Muscle Activation Techniques™(MAT?™) is a specific and unique process for evaluating an individual’s ability to develop efficient muscle contraction(s). The MAT™ premise is that human movement and exercise are fundamental to human health and that a muscle’s health (demonstrated by its 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 subjective complaints and/or the loss of physical capabilities.
The MAT™Certified Specialist is trained and certified to perform several force application techniques to the body. When it has been determined through testing that a muscle has lost its efficient contractile ability, precise forces are applied to restore that muscle’s efficiency.
As muscles are restored to efficient contraction, MAT™uses a system of accountability (checks and balances) to ensure that any increases in motion are accompanied by improvements in muscle contractile efficiency.
For the same reason we inspect our cars before driving and schedule regular maintenance, we need to ensure all parts are working before? driving and make sure the system is functioning optimally in order to avoid a bigger problem. Replacing joints is a much more costly and impactful than replacing an auto part and, just like cars, they never quite work as good as the original. Whether you already suffer from degenerative conditions such as arthritis, are a competitive athlete, or just someone who wants a general sense of wellness and longevity MAT™, can help you prepare for exercise, help you sustain an exercise program and support medical interventions and rehabilitation for certain conditions when deemed appropriate by medical providers.
Most traditional therapies share the belief that if you focus on improving your flexibility/mobility then you will find relief from your muscular discomfort and tightness. Massage therapists often say built up scar tissue is to blame for your tight muscles and attempt to "break it up" through manual deep tissue work. Other therapists commonly use myofascial release or stretching a tight muscle in order to get length back into the tissue. While these therapies certainly have their place and may feel good, they tend to focus on the symptom rather than addressing the underlying cause of it. This may cause symptoms to quickly return and possibly lead to further dysfunction.
MAT™ is based on the premise that muscle tightness is secondary to muscle weakness/inhibition. In other words, it asks, "Why do muscles get tight to begin with?" The primary roles of muscles are to stabilize and move joints. Therefore, if some of them are not doing their job others must then compensate to make up for it. The human body is incredibly smart and adaptable. Therefore, its decision to limit the range of motion of a joint is likely a very purposeful and natural response in order to protect it from entering an in-stable position where it feels vulnerable to harm. A great example of this is standing on ice. When the body recognizes instability it responds with immediate muscle tension and restriction in motion to PROTECT from falling. Once you remove the instability and walk on solid ground again, the tension is released and normal function returns.
It is MAT's stance that forcing a joint past a range of motion where it feels comfortable through passive stretching or manual manipulation is similar to turning off the check engine light in your car rather than investigating the problem. MAT™ "checks the engine" to investigate the problem. Once the problem is addressed, the body will no longer sense the vulnerability to potential injury, resulting in less muscle tension and improved function. Bottom line is that more mobility is only beneficial when muscles can contract on demand and the joint is stable. MAT does not force change. It works WITH the body to make improvements.
A number of factors can lead to muscle inhibition including stress, poor sleep, overuse, under-use, and/or trauma. Life beats us up causing neurological connections to be altered, creating a reaction in the body similar to that of a loose battery cable in your car. Strenuous exercise can also result in inhibition, particularly when a muscle's current threshold for force is exceeded. This is commonly seen in those who frequently compete in sports and high intensity/high volume training. When we ignore warning signs such as soreness and fail to progress in reasonable steps, the body will respond by shutting down. Continued stress on the system without adequate recovery is a recipe for disaster. Eventually the body will force you to stop through pain and/or injury.
Having muscle inhibition/weakness doesn't necessary mean you will not demonstrate impressive strength in the gym. Many professional athletes routinely lift very heavy loads, but demonstrate quite a bit of muscle weakness/inhibition during an MAT™ session. This is because high-level athletes are among the most adaptable humans on the planet and have the ability to compensate better than most. They are also among the most injured due to the frequent and chronic stress of their sport and training. There is typically a high correlation between the level of stress required by a sport and the longevity of an athlete's career. Despite incredibly impressive demonstrations of strength and mobility, gymnasts commonly retire in their early to mid-twenties because their sport requires putting a large amount of force through joints in vulnerable positions.
Even for the average gym goer, exercises, especially those involving movements that involve multiple joints, may reinforce compensation patterns resulting in the strong muscles getting stronger and weak getting weaker. The bigger the discrepancy becomes the more likely injury will occur.
Once symptoms of pain and discomfort are present it is a sign that an issue has already progressed too long. The goal is to avoid this from happening through more informed lifestyle choices and regular "tune ups." Unfortunately, we tend to wait until symptoms become unbearable or until injury occurs to seek answers.
MAT™ does not treat pain. Pain is a symptom that can be much easier masked through the use of medication. MAT™ aims to improve joint stability though a better functioning muscular system. The result of a better functioning muscular system is a higher tolerance to physical stress and less vulnerability to dysfunction that eventually cause discomfort or pain. Pain is something that most people falsely believe is a normal side effect of exercise and aging.
Some common movement screenings include an overhead squat assessment, lunges, or gait analysis. While these screenings are useful in confirming that something is wrong, they are very general and, therefore, provide only general information. The body involves a large amount of interrelated factors that contribute to faulty movements. Simply observing compensation cannot identify the cause of the dysfunction since every individual is different. Two people with similar compensation patterns may have two completely different causes. It is often found that a foot symptom ends up a hip problem, a shoulder symptom to be a trunk problem, a low back problem to be a neck problem, etc. MAT™ is a very specific process that avoids assumptions and absolutes.
How often will vary greatly by individual and is heavily influenced by the client's level of health and lifestyle factors. While MAT™ is an amazing tool nothing can out weigh poor lifestyle choices. Clients who eat well, are less stressed, stay hydrated, get adequate sleep, make appropriate exercise choices, and adhere to the practitioner’s recommendations typically respond much better to treatment. If you are continuing with the activity that contributed to the problem in the first place, it may be wise to discontinue this activity for a period of time and allow the body to heal. Your MAT™ practitioner will discuss what frequency is most appropriate for you. As with exercise, results don't last forever if you stop working out. In order to keep your muscular system functioning optimally we recommend MAT™ as a part of continuing healthy lifestyle.
The Jump-start Program introduces, teaches, and provides professionals within the exercise realm with the ability to assess for positional weaknesses and monitor how the body handles forces relating to exercise prescription. In the Jump-start program, trainers learn specific isometric exercises designed to increase stability through various ranges of motion in the body. Certification requires a written and practical exam with a qualified instructor at the MAT™ headquarters in Denver, CO.
An MAT™ Specialist must complete a 10-month internship, which covers all components of Muscle Activation Techniques™, including muscle function, origin and insertion points, and palpation methods, In depth analysis of gait, function, muscular integration and orthopedic therapy. The internship is more specific in that trainers and therapists learn to assess for isolated weaknesses, learning muscle tests for nearly every muscle in the body. Through a very specific palpation technique (DFAMAT), trainers and therapists will attain the skills to activate every muscle throughout the body, in order to improve their tolerance to handling physical forces while reducing risk to injury. Due to the complexity of the skill set needed to identify every potential muscle weakness in the body, the internship is a much more extensive education process. The MAT™ Certified Specialist exam is required to pass an extensive 2-day written and practical exam with a qualified instructor at the MAT™ headquarters in Denver, CO. Due to the extensive time and educational commitment there are only approximately 1,000 certified specialists worldwide.