What is Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT)?
Interested in becoming certified in Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT®)? Discover, what MAT is, how it works, who it is for, and the benefits of Muscle Activation Techniques for your career and clients.
Muscle Activation Techniques, or MAT, is a system used by trained professionals in the physical health, fitness, and wellness industries to help assess muscle strength, stability, and mobility.
MAT is also used to help increase contractile capability in muscles that are not “firing” (contracting) efficiently, therefore creating loss of motion within a body movement. This loss of motion can wreak havoc on the body, creating an environment for potential injury.
When the body senses instability, the muscles responsible for the movement pattern tighten to protect itself from injury.
A relatively relatable example of this is sitting in an office chair for 8-10 hours a day, this may lead to tightness in the lower back due to hip flexion weakness. By forcing your body in a hip flexed position by sitting for so long, muscles on the other side of the axis, i.e. back extensors, glutes, and hamstrings, will tighten in an attempt to protect your system.
Greg Roskopf, Founder of MAT, likes to use the example of walking on ice, “When we walk on ice we have limitations in range of motion because your body is protecting itself. The natural neurological response is that when the body senses instability it tightens up as a protective mechanism. When you provide a sense of stability the body will give you all the mobility in the world; therefore, once the ice melts, your body has stability again and the protective mechanism goes away”. Muscle Activation Techniques was designed to help address and correct these muscular imbalances that affect people of all ages and lifestyles.
About the Modality
MAT is a hands-on modality used as a tool by Certified Specialists in a personalized client session to help strengthen the connection within inflicted muscles that are affecting a client’s movement. This is done by helping enhance the neurofeedback communication between the brain and the muscles that are failing to subconsciously contract on demand.
MAT is useful in physical rehabilitation because it targets and specifically strengthens muscles that may have been affected negatively due to stress, trauma, or overuse, thus causing impaired connection and reduced functionality.
When speaking about “weakness” or “strength” in relation to muscles and MAT, we are referring to the neurological response and reaction that the muscle has when contracting on demand. For instance, when a muscle is “weak”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the muscle is weak in the classical or traditional sense, we mean that the muscle was unable to perform appropriately when tested with its respected muscle test (i.e. failing to contract efficiently).
MAT can be utilized in the physical fitness and wellness professions as a "checks and balances system" to help reduce joint injuries relating to instability and overuse. The goal of a MAT Specialist is to maintain or even increase range of motion and create stability throughout the body. When the muscles are properly firing, the body feels stable, therefore creating more mobility.
It should be noted that Muscle Activation Techniques requires certification training to safely practice and apply. Learn More Here!
How does MAT work?
Muscle Activation Techniques is a holistic approach that was designed to deal with the unique musculature of people on an individual basis instead of grouping clients based on generalities.
Given that each client has a different background (relating to past life experiences, injuries, stress levels, etc.), body structure (relating to height, weight, bone structure, etc.), abilities (i.e. a professional athlete vs an average adult), and age, it is best not to assume they will each require the same attention or have the same muscular imbalances.
MAT is a technique that is intended to be a much more personalized solution to a client’s body issues and goals. This kind of close attention to the unique details of each client's body and lifestyle helps ensure that MAT is both highly efficient and effective.
Determining someone's abilities and areas of focus on a person-to-person basis achieves the goal of creating a truly lasting impact on their health and well-being. A Muscle Activation Techniques session begins by assessing the abilities of a client’s muscles to find where there are limitations in ranges of motion.
Greg Roskopf, founder and developer of MAT always says,
“I want to know what you can’t do, because what you can’t do, is a clue to what’s breaking you down”.
After the Specialist understands where the client is experiencing muscular imbalances, they work to regain that connection by preforming a DFAMAT (muscle-specific force to the insertion point and bony landmark of that inflicted muscle).
MAT Assessment Process
The process begins by understanding each person's starting capabilities, challenges, what they are hoping to achieve, and any issues they might be having.
The first session will likely include a basic explanation and discussion to see if the client is having specific issues they need addressed. This part of the assessment will also help the MAT Practitioner (who may also be a personal trainer, chiropractor, physical therapist, or other licensed and certified professional) get an idea about what kind of activities the client frequently engage in that might be relevant to their muscular issues or strength building goals. This will be when you, the MAT Specialist, will ask about any injuries the client may have sustained (both recently or in the past) and conditions they may have that could have an effect on their muscular system.
It is important to note that MAT Practitioners do NOT treat pain, pain reduction is a potential benefit with implementing the modality regularly into the client's health and wellness plan.
The physical assessment of each client is equally as important. An MAT Specialist will complete a series of CAMs® (Comparative Assessment of Mobility®) in order to find what motions are limited and indicate specific muscular weaknesses. Sometimes the source of a weakness or tightness is not immediately apparent.
The Muscle Activation Techniques certification modules explain how different muscles affect joint movements, tissues, and other muscles surrounding them and how compensations through movement can cause significant limitations in motion.
Knowing the relationship between muscles and movement helps to address the muscle system’s role in chronic pain and understand the source of the issue in order to help bring back motion.
MAT Session Overview
Informed, insightful decisions will need to be made about how to best address any issues that have been identified once the assessment has been completed.
For example, if the client is having muscular pain or discomfort around a specific joint it may be due to overuse or compensation in relation to the muscles surrounding that joint. If one of the muscles stabilizing the joint is weak or failing to contract on demand, other muscles will automatically step in and help to make sure that the joint is stable and secure.
Over time, this means that the compensating muscles get overworked with the additional load-bearing that they weren’t designed for, while the weak muscles continue to not contribute due to the original loss in neuromuscular feedback.
Once the problem is recognized through the assessment and addressed using MAT, the client can get back to doing what they love! The improving strength of the weaker muscles will automatically provide increasing relief to the ones being overexerted.
Implementation of MAT
Implementation varies widely on a case-by-case basis because everyone needs a different approach.
MAT is a non-invasive technique and the sessions are meant to facilitate the connectivity of weakened muscles, so frequency can often be key regardless of the client's situation coming in. Clients come in more frequently at first and then come in on a maintenance-based timeline depending on their individual needs.
Restoring full strength and connection to a weak, injured, or failing muscle is crucial to recovery, but also for avoiding future injury.
Who is MAT for?
Muscle Activation Techniques is a modality that can be beneficial to everyone.
MAT helps increase stability and range of motion in healthy people who are hoping to simply improve their health or physical fitness. It is also used to help improve the ease of movement and overall balance of those who have mobility limitations, tenancies toward certain muscular weaknesses or have been injured.
It doesn't matter whether a client is someone hoping to get the absolute most out of their workouts at the gym or someone who needs help with a mobility issue they have been having that restricts them from having a full life. MAT can be beneficial to everyone.
It is customized to expand the boundaries of the current abilities and help combat the individual’s body imbalances to increase their quality of life.
What are the Benefits of MAT?
MAT has been shown to help make significant progress in a client’s recovery from injury by helping reduce inflammation throughout the body and creating a prime environment for healing due to the increase in stability. However, there are more lasting benefits that make it an appealing practice beyond the rehabilitation benefits.
Wellness and fitness industries are incorporating MAT into their professions because it is a great way to safely enhance and optimize their clients' physical performances on an individual level.
Let's take a quick look at some of the ways Muscle Activation Techniques play a role in healthy movement for all people of all ages and abilities:
“I am a Stage 3 Prostate Cancer survivor and was in a lot of pain. I had 44 radiations and been on hormones for a couple of years…reactions I had were frozen shoulder, frozen left wrist, and could only rotate about 5 degrees. So I started with other therapists…and still felt that I wasn’t getting enough movement with that so I was open to exploring doing MAT…I also have an acute complex tear of the left medial meniscus and plantar fasciitis in my feet…I would also like to say, why would I need to have more expense if you’re having all those helpers and the reason is that I wanted to walk, play a little golf, and also play with my grandkids.” – Tom H., MAT Client
“I had a lot of hip surgeries in the past few years and I have had many complications. It was at the point where it was obvious that I wasn’t going to walk by myself ever again and I hadn’t for several years. I was moving like a robot when I came in and then after my first appointment I started moving much better. Within a few weeks, I was able to walk by myself and now I can do all sorts of stuff like rock climb, I can run, play basketball, all the normal stuff everyone else can do now.” – Katie P., MAT Client
“I went to see him because I had some soft tissue muscle problems and I went through their Muscle Activation Techniques program and got my muscles all firing…everything feels really good, I had my healthiest season last year and I worked out with him again this off season and I’m hoping to have an even more healthier year this year…I feel strong, I am lifting more weight than ever, and more mobile.” – James Paxton, New York Yankees Pitcher and MAT Client
“I was told that I have a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 4 and I was told it was completely degenerative, there is nothing that I can do about it and beside from participating in a drug trial, etc…but I had already been seeing results with MAT so it kind of saved me in the sense that I received this diagnosis that I otherwise would have felt pretty hopeless but because I had already seen results, I had already started gaining strength…Stairs which were usually a problem for me became easier for me. I felt more stability throughout my legs, actually my entire body. I felt more aware of my body whereas before I started to feel somewhat detached because I was so weak…I am so grateful because I don’t know if otherwise given the diagnosis I was given, if I would have just given up.” – Audra, MAT Client
Interested in learning more about Muscle Activation Techniques as a career? Contact us today to learn more about becoming Muscle Activation Techniques certified.