Ever been working out and you start to wonder where you’re supposed to be feeling it? You know, when it feels like every muscle BUT the one you are trying to target is getting a workout in? I’ve so been there.
After being introduced to activation exercises, I noticed a huge difference in my workouts when I lift. Activation exercises are the best way to get the right muscles working and grinding.
What is muscle activation?
Muscle activation is part of warming up, which helps to wake up our muscles and get them ready to work out. By focusing on each separate muscle group, we isolate them and get them “fired up.”
Activation exercises are also designed to enhance the mind-muscle connection.
Why is muscle activation important?
When we’re not working out, we tend to live sedentary lives. Many people work office jobs, which means they’re sitting for 8-10 hours straight.
Over time, muscles become “lazy” and don’t fire up during an exercise. The most common lazy muscles include the glutes, lats and abdominal.
To compensate for lazy muscles other muscles take over leading to reduced effectiveness of the exercise, muscle imbalances, and increased risk of injury.
How to activate your muscles
1.Spend only a few minutes doing the exercises. It’s not about fatiguing the muscles, it’s about warming them up.
2.Go slowly and envision the muscles contracting to enhance the mind-muscle connection.
3.You can use body weight or resistance bands. (or light weights, if you prefer)
My favorite way to activate my muscles is with resistance bands.
For example, I’m very quad dominant during leg day. I feel it SO much in my quads, but not enough in my glutes (where I want to feel it!). My leg day warmup routine looks a little something like this:
- 5 mins warmup on the bike
- 5 mins activation with resistance bands (I pick two of the exercises below and do 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps each)
Notice that I don’t activate my quads because I want to focus on getting my glutes fired up. My gym doesn’t have resistance bands so I make sure to bring mine along.
I usually remember to bring them on leg day but let’s be real, I tend to forget them for the other days.
You can also activate upper body with resistance bands, but I find that for me it is just as effective to activate it with light weights or body weight.
Remember, everyone is different so do some trial and error to figure out which method works best for your lifestyle and body.
Activation Exercises Ideas
Here’s my favorite guide for activation exercises ideas. It gives various activation exercises ideas for each muscle group that you should be incorporating before your workouts.
Pick two exercises per body group and have at it!
Have you incorporated muscle activation into your routine?
If you’re struggling to get to the gym and need some motivation, check out my top tips to reduce gym anxiety and work out with confidence.