Why do you need to activate muscles prior to exercise
A lot of our clients walk into the Vision Studio usually rushed from work or being with the kids all day. With very limited time they rush in the door say hello to fellow clients and get straight into 3 to 4 sets of moderate to heavy squats, deadlifts, lunges, leg press and so forth to begin their 30-min session of resistance training.
Now let's rewind a little and have a look at what's going on with the body at a physical level. The client, who is usually an office worker, has been sitting down for the majority of the day with a lot of time spent inactive. The muscles of the inner core turn off, the gluts turn off and because we are sitting in front of computers or on our phones we forget about the upper back, therefore, shoulders are also rounded and the mid back is off.
What is even scarier is from a neuromuscular level the muscle has not been stimulated and the client has gone from zero to one hundred. The demand on the muscles and joints to perform puts the client at serious risk of injury as muscles will compensate. A lower body example is inactive gluts during a squat can lead to the quad/knees, abs/spine, traps/scapula to take the load and increase the risk of injury.
So, what does this mean?
Do we need to allocate an extra 30 mins prior to train to activate our muscle? No. A simple 3 to 5 mins of pre-activation exercise per muscle group is usually enough to start waking up your nervous system and get your muscles to perform.
By look, touch and feel we can get our mind to connect to our muscles. Focus on the muscles, visualise if you can and then contract that muscle. This can be achieved by isolating the muscle and contracting it in the different directions they move.
The use of resistance bands is highly recommended, weight should be light to moderate, sets can be 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. Focus on the flexion and extension phases whilst being mindful of speed, pausing and squeezing the muscles. Time this with appropriate breathing in and out as you would perform in the actual exercise as a compound movement.
By training your mind to connect with your muscles you can increase the activation in that muscle group to the point where it becomes second nature for your muscles to follow the orders of the mind. Therefore, you'll see better results in muscle gain, strength, and technique which reduces the risk of injury and increases the amount of calories burnt in that one exercise because you have managed to activate as much muscle as possible, increasing motor neuron recruitment, in turn, increasing the chance to increase muscle mass in order to burn calories.
Lower body activation includes:
Glute bridges, glute clamps, glute kickbacks.
Resistance band face pulls or W. Resistance band scapula T rows.
Resistance band, body weight push-ups or wall push-ups, inside grip/triangle, mid/close grip, wide grip.
Supine floor holds, legs lowers, opposite arm opposite leg pose.