You can “activate” your muscles before a workout by preparing them for whatever movements you’re planning to undertake, often by mimicking what you’re about to do at lower intensity.
Doing this can increase your range of motion, prevent injuries and ensure you use the proper muscles and form. It’s essentially the opposite of stretching your muscles to wind down after a fitness session.
Below are three exercises that can be part of a generalized muscle activation routine — these should be done about 10 to 15 minutes before you start your workout. You can add moves that prepare you for your planned workout, such as doing squats with a bar on your shoulders before adding weight.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, breathe in, take a step forward with your right foot and then slowly bend both knees until your back knee is just above the floor, forming a 90-degree angle. Keep your back straight, shoulders back and tighten your abs.
- Breathe out and stand back up, then take another step forward with your left foot and bend both knees until your back knee is just above the floor.
- Repeat the forward movement at least 8 more times.
Bridge and twist
- Sit on the floor or mat with your knees bent and your arms extended back. Roll your shoulders back, relax your head and neck and engage your core.
- Lift your behind as far off the mat as you can and squeeze your glutes while extending your right arm toward the ceiling and twist your torso to the left.
- Lower the hips, return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
- Lie on your belly with your arms and legs fully extended.
- Maintain a neutral spine and inhale as you lift your arms and legs off the floor for a count of 2. Use your lower back muscles to keep your arms and legs up.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.