June 10, 2013

    Activation: The Missing Piece For Flexibility

    Several weeks ago, we talked about how having a purpose and philosophy behind your approach to flexibility allows you to focus on the most important movements and use your time as efficiently as possible (see Sparta Point).

    So we introduced Sparta’s three pronged approach to flexibility

    1. Release

    2. Activate

    3. Stretch

    We know that the stretches seek to improve flexibility through elongating the muscle, basically like pulling on a rubber band. But any muscle, like a rubber band, needs an anchor for greater stretch.

    So today, we will build on our flexibility philosophy by adding the anchor, Activationexercises, to the Stretch exercises.

    Activation Defined

    Activation can be defined as process whereby something is prepared or excited for a subsequent reaction. Commonly activation has been simplified to include just muscles, but using the term neuromuscular activation is more accurate because the nervous system is critical in regulating muscle tension (see Sparta Point). The specific muscles in activation are stabilizers, smaller postural muscles that tend to only cross one joint (monoarticular).

    Activation has become a hot topic in recent years, and it is easy to get carried away with trying to activate every stabilizer muscle in every plane of movement. The problem with this approach is the failure to integrate activation into a training program designed to improve the performance of athletes. We have too mnay case studies of incoming athletes uncleared for exercise due to poor activation of singular muscles. Isolated activation can always be improved, but the activation sequencing, or Movement Signature ultimately determines function.

    Another major problem with activation is the massive amount of time that must be devoted to a dozen different activation exercises. Time is every athlete’s most precious resource, and it is extremely important to have intent behind everything that we do. Our activate philosophy focuses on creating awareness of angles and body positions that will improve each athlete’s Movement Signature.

    Each activation exercise that we do is designed for maximum effectiveness by emphasizing body position in addition to individual muscle firing.  Additionally, we focus our efforts on the hips, torso, and shoulders as we develop awareness of muscle contraction in perfect postural position. This maximizes the effectiveness and efficiency of our activation work.

    Using activation exercises as a tool to teach body control and postural awareness leads to improved angles, force production, and movement efficiency – ultimately improving each athlete’s Movement Signature.

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