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What is Muscle Activation? 4 Steps to Improve Body Control

By 25 November 2021November 26th, 2021Exercise, Injury, Myotherapy, Rehabillitation
What is muscle activation
Ben Dillon
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Muscle activation is key component not only to your workouts, but your daily life.

What can often be referred to as ‘mind muscle connection’ is an individuals ability to intentionally contract a muscle of which can be an excellent tool to recovering from injury in getting better results in the gym.

What’s Inside

  1. Introduction

4 Steps

Step 1: What is muscle activation
Step 2: Body awareness
Step 3: How to activate muscles
Step 4: Understanding Benefits

Over the course of my career I have helped hundreds of my patients develop a better understanding of their bodies through muscle activation.

The connection from mind to muscle and the ability to contract a muscle at will is a valuable tool when it comes to recovering from injury or training.

By encouraging and educating my clients to become more physically aware, I have been able to assist them in their recovery and training journeys.

And in this article, I aim to do the same for you to.

So here are my steps to great muscle activation.

STEP 1: MUSCLE ACTIVATION. WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Muscle activation is an important part of our wellness journey.

What often be referred to as ‘mind muscle connection’ is an individuals ability to intentionally contract a muscle of which can be an excellent tool to recovering from injury in getting better results in the gym.

It allows us to focus on a target muscle or muscle group when exercising as well as help identify what muscles might not be working, which is essential for an effective exercise routine.

STEP 2: BODY AWARENESS 

Body awareness is one of the most important parts of not only exercise but daily life. The understanding of how we physically see ourselves, our posture and our movements can directly change how you move, and how our body will change over time.

The Myo Room - What is Muscle ActivationSo, the scientific word for this is Proprioception.

All this means and all you’ll need to remember is – The bodies awareness of itself in space.

This meaning how your body sees itself in any given situation at anytime during the day.

The example I would use is something simple such as this.

Poor yourself a glass of water put it in your hand, then close your eyes and drink the glass of water.

Seems simple right, but that your bodies proprioception in action.

This is the same for us when we exercise or hit the gym. When we exercise, often the act of exercising is so strenuous that we forget the other parts of our body and are just looking to get through the set.

So, next time try this. Think about what parts of your body are working. Are the tired, fatigued, and is the feel the same for both sides.

For me, I first noticed this at a young age when I ran. I always came back from a run with a sore right calf, sore collar bones and tight low back. Back then I had no idea what was up and I have thought I’d done something wrong.

Many years, countless sessions and over a decade in the industry later I now know that the tight right calf was pushing more to compensate for a weak left calf. Those sore collar bones were from a poor posture due to fatigue, and the tight lower back was from poor glute activation.

The basic understanding of my body and mental note I made to myself that day gradually grew and allowed me to better understand my problems and mechanical imbalances, thus allowing me to address them accordingly – with Muscle Activation

STEP 3: HOW TO ACTIVATE MUSCLES

So, this is the good bit and I’m going to make it easy for. Try this.

You know how people show off their biceps? Lift the are up, bend the elbow, and now squeeze (contract) the bicep muscle. That’s it.

As stated at the beginning of the article, muscular activation is the act of intentionally contracting a muscle or ‘activating’ during a movement.

This may be something as simple as showing off your arms, or squeezing your glutes (bum) when you’re standing while waiting in line, but doing so has a profound effect on your own awareness and function.

Often, we are completely unaware of our body, the way it functions and how it manages to get us from A to B day to day. It is only when things go wrong and we start to notice a tightening, a stiffness or pain that our attention is drawn to it.

The act of understanding your body, your muscles function and intentionally activating can greatly improve your mind muscle connection, which in turn with will improve your contractions in the future.

So here is a simple exercise to get you more body aware, the “Chair Squat”.

Muscle Activation - Chair Squat

Step 1: Grab a chair from around the house, preferably something not too low otherwise it will be more difficult

Step 2: Seat yourself on the chair, seated upright with feet shoulder width apart

Step 3: Without using your hands, slightly lean forward and stand up – once you get to the upright position thrust your hips forward, and activate your glutes (clench/squeeze)

Step 4: Push hips back (unhinge), slowly lower yourself back down to the seated position

The chair squat is a great exercise to introduce muscle activation as it is something that we do every day. The simple act of standing up hands free and activating our glutes when standing is a great way to get your glutes working on a regular basis.

By doing this as part of a routine movement such as standing up out of a chair, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to practice and reinforce not only a great exercise for glute activation, but our awareness and importance of our hip joint.

STEP 4: BENEFITS OF ACTIVATING MUSCLES


Muscle activation like many things takes work, but the benefits of activating and understanding your body can have excellent flow on effects to not only your training but daily activities.

Using an exercise like chair squat incidentally throughout our day will allow us to become increasingly familiar of our hips, glutes and their function in relation to the body.

The sheer size of the glute muscle places itself among the top of the food chain when it comes to muscle strength.

However, due to our daily activities such as sitting in cars, at desks or on the couch, it is not getting as used as often, and when we do finally decide to get up and go, they aren’t activated before moving, leaving other muscles to pick up the slack.

While activating muscles may be difficult to think of all the time, even remembering on the odd occasion can have great benefits, and the more you do it, the better it will get.

So, here is the list of benefits:

  1. Great control of your body – both in daily and exercise settings
  2. Greater awareness of your body – like a computer analyses its weaknesses, you too will be able to understand and correct your bodies
  3. Can lead to greater definition and development within the gym – tone, grow and strengthen target areas

Summary

Muscle activation sounds like it should be a difficult concept to achieve, but is actually very simple. The act of squeezing your shoulder blades together, clenching your glutes or tensing your biceps can lead to a greater understanding of your body, and it capabilities.

So next time you are out on a walk, doing a home workout, or even just getting out of a chair, why not use some muscle activation and start building on better results, in and out of the gym.  

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