Many of us rely on caffeine to jumpstart our days. Jim Vance, a San Diego-based coach and author of the book Triathlon 2.0, says that for triathletes, activation drills serve a similar purpose by waking up muscles prior to a workout or race.
“It’s basically like having a cup of coffee, making sure the body and mind are awake and attentive and ready to perform,” he says.
Activation drills are a far cry from old- school static stretching routines. These new drills are designed to activate your nervous system, increase range of motion, and prepare your body for competition.
“The main purpose is to wake up the body and clear the pathway for the message to transfer from the brain to the muscles to make movements faster and more effective,” Vance says.
The following are some of Vance’s favorite neuromuscular activation drills to employ prior to any warmup. The whole routine should take less than 10 minutes.
One-Leg Balance + Leg Extension
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a slight bend in your left leg, lift your right foot forward, extending the leg and pointing your toe. Engage the quad and hold.
One-Leg Balance + High-Knee Lift
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your left leg slightly bent. Lift your right knee until your quad is parallel with the ground. Engage your right leg’s hamstring and quad, and hold for five seconds. Do the same on the other side; repeat twice on each leg.
With your feet a few inches apart, raise up onto your toes while engaging your calf muscles. Hold, and then slowly lower your heels back to the ground. Repeat 10 times.
Bending forward from the waist, pick your right leg up off the ground and extend it behind your body while engaging your glutes and hamstrings. Extend your arms to your sides for balance, and have your head and shoulders up as you hold for five seconds. Do the same on the other leg; repeat on each side.
Front Leg Swings
Stand on your left foot and carefully pick your right foot off the ground to swing it front to back. Keep the toe pointed forward and swing the leg for 15 seconds before switching sides.