Dumbbell Training

and the Truth About Muscle Activation
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I was told by my trainer that my glutes aren’t firing and that I need to perform special exercises before I squat. What’s that about?

Do you have a spinal cord injury? If not, I assume that every time you try to walk, you collapse, because that would happen if your glutes were not firing.

The origin of this glute activation theory probably came from research conducted 50 years ago by the late Dr. Vladimir Janda, a Czech doctor who contributed much to the fields of neurology and physical medicine. Janda used electromyography (EMG) to determine how muscle activa- tion afects posture and back pain. He even designed special balance shoes that he believed would help with glute function.

However, the problem you’re having is probably not related to so-called “muscle firing” issues but simply to weak muscles. One problem with this structural imbalance is that one muscle is forced to work harder to compensate. If the glutes are relatively weak, there’s more stress on the hamstrings, therefore increasing the risk of injury to that area. If the vastus medialis oblique (an inner quad muscle) is weak, this could contribute to the buckling of your knees during running or jumping, which affects performance and increases the risk of injury.

Another issue is that weak muscles can become a weak link in the performance of multijoint lifts. For example, former NHL star Jim McKenzie improved his 14-inch close-grip bench by 51 pounds in three months, from 280 to 331 pounds, by focusing on rotator cuf strength. (My research has found that rotator cuf strength should be about 9.8% of what can be lifted in the close-grip bench press.) In fact, I had McKenzie refrain entirely from FLEX TRAINING benching during this training cycle. With his structural balance restored, I switched McKenzie to a bench press specialization program, and three weeks later he lifted 380 pounds, again using the close grip. It wasn’t a case of muscles not firing but that the muscles that were firing were simply weak.

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