Being injured so many times in the past I got very interested in posture, technique, muscle mobilising, muscle activating, massage... e.t.c.
When I was last in Thailand I even decided to learn how to give a proper Thai Massage and qualified as a Level 1 Thai Massage Practitioner. I also had a lot of Thai massages and I know that your thinking, no I did not get happy endings... Which to be honest, you are really not thinking about when your in the middle of being twisted and prodded by an elderly Thai lady who seems to possess superhuman strength!
For those of you who have never had a Thai Massage, it is anything but sexy! There is no rubbing of oils into the skin or even removing any clothes! It is a combination of assisted yoga movements and acupressure (like acupuncture but using pressure instead of needles). It is unlike any massage I have had before, and when done right it can be very relaxing releasing some serious tension in the body. I learnt the Ancient Northern Thailand version which takes 2 hours to complete (for the full version) and is a serious workout for the person delivering it! No wonder those Thai ladies are so strong... or maybe they are ladyboys?... So what if I have a massage from a lady boy?
Then there is assisted stretching and 'PNF stretching' , the first time I came across this was on a boat in Egypt. Random! I was on a kitesurfing trip among some serious paradise islands, pulling some big jumps, but after one jump, I landed funny and busted my knee. Fortunately for me, another guy on the boat trip was some kind of specialist in muscle manipulation and told me I was ridiculously tight, which is probably why I hurt my knee in first place, I also had general back pain. Anyway the long and short of it using PNF techniques, he helped me to touch my toes in about 10mins which I had not done for a while! My back pain was also gone, unfortunately, my knee was totally buggered. But since then I have been using these PNF techniques (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation if you were wondering) on friends and clients to great effect, its awesome to see the look of shock on someone's face when they touch their toes for the first time! As I had when I got re-introduced to the them.
Now I am a CrossFit athlete/coach/Thai Massage therapist/ mobility nerd. I have built up a decent toolbox of different techniques which I use to improve posture, reduce pain from niggles, and muscle soreness. Not everything works for everyone but in general, there will be something in my toolbox which can help.
What is 'muscle activation'?
Muscle activation is simply making sure that the muscles you are about to use for a particular movement or workout are 'active', which means that it is firing correctly and working well. The best example of this would be glute activation before a squat. Most of us sit on our glutes (arse) all day at work. This means that they are relaxed all day, therefore before squatting, I will always get my clients to do some glute engagement, I also do it myself before I squat, even if I haven't been on my butt all day. There are various other activations that I will do depending on the exercise, 'butt' that is the crux of what muscle activation is.
This is not simply stretching of muscles but also making sure that the joints have full range of motion before exercising, or at least as full as they can have. For the squat, I would make sure that hips are nice and open and there are no restrictions which might cause form to break or injury.
Prevention is better than cure!
Also do not shy away from the warmup, your warmup should not just consist of light squats to build to heavy squats or three mins of light cardio for a Circuit or CrossFit workout. Instead it should consist of a combination of mobilisation and activation techniques which are specific for what you are about to do. If you have any more specific questions on what to warmup where feel free to message me or comment below.