Objectives: To evaluate the effect of a gluteal activation warm-up on the performance of an explosive exercise (the high hang pull (HHP)).
Methods: Seventeen professional rugby union players performed one set of three HHPs (with 80% of their one repetition maximum load) following both a control and activation warm-up. Peak electrical activity of the gluteus maximus and medius was quantified using electromyography (EMG). In addition, the kinematics and kinetics of nine players was also recorded using force plate and motion capture technology. These data were analysed using a previously described musculoskeletal model of the right lower limb in order to provide estimates of the muscular force expressed during the movement.
Results: The mean peak EMG activity of the gluteus maximus was significantly lower following the activation warm-up as compared with the control (p<0.05, effect size d=0.30). There were no significant differences in the mean peak estimated forces in gluteus maximus and medius, the quadriceps or hamstrings (p=0.053), although there was a trend towards increased force in gluteus maximus and hamstrings following the activation warm-up. There were no differences between the ground reaction forces following the two warm-ups.
Conclusion: This study suggests that a gluteal activation warm-up may facilitate recruitment of the gluteal musculature by potentiating the glutes in such a way that a smaller neural drive evokes the same or greater force production during movement. This could in turn potentially improve movement quality.
Keywords: Adaptations of skeletal muscle to exercise and altered neuromuscular activity; Assessing physical training modalities in enhancing sports performance; Biomechanics; Exercise rehabilitation; Rugby.