One of the most satisfying feelings in the weight room is getting a good pump in a muscle, especially when it’s a “mirror muscle” like chest and arms. But have you ever felt like maybe the muscles like your back, shoulders and hamstrings don’t seem to get quite as good a pump as the front of your body.
A lot of it may be due to you not being able to see the muscle you’re working, but even more stems from improper mind-muscle connection and using the wrong muscles to lift the weight. Use these tips to release a bound up muscle that’s not activating, mobilize it through a complete range of motion and stabilizing it to use the muscles correctly through a lift.
Muscle Tension Relief
The main problem many lifters face when a muscle is not activating is because of trigger points around the area that are prohibiting the muscle from firing correctly. There are many tools on the market today including smash balls, thera-canes and even a good foam roller.
All of these play a part in relieving muscular stress and flushing out toxins that are bound up around the area. Once this area is rid of all the old blood that was unable to move freely, new blood is then able to move into the area and create better movement and better muscle recruitment.
For body parts that are larger like the back and legs, a foam roller will do the trick to open up tight muscles. For smaller muscle groups like your shoulders and chest, find a smash ball or lacrosse ball (tennis ball can even do the job) and find sore spots within these muscle groups. Once you find a hot spot, stay in the area and slowly move the ball in circular patterns to begin opening up the fascia around the affected area.
Mobilizing The Muscle
With the adhesions now worked out of the muscle itself, it can begin to restore some range of motion and move how it is intended to. Although stretching is everyone’s least favorite gym exercise, this reaps some serious benefits in the long run.
If you’re able to stretch your body into its normal progressive movements, you’ll find better muscle recruitment and activation will come of it. Although just stretching in general will give you some new-found mobility, finding a trainer or online help to encourage you past sticking points will really help with mind-muscle connection as well.
A great tool you can find online is ROMWOD, a daily yoga/stretching trainer that displays a different workout everyday similar to a Crossfit setup. You can also go the free route and just search different mobility routines for your specifically weak areas to improve upon.
Stabilize the Muscle
With the muscle released and range of motion restored, the key to this entire equation is correctly using the muscle to stabilize the muscle itself/joint in a corrected movement.
For example, if your shoulder seems to be a weak link in a lot of pressing movements you first roll out the rotator cuff as well as the pec minor/major to rid all adhesions. You then go through some mobility exercises to stretch out the delts as well as pecs. Now the time comes to dig to the root of the problem which lies more than likely in lower traps not firing and the upper traps working too much.
Incorporating some Y/T/Ws into your routine will help build up strength in the lower traps and force the scapula into a better, neutral position.
This concept applies with all other body parts as well, just do your research as to what to strengthen. Strengthening the muscles is not only a good way to aid in recovery and activation, but it also serves as injury prevention. A strong muscle is a healthy muscle – so keep this in mind!
If you’re unable to make a good contraction within a specific muscle group, don’t just give up or throw around more weight. Strategically release, mobilize and strengthen the surrounding muscles to correctly make an insane mind-muscle connection- making your weak points your strong ones!