Under-active muscles often lead to poor posture and problems with normal movement. Sitting for long periods hunched over your computer is the main culprit of under-active muscles. Exercisers with under-active muscles find it hard to participate in sports and experience decreases in their workout performance. In order to restore optimal movement you'll need to understand which muscles are under-active and how to awaken these hibernating muscles.
Don't Sit On Your Glutes, Activate Them
Gluteal amnesia, a term coined by Stuart McGill, PhD, is a fancy way of saying, your brain forgot how to activate your butt muscles. People who sit for long periods often have some degree of under-active gluteals. To activate the gluteals, perform the body-weight hip bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Push through your heels to lift the hips off the floor. In the top position, you should have a straight line between your knees and shoulders with no sagging in the hips. Consciously squeeze your glutes in the top position for two seconds before lowering to the floor. Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions. Perform the hip bridge two to three days per week on nonconsecutive days.
Rev Up those Rhomboids
Your rhomboid muscles play an important role in posture. If you work long hours sitting at a computer or doing paperwork you probably have under-active rhomboids. To activate the rhomboids and improve your posture, perform the scapular wall slide. Stand with your heels, butt and shoulders touching a wall. Raise your arms so your upper arms are parallel to the floor and the back of your hands are touching the wall. While maintaining contact between the back of your hands and the wall, slide your arms upward until they are extended overhead. Lower your arms to the start position and repeat. You should feel the burn in-between your shoulder blades throughout the exercise. Complete three sets of 12 repetitions. Perform scapular wall slides two to three days per week on nonconsecutive days.
Your Feet Have Muscles Too, Ya' Know
Your feet are loaded with small muscles that have a significant impact on movement. Unfortunately, many of the muscles in the feet remain inactive because of the stiff shoes you wear. Shoes with stiff soles provide a ton of support for the foot, which allows these small muscles to pack up and go on vacation. To activate the muscles of your foot, take off your shoes and move. Strip the shoes and perform light hops, jumping jacks and calf raises. Barefoot jogging can be effective if you have access to an indoor track. Perform light exercise without shoes two to five days per week. Avoid barefoot exercise if your environment does not permit, such as outdoor running or a crowded weight room.
Tips and Considerations
To prevent developing inactive muscles, stand up and move around every few hours during the day. Taking frequent stretch breaks has been shown to decrease work-related muscle issues. To gain a complete understanding of your specific inactive muscles, undergo a movement analysis with a physical therapist or qualified professional.
Paul J. Fabritz is the founder of PJF Performance LLC, a fitness company based in Tempe, Ariz. Fabritz specializes in athletic performance enhancement, and is certified through the NSCA-CPT, ACE and FMS.