I still remember my first day at the local gym and remember the warmup routine my trainer made me do before he finally transitioned me into a resistance training- routine. In those days no one was talking about the proper muscle activation.
Pre-workout warm-up routine is essential to improved performance and reduces injury chances. A good pre-workout warm-up routine helps in improving the blood flow and joint lubrication for elevated performance but that’s not enough.
Warm-up before a workout is especially essential for running, basketball, football, cricket, etc.
For the development of strength and hypertrophy, muscle activation plays a more important role in establishing a superior mind and muscle connection.
Warmup vs muscle activation
Most of the people consider them same but there is a difference.
Warmup drill is performed to wakeup the system and gets the joints lubricated for the upcoming training. A total body warmup drill can increase the body elasticity by up to 20%.
To understand it better let’s try to understand with a hypothetical example, let’s consider your muscle fiber as a piece of glass, what will happen if you try to bend that glass? It will break down. Now, consider warming up the glass and you will be able to give it different shapes. Similarly, warmup drill helps in increasing the temperature and blood flow throughout the body for better mobility.
Muscle activation, on the other hand, is an art of waking muscle fibers for an improved experience.
Muscle activation drill not only helps in improving blood flow towards the particular muscle group, but it also helps in the recruitment of more muscle fibers.
What does muscle activation mean?
Muscle doesn’t understand bodybuilding, they just respond to the resistance.
Proper muscle activation before a workout can help you recruit more muscle fibers for better strength and hypertrophy gains.
Big exercises (compound movements) require muscles to work in pairs and inactivation of one muscle might put extra pressure on the other muscle groups which leads to injuries.
The reason bodybuilders don’t lift heavy all the time because they pay more emphasis on mind & muscle connection through proper muscle activation instead of moving weight from one point to another.
Example: activating your triceps before you bench press can help you lift heavier or glute activation before squats can practically help in better squats.
How to improve muscle activation before workout:
Forget muscle hypertrophy, most of the lifters are not even activating the muscle fibers properly, resulting in improper development and muscle imbalance.
Simple techniques can help you recruit more muscle fibers while training which will eventually lead to far superior performance.
1# Pre-lift Rehearsal:
One of the most important aspects of muscle activation that no-one is talking about.
Every fitness enthusiast wants to know that some magical exercise that can help them grow better, Exercise form rehearsal is the key to activate muscle fibers before putting them under tension.
How to actually implement it? If you are about to bench press, get into position and rehearse the proper form of bench press without any barbell in hand. Rehearsing the movement before actually lifting weight will help you achieve a better mind to muscle connection with far more superior contraction.
2# Use resistance bands:
Rehearsing the exercise can be hard for some lifters, you can take the muscle activation to another level.
All you need to do is incorporate resistance band training before you actually hit the muscle.
How does resistance band help? Resistance bands work on the concept of VRT (variable resistance training). VRT means the resistance changes at different points of the exercise. Force is lowest at the bottom of the range and strongest at the top which allows the lifter to experience far superior muscle contraction and squeeze.
3# Proper form
Every muscle has its unique biomechanics; following proper form and technique should be the starting point of your athletic journey. Proper form helps you train more effectively without wasting energy.
Start with few sets of light-weighted Isolation movements before you hit compound movement, it will help you activate those small muscle fibers that are usually dominated by big muscle groups.
Importance of muscle activation
For me, muscle activation is the second most important thing for better gains, first is still the right nutrition.
There are numerous benefits to muscle activation, let’s have a look.
- Superior strength and pump
- Muscle separation
- Reduced chances of injury
Want to read the in-depth benefits? Check out our article on 7 benefits of muscle activation.
Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always.