Neuromuscular activation is a term commonly used in physical therapy. The neuromuscular system is a combination of the nervous system (neural) and the muscular system (muscular). In essence, your nerves and muscles working together. Physical therapists know that when doing rehabilitation often times you are working to improve or regain optimal neuromuscular function. And they know that certain exercise provide more neuromuscular activation than others.
But the latest research has shown that neuromuscular activation goes beyond physical therapy. As it turns out, neuromuscular activation is the one factor that determines the effectiveness of exercises for both muscle building and muscle toning.
Your muscles develop because they get stronger, adapting to what you are asking them to do. That is true whether you are working for big muscles or toned muscles. You need stronger muscles to handle the work you are putting them through. What tells your muscles to get stronger is your brain, which communicates with your muscles through your nervous system. Therefore, developing muscle strength is a function of your neuromuscular system.
Since the neuromuscular system is the combination of the nervous and muscular system, the more involvement of each of those systems an exercise requires, the more neuromuscular activation it provides. Therefore there are two ways to affect neuromuscular activation: one is to increase the muscular system involvement. You do that by choosing compound exercises over isolation exercises, since compound exercises engage more muscles. The other is to increase the degree to which your nervous system is involved. And you do that by choosing exercises that require more control, more focus, more involvement of your mind. When you do a compound exercise that also requires the most control and focus, you achieve maximum neuromuscular activation.
The ideal routine, providing maximum neuromuscular activation, should be comprised mostly of compound exercises, using free weight and body weight. But maximum neuromuscular activation can be achieved for different methods of exercises. You can choose free weight exercises that require the most neuromuscular activation, you can choose resistance band exercises that require the most neuromuscular activation, you can even choose the machines that require the most neuromuscular activation.
The higher the degree of neuromuscular activation the more effective the exercise, which makes for faster routines because you don't need several exercises for each muscle group in order to achieve great results and you need fewer sets of each exercise. This also allows you to work out less often because you don't need several workouts to deliver great results. Those routines will give men a strong, solid, naturally muscular and masculine looking body, and give women a toned, feminine, well shaped body.