Introduction to Activation Exercise:

By Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, COMT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, H/FS


  • Isolated* Activation Technique/Exercise - A single-joint movement pattern (most often) designed to load a specific under-active muscle(s), while minimizing the contribution of over-active synergists via specific cues/joint motions.
  • Reactive Activation Techniques - When possible, these exercises start at the end range (or shortened position) used during isolated activation with special attention given to cues for inhibiting overactive synergists. The under-active muscle is challenged to eccentrically decelerate one's own body-weight or a medicine ball, through a full range of motion at a relatively high velocity, followed by stabilization with optimal posture (a hold of 3 - 5 seconds).

*Isolation is best thought of as a relative term.  That is, these techniques "isolate" the target muscles as much as possible considering the involved joint action and surrounding/synergistic muscles.

Dr. Brookbush instructs model, Melissa Ruiz, on a regression of the techniques used for serratus <a id=Anterior activation"> Serratus Anterior Activation

What muscles should we activate?

Movement assessment should guide exercise and technique selection when building a routine/program designed to enhance the quality of human movement, reduce symptoms