TURNING ON THE MACHINE (AND THE ART OF ACTIVATION)

Our body is machine.

Just like a car, it runs on fuel, needs maintenance once in a while or else it breaks down, and has a set speed it can achieve. It also has buttons that you can push (like cruise control) that help make the trip easier and more efficient.

These buttons (or switches), in our own machine, dictate how well we are able to move and often mean the difference between pain and non-pain.

If we can turn on these buttons, we can turn back on the machine.

With this, we’ll be [once again] cruising.

 

THE 3 BUTTONS

  1. The glutes (booty)
  2. The scapulae (shoulder blades)
  3. The vmos (inner part of thigh next to knee)

In almost all people, these areas of the body will be turned OFF. When left off, other areas of our body will need to be turned ON to compensate. With time and practice, these buttons (or switches) that are always on will eventually fail. Just like you can only leave a light on so long before it burns out, the same is so of the muscles and joints we use.

If we can learn to turn on other areas of our body, however, we will be able to give these “overused, always on” ones a break. With this, we can prevent and/or fix dysfunctions (and the pain that follows.).

THE GLUTES.

The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body (as well as one of the strongest). Sadly, however, in a lot of us it has become inactive. Due to large amounts of sitting, the glutes have shut OFF while the hip flexors have been [chronically] switched ON.

In order to correct this imbalance and get our glutes back in the ballgame, we first have to shut off the hip flexors.

This is how it goes for a lot of muscle and joint relationships. First find the tight, overactive, and weak area and shut it off by stretching and lengthening it. Then, and only then, activate (through focus and repetition) the area you want to turn on.

Step 1: Hip Flexor Stretching

 

Step 2: Glute Activation

 

THE SCAPULAE.

In Warmup or Die,  I briefly went over stability-mobility continuum and how in order for our shoulders to be healthy and do their job (mobility), then our shoulder blades have to first do their job (stability).

Another way to think of this shoulder – scapula relationship is to imagine trying to jump or run in a sand pit. Our mobility will be severely lacking because the surface is just not stable enough for us to produce any real movement.

So in order to be mobile, we need stability. When that stability is lacking in the scapula, the shoulder is more likely to pinch and rub against structures (which leads to weakness and pain).

And just like we lose connection with our butt because the hip flexors are always on, we lose connection with our shoulder blades because the muscles that contribute to thoracic flexion (ie computer posture) never get a break.

So first, we must turn off the “poor posture” muscles. For this, we look towards doing the opposite movement.

Step 1: Thoracic Extension.

 

Step 2: Activate Scapulae

 

THE VMOS.

The VMO (or Vastus Medialis Obliques) is a small “tear drop” thigh muscle located right inside the knee. It plays an important role in correct patellar tracking and prevention of patellofemoral joint syndrome (pain below the knee).

When it’s OFF and the muscles on the outside of the leg are ON, the knee tends to get pulled out of its little home. When this happens, so does grinding, clicks, and pain.

The solution, once again, is to ease the tension of the outside leg muscles (by lengthening) and using activation techniques to get the vmo back in the ballgame.

Step 1: IT Band/ Quad Foam Rolling

 

Step 2: VMO Activation

 

SOME TIPS

So with flipping the switch on those 3 muscles, you’ll be well on your way to Beast Mode (as well as cleaning up some pain and dysfunction in the process). If you are still having a tough time with this, here are some ideas and tips that may help:

– This turning ON and OFF of muscles and joints – while you can do this in one session – will not stay like this.  It will take daily practice, preferably twice a day for weeks before you can get your glutes or your scapulae to stay ON.

– You know a muscle is activated and working when you can feel it (if you are doing high reps, you should be able to feel the rush of blood to that area).

– Glutes are an athletes best friend as they are used for almost every big movement. Become friends with deadlifts, squats, pressing, and sprinting.

– It is possible to have chronically ON glutes and scapulae that can cause their own problems. Only athletes, however, will have to worry about this.

– Research and read about the intricate details of the stretching, mobility, and activation drills you will be doing. Watching videos is a part of learning but you may gloss over something important (like flexing your glutes during all hip flexor stretches).

– VMO strengthening isn’t sexy by any means. Here is a fun exercise though.