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6 leg activation exercises to jumpstart your daily workout

For impactful results and to stay injury-free, dedicate the first 15 to 20 minutes of your daily workout time to leg activation exercises

Activation exercises for the lower body are important as it bears a lot of weight and goes through wear and tear (Pexels/Maksim Goncharenok )

By Pulasta Dhar

LAST PUBLISHED 20.01.2024  |  08:00 AM IST

Consistency is the first demand of any fitness journey. Putting in regular work on any kind of workout, over and over again, will eventually pay off. Personally, having been through a fair share of injuries and niggles and fit phases, the last two years for me have been about focussing, as much as possible, on ensuring the body is warmed up and all the muscles activated before any intense physical activity. 

The niggles still happen, but they reduce over time – especially if you play sport, run, and do other heavy lifts, which need your smaller muscles to be primed. And most of these (muscles) are in the foundation of the body – the lower body, which bears a lot of weight and goes through wear and tear even when the body is doing nothing.

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As boring as it may sound, the first 15-20 minutes you dedicate to get this foundation ready are probably the most important part of your workout routine. Here are a few activation exercises I try to do every day before my main routine – for stronger lifts and to help me stay injury-free.

1. Ankle and hips activation: A good way to remember how to do this activation routine is to start right at the bottom – from your feet and ankles. Rocking back and forth from toe to heels is a great start before you continue on to a move popularised by fitness expert Anthony Green (Coach Green on Instagram). In his video (shared below), Green demonstrates how you can increase ankle and hip mobility and shoulder stability with one move. This exercise is done supported on the shoulders and ankles and by pushing the quads past the ankles in a rocking move. The shoulders supporting you add more stability to the all-important joint. 

Watch the demo by Coach Green: https://www.instagram.com/p/Cztwa_DNQmR/

2. Tibialis raises with bands/kettlebells: The tibialis muscle, which is  located at the front of the leg and supports the shin, is probably the most ignored muscle. To work it, attach a band and wrap it around your foot, or hook a kettlebell onto the front of your foot and support the rest of your leg on a bench or a box. Allow the foot to stay suspended with the weight and then pull it up to feel the front of the leg. This is important to avoid shin splints. 

Here’s a demonstration from Marching Fitness: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/_MN8NJSKSCo

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3.Knee stability: A huge part of any warm-up, knee stability can be worked on with a couple of exercises. The first one's again from Anthony Green, who recommends the following exercise for ankle and knee activation. He gets into a half lunge with the weight on the front leg, and does raises, to strengthen the ankle as well as ready the knee for the next exercise. Watch the demo by Coach Green here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CzwABqANEog/

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Once you've got through that, there are many more activations you can use to wake the knee up, including walking backwards (including on a treadmill) and the quarter pistol squat hold with the standing leg on a slightly higher surface, which could be a plate, the edge of a treadmill, or a box. 

The following video is a great example of this move: https://www.instagram.com/p/Cj2TVkArnUC/?img_index=1

4. Adductor raises: The adductor muscles are important for the overall stability of the lower body, and yet, they are injury-prone and tough to fix once injured. The easiest adductor activation is getting into a side lying position and raising the lower leg. You can pair this with ITB (Iliotibial Band) raises before moving the top leg to the front and raising the lower leg as shown in the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhwT35sshrI

5. Curtsy lunges for hips, glutes, and knees: Curtsy lunges are perfect for making sure the glutes, hips and even the knees are ready for your workout. Doing three sets of 10-12 reps on each side makes sure of that. But do them properly, slowly, and without the rush of getting through them. It almost acts as an exercise that's a part of your workout. 

This Mind Pump TV video shows you how to perform this move properly…  the video is worth its three minutes. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MgFup8A_0c 

6. Hamstrings: Finally, to the brakes and accelerators of the body: the hamstrings. The one exercise I do everyday is Shea Pierre’s RDL (Romanian deadlift) with a dumbbell/kettlebell pass. Romanian deadlifts work the lower back, as well and add to balance and stability. The hamstrings have to be warmed up before you start curling them or even run on the treadmill, so this one is an absolute must. The kettlebell pass, where you move the weight from one hand to the other, is an additional challenge. 

Here's a demo of the exercise: https://www.instagram.com/p/CnXBbFTOL8R/?img_index=2

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator, podcaster and writer.

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