HOME OF THE MESSI-N PRO FOOTBALL FORMULA PROGRAMME
HOME OF THE MESSI-N PRO FOOTBALL FORMULA PROGRAMME
You may have heard of strength coaches and physios saying things like ‘the muscle’s not firing’ or ‘it’s not activated’, which then leaves you nodding with a puzzled look on your face as to what that really means?
In this article we’ll explain exactly what muscle activation is, how it will enhance your performance and what you can do to get your in-active muscles activated.
Muscle activation reconnects the communication between your muscle and the central nervous system A.K.A the ‘mind-muscle connection’.
It aids in improving and maintaining joint stability and efficiency without the need of medical assistance as well as correcting bi-lateral imbalances within the body to help you move more fluidly.
The aim of muscle activation is to ‘switch on’ muscle so that it's firing optimally for when you need it most (i.e. on the pitch). The positive effects of muscle activation should last for the duration of the activity you are about to perform (however fatigued muscles become harder to activate).
Muscles which are weaker (often felt as muscle tightness or pain) or previously injured are generally harder to activate. Weak, switched off glutes are a common issue nowadays because more and more people are becoming sedentary for long parts of the day (sitting at a computer desk for example). When habits such as this are consistently repeated, mechanical deficiencies begin to develop and alter the way you move, even producing pain and stiffness.
Stronger muscles are more easily activated, tend to become dominant in producing certain movements and are often overworked. A classic example…players who are ‘quad-dominant’ - meaning that your quadriceps are firing but the opposing muscle group (the hamstrings) aren’t fully activated.
Overuse of the quads puts them under immense strain and increases injury risk directly within the quads – but it could also lead to other injuries such as an ACL injury. You should pay extra attention to this if your approaching the twilight of your career, as evidence reveals that muscle activation worsens with age!
Muscle activation will reduce your risk of getting injured as it prevents certain muscles from becoming over-used whilst strengthening the weaker muscles. By correcting bi-lateral imbalances, you’ll also increase your joint mobility and capacity to produce force - meaning you can jump higher, accelerate and decelerate faster and be stronger in the tackle. Furthermore, it’s been shown to help your muscles better tolerate fatigue and even improve ball control!
If you are having ongoing problems with muscular pain and mobility it would be wise to go and see a muscle activation specialist for a full professional assessment. They’ll look at your body as a whole and understand that your issues may be as a result of an issue elsewhere in your body, in many cases this can be corrected in just a few seconds by applying pressure to specific areas of your body where the issue is believed to originate.
In terms of your personal muscle activation work, the crucial time to utilise this is as part of any warm up. With the use of the exercises outlined below and by applying direct pressure to key areas of the body (to reform the ‘mind-muscle connection’ and release tension – routine found in our in-season programme), you’ll do a thorough job at making sure your body is primed to perform.
There are two types of muscle activation:
Selective muscle activation is used to switch on a particular muscle or muscle group, such as the quads. Muscle co-activation is used to switch on more than one muscle or muscle group at the same time, such as the quads and the hamstrings.
Following ‘’RAMP’’ is a good way to structure your warm up, it covers 3 main phases:
The raise portion involves increasing the heart rate, body temperature, respiration rate, blood flow and lubricating the joints.
Muscle activation occurs as part of the ‘activate and mobilise’ phase, this really should form a key part of your preparation before every training session and match. This phase could involve:
There's lots more, but the exercises need to be appropriate to the activity (i.e. a strength training session, football-specific training session or match play).
The final phase is potentiation or priming for performance which involves performing football-specific drills, including plyometrics, reactive agility and multi-directional sprints with various intensities and distances.
Glutes and hamstrings
*When activating glutes and hamstrings, remember to also stretch the hip flexors and the groin muscles.
Bodyweight calf raise
Muscle activation is probably one of the fastest ways to see dramatic improvements in your athleticism with immediate effect. Many players will spend months training for the same increase in strength and force output that can be unlocked in as little as 10 seconds of specialist muscle activation work. Not only that, you can see instant improvements in joint range of movement and release pain and tightness – again, with other training methods progressions like this could take weeks if not months to see. Better still, when you couple the benefits of muscle activation with additional strength and conditioning work you will be gaining a significant edge over your competition.
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Hart, J. M., Pietrosimone, B., Hertel, J., & Ingersoll, C. D. (2010). Quadriceps activation following knee injuries: a systematic review. Journal of athletic training, 45(1), 87-97.
Jakobi, J. M., & Rice, C. L. (2002). Voluntary muscle activation varies with age and muscle group. Journal of Applied Physiology, 93(2), 457-462.
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Katis, A., Giannadakis, E., Kannas, T., Amiridis, I., Kellis, E., & Lees, A. (2013). Mechanisms that influence accuracy of the soccer kick. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 23(1), 125-131.
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