When I was introduced to Kettlebell Exercises in 2003, the very first thing that I learned was a phrase that I now use throughout all of my training practices. That phrase is “Pinch The Quarter”, and refers to increasing glute activation when lifting weight by imagining that you are squeezing a quarter between your buttocks in order to engage those muscles. In addition to engaging the glutes, this visualization allows you to contract the musculature of your entire lower body- from the crest of your hips to the soles of your feet- and apply the force created to every lift you perform.
Later in my Kettlebell lifting career I had the opportunity to attend a couple of Kettlebell specific certifications and was blown away by how much more there was to the visualization of pinching a coin with my butt. In fact, pinching the quarter was merely the beginning. I came back from those courses with many of the tools that I use today to create strength in myself, as well as all of the classes that I teach.
It really is simple. Since childhood we’ve been taught that the seemingly separate parts of our bodies are actually connected to each other, at multiple points, through bone and muscle. In weight lifting this means that if I am performing an action to target one muscle group, the lift will invariably effect, and be effected by, the contraction, or lack there of, in corresponding muscle groups. The key then is to link the various muscle groups into every action, to support the primary movers involved so that they aren’t overstressed, but also so that the supporting muscles themselves are strengthened in the process.
In my time as a trainer I have learned and explored many effective ways to build on radiant compression as a strength skill. Like all other strength skills, the ability to activate more muscle is a feat to be constantly practiced and improved upon. I find Kettlebell Exercises to be my favorite medium for training muscle activation because the design of the Kettlebell makes it so that the lifter acts as the counterbalance, and thus must maintain a level of engagement in the body and mind in order to avoid a constant struggle against gravity. With practice, this counterbalancing ability becomes second nature to the lifter and is easily applied to heavier weight lifts, more difficult body weight exercises, and the physical demands of everyday life.
In part 2, I will go deeper into the concept of enhancing muscle activation and how to apply these techniques to whatever exercise program you are currently involved in. Until then, stay safe in your workouts and remember, if nothing else, to pinch that quarter!