What is Muscle Activation

What is Muscle Activation

In this article I’m going to explain what Muscle Activation is and how we can use it to help our bodies function better.

Over time our bodies can develop bad movement patterns due to imbalances. This can be caused by muscle tightness and weaknesses, injuries and poor posture.

When a body works effectively, the right structures do the right job at the right time.  The diagram to the right shows that the sequence should run 1, 2, 3 but if zone 1 does not function properly then zone 2 will have to take over the job of zone 1 and then zone 3 will have to take over the job of zone 2 as well as manage its own job. 

There will be an immediate change in the body’s functions and dysfunctional compensatory patterns will manifest. In other words our bodies will continue to allow us to do what we ask of them but they may be using the wrong muscles for the actions.

For example – some people develop a condition called Dormant Glute Syndrome this means the Glutes (the bottom muscles) don’t work so this puts more emphasis on using your Quadriceps (front thigh muscles).

Your Quadriceps become tight and dominant, which then has an effect on the pelvis tilting forward which will put excess pressure on your lower back. Long term this can cause back pain and injuries.

This is a condition I suffered with myself years ago, which caused me a prolapsed disc, sciatica and months of chronic back pain until I rehabilitated through Pilates and Muscle Activation.

When we perform muscle activation techniques we awaken the neurological pathway between our brain and the muscle so it basically gives it a wake up call to work! No more dormant lazy muscles.

How Do We Activate?

The easiest way to explain how to activate is think about the points being a bit like Trigger Therapy. 

Certain points of the body are linked to certain muscles so when you rub the area it awakens up the neurological response between brain and muscle.

For access to a full Muscle Activation routine you can follow click on the link below:


When And How Often Should We Activate?

Activate as often as you like but I recommend at least once a day and definitely before exercise or any physical activity. 

Getting into the habit of activating first thing in a morning will ensure you are functioning and moving better throughout the day.

You can also use activation after exercise as it can reduce tightness associated with training.

How Long Does The Effects Last?

Everyone is different and we are teaching the body new patterns of movement.

Some people will have significant gains and hold them effortlessly for a while. Whiles others will need more activation. 

This is why we educate our clients to take over the process of activation so they can manage and maintain their new movement patterns and avoid dysfunction.

It also depends of the pressure you apply. We use a scale of 1-10 where 10 is really uncomfortable and 1 is mild. Working towards 7-10 will produce an optimal effect.

Contra-indications For Self-Activation

Common sense applies here.  If your body is frail or vulnerable due to any medical conditions then you can act with caution by activating gently.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – during periods or exacerbation.  Also take extreme care around the upper neck area as cervical instability can be prevalent in this condition.

Osteoporosis – in most cases just activate gently

Fractures and fresh healing – consult your GP post op / fracture and follow their advice.  Then work around the area until fully healed and out of pain.  Activating the diaphragm assists in oxygenating the body and aiding recovery.

Pregnancy – Avoid abdominal area and be gentle, the hormone relaxin may be present in the system especially in the first trimester.

Hiatus Hernia – assess your reaction to touch and if you feel a pain similar to that with your hernia then do not persist.  If you feel OK then continue gently.

Cardiac problems – be gentle, activate the diaphragm gently.