What is Muscle Activation Techniques?
Updated: Aug 20
Exercise is supposed to be good for you, but what is considered appropriate for someone and what is considered too much ? The most important piece of equipment in the gym is your body. If your body is not functioning well and its tolerance levels have been exceeded, then exercise can become detrimental. Our muscles are what moves our bones and hold our joints in proper alignment. If you have bad alignment in your joints, increased stress will be placed on the passive tissues (tendons, ligaments, etc). Would you drive a car with bad alignment 90 mph across country and expect it to fix the alignment issue? Most people want to ignore their aches and pains and exercise even more to "fix" their alignment issues.
We exercise in order to create low-grade inflammation that should stimulate growth and repair of our tissues. If exercise is not applied appropriately, it can stress a system that is already stressed. When chronically stressed or inflamed, the chemical changes that occur in the body alter out ability to make fitness gains. The "more is better" approach is probably one of the most misinterpreted concepts we face in the exercise industry. Over-stress, trauma, and overuse can all create chronic inflammation. Soreness is an indicator of inflammation, and the tissues will become weaker and won't be able to tolerate forces as well. You cannot tell just by looking at someone what their tolerance levels might be, and recovery is arguably the most important component of exercise training.
Muscles need to be able to contract and contract on demand beyond our conscious control. Our muscles rely on communications from the nervous system to tell them how much to contract. Our muscles also have threshold levels. When the nervous system detects too much stress, it will inhibit the ability of muscles to contract as a defense mechanism to keep the body from moving into positions of weakness or vulnerability. You can compare your body's ability to contract its muscles to the way a battery initiates starting a car. Both rely on connections that transfer electrical energy to produce a reaction. Our nerves that run from the spinal cord to the muscles are like the cables in a car that run from the ignition and connect to the battery. When the key is turned in the ignition, the impulses transfer through the cables to the battery allowing the car to start. Each muscle is independently innervated, with some even having several divisions that have their own set of "battery cables". When there is too much stress, trauma, or overuse in the body, the neurological connections may become altered creating a reaction in the body that is similar to that of having a loose battery cable in your car. Trying to turn the ignition in your car with a loose battery cable may cause it to turn over and over. When the brain sends a message for the muscle to contract, the muscle does not respond immediately, creating increased demand on other muscles to help out and results in compensation. Over time, these compensation patterns create altered alignment in the joint leading to joint instability and abnormal wear on the joint surfaces. MAT® allows us to assess a client's muscle contractile capabilities and to restore stability back in the joints by addressing these inhibitions before they present larger problems. Just like with the dead battery, the connections must be tightened before the muscle will function properly.
MAT is a process, just like exercise is a process, and maintenance is key. If you are going to beat your body up with exercise, you need to maintain your body and fix muscles inhibitions created from over-stress. The number of sessions you will need initially is dependent upon the individual, what the initial assessment finds, how well you want to perform, and how you respond to treatment. Some other factors affecting response are: age, length of time inhibitions occurred, the severity of the stressed placed on the body, and the active participation of the client in the process. Over time the goal is to increase the tolerance levels in the body to deal with forces and stress. MAT can also be used as a preventative measure by patrolling for potential issues before they become problems. Ignoring pain and tightness is like covering up the check engine light in your car. This won't make the problem go away, and overtime your body will decide for you.