Activation exercises are all about giving you more bang for your workout buck. They are designed to enhance the communication between your neurology and your muscles, which is why it’s also called neuromuscular activation (or pre-activation). To put it simply: activation exercises turn on the right muscles so that they fire optimally when you need them to.

Why Activation Exercises Are Important

Now you know how doing activation exercises turn on the right muscles, but what does that really mean? Why should you take that extra time to bother doing them at all? Those are valid questions, let’s answer with an example:

A lot of people are weak in their glutes, which means that when they do exercises like squats and deadlifts, the glutes just don’t fire as well as they should. This is terrible news if you want to maximize your assets and build sexy curves.

Now, it’s true that we have a special love for glute activation, because honestly, who doesn’t want an amazing booty? But combine weak glutes with tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings from sitting down most of the day, and when it comes time to drop it like a squat: it’s more like a glute fizzle than the bonfire you’d hoped for.

And it’s not just your glutes, it’s your abs, it’s your legs, etc…

So what do you do? Well, stretching (dynamic and static) is one big piece of the puzzle (e.g. stretching tight hip flexors) and the other big piece is, you guessed it: activation exercises!

How To Do Activation Exercises

One of the great things about activation exercises is that they don’t take much time, just a few minutes max, so you can easily fit them into your warm up. They’re also simple to do and most don’t require any equipment.

Here are a few pointers:

  • You only need to spend a few minutes doing them.
  • Per exercise: 1 or 2 sets of 10 – 15 reps.
  • Use a slow tempo; squeeze at the top.
  • Make sure you really focus on the mind-body connection. Put your full attention on the muscle you’re activating.
  • Get a resistance band (optional). A resistance band is an awesome way to step your activation exercises up a notch.

Remember these exercises are not meant to be taxing, that’s what your workout is for, but rather they’re designed to get the signals between your nervous system and your muscles firing effectively. Think of it as waking the muscles up.

Muscle Group Activation Exercises

The idea is not to do all the exercises; pick two of them (per body part) and do 1 – 2 sets of 10 – 15 reps.


Isometric Chest Press


Band Extension

Band Reverse Fly



Floor Pulls

Inverted Row

Towel Row

Band Pulldowns

Band Pullovers


Wall Angels

Serratus Push-up

Plank Shoulder Taps

Band Pullaparts

Shoulder W’s


Diamond Push-ups

Pillar Bridge

Jumping Pull-up



Criss Cross

Alternate Leg Lift

Stomach Vacuum (Transverse abdominis)



Single Leg Squats

Box Jumps

Walking Lunges

Hamstring & Glutes

Glute Bridge

Single Leg Bridge

Bird Dog

Quadruped Hip Extension

Fire Hydrant

Side Clam

Glute Activation with Resistance Band

Remember to stretch your hip flexors after your workouts if you want to get even better results from exercises which hit your glutes.

Are you using activation exercises? Let us know in the comment section below!

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