In the fitness industry, “turning on” muscles is a common theme.  Increasing activation of the Gluts or Abdominals may be a goal of the client or the movement specialist.  Getting muscles to “fire more effectively” can be the desired outcome of training or rehabilitation.  The Applied Functional Science approach to these issues is focused on creating three-dimensional movements that subconsciously “teach” the body to activate the target muscles.

When we go about the activities of life, we never consciously activate any muscles.  The task we want to accomplish is selected and our bodies create the appropriate combination of joint motions that result in a successful movement.  If that is a “truth” of how we move, then our training should reflect that truth.  Our programs should not involve conscious activation of muscles, but rather be comprised of task movements that create the joint motions that will activate the muscles.

At the Gray Institute there is a phrase that guides our actions: “Movements create joint motions that activate the proprioceptors that turn on the muscles”.   Knowledge of the Chain Reaction Biomechanics of different activities will allow the selection/design of a movement to create the joint motions in each plane to activate the muscles.  The movement should produce the specific joint motions that lengthen the muscles and other soft tissues. This lengthening creates a mechanical force that stimulates the proprioceptors resulting in muscle activation.

Let’s use the left gluteal muscles as the example.  The gluteal muscles of the left hip cause extension in the sagittal plane, abduction in the frontal plane, and external rotation in the transverse plane.  To lengthen the gluts, the movement should create flexion in the sagittal plane, adduction in the frontal plane, and internal rotation in the transverse plane.  If the movement of lunging is selected, then the left foot lunging anterior creates hip flexion.  The left foot lunging to the right in the frontal plane creates adduction.  The left foot rotational lunge to the right in the transverse plane creates internal rotation.  This is called a “bottom-up” drive because the ground reaction force through the foot and knee creates the motion.

Another strategy is to add to the lengthening and activation by using the arms to create the same three hip motions.  Reaching forward with the arms towards the ground adds to the hip flexion created by the anterior lunge.  With both arms overhead, swinging the arms to the right adds to the hip adduction created by the left foot lunge to the right.  The hip internal rotation created by the transverse plane lunge is increased if the arms are rotated to the left at shoulder height.  In each plane the arms become a “top-down” driver of the left hip.

Two other strategies are: 1. use only the arms to create the hip flexion, adduction, and internal rotation, and 2. to lunge with the right leg to create the same three motions in the left hip (right posterior, right opposite side lateral, right opposite side rotational lunge).  When these two strategies are combined, the global movements of the 3D Movement Analysis and Performance System (3DMAPS) are created.  The six global movements serve not only as the basis of the 3DMAPS Performance System, but they are the foundation of the simple but powerful 3DMAPS Analysis System.

If you want the most efficient approach to turning on muscles with movements consider getting certified in 3DMAPS.