The 3 Most Effective Exercises for Lower-body Muscle Activation
By Spencer Brown
Muscle activation is essential for physical performance and function, and it refers to the stimulation (or re-education) of underactive muscle fibres. Isolated strengthening exercises are used to target particular muscles and/or muscle groups to increase their force production capabilities through contraction actions (i.e. by moving certain joints in isolation).
A battery of exercises is applied to potentially 'weak' or 'underactive' muscles as identified through an assessment process. This article looks at my top 3 activation exercises for the lower body.
1 - The Hip Bridge
This is one of the most popular glute/hamstring exercises but unfortunately one that is often performed incorrectly. Try 20 double leg and if you're feeling energetic have a go at performing 10 using one leg (repeat x 3 for maximum effect). NOTES: watch your feet! They will want to move outwards to make it easier; also make sure you're hip width apart at the ankle and knee; aim for good height with the hips and squeeze out the last 1cm.
2 - Outer Leg Raises
Another gem for the outer buttock area and another exercise that's often performed incorrectly! Notice the straight and level foot position, and the straight body alignment; aim for 20 reps up and down then 20 circles (about the size of a football) for optimum activation. NOTES: be careful that you're not cheating on form during this exercise (it's harder than it looks), look out for inadvertently bringing the leg forward when you raise it and rolling off the hips.
3 - Static Hamstring
One of my all-time favourites for hamstring activation. All you need is a chair or bench, strict form and determination. This can be done with two legs (intermediate) or with one leg (advanced). Aim for 3 x 30 second holds with two legs, and 3 x 10 second holds (alternating) with just one leg. NOTES: as with the hip bridge, watch your feet! Make sure you are pulling the toes towards your shins and that you're trying to drag your body towards the chair using your heels.