What Is Muscle Activation?
The Answer To Muscle Activation Is In Our Techniques
Modalities across the health and wellness industry claim to “activate muscles.” The techniques within our process can definitively assess if a muscle is activated.
MAT Practitioners are able to assess an individual client’s neuromuscular function by performing a series of mobility tests and then correlating the limitations in range of motion (ROM) with muscle tests that can identify which specific muscles are not contracting efficiently.
Once a muscle weakness is identified, MAT Practitioners are trained to precisely “Activate” each muscle weakness through either isometric contractions or specific force application to the origin and insertion points of the affected muscle.
Clients report that their original symptoms greatly decrease after MAT sessions because the Practitioner worked to re-establish and strengthen the connections between the nervous system and the muscular system.
Imagine: Picking up your grandkids with ease, throwing a football with your son without difficulty, or walking downstairs to say Good Morning to a loved one without pain. MAT can improve your quality of life by giving you the freedom and joy in getting you back to doing what you love!
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What is Neurological Muscle Dysfunction And How Does MAT Address It?
MAT Recognizes That Inflammation Can Create Neurological Weakness
Stress, trauma, and overuse and the resultant inflammation can alter the communication between the nervous system and the muscle system. This altered communication is what creates neurological weaknesses. In these situations, muscles lose their ability to contract efficiently, where they can no longer contract on demand, in order to stabilize joints and protect the body from injury. From an MAT perspective we would consider these muscles to be “inhibited”.
The goal of MAT is to “activate” the inhibited muscles through muscle specific isometric contractions or manual stimulation at the origin and insertion of the associated muscle(s).
Once the inhibited muscles are activated, they are able to contract more efficiently, enabling the muscles to withstand greater amounts of external force which allows the muscles to protect the body from pain or injury.
From a MAT perspective, when we see these neurological weaknesses, MAT looks at it as a communication issue rather than a strength issue. The goal of the MAT assessment is to identify positions where a muscle cannot contract on demand and/or sustain a contraction for a specific amount of time.
Therefore, the muscle testing involved in the MAT assessment process are not designed to evaluate the strength of the muscle. The MAT muscle tests are unique in that they are designed to determine whether muscles can contract on demand and sustain the contraction.
Many modalities Claim To “Activate Muscles” How do you know if muscles have actually been activated?
MAT utilizes manual muscle testing in order to determine if muscles are inhibited and if they need to be activated. When it has been determined through muscle testing that a muscle is inhibited, the next step in the MAT process is to activate those muscles through either muscle specific isometric contractions or manual palpation at the origin and insertion of the associated muscle. Once this activation technique has been performed, then the MAT practitioner will retest the associated muscle in order to determine if the activation technique actually worked. This form of checks and balances is the only way to really determine if a muscle is inhibited, then if inhibited, it enables the practitioner to determine if the activation technique worked
A System Of Checks And Balances
When there is muscle inhibition, where muscles are unable to contract efficiently, the associated muscles are unable to contract through their full Range Of Motion (ROM). Due to this, the opposite muscles demonstrate a greater amount of tension, therefore showing up as being “tight”. Since muscle tightness is a sign of muscle weakness, MAT uses specific ROM assessments in order to determine where muscle weaknesses exist.
MAT is a systematic process that utilizes a checks and balances system for evaluating an individual’s ability to develop efficient muscle contraction(s) by first comparing left and right-side range of motion through a specific movement pattern.
Given that the human body is designed to be symmetrical, if a motion is determined to be asymmetrical (one limb has a greater range of motion than the opposite limb) then we know that one or more muscles that moves the less mobile limb into that movement pattern has a potentially weakened neuromuscular connection.
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How Does MAT Re-Establish Optimal Muscle Function?
When the muscles have a strong neurological connection, there is an increase in muscle spindle sensitivity. With increased spindle sensitivity, the associated muscle is able to contract efficiently in order to tolerate greater amounts of force and protect the body from injury.
It is important to note that there is an inverse relationship between mechanoreception and nociception. Therefore, when the sensitivity of the muscle spindle (mechanoreceptor) decreases due inflammation, the sensitivity of the nociceptors (pain receptors) increase. Thus, when there is muscle inhibition, it takes less physical stress to create a pain response. Once muscles are activated, the result is an increase in muscle spindle sensitivity and a decrease in nociceptor sensitivity.
While we do not directly treat pain, we understand that by improving muscle function, we can reduce pain, and that is the goal of MAT.
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Frequently Asked Questions
MAT was founded on the principle that human movement and exercise are fundamental to human health and that a muscle’s ability to contract efficiently is important for normal movement. Any loss of muscle contraction efficiency may be demonstrated as a loss of motion and decreased physical performance, which may lead to pain and/or the loss of physical capabilities.
MAT® is a specific and unique process for evaluating an individual’s ability to develop efficient muscle contraction(s) by first comparing left and right side range of motion, as the human body is designed to be symmetrical.
If a movement is determined to be asymmetrical (i.e. one limb has a greater range of motion than then opposite limb) as determined by the Comparative Assessment of Mobility or CAM, then we know that one or more muscles that moves the less mobile limb is potentially weak. The muscles that are responsible for moving the limb further are then assessed by the MAT® Specialist to determine if they have lost the ability to contract efficiently.
When it has been determined through testing that a muscle has lost its ability to contract, then precise forces are applied to restore that muscle’s efficiency, re-activating that muscle. As muscles are restored to efficient contraction, MAT® uses a system of accountability (checks and balances) to ensure that any increases in motion and symmetry are accompanied by improvements in a muscle’s contractile ability.
Actually yes! MAT is a precise and focused exercise process that can be used as an adjunct to any number of other exercise processes. MAT can help an individual prepare for exercise, help someone sustain an exercise program and support rehabilitation for certain conditions when deemed appropriate by medical providers.
MAT does not force change on the body but instead works with it to make improvements, causing changes in motion via improvements in muscle contraction. An MAT specialist listens to your body’s responses and changes their treatment decisions based on these responses. Each client is treated as an individual with their own muscular weaknesses and compensation patterns. Therefore, no treatment session is ever the same.
MAT does not diagnose or treat pathology, but works to improve a muscle’s contractile capabilities and the resulting range of motion and strength of that muscle/limb. By improving these aspects, a person will see an increased ability for exercise and physical performance.
MAT differentiates itself from other techniques because it never attempts to directly lengthen or change the muscle by stretching, heating, kneading, or foam rolling. MAT is not trying to “relax” muscle, but instead tries to “activate” the muscle, so that your body is better prepared to handle the forces that come from exercise and every day movements.
The first and major indication is that something may not feel right. This can be seen as joint pain, muscle tension or instability of a joint, or in other words tight hamstrings, tight lower back, shin splints, aching knees, or a hyper-extended joint. Any feelings of pain or tightness can be signs of possible muscle weakness.
Yes! MAT is an exercise-based process and research on exercise and its ability to improve health is well established. It is acknowledged that muscles are designed to stabilize the joints, so any improvement in muscle function may prevent the loss of physical performance often associated with arthritis and aging.
Many times a loss in muscle mass, or sarcopenia, is seen with aging. Because MAT ensures that each muscle is receiving a signal to contract, when you exercise with load, your body will now have the ability to maintain or gain muscle mass, thus reducing or eliminating sarcopenia. This can also reduce joint stresses that lead to, or exacerbate, arthritic conditions.
MAT is a technique that helps athletes recover from competitive stress quickly and help them prevent future injuries. MAT prepares the body to be more efficient in training and athletic performance. In order to reach optimal performance capabilities, an athlete is forced to train at high intensity levels. Because of this, there is always the risk for injury. Some athletes may be predisposed to an injury, due to muscular contraction inefficiencies that place increased stress on joints and tissues. When training at a high level, these inefficiencies are magnified, and sometimes the body can no longer handle the stress, eventually breaking down. It is like driving a car with bad alignment. The faster you drive it, the faster the tires are going to wear out. The body functions in much the same way.
The goal of MAT is to address the weakness before an injury occurs. Conventional therapy will typically treat the symptom, but the cause of the problem is typically left unaddressed. The end result is that the athlete does not heal, or they go on to experience repetitive injuries, or a more severe injury. MAT not only helps to prevent injuries, but it can also assist a rehabilitation process. By balancing the muscular system, MAT® provides an improved environment for restoring physical performance. This allows the athlete to return to sport sooner with improved athletic capabilities.
The answer is – maybe. If you have muscles that have been weakened due to prolonged stress or sudden trauma, then moving them into a position of vulnerability (contraction) may result in other muscles taking over or compensating. This leads to the weak muscles staying weak and the strong muscles getting stronger. This can lead to joint deterioration and chronic problems like tendonitis and arthritis due to imbalanced forces acting on the joint. The best course of action is to properly assess which specific motions are limited and which muscles are weakened and then to take a course of action to improve your muscle function.
MAT can tell you which muscles are weak, and then give you the tools to improve these weaknesses, so that you can get back to participating in the sports/activities that you enjoy from a position of strength.
How do I determine for myself which muscles are creating the tightness, discomfort or loss of physical performance in my body?
We recommend that you visit a qualified MAT Specialist and have him or her do a thorough assessment. A MAT Specialist is highly skilled and trained with over 300 individual muscle tests to determine not only which muscles may be weakened, but also which specific fibers of these muscles needs activation. Check out our Find A Practitioner page to locate a certified Specialist near you.