Höwedes with his neuroathletics training in Campo Bahia on their way to become world champions. Today, the sports scientist looks after FC Bayern star Serge Gnabry and Gina Lückenkemper. The under-eleven-second sprinter recently described in the Health and fitness area at ISPO Munich, why she has relied on neuroathletics training since 2016.
At that time Lienhard had freed the sprinter with his exercises from stubborn pain in the thigh flexor in a flash. Since then, Lückenkemper has relied on the training and has remained injury-free over the years. And as Germany's fastest woman for 25 years and 100-meter vice European champion, the 22-year-old even sees potential for improvement.
So there seems to be some truth to the fact that training starts in the brain, as Lienhard describes in his new book. For example, Lückenkemper uses special stretching exercises to keep the nerve tracts from the body to the brain intact: "These nerve tracts must be imagined as a garden hose. If there's a bend in it, less water arrives." Lückenkemper trains the visual system particularly intensively.
"It is one of the most important systems in our body. Clear information is needed here in order to control movements correctly," says Lienhard in an interview with ISPO.com, adding: "The better the visual information about the eyes is that gets to the brain, the higher the quality of our movements. And the better and more painless I feel. Because pain also takes place in the brain and the visual system activates numerous brain areas that have to do with pain regulation."
The elimination of asymmetries and imbalances in the body is also important in neuroathletic training. Our body halves are controlled and coordinated separately from the brain, so targeted training of the "weaker side" - for example the left hand for right-handers - is usually helpful. Lienhard recommends three simple neuroathletic exercises to improve physical well-being.
There are particularly important structures in the human body, including the hands. "On the one hand because humans can do and feel so much with their hands, on the other hand because they put food in our mouths," says Lienhard with a smile. Numerous different joints are in our hands, which can be easily mobilized e.g. at the workplace. For example, by circling the individual fingers or wrist.
The balance - another important control system for our movement - is located in the inner ear directly in the cranial bone. "That's why you should always do Yes, Yes and No, No movements with your head as a little training, i.e. nod and shake your head. It activates the organ of equilibrium. The training improves posture control in our body, gives more stability and thus helps to avoid pain," says Lienhard.
The eyes are certainly the most important element in the hierarchy of motion control systems - our motion is mainly controlled and regulated by the eyes. The eye muscles are therefore one of the most important muscles in the body alongside the heart. "Many people like to train the biceps, chest muscles, etc., but the muscles that move our eyes are certainly more important," says Lienhard.
As training, he therefore recommends to circle your eyes regularly, or to look at your finger as they slowly get closer and closer to your nose, so that your eyes have to cross. These are then quasi push-ups for the eyes. Equally important, however, are eye relaxation exercises, especially if you look at computer or mobile phone displays for a long time. Lienhard: "For example, you can close your eyes and cover them with your hand to totally darken them."
All these simple exercises, which can be supplemented by others from Lienhard's book, are intended to increase physical well-being and improve movement through the brain. Lienhard: "We know that we have a brain, but we don't know what we can use it for. Body and brain are one unit - it's time to include the brain in training."