Tip: Activate These Muscles Before Heavy Lifting

Here's a quick way to fire up the right muscles so you can lift more weight and protect your back.


The Key is Core Activation

Being able to brace properly is essential for heavy lifting and preventing injury. Doing core activation movements before your main lifts will allow for a better transfer of force and even help protect your back.

Planks, side planks, sit-ups, and hollow-body holds can do the job, but it can take a while to feel the movement, and they don't train you to brace through dynamic movement.

This is where a combination of the Pallof press and squat comes in. Although it doesn't look difficult at a glance, give it a shot and you'll be amazed at how it lights up your core.

The Pallof press is an anti-rotation exercise. Adding a squat to it while maintaining tension on the band takes it to a whole new level. This move trains your core to stabilize your lower back for the entire duration of the squat.

It's a great way to safely squat while using offset loading. Doing this move for both sides will help decrease muscular imbalances and minimize hip shifting when squatting heavy weight.

  1. Hold the band near your chest. Then, with bent elbows, step away from the band's anchor until you feel tension on the band.
  2. Press your arms out in front so you feel your core activate.
  3. Take a deep breath and squat to depth while keeping your arms straight.
  4. Pause for a couple seconds at the bottom and don't let your hips or torso shift.
  5. Stand back up slowly and without rotating any part of your body.

Make sure you drive your hips forward fully so that you have no anterior pelvic tilt in the standing position.

Only do about 3-5 reps per side, focusing on form. Make sure you've got a solid pause and braced core. Use a light band so your body doesn't compensate into unnatural or awkward positions when you squat.

TJ Kuster is a certified athletic trainer (ATC) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), specializing in mobility and injury prevention. He coaches at Method Sports Performance in Bloomington, IL.