Nothing makes me happier than when someone has that AH-HA moment and realizes that they feel the right muscles working.
It legit makes me so excited I often have to share the news with whoever is near me. Usually that’s Ryan.
And I sometimes wonder what must be going on inside Ryan’s head when I randomly look up at him over my computer and am like…
He always nods at me and says, “That’s awesome!”
I’m pretty sure he isn’t as stoked as I am but I don’t care…he gets to hear about it anyway!
Anyway, the reason I get so excited is because it isn’t easy for many of us to change those recruitment patterns.
It isn’t easy to…
A. Realize the right muscles aren’t working
And B. Then put in the work and the focus to get the right muscles working!
It isn’t just about doing the “right moves.”
It is about changing the way our body recruits muscles to perform the moves.
It is about establishing that mind-body connection!
And that is why ACTIVATION EXERCISES are so important.
There isn’t just one move that can be used for activation.
But generally more isolated, simpler movements work best. Movements that don’t take a ton of skill so you can more easily focus and think about what muscles you should be feeling working.
Movements that, in general, allow for less compensation because fewer muscles are working at the same time. Movements that may even help you INHIBIT overactive muscles.
But it isn’t just the MOVEMENTS that lead to ACTIVATION and changes in our mind-body connection.
It’s also WHEN we do the movements.
And if your goal isn’t just to use them as prehab or extra mobility work but as your ACTIVATION for your workouts, then you need to do them right before. Or even DURING your workout if you are struggling to feel muscles engaging.
Those activation exercises establish the mind-body connection in an “easy way.” Because they are more isolated movements, they can make it easier for you THINK about the muscles that are working and start to even create a pump in those muscles.
But muscles don’t operate in isolation in everyday life.
We need to use that connection we’ve created with the activation moves to then help us improve our recruitment patterns during compound movements with heavier loads or faster speeds (aka we want to make sure the right muscles are carrying the loads they should be).
We want to establish that mind-body connection PRIOR TO movements where it is often harder for us to think about, or focus on, the muscles that are working.
By using the activation prior and creating that initial pump and connection, we can make it easier to KNOW the muscles are working during those other moves.
Because if we want to be moving efficiently, we can’t have to consciously think about the muscles that are working every time. We need to know they’ll be recruited correctly because we’ve taken the time to activate and create efficient and effective recruitment patterns!
So when it comes to Activation, moves are a tool. Timing is a tool.
But it comes down to you focusing and thinking about the muscles that are working as you do those initial moves so you can then get the right muscles working during your compound lifts.
Most of us do things in every day life that cause compensations and injuries…that often lead to more compensations and injuries because we don’t keep up with our prehab.
For example…These imbalances and compensations can cause us to have back pain when we run. We sit all day and our hip flexors get tight. We do nothing to reverse our flexed, hunched posture.
Then we go do a repetitive movement and our glutes aren’t firing as they should be and we’re quad dominant so we end up with back pain from our running.
This is why ACTIVATION is so important. It is key to correct those dysfunctional patterns and restore proper movement and engagement!
If you love geeking out about the WHY behind workout design, check out my Training Black Book.
It’s 10 hours of information about designing workouts that work and over 50 done for you workout templates breaking down how and WHY to use all of the different techniques!
–> Learn more about my Training Black Book
(CEUs now available for you trainers out there looking to get continuing education credits! Use code NASM to save $100 off. Currently CEUs are available for NASM (which is also connected to Premier Global) and AFAA!)