You might have a stellar plan to achieve your fitness goals, but there’s one key piece that you might have overlooked: and that is this specific tactic.
This tactic seems so simple at first that you might miss it. Or, you might simply take it for granted. But this one tactic is responsible for making a mediocre fitness program great... or a great fitness program lousy.
Today we are going to talk about the "initiation muscle."
Huh? What is that, you might ask.
First, if I asked you “what muscle is used in the bicep curl?“ He would obviously answer the bicep. Pretty simple, right?
Or is it?
Feeling the bicep, and actually initiating movement from the biceps, is the main way that you can get results out of the exercise. Two people can approach the same exercise and get completely different results.
I’ve been noticing this more and more recently with my personal training clients. Just today, I had a client who felt his hip flexors engaging when attempting a glute bridge.
Unfortunately this is completely backwards. Literally 180° opposite of what it should be. The hip flexors are supposed to stretch when performing glute bridges.
Many people initiate the bicep curl with that back, creating a hyperextension in their spine, which in turn allows better leverage to lift the weight. But it hurt the back.
If you are serious about achieving your fitness goals, you want to make it as hard as possible for your muscles, not give them extra advantages.
So instead of constantly trying to add more weight (but cheating the weight up), the goal should be to add more difficulty with the weight you already have. This is creating a stronger mind–muscle connection.
This might sound a little bit airy fairy, but I assure you that it’s very real.
Let’s do a quick test. First, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up toward the ceiling, so that you have a straight line from the knee to the hip, if somebody were watching you from the side. No lower your hips back down
Next, let’s try this another way. Instead of thinking about how high up you need to lift your hips, begin to engage your glute muscles, but not hard enough to actually lift the hips. Next, start to ramp up the intensity that contraction. Keep ramping it up slowly. Think of this as revving your engine while in neutral. You will most likely already feel like this is harder than your first round of glute bridges. If you’re able to engage the glutes enough, you will have lift off. Your hips will come up off the floor.
Which version is better? Doing the first version, you will be able to progress faster, at least in appearance. You will probably soon be able to add weights to your body, and lift those weights up.
Doing the second version, you will struggle and struggle for a long time.
The second version is more accurate. You are not “putting the cart before the horse.“
Here’s what I mean by that. Muscles move bones. If you have it in your head that you need to move your bones and joints to a certain range of motion, then you will use whatever muscles needed to get you there. There’s no internal deliberation, no control.
However, if you think about which muscle you want to engage and strengthen, eventually when that muscle is strong enough, the joint that that muscle is acting upon will move. He will get a truer hip extension that way. Doing the glute bridge the first way produced compensations, meaning you were probably also using your back.
Every single exercise that you have ever done in your entire life can be looked at in this way. Ask yourself which muscles are responsible for initiating and carrying out the motion. Then, engage those muscles slowly, ramping them up, until finally you have lift off.
The satisfaction of exercising this way is amazing. I speak frequently about bringing the experience internal when you are exercising. This is what I mean.
This is the HOW.
Does that make sense? Do you have any questions? Go out and try it, and let me know your results.