Are activation exercises really necessary??
Short answer is: no.
Longer answer is: sometimes
First off, what is an activation exercise?
An activation exercise is when we do a specific isolated movement in order to get a muscle group to "activate". It is more often than not completed after performing a muscle release of some kind. If it is known what muscle group is 'over-working', I will give my client a muscle release to do (with a lacrosse ball or foam roller) in order to relax the muscles that are over-working, then go into an activation exercise to get the muscle group that is not firing its best to get moving.
This also connects the brain to that specific part of the body. The mind-body connection is extremely important when it comes to movement and getting the muscles we want activating during specific movements.
For example; a hip bridge. During this movement, ideally, we want the glute (bum) muscles activating the most, with some hamstrings as well. However, some clients will feel their hamstrings working a LOT, or even their low back. Luckily, the low back is usually corrected with a form adjustment instead of an activation exercise. However, when the hamstrings are over-active during a bridge, I will get that client to roll out their hamstrings in the warm-up followed by a glute activation. This gets their brain to connect to the glute muscles so that when they go into that workout, they are more likely to be using their glutes, rather than the hamstrings.
Most of the time, activation exercises don't look like much (see image below).
All I am doing here is lying down and squeezing my butt cheeks together. Being on the floor allows my brain to pin-point exactly where it is I want it to connect to (my glutes). I am thinking about both of my glutes squeezing the same amount, equal side to side*see the look of focus on my face* hahaha.
As stated before, activation exercises are only needed sometimes. There is a time and a place for activation exercises. A lot of times, tweaking a person's form a little bit can help a lot when getting the correct muscles to be incorporated into an exercise. I only utilize activation exercises when other tweaks have not been working, or when a physiotherapists deems it necessary to help re-train the brain and the body.
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