Events like New Years, an upcoming wedding or vacation, pool party time, etc are all great motivators to get our bodies moving.
And when the motivation strikes, it is beneficial to ride that momentum toward healthier routines & more workouts.
BUT, before you jump into exercise, it is crucial that you make sure any sleepy muscles are awake.
Jumping straight into a workout without the proper muscles firing, could lead to a pulled muscle or other injury. And one of the worst feelings is when your mind feels motivated to exercise, but your body gets hurt.
So, what can we do? How can we prevent injury while still getting an awesome workout?
#1 Let’s start with what all our middle school PE teachers told us - Yes. You should ALWAYS warm-up.
It is the difference between cooked & uncooked spaghetti - when you don’t warm-up, your muscles are like uncooked spaghetti… and we all know how easily uncooked spaghetti can snap. Here’s a quick 10-minute follow-along warm-up video that covers full body joint mobility & flexibility.
#2 brings us to what this whole blog is about - ACTIVATION !!!
Having a few activation exercises in your warm-up arsenal will help you switch on sleepy muscles - this will make your workouts more efficient & way more effective.
If sleepy/lazy/not-used-often muscles are not firing properly, your body will continue to perform in its habitual pattern of compensation by using the tight & overworked muscles, while ignoring the others. Which means your body will continue to look & feel the same = very disheartening & a huge buzz kill.
How do you know if you have inactive/sleepy/lazy muscles?
- Muscles have very little or no contraction during an exercise that is meant for that muscle.
- You feel other (usually surrounding) muscles instead of the muscle that the exercise is meant for.
- After performing the exercise you feel sore or pain in other areas - commonly lower back, neck, knees.
Why do muscles get lazy?
We all experience sleepy/lazy muscles to some degree.
Reasons vary, but some common issues are:
- Because we all have habitual patterns of movement - and when we attempt to move our bodies in a different pattern of movement, there is a learning curve - our muscles need to “learn” or “re-learn” how to do this new movement.
- The muscle may not have been used in a while. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
- There could be muscle tension in another area of our body that prevents this particular muscle from doing its “job.”
- A past injury could have caused a build-up of scar tissue in that area - and now the scar tissue is limiting the range of motion, therefore limiting the engagement of that muscle. Because of the old injury, often our nerves get damaged, so the area needs special attention to get the muscles to fire again.
Whatever the reason may be, it all comes down to one exercise fundamental:
The Mind-Body connection
The only reason any of your muscles fire is because your brain - aka your nervous system - is signaling neurotransmitters to send signals to that part of the body. Your mind is talking to your body.
Take a breath.
Feel your body.
As you prepare for your exercise, think about:
- What muscles do you want to work? Are you trying to build your booty, shape your triceps or strengthen your core?
- What muscles are your especially “sleepy/lazy” muscles?
- Add activation exercises into your warm-up to help you connect to these areas
If your workout focuses on a specific body part, for example, “Leg-Day,” then focus on lower body activation.
Below I’ve selected the most common “sleepy/lazy” muscles & provided information on where you may feel aches & pains if this muscle is not doing it’s job, along with simple exercise you can do to get it to fire.
Remember: You know your body best. If you want to get the most out of your workout time, you must get your mind to connect with your body. Please breathe, focus & trust that your body loves to move.
ACTIVATION GUIDE to get sleepy muscles to wake up & fire
Core: The gist - drawing in vs pushing out
When the core muscles are not doing their job, some common areas you may experience aches & pains: lower back, knees
Exercises to help activate the core:
- Supine Breath, alt leg lifts
- Seated & V-sit breath
- ½ way lift breath - option for kneeling or prone
- Ignite with Breath of Fire
Glutes: The gist - engaging without altering lumbar spine alignment.
When the glute muscles are not doing their job, some common areas you may experience aches & pains: Hamstrings, Hip flexors, Low back, Any part of the back, Knees, feet/ankles
Exercises to help activate the glutes:
- Side lying legs - clams, lift n lower, stomp, circles
- Prone - froggers, straight leg lifts
- TT - (block on back) hydrants, circles, straight leg, donkey kicks
- Banded abductor lateral squat walks
- Banded hip extension & internal rotation
- Straight leg lateral walks
Upper Back & Shoulder Stabilizers: The gist - getting the scapula to move. To slide & glide.
- Prone scap isos
- Banded Pull Aparts
- Banded Single Arm Lat Pulls
Hi, I’m Jessi!
For the past 10 years, I’ve been helping people of all ages & fitness levels reframe their relationship with movement. As a Holistic Fitness Trainer, I not only train people’s bodies, I also help them shift their mindsets to see movement as a tool for mental well being & physical vitality.
As a college athlete, a virgo, an older sister & a recovering perfectionist, I value my ability to complete a to-do list & go-go-go. After several major injuries, crippling anxiety & back pain, I went on a search for tools to help me sustain my productivity while also minimizing the chance for another burn-out.
I learned that movement is not about performing or competing, it is an essential therapy to help the human body manage the stress of life.
My goal is to inspire people to befriend movement again & to learn to love their bodies, so they can live pain-free & motivated.
The list of my experience & training continues to grow. My coaching style focuses on strong foundations of body awareness & stabilization. I combine techniques from Yoga, Pilates, Strength Training, Massage Therapy & Mindfulness to craft well thought out & customized training plans to support all clients. To read more about my certifications, click here.