Discover the key to a well-rounded physique, see noticeable differences in your body and take your lifts to the next level with muscle activation exercises.
It might sound like a bit of a miracle cure, but there’s miraculous about it.
With some simple changes to your warm-up routine, you can flick the switch on your muscles and get fired up for your best gym performance yet – all with muscle activation exercises.
When used properly and regularly, muscle activation has the power to help build muscle, correct flaws in your lifting technique and even help you reach new PBs.
With these simple movements that perfect booty, your first un-aided pull-up, and your next squat PB are all within reach. Read up on muscle activation exercises and discover how they can transform your workout today.
What are muscle activation exercises?
The majority of us occasionally have those moments in the gym where we’re working our hardest, but we’re stuck in the dreaded plateau phase. You could spend hours at the squat rack trying to perfect that booty, but without the results you dream of. The fact is your muscles might not be working to their best capacity.
That’s where muscle activation exercises come in.
By performing a few movements before you start your full workout, you can fire up those lazy muscles so you get the very best out your workout. By drilling down to those specific muscles and giving them a little extra attention, you can prime them for a hardcore workout.
Weave these simple movements into your normal routine you could reach new PB’s, you’ll feel stronger and more flexible and you could even be on your way to crafting that all important perfect butt.
How do you know you need muscle activation exercises?
You might be squatting your socks off at the rack or drilling your pull-ups every session but getting nowhere. You might even go for a lunge and feel like one leg is stronger than the other. These can all be signs that your muscles aren’t activating in the right way to get the most out of the exercise.
Most of us spend our days sitting at a desk working, which isn’t the best thing for your body.
It’s easy for your muscles to become neglected, or tight when you’re sat down a lot. By remaining still for long periods of time in the same position, a lot of your muscles won’t be getting the activity they need and they can start to weaken.
This kind of sedentary lifestyle can lead to dreaded bad posture, where some muscles go soft and others are working overtime to compensate. Not ideal if you’re trying to create a physique that’s the envy of every other girl in the weights room.
If you find yourself feeling tight, you feel weaknesses in your workouts or your posture is going, it might be time to incorporate muscle activation into your routine.
Muscle activation and brain power
Here comes the interesting bit. Your brain, like every other muscle in your body, plays a big part in your overall physique and muscle activation (or neuromuscular activation) is a mind game.
When you work out and break down muscle, it’s your brain that tells your body to repair and grow stronger. The two are intrinsically linked and building your dream physique is more than a matter of sheer strength – it’s about brain power too.
With that in mind, you should try to consider developing physical strength as a key function of your neuromuscular system – the combination of your nerves and muscles. When aligned, these two systems can work together to help you smash results at the gym.
But how do you get them working in perfect harmony?
There are two ways to maximize the use of your neuromuscular system.
The first way is to increase the amount of muscles you use in your exercises. That means focussing on compound movements, rather than isolated.
The second way to get the most out of your brain-body relationship is by using your head more. Performing slow, controlled movements where you focus your mind on the muscles you’re using is key. This is essential to your muscle activation exercises.
Brain and brawn are a match made in heaven. By working larger groups of muscles and really thinking about what you’re doing as you exercise, you can maximize your activation exercises.
Why is muscle activation important?
Let’s get down to some more science.
If you’ve got a few muscles that aren’t pulling their weight when you work out, others will start taking the load. This means your weak muscles will continue to get weaker while the ones helping out are overworking. Overall this won’t help you create the well-rounded physique you’re looking for and it could lead to flaws in your development.
For example, your glutes are the biggest muscles in your body, so you definitely want them maxing out when you work on your squats. Unfortunately, if you’re in a job where you’re sitting down all day, this might not be happening. Your quads might be taking the load instead, which means your body isn’t utilising one of it’s biggest assets and you’re not reaching your full potential.
You might be a dedicated squat queen or a loyal lunger, but without the right activation, your muscles won’t work properly and you won’t see the results you’re hoping for.
With a round of glute activation exercises before you start your main lifts, you could start to see the difference in your body shape and your weights very quickly.
How to include muscle activation exercises in your workout
One of the many good things about activation exercises is that they’re easy to fit into your usual routine. They only take a few minutes to perform, but can make a huge difference to the weights you lift and your rate of improvement.
Simply take about 10 minutes before you begin your workout, grab some floor space and get to work. To really make the most of this session, follow these tips:
- Take it slow. For once you don’t need to blast through your reps like you’re smashing a CrossFit workout. Make each rep slow and deliberate, squeezing at the top of the movement.
- Think about it. It might sound crazy, but this is all about connecting your brain and your muscles. As you perform your reps, really think about the muscles you’re trying to activate. You’ll be surprised how much this works.
- Sets and reps. Aim to perform about 8-12 reps over two sets. Combine one activation exercise with another to really get the muscles fired up.
- Keep the weights low. These movements aren’t done with lots of weights involved. This is about activating your muscles, building them up comes later.
Muscle activation exercises
Prime your muscles for your workout and try out a couple of these activation techniques to take your performance to the next level. It’s best to perform these movements before you start your main workout, so your muscles are fired up and ready to work.
Glute activation exercises
It’s all about the butt. Max out on your squat and make every lunge count with these simple activation techniques. You’d be surprised how much you can improve your workout by performing these exercises before you get started.
- Lie on your side with your knees and feet together
- Bend your knees about 45 degrees
- Keep your feet together and your hips still, lift your top knee
- Squeeze your glute at the top and slowly lower it back to the start position
Complete 2 sets of 10 reps.
- Lie on your back
- Place your feet flat on the floor, about a hips-width apart
- Pushing through your feet, raise your hips until your body becomes a straight line
- Squeeze your glutes in this position, before lowing your butt to the floor
Complete 2 sets of 12 reps
Tip: As you get into your activation routine, you can up the ante and put a light resistance band around your knees as you perform your side clam and glute bridges.
Back activation exercises
Take your back definition to the next level and nail your pull-ups with this muscle activation technique. You back has a huge selection of muscles to recruit. Make sure you’re using them all for the best possible workout results.
- Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands a shoulder-width apart
- Keeping your arms straight, pull your scapulars down and together
- Squeeze your upper back and hold for a second
- Return to a relaxed hanging position
Complete 2 sets of 8 reps.
- Lie on your front with your arms out straight in front of you
- Keeping them straight, raise both your arms and feet about a foot off the floor
- Squeeze your back muscles together
- Lower your arms and feet to the floor
Complete 2 sets of 10 reps.
Pec activation exercises
Set yourself up for the optimum bench workout and drill these chest activation exercises before you head to the bar. With your muscles fired up and ready to go, you’ll transform your bench.
- Lie on a bench with a light dumbbell in each hand
- Hold the dumbbells together on your chest
- Slowly push upwards
- Keep squeezing the dumbbells together as you reach the top of the press
- Lower the dumbbells back down to your chest
Complete 2 sets of 12 reps.
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and tight abs
- Take a weights plate and hold it by pressing your flat palms on either side
- Begin with the weight close to your chest, with elbows out flat
- Keeping it at chest height, push the weight away from you until your arms are straight
- Slowly pull it back in towards your chest
Complete 2 sets of 8 reps.
Combine mind and muscle to prime your body for maximum results. Muscle activation could be the key to taking your physique to the next level.
If you’re looking for more ways to prep your body for an intense workout, try a quality pre-workout. A well-balanced supplement can give you the energy, focus, and edge you need for your best gym performance yet.
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