Don’t Strike Out Before the First Pitch!
Muscle Activation for Sports Performance
We all have performance deficits. As an athlete, I bet you know yours. Maybe it’s getting your hips through on your swing, your accuracy throwing home from center field, or maybe it’s your defense on the basketball court. Regardless of what the deficit is, we all have one thing in common: we work on these deficits to become better athletes.
The same applies to all of us as “movers.” As humans, we were designed to move. Athletics is one way, an incredibly fun and rewarding way, that we express that and put it on display. But just like we have performance deficits as athletes, we all have movement deficits as humans, and they are inextricably linked to our performance.
Our movement deficits are important because left unaddressed, they are what turn into injuries. Our current way of life, one where we are mostly sitting, makes us even more vulnerable. The good news is we can identify and address these deficits before they become injuries.
Preventatively taking care of our ankles, hips, shoulders, and spine is imperative. Our ankles, hips, shoulders and thoracic spine are our biggest movers. They are the joints that we expect will move the most to allow us to perform (other very important joints are more purposed for providing stability). Prepping these joints and associated movement patterns before you start your workout, practice, or game, can help improve movement patterns and muscle activation in the here and now. In other words, they can improve your movement, and thus your performance, right away.
There are many warm-up exercises that prep our bodies to move. There is no single exercise that is better than all others, but there are some that we favor. For preparing the ankles, improving dorsiflexion through wall ankle mobility is great. For the spine, thoracic openers mobilize the vertebrae. For the hips, spiderman (and spiderwoman!) walks, and for the shoulders, performing T’s, Y’s, and A’s with bands.
In addition to prepping these joints, it’s important to put them all together. The joints of our body act synergistically with one another when performing athletic movements, including landing. Landing is a high-risk movement and a source of many non-contact injuries. Prepping the body to land and engraining safe movement patterns on a regular basis, including prior to engaging inactivity, is important and beneficial. Athletic position dropdowns and box step-offs are quick and easy ways to prep these patterns.
You know your body better than anyone. Know your “movement deficits” as well as you know your performance deficits. Spend a few minutes on them each day prior to practice or competition using the tools provided above.
Videos, tips, and more information on how to perform the underlined movements, as well as how to put them all together in a warm-up, will be presented this week on @bjesperformance, so make sure to follow!
Image: Pinnacle Training and Consulting Systems