Monday, June 13, 2016

BBA Journal of Sports Performance - Why We Activate

For anyone that has done research or submitted to a journal, knows the amount of time, detail, revisions, and head-ache that goes into writing and researching for a paper.

For those of us who are full-time coaches, it is difficult to find the time and energy to dedicate to this type of consistent research.

With that being said, I do think every S&C coach should strive to produce a real scientific paper and be published by a journal.

There are a couple of reasons for this.
  1. We have access to real, high level athletes -  something a lot of research is missing
  2. Give back and further the education of our field
  3. Appreciating and understanding of how difficult, tedious, and in-depth research can be.  It's a pet peeve of mine when coaches, who have never published research, criticize those that do.  You'll be humbled when you go through this process
While I do enjoy the process and the opportunity to have work published, I also know there are simply not enough hours in the day to get all the data I track published into a journal.

So instead, this is the BBA Journal of Sports Performance.  This will be where I can dump research that we're conducting at BBA, but aren't working to get published into a journal.

With that being said, this work will all be conducted in a scientific manner - clear procedures, proper set-up, data collection, and data analysis.  There will be less detailed introductions and discussions - just want to present the data with a few closing thoughts.

The overall goal is for this data to be more than anecdotal and more than the usual, "We've seen great results from INSERT EXERCISE/TOOL/MODALITY".  Yet, they cannot produce results, a control group, or inferential statistics to validate their claims.

So without further ado, let's go into this BBA Journal Study.



        There is a specific sequence we follow when we warm-up our athletes.  We perform soft-tissue, then alignment, next dynamic warm-up, and finally we finished with an activation period before starting our actual movement practice.  

Today we're going to dive into why we activate at the end of our warm-up.  A lot of athletes and clients wonder why we do these low level "activation" exercises, and this is what we tell them.

          "We activate to deeper engage specific musculature we want to use during our session.  Essentially we want to "wake-up" and learn how to engage and feel these muscles being active"

In our mind it helps establish a pattern, position, and posture for that days workout.  It can also help improve performance, which is an added bonus.  Crow et al. (2012) demonstrated low level gluteal activation resulted in significant improvements in peak power production and vertical jump when compared to a control group (4)

McGill (2010) demonstrated that core training may be beneficial to enhance performance and reduce risk of injury by allowing the trunk and pelvis to transmit forces between the lower and upper body and maintain proper alignment (7)

Mills et al. (2005) looked at a 10-week training program focused on improving lumbo-pelvic stability/activation.  After 10-weeks, the training group improved agility and lower leg power compared to the control group who did not do the lumbo-pelvic training program (8)

Connelly et al. (2006) studied the role of the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius on limbo-pelvic stability, and their results indicate that gluteus maximus may be important in the control of frontal plane stability of the hip on the pelvis, which may lead to reduced lower back pain and enhanced performance (3).

Many others have also shown the higher gluteal activation leads to faster running speed (1,2,5), throwing velocities (9,10), and may help jumping and landing (4,6,11)

Due to these findings, we typically approach our activation to attack a couple of areas.
  1. Glutes/Hips - These are our prime movers and we want them doing their job
  2. Core - Engage our deep core and surrounding core stabilizers
  3. Shoulder Girdle - Even though the activation we used didn't specifically attack this area, we make sure to include plenty of scapular/posterior shoulder work whenever we are doing upper body work or dealing with OH athletes.
  4. CNS Output - We try to cater our activation drills to the specific work we'll be doing on a given day.  This allows us to start ingraining some movement patterns, and increase CNS output.  Often times to further enhance CNS output, we perform a couple of moderate to high plyometric exercises.
  5. Stability on Mobility - Our dynamic warm-up attacks ROM and mobility pretty hard, but with activation we like to add stability to that increased mobility.  So things like the 3-way lunge not only challenge our mobility, but also make us control and be strong in those ranges of motion.


This study included 34 male subjects (age = 17.9 years); 19 College Athletes and 15 High School Athletes.  All subjects had at least 4-months of resistance training experience (avg. = 1.5 years of training experience).


On testing days, subjects went through the same dynamic warm-up which consisted of active mobility and dynamic movements (Appendix A) and then either the activation routine or directly moving onto testing.

On day 1 of trials the College Athletes performed the dynamic warm-up and activation routine (Appendix B).  The High School Athletes performed just the dynamic warm-up. On day 2, these procedures were flipped.

Following the given protocols, subjects were then tested in the broad jump, 10-yard dash, and reverse med ball throw.  Each subject was given 3 trials of each test and all trials were recorded for each athlete.

Subjects were given 1-minute of rest between each trial and 3-minutes of rest between each test.


Overall there were 102 data points (34 subjects x 3 trials) for each WITH activation and WITHOUT (control) for each performance test. Student t-tests were used to assess statistical significance between the different sample means of each group. The significance value was set at p=0.05.

*Statistically Significant


After testing the 3 different qualities, it appears that activation may be beneficial for improving non-cyclical power specific exercises. It, however, did not significantly effect the cyclical performance, the 10-yard dash.

Broad jump improve by over 3cm (+3.5%) and the reverse med ball throw by 17inches (+4.4%), but only improved the 10-yard dash by an average of 0.01seconds (no difference).

A potential reason for our activation series not having the same effects on 10-yard times as compared to the broad jump and reverse med ball throw, is the 10-yard acceleration requires greater amounts of elasticity, coordination, and shorter ground contact times. The 10-yard dash is also cyclical in nature and more technical requirements than the broad jump and reverse med ball throw.  It may also be due to acceleration requiring slightly higher degrees of elastic qualities and more "plyometric" than the standing long jump and reverse med ball throw.  This may call for adding in some low-to-moderate "plyometric" exercises to firing up the CNS and elastic properties of the body.

Given the results, this tested activation series may be beneficial to prime athletes for non-cyclical bouts of powerful performance such as the broad jump, vertical jump, and/or med ball throws.  More research needs to be done to determine weather this increase in performance can be seen in longer sprints and agility performance, which are incredibly important for team sports.

Appendix A: Dynamic Warm-Up

Appendix B: Activation Routine

     - 3-Way Lunge x3ea
     - Glute Bridge x15
     - Bird-Dog x6ea
     - Naughty Dog x10ea
     - Glute March x10ea


1. Bartlett, J. L., Sumner, B., Ellis, R. G., & Kram, R. (2014). Activity and functions of the human gluteal muscles in walking, running, sprinting, and climbing. American journal of physical anthropology, 153(1), 124-131.

2. Brughelli, M., Cronin, J., & Chaouachi, A. (2011). Effects of running velocity on running kinetics and kinematics. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(4), 933-939.

3. Conneely, M., Sullivan, K. O., & Edmondston, S. (2006). Dissection of gluteus maximus and medius with respect to their suggested roles in pelvic and hip stability: implications for rehabilitation?. Physical Therapy in Sport, 7(4), 176-178.

4. Crow, J. F., Buttifant, D., Kearny, S. G., & Hrysomallis, C. (2012). Low load exercises targeting the gluteal muscle group acutely enhance explosive power output in elite athletes. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(2), 438-442.

5. Dorn, T. W., Schache, A. G., & Pandy, M. G. (2012). Muscular strategy shift in human running: dependence of running speed on hip and ankle muscle performance. The Journal of experimental biology, 215(11), 1944-1956. 

6. Hart, J. M., Craig Garrison, J., Casey Kerrigan, D., Palmieri-Smith, R., & Ingersoll, C. D. (2007). Gender differences in gluteus medius muscle activity exist in soccer players performing a forward jump. Research in sports medicine, 15(2), 147-155.

7. McGill, S. (2010). Core training: Evidence translating to better performance and injury prevention. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 32(3), 33-46.

8. Mills, J. D., Taunton, J. E., & Mills, W. A. (2005). The effect of a 10-week training regimen on lumbo-pelvic stability and athletic performance in female athletes: a randomized-controlled trial. Physical Therapy in Sport, 6(2), 60-66.

9. Oliver, G. D. (2014). Relationship between gluteal muscle activation and upper extremity kinematics and kinetics in softball position players. Medical & biological engineering & computing, 52(3), 265-270.

10. Plummer, H. A., & Oliver, G. D. (2014). The relationship between gluteal muscle activation and throwing kinematics in baseball and softball catchers. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(1), 87-96.

11. Zazulak, B. T., Ponce, P. L., Straub, S. J., Medvecky, M. J., Avedisian, L., & Hewett, T. E. (2005). Gender comparison of hip muscle activity during single-leg landing. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 35(5), 292-299.

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