To start this article I want to define a few terms first…
Closed Chain Exercise:exercises or movements where the distal aspect of the extremity is fixed to an object that is stationary. **Closed chain exercises are perferred in the lower extremity as they are much more functional in nature**
Muscle Activation: Neuromuscular activation is measured using EMG sensors. These are used to measure the Brain to Muscle Connection.
Developing Neuromuscular Activation can be extremely beneficial for almost everyone. In the rehab setting, many people have inhibited muscles, whether it be from an injury or even inhibited hip flexors from sitting all the day. Muscle activation can also be very important for people who are preparing for training or competition. Performing muscle activation exercise can help “wake up” the muscle and help improve performance while decreasing risk of injury. The beautiful part of Neuromuscular activation exercises is we can expect to see results much more rapidly than strength gains. These can also be used as a precursor to strengthening exercises and act as a primer. However, we should understand the limitations. Many times, but not always, exercises aimed at neuromuscular activation are not effective at improving strength or building muscle. In this article I chose a list of exercises that will not only help activate muscles but also improve strength and hypertrophy.
All these exercise and ranking were determined from a recently published Systematic review, “Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review.”
#7: Traditional Deadlifts
#6: Single Leg Squats
“If you want to activate, strengthen or make your booty bigger, squats will be in the exercise prescription. The only question will be which variation of the squat will you want to implement. In biomechanical theory front squats will challenge the glutes more as it will put our center of mass more forward, creating greater torque at the glute. However in practical terms the front squat keeps us in a more upright torso position, which will work our quads more compared to our glutes. Meanwhile, a back squat many times causes a more hip hinge movement, leading to torso flexion putting greater strain on our glutes.”