Overcoming Performance Anxiety with Neural Muscle Activation
By Frankie Devitt – iNSPIRE Sports Scientist
Every athlete knows what it’s like to be nervous before a race or competition, but not every athlete knows how to best manage those anxious symptoms. There are some great mental techniques out there, some of which are included in our performance anxiety program, but what are some physical things you can do to calm yourself and/or harness that stressful energy?
Neural Muscle Activation
The process of ‘turning on’ the right muscles for the job! One way you can distract your nervous brain and use that focused energy is to activate the correct muscles for the activity you are about to do. Our body is incredibly clever and will find ways of achieving a movement whether you use the correct muscles or not. Let’s say you are about to pick up a box, the most mechanically correct way of picking up that box would be to use your powerful buttock and thigh muscles by maintaining a neutral spine, and bending at the knees and hips. However, if we were to skip some key muscle activation steps then it is very easy to slip into bending your back, and using the smaller and weaker back muscles.
Depending on what sport or activity you are about to do will determine what activation exercises you do beforehand. Majority of activities require strong buttock and core muscles to maintain an upright posture, therefore it would be beneficial to briefly ‘fire up’ these muscles before your activity so that the pathway from your nervous system to the correct muscles is active. These are some great exercises to do before your activity that will activate your buttock and core muscles. They require considerable concentration so you will need to solely focus on the movement, potentially bringing your attention back to the present, instead of worrying about what might happen during the competition or game:
Exercise 1: Single-leg Glute Bridge
Exercise 2: Double-leg Glute Bridge
Exercise 3: Deadbug