By: Ashlee Whitmoyer
STOP! Don’t go directly into your compound lifts if you are not feeling the corresponding muscles properly engaged. Many of us want to jump to the lifting portion of our workouts without taking the time to activate the necessary agonists of a given exercise. Your body must recruit the appropriate cast of muscles to effectively perform compound movements. How many of you squat and never “feel” your glute working? Learning to target and utilize the proper muscles for your lifts can be achieved by adding activation movements prior to your lifting routine. Muscle activation movements will help increase your overall neuromuscular efficiency. These activation exercises are basic motions that are centered around learning to isolate and engage a particular muscle. Muscle activation movements should be beginner friendly and target a singular muscle so that you can clearly feel it’s engagement. These movements in general, allow for less compensation because fewer muscles are working at the same time. Incorporating these warm-ups may even help you INHIBIT overactive muscles. I know most people want to get right into the sets and reps of heavier weights but while doing compound moves are you actually using the correct muscles? Are you feeling those large muscle groups working or do you feel the smaller, accessory muscles taking over? Next time you are working out, focus on where you are feeling the exercise. If you aren’t feeling it where you should be, try adding bodyweight or light resistance recruitment exercises before your workout. It will benefit you greatly when you actually go into the power moves and force the correct muscles to activate. Your squats, deadlifts, bench press and pull-ups, etc will improve and you will see strength gains when the larger muscles dominate.
Below are examples of activation exercises:
Camel – The Camel will stretch out your chest, shoulders, hips, quads and even your biceps while activating your glutes. This exercise is basically the opposite of what you do seated at your desk all day, which makes it a very important move to include in your daily routine.
Scapular Wall Hold – Whether you want better posture, to prevent shoulder, neck or upper back pain and injury, have a stronger, sexier back or even do more Pull Ups, you want to incorporate this move. It will activate your lower traps and rhomboids while also stretching out your chest and shoulders.
Glute Bridge –By doing the Glute Bridge, not only do we stretch our hips, but we activate our glutes to prevent injury and help ourselves deadlift and squat more!
Give these few exercises a try and feel free to ask for some more suggestions!