blog What Is Muscle Activation?

What Is Muscle Activation?

Sean Lake

5 months ago

We all know the key to a good workout is a good warm-up. Although it can be tedious when you just want to get after it, it is critical to take the time to properly warm up your body before starting to exercise. Not only is it crucial for injury prevention: a solid dynamic warm-up can make sure your muscles are working in the way they are supposed to, making sure you feel solid and ready to go while you exercise. One way to make sure you are fully prepared for your workout is to utilize muscle activation to allow each muscle to function properly and at full capacity during work.

What is Muscle Activation?

Muscle activation is the intentional warm-up and balancing of muscles prior to working out. When our bodies undergo injury, stress, or illness, our muscles can feel the brunt of the impact. Tense muscles, or muscles that are not being used properly, can mean less effective workouts, and even lead to injury. Muscle activation restores the connection between brain and muscle - signaling which muscles need to work out and how they need to support the body. There are three tenets to muscle activation: correcting muscular imbalances, using tailored intervention, and maximizing your muscles’ potential. These three points make it an effective tool for your best workout. Within your body, your brain works incredibly hard to both send signals to which muscles your body needs and not utilize excess energy for those it does not use. However, sometimes the muscles that we need to utilize for workouts are the ones that are underutilized. Behaviors such as poor posture or sitting in an office all day can tell your brain that certain muscles do not need to be utilized. While you may not need your full range of abdominal muscles to sit and do work, when it comes time for lifting or cardio, those muscles will not be there for support. Muscle activation isolates the individual muscle that is underused, most often the glutes, lower abdominal muscles, and mid and lower trapezius muscles, and engages the brain to work with these muscles. Depending on the exercise you are trying to accomplish, stimulating these muscles and allowing them to contribute to a full range of motion can prevent injury and have you feeling your best while working out.

Muscle Activation for Lifting

Muscle activation can target different areas of the body depending on which muscles you use. For example, your mid and lower trapezius muscles may be some of your underused muscles depending on your daily routine. When lifting, it is important to pay attention to how your body feels and whether the right muscles are activated for a proper lift. If you get into a workout and do not feel as though your muscles are actually activated as they should be, it may be time to perform some isolated muscle activation exercises first.

Muscle Activation Exercises for Lifting:

  • Prone W-Y-T: this stretch targets the scapular muscle and helps with shoulder stability

  • Ban Pull Aparts: also help to activate isolated muscles in your shoulders

  • Superman holds: this exercise targets the back for a solid lifting foundation

Muscle activation for Running

Running requires almost every muscle to be working in conjunction with each other. You can either be sludging through or feel like you’re flying through the miles. Muscle activation can be helpful to achieve the latter. Before embarking on a run, combining dynamic stretches, along with muscle activation can help your body align itself and properly warm-up for the run. Then choosing to ease into the run with a ten-minute warm-up will contribute to that flying sensation. For running, it is important to target your glutes, which is one of the most important (and underused!) parts of your body for running. These stretches can either be performed with a band or without one, but the added resistance can activate the core muscles as well.

Muscle Activation Exercises for Running:

  • Standing Half Moon: Standing on one leg with band resistance, the other leg makes a half moon shape to activate the glutes.

  • Banded Lateral Walk: Targets stiffness in glutes and activates each muscle prior to working out.

  • Glute Bridge: Another key exercise to activate the glute - targets underused muscles for stable support.

Problems with Muscle Activation

Muscle activation is a great way to isolate issues your muscles may face and prevent further injuries from occurring. However, sometimes muscle activation is not enough. It is important when actually injured or experiencing chronic pain to consult with a professional. If you are someone who is constantly performing at the top - it is critical to also take rest seriously so no overexertion occurs. While it is great for warming up and dynamic stretching, muscle activation should not be used when already injured.

Making Muscle Activation Work

Committing to a targeted, dynamic warm-up is already a great step for making sure your workout is well supported. No matter what exercise you decide to do, paying attention to how you feel and which muscles may need to be activated is a great step to utilizing muscle activation. If you get to lift and realize you don’t feel it, that may be the time to take a step back and do bodyweight recruitment exercises such as a pushup to activate all the muscles you need. No matter what, paying attention to how your body feels and properly warming it up before you exercise ensures full range of motion and protects against injury. As more work goes to underused muscles, you lessen the risk of overexertion and set yourself up for workout success. No matter which muscle activation exercises you choose, accompanying your muscles and joints with all-natural supplements can be your best benefit to a healthy workout. BUBS Naturals Collagen Protein Powder not only increases elasticity, but can be instrumental in supporting joint health necessary for healthy workouts. When looking to support your workouts to feel your best, BUBS collagen can help you in your muscle activation journey.