Muscle activation exercises connect the body and mind to enhance your workout and optimize your results. Activation exercises are typically short, isolation exercises that target specific muscles to “wake them up”. Just like stretching, activation exercises increase blood flow to prepare the muscles for weightlifting, cardio, sports, or other physical activities.
We will explain these 5 activation exercises throughout the blog:
- Superman holds to activate your back
- Push-ups to activate your chest
- Band pull apart to activate your shoulders
- Monster walks to activate your glutes
- Walking lunges to activate your quads
Click HERE to learn more about muscle activation.
How Perform Activation Exercises
Activation exercises only take a few minutes, but are extremely valuable. They can easily fit into your warm-up and require little to no equipment.
Perform each exercise at a slow tempo. Focus on the moving body part and the muscle that is being engaged during the exercise. This will ensure you are activating the right muscle groups.
To advance the exercise, contract the muscles at the peak of the exercise.
Some exercises require a resistance band. A resistance band will increase the difficulty of the exercise and further increase muscle activation. When using a resistance band, choose one that is not too tight or too loose and allows you to keep constant tension throughout each exercise.
Learn more about resistance bands HERE.
Perform the Following 5 Activation Exercises
Superman Holds Activate Your Back
Lie on your stomach with your legs straight back and arms stretched above your head. Your forehead should also be resting on the floor. Exhale and slowly lift your arms, legs, and head off the floor. Keep your arms and legs straight as you hover them over the ground. You should feel your back muscles and glutes engage and activate.
Hold for 5 seconds and repeat for 3 sets.
Push Ups Activate Your Chest
Begin on all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart. Extend you legs straight back so all your weight is on your hands and toes. Maintain a neutral spine from head to toe.
Before you begin, engage your core. Slowly bend your elbows and lower yourself down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle while keeping your elbows tucked in by the side of your body. Contract your chest muscles and push back up through your hands to the starting position.
For beginners, perform the push up on your knees rather than your toes.
Do 5-10 push ups and repeat for 3 sets.
Band Pull Aparts Activate Your Shoulders
You will need a resistance band for this exercise. Choose a resistance band strength that allows you to get through the exercise while maintaining good form.
Stand tall with good posture and your feet shoulder-width apart. Start by holding the resistance band with an overhand grip at shoulder height with your arms extended out in front of your body. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows. Rotate your shoulders outward to engage your lats and upper back.
To initiate the movement, squeeze your upper back and begin to pull the band apart. As your arms begin to move backwards, your shoulder blades should retract and come together. When your arms are fully extended out to the side of your body, squeeze your upper back muscles, hold for a few seconds, and return to the starting position.
Repeat the exercise 10 times for 3 sets.
Read about how the Band Pull-Apart exercise can improve your posture HERE.
Monster Walks & Squats Activate Your Glutes
You will need a resistance band for this exercise. Choose a resistance band strength that allows you to get through the exercise while maintaining good form. Place the resistance band around your ankles.
For lateral monster walks, stand shoulder-width apart, keep your head, shoulders, and chest forward, and actively engage the glutes and your core. Keep a slight bend in your knees throughout the exercise.
Take a wide step laterally (to the side) with your right leg or lead leg, followed by your left leg or trail leg.
Continue stepping laterally for 10 steps and repeat on the other leg in the opposite direction. Repeat for a total of 2 sets in each direction.
Watch a step-by-step video about Monster Walks & Squats
Read more about Monster Walks & Squats HERE.
Walking Lunges Activate Your Quads
Start with your feet hip-distance apart. Maintain good posture with your torso upright and tall, core engaged, shoulders back, and chin lifted.
Take a big step forward with your right foot. Your left heel should lift naturally off the ground. Keep your core engaged as you bend your knees and lower your back knee toward the floor. Your knees should both make 90-degree angles. When you step forward with your left leg, your knee should not extend past your ankle.
Push through your right heel using your thigh muscles to rise to a standing position and lift your left foot from the ground. As your left foot comes forward, follow through with a big step forward. Keep your core engaged as you bend your knees and lower your back knee toward the floor. Your knees should both make 90-degree angles. Stop before your knee touches the floor.
Start with 10 lunges per leg and repeat for a total of 3 sets.
Muscle activation exercises are a great way to prepare your body for physical activity. Include these 5 exercises prior to your workouts or physical activities to optimize your outcome by encouraging mobility, joint stability, and safe, injury-free training.
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