Workout Activation

Transforming the traditional warm-up

As a coach I am always asked whether a warm-up is actually necessary, for all sorts of reasons. Allow me to clear up the following misconceptions:

1)      The warm-up jog is intended to loosen you up so that you can do the Activation properly. So while this slow jog does have benefits during the warm-up/Activation, it is the least important part of the Activation and should not be the only warm-up exercise performed.

2)      Static Stretching: While this is an important part of your training it should be kept strictly for the end of your entire workout. Research has been done to prove that in trained distance runners, static stretching before training or racing reduces their efficiency by 5% and in a time trial completed 3% less distance than those doing dynamic stretching.

Activation is about preparing the body for the specific workout to be undertaken. Activation, if done properly, will prepare your muscles for their specific movements and their neuromuscular functions, form improvements and cardio respiratory system activation.

Introduction to Workout Activation

Neuromuscular Recruitment

Muscle Recruitment exercises are done to prepare the communication channels between your nervous system and your muscles, so these are the first exercises that should be done. These activation exercises aid the muscles by working them through similar ranges of motion as with running (or for whichever sport you are about to undertake). There are several exercises that aid with this, but I mix them into the dynamic sequence so that the routine is not too long. Examples of exercises are forward/backward leans and side to side leans. There are many others that can be added. The dynamic and explosive section below also plays a part in Neuromuscular Recruitment.

01 – Backward Lean (Neuromuscular Activation)
02 – Side leans (Neuromuscular Activation)
03 – Walking Deadlift (Neuromuscular Activation)

Dynamic Activation

Running is an incredibly dynamic sport, so your activation should be dynamic as well. Muscle/Movement activation ensures that the exercises you complete before your training activate the right muscles needed for your workout. I split the activation into two sections:

–          Dynamic stretching: these exercises work your muscles dynamically through their specific range of motion. Examples of dynamic stretching are forward, backward and side to side leg swings which activate the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and inner and outer thighs. Squats and the lunge matrix are also great to add to your dynamic stretching routine. There are many other exercises that one can add and I personally like to mix it up to match the specific session that is about to be performed.

–          Explosive Movements, these exercises prepare the muscles for the explosive movement of running. The exercises exaggerate the pace and movement of running by putting the connective tissue and muscles under similar stresses and preparing your body to adapt. Examples of explosive movements are “school yard” skipping, high knees and bounding. There are again many other exercises that one can add.

04 – Leg Swings (Dynamic Activation)
05 – Squat Matrix (Dynamic Activation)
06 – Lunge with trunk rotation (Dynamic Activation)
07 – Grapevine (Dynamic Activation)
08 – Hip Complex Movement (Dynamic Activation)
09 – Vigorous Skipping (Dynamic Activation)
10 – High Knees (Dynamic Activation)
11 – Straight Leg Skipping (Dynamic Activation)
12 – Bent Leg Inward Skipping (Dynamic Activation)
13 – Butt Kicks (Dynamic Activation)

Form & Core activation

Activating good form is incredibly important and an often bypassed or unknown part of your workout activation. Running with bad form/posture can lead to unsatisfactory performance because of inefficient running caused by bad form. Poor form can also lead to over-use injuries. Form exercises have neuromuscular improvement functions and aid in creating important adaptions for improving your running form. Examples of form exercises are fast feet, straight leg shuffles, front to back arm swings. There are again many other exercises that one can add.

14 – Beating the Drums (Form Activation)
15 – Straight Leg Shuffles (Form Activation)
16 – Fast Feet (Form Activation)
17 – Bounding (Form Activation)
18 – Short Strides (Form Activation)
19 – BirdDog (Core Activation)
20 – Plank (Core Activation)

Cardio Respiratory Activation

This includes two things, the “warm-up” jog and the end of activation strides.

We have already discussed the warm up jog. Strides are 4-6 100 m sprints at 85 to 90% pace to elevate your heart rate and open up your stride. This prepares your body for running at elevated paces and heart rates. Strides are one of the most important activation exercises of your entire warm-up/ Activation sequence.

21 – Strides (Cardio Activation)

Completing a full activation before your workout will improve how you feel during and after your workout and also improve your workout performance.

Don’t forget to do a proper cool down and static stretch routine after your workout – keep reading the Coach’s Corner for an article about proper cool-down protocol that will be published soon!

You can contact me at any time at for questions about your training or my coaching services.

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