Muscle Activation Prior to Training

The team at Accelerate Sports Performance and Training Slate will be discussing the importance of specific muscle activation prior to strength training. More activation = better recruitment = GAINS. Activation techniques can be used in combination with strength exercises in a unilateral or bilateral fashion. In the following posts, they hope to spark some mental juices on how to approach activation exercises for your various lifts, while taking into account some very commonly seen issues in strength training as it relates to arthrokinematic and osteokinematic movement, or natural movement in general.

Core Activation Prior to Overhead Lifting

In Part 1 of the series by @acceleratesp, they highlight the importance of activating the core prior to overhead lifts. One of the biggest faults we see with any overhead press, is the lack proper abdominal and core control. Just as we highlighted in episode 268, “protecting the low back during the lat pull down”, proper core engagement and activation is crucial during the overhead press. In addition to stabilizing the spine, the core (namely the rectus abdominus) acts to PREVENT anterior pelvic tilt. And because excessive anterior pelvic tilt is associated with lumbar lordosis/extension and probably facet joint compression over time, this is a position we want to AVOID during the overhead press. Get your core activated prior to lifting and engage it during the overhead press!

This dying bug variation paired with an overhead press is used to activate and turn on the core muscles involved in properly aligning the spine, ribcage, and pelvis. Common mistakes when doing an overhead press are excessive lumbar extension, elevation of the rib cage, and anterior pelvic tilt with the weight overhead. These issues can arise from limited ROM of the shoulders, but most commonly arise from improper core control We like to pair these two exercises for someone that has trouble engaging the core when reaching or pressing overhead. The overhead press is great for upper body strength but only if you can properly activate the core. This issue with excessive excessive lumbar extension is it can place undue stress on the vertebral facet joints, which overtime can lead to low back pain.


Promoting Shoulder Mobility and Control

In part 2 of the series by @acceleratesp, they highlight the importance of warming up and firing the scapular stabilizers prior to the pull up exercise. Good motor control of the scapulothoracic and glenohumeral joint is vital before any shoulder exercise, especially one with such a high demand such as the wide-grip pull up.

What’s the difference between the W, T, or Y exercises that we’ve highlighted in episodes 109 and 25? The W exercise, in comparison to the T or Y exercise, will hit the rhomboids more because of the downwardly rotated starting scapular position. With the T exercise (not shown), the scapula is more neutral and with external rotation of the glenohumeral joint, we try to minimize as much deltoid activation as possible ==> biasing the mid-trap as much as possible. With the Y exercise (not shown), the scapula is more upwardly rotated and the low trap fibers and more in line with the external load ==> thus biasing the low-trap as much as possible.

This pairing of Prone W’s on a Physioball and Wide Grip Pull-ups is to going to start by promoting medial scapular muscle stabilization, range of motion in the shoulders with a W pattern, as well as head positioning for a neutral cervical spine. The Prone Physioball W’s will aid in activating the muscles that act on the scapula and the glenohumeral joint in an effort to que scapular retraction, depression, downward rotation, and glenohumeral external rotation. Why is that important to que such movement prior to a pulling strength exercise? So often we see improper arthorkinematic and osteokinematic movement in these exercises which can lead to a plethora of ROM issues and shoulder injuries. Either we see a locked scapula in elevation and upward rotation, or depression, retraction and downward rotation. When performing an exercise such as a Wide Grip Pull-up we want to promote quality arthorkinematic and osteokinematic movement. That means moving through full ROM at the scapulothoracic joint and the glenohumeral joint all while maintaining neutral posture and core engagement.

READ: How To Assess and Improve Shoulder Overhead Mobility



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Priming The Hip Adductors

In the final installment of the series by @acceleratesp, they highlight the importance of activating the glutes, core, and more specifically the adductors prior to the lateral lunge slideboard. While much of the focus and attention in the rehab community is on the hip abductors (with good reason), we must not forget about the muscles on the other side of the hip – the hip adductors. Adductor strains are extremely common, and probably are the second most commonly injured lower extremity muscle after the hamstrings. It’s important to incorporate some [P]Rehab for your adductors as well!

This pairing of a Band Resisted Supine Leg Whip and 2DB Slideboard Lateral Lunge is meant to activate the adductors and glutes with a simpler exercise from a more stable position before moving on to a more dynamic, multi-joint exercise that requires those muscles for stability and balance while under load. The Leg Whip is a great exercise for pelvic and overall core stability. We have noticed that instability in more closed chain, functional positions is usually due to glute and adductor weakness or inhibition. Our goal with the leg whip is to activate these muscles prior to closed chain exercise. Focus on controlled accessory movement with a neutral pelvis and spine (core). The Lateral Lunge variation is an exercise that we really like due to it’s focus on not only the glutes, but the adductors as well – a muscle group we feel is very under-recognized in strength training programs.


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About the Authors

accelerate sports performance@acceleratesp powered by @trainingslate is the global one-stop shop for highly motivated individuals and groups, who exercise or play sport at the amateur or professional level. If you care about your health and are willing to put in the work, we will help you reach your full physical potential in movement, sport, or rehabilitation/injury prevention. Each of our programs is fully customized per individual to elicit the most profound results possible under the guidance of our elite strength and conditioning and sports medicine staff. @trainingslate is a mobile platform that provides a completely customizable and content rich platform to deliver exercise prescription to your clients near and far. Reach out to them through @trainingslate or


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