Pre-Workout Activation Exercises - Michaela Keller-Miller

Pre-Workout Activation Exercises - Michaela Keller-Miller

Finn Sisu & US Biathlon athlete Michaela Keller-Miller is back with awesome activation exercises to implement into your pre-workout routine.

Quick Pre-Workout Activation Exercises


While activation exercises are often overlooked, they are a key part of my arsenal the morning of a hard workout, race, or even an easy distance workout. They can either be performed at home before leaving to ski (or run, bike, etc.) or as a brief precursor to your typical warmup routine. The goal is to prime your muscles to handle a heavier load, activate the muscle groups required for good technique and injury prevention, and to increase hip and shoulder mobility. Most of these exercises also double as part of my lifting warmup in the gym, making them very versatile.


The following exercises are a great starting point for creating your own activation routine. Expect these to take between 10-15 minutes in total. Also note that each repetition number is a guideline; the goal is to warm up your muscles, which may take fewer or greater repetitions for you than I’ve suggested.


1. Lunge Hip Mobility: Start in a low “runner’s lunge.” Walk your hands from one side of your front foot, to the front of your foot, and then to the other side of your front foot. Walk your hands back to their starting position, and repeat ~3 times. Switch the leading foot of your runner’s lunge and repeat the same process.


2. Downward Dog with Knee to Elbow Core: Start in a high plank position, moving into downward dog. Reach your right leg up and back, keeping your shoulders square/even to the ground (avoid rotating to one side). Next, reach your right knee to your right elbow, ensuring your hips stay level with your shoulders. Repeat ~5 knee to elbow touches. Switch to left leg knee to elbow touches, and repeat 5 times.


3. Bird-Dogs: Start in a high tabletop position with both knees and hands on the ground. Extend your opposite arm and leg, then regroup your hand or elbow to the opposite knee. Do 5-10 repetitions on each side. Stay stable and keep a flat back by engaging your core and glutes.



4. Full ROM (range of motion) OH (overhead) Squats: Starting in a standing position with your hands at your side, slowly lower your hips and hands to the ground. It is super important for shoulder mobility and back strength to keep your shoulders high and your back as perpendicular to the ground as possible. Your back won’t actually be perpendicular to the ground, but it’s a good cue to keep your shoulders from hinging forward toward the ground.

When your hands reach the ground and you are in a low squat position, raise your hands overhead and return to a standing position. Repeat ~10 times.


5. Glute Bridge: Lay on your back with your heels touching the ground slightly in front of your knees. Lift your hips until a straight downward sloping line has formed between your knees and shoulders. With your core and glutes engaged, alternate lifting each heel off the ground, keeping your knee bent. Focus on keeping your hips high (don’t break your downward sloping line!). Repeat 5-10 times on each side.


6. Scap “Pushups”: Starting in a high plank or pushup position with straight arms, retract and protract your shoulder blades. Each retraction/protraction is one repetition. Repeat ~10 times. It may feel like you’re hardly moving and that’s okay! The movement here is subtle, and the goal is to warmup your shoulders and improve shoulder mobility. As with normal pushups, keep your hips in line with your shoulders.


7. Rotating Side Plank: Starting in a high side plank position, fully rotate from one side to the other, pausing briefly at the center and on each side. Rotate to each side 5-10 times. You can stagger your feet in a high side plank by placing your top foot slightly in front of your bottom foot; this can help with balance.


8. Foam Roll: If any muscles are feeling exceptionally sore, I like to loosen them up quickly with a foam roller. Since I use this routine the morning of a race, I usually keep the foam rolling short, so I don’t unintentionally get more sore from overdoing it.


Happy training,

Michaela Keller-Miller 


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