| | | BrainWOD – 8 Daily “BWODS” to Improve Brain Function and Performance

Author / John

I’ve been training daily on Lumosity for the past several weeks in attempt to improve memory, acuity, and other cognitive function.  It’s actually pretty fun but the one caveat for me is that in order to get a solid day of “training” in I need 100% of my attention span, and no outside distractions to stay focused, which surprisingly is hard to come by.


On top of that, I felt that a daily 10 to 15 minute session of mouse clicking could help with some decision making and cognitive function. I became curious what the training effects of incorporating new types of “physical activity” might be on brain function, coordination, and performance.

It turns out that the BRAIN is a primary component of your central nervous system. We talk quite often about central nervous system (CNS) efficiency and it’s role in your training. To keep it short and sweet, it’s the synergy between your muscle and CNS function that allows you to rip the bar off the ground, jump through the roof, or run through your opponent.


I reached out to Power Athlete’s resident professor of neuroscience, Steve Platek (@splatek on PAHQ.com), to get some details on what a solid set of BWODs could do for you. What came back was an amazing brain dump. Here’s what I learned. It turns out that spending a modest amount of time completing the BWODs below will activate two primary brain sites: the prefrontal cortex attentional system and the hippocampus. Why do you care about this? Because these two systems are primarily responsible for two important components of performance:

1) Short term attention span – Your ability to visualize a play,  pitch,  strike, combat scenario, shot or lift and then immediately reflect on and learn from sensory input
2) Ego-positioning – The system that calculates relative body position to your environment (field, opponent, platform, battle field, batter’s box, court, pitch, etc.) based of sensory input

So maybe you don’t want to cough up the $15.00 to train on Lumosity, or don’t have 20 minutes to sit down and train? Don’t worry! With Steve’s help I was able to come up with the below set of BWODS that anyone could do to improve brain function. The best part? They are slight modifications to your day, so there’s no significant time commitment!
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So here’s how this works people, for the next 30 days incorporate the following 8 activities into your daily routine to get Professor X like brain function. We’re going to leverage four styles of training: Off Hand Training, Eyes Closed, The Backwards Man\Woman, and Break the Routine

1) Brush your teeth with your off hand
Right handed? Use the left. Left handed? Use the right! You’ll notice that your dominant hand or arm may tense up. Be aware of that, and be in control and relax your dominant hand. Being independently proficient with both hands is an easy way to improve performance.

2) Purchase with your off hand
Put your wallet in the other pocket if you carry one. Use your off hand to reach for the wallet and pull it out of your pocket, purse or bag. Swipe your cards and count your cash with the off hand.

3) Unlock with your off hand
Unlock your house, phone, locker, bike lock, whatever you lock up with your off hand.

4) Get dressed and tie your shoes with your eyes closed
Suit up for work and let your digits wander to loop up and knot those Vans or chucks with those eyes closed! Still wearing Velcro shoes? Then you’re beyond saving… Forcing your brain to accomplish a familiar task without relying on the expected visual input will force you to re-think the task at hand and adapt to the new scenario.

5) Shower with your eyes closed
Before you hop in, be sure you give the knobs an ocular pat down to make sure the water is the correct temp. Then once it’s time to jump in and get to work, you need to lather, rinse, and repeat with eyes closed. DISCLAIMER – Open eyes immediately in the event of unexpected hands joining the party. What’s comes next is up to you.

6) Get there Backwards
Head to the bathroom, kitchen, fridge, or wherever, backwards! Assuming you have a work environment that would be tolerant of it, start taking the short trips to and from your desk or office backwards to change how your calculates visual stimuli to calculate where you are in space.

7) Take a different route home from work
Switch it up and vary the routine. Try to vary your route home daily throughout the work week. Don’t go to far out of your way though, you don’t want to cut into your training time. Looking for extra credit? Change how you get ANYWHERE! Grocery store, gym, etc.

8) Rearrange your home screen
Depending on your flavor, Google or Apple have likely glued a smartphone to your hand to collect daily info like weather, traffic, or workouts. Depending on what you do on that phone, have a trusted bud rearrange the icons on the home screen for the next 30 days.

Just like the training in the gym, consistency is king.  Be consistent and you might just notice that your single leg bounding is just a bit more coordinated! Give it a try and let us know on the Forums or in the comments how it went!

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. shepherd on October 15, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Try learning to write with your non-dominant hand. I have excellent penmanship but writing my name with my non-dom is equivalent to a 2nd grader’s.

  2. Nick41 on October 17, 2014 at 7:30 am

    I have been doing this the past couple of days. I will say that brushing my teeth now takes longer as my brain tries to figure out how to move the tooth brush in my non-dominant hand. The other things aren’t as hard. My wife constantly makes fun of me and wants to video me doing it. She says she wants to see if anyone is as weird as I am trying to do things with their non-dominant hand just to challenge themselves.

  3. Luke Summers on October 17, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Nick, that’s hilarious! Brushing your teeth off hand is a bit of task, it’s the one I had the hardest time with as well. At about day 10 I realized that it’s a coordination between head and arm that allows you to brush so elegantly with your dominant hand…

  4. Monday 10/20/14 | Bladium Denver Crossfit on October 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm


  5. Rick G on October 30, 2014 at 7:07 am

    i improved non-dominant arm a lot after breaking my dominant side clavicle and having surgery. accurately using keys to open doors was interesting and so were chopsticks. chopsticks weren’t really that hard, but i found myself demoing the movement with my right hand, paying close attention, and then copying it with left.

  6. Ingo B on October 30, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Fun fact: I can throw a perfect spiral (US football) with either hand.

    As Rick G mentioned, focusing on, then transferring, the movement to the non-dominant hand actually improves your dominant side’s performance. The act of analyzing helps, I guess.

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