What is MAT?
MAT’s premise is that human movement and exercise are fundamental to human health and that muscle’s health (demonstrated by it’s ability to contract efficiently) is important for normal movement. Any loss of muscle(s) 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.
MAT is a specific and unique process* for evaluating an individual’s ability to develop efficient muscle contraction(s) by first measuring and comparing specific limb and trunk motions of the body right side to left side, as the human body tends to be symmetrical in its structure and function right side to left side.
It is referred to as a "process" as there are hundreds of muscles and joints to be evaluated in order to uncover the muscle issues that could be contributing to the loss of physical performance and any associated subjective complaints, which leads to what could be many sessions of work to solve the problems.
The techniques/strategies that constitute the MAT Process are:
- Comparative Mobility Assessment – The CAM (The Comparative Assessment of Mobility)
- Active Muscle Contract and Sustain Manual Muscle Test – The AMC&S MMT
- Positional Iso-angular Contraction (muscle activation technique) – The PIC
- Digital Force Application to Muscle Attachment Tissues (muscle activation technique)
- The DFAMAT
If an asymmetry in motion between the two sides exists (as determined by the CAM) then the one that moves less is interpreted as having the potential for a loss of muscle contraction capabilities of one or more of the muscles that should be contracting to move the joint/limb further.
The muscles that are capable of moving the limb further are assessed by the MAT Specialist (by the AMC&S MMT) to determine if they have lost the ability to contract efficiently.
When it has been determined through testing that a muscle has lost its efficient contractile ability (termed weakness in this context) then precise forces are applied to restore that muscle’s efficiency ‚Äì to "activate" the muscle’s ability to contract better. (Using the PIC or DFAMAT)
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 muscle contractile efficiency for all the muscles that contribute to a designated motion.
What makes MAT unique?
MAT does not force change on the body but works with it to make improvements, strategically negotiating changes in motion via improvements in muscle contraction. If any intervention is made and motion decreases, and/or muscle contraction efficiency is lost, then it is interpreted and respected that the body is not ready to accept the change at this time and new decisions are made to move the body towards increased motion, and increased symmetry, with improved contraction.
The individual MAT strategies (See "What is MAT?") when used together in a systematic format, under its definite methodology, based in the interpretation of the information gained from each strategy, and the relationships established between that information, are unique to MAT. MAT’s intention is not to diagnose or treat pathology but to improve a specific aspect of a muscle contractile capabilities and that aspect’s impact on limb motion and position maintenance as it relates to exercise and physical performance.
MAT is unlike other techniques working to improve muscle function in that the process is not attempting to directly lengthen or change the muscle by stretching, heating, kneading, or foam rolling. MAT is not trying to "relax" muscle ‚Äì MAT is trying to "activate" muscle ‚Äì which interestingly enough as a consequence may lead to the relaxation of other muscles. It is truly a new and exciting process.
What causes muscle weakness?
A multitude of factors such as trauma, stress, or overuse can contribute to a muscle becoming weakened (under MAT’s definition). When you exercise, there is a period of exertion and then recovery. It is normal to feel fatigue. When there is trauma, stress or overuse, the muscle may not recover until properly rested. If this is habitual, (i.e. sitting at the computer in an ergonomically unsound position for 12 hours per day ‚Äì every day for many years) then the result can be muscle weakness.
The central nervous system detects various forms of stress and orchestrates messages that may alter the ability of the muscle to contract efficiently. When a particular set of muscles are contracting (shortening), then there are also muscles that function concomitantly in lengthening. These lengthening muscles may lose their ability to lengthen as a function of the other muscles loss of ability to contract and shorten. This may be established as a protection mechanism to keep the body from moving into a position of weakness or vulnerability. A sudden trauma to the body may also cause a muscle to become weakened, such as slipping on ice and moving into an extreme range of motion suddenly. Often during a MAT session muscle "tightness" simply goes away as contraction efficiency (activation) is restored.
At MAT we say ‚Äì "Muscle tightness is secondary to muscle weakness." Solve the weakness and you just may solve the tightness.
What is the goal of the MAT Process?
The first goal of MAT is to determine whether or not specific muscles that support the body’s movement have the proper information input from the nervous system necessary to perform its function of contracting. Each muscle must be capable of performing its function as forces are being placed on the body’s joint system. If a muscle does not have proper input, then it will not be able to perform its contraction function efficiently and this leads to vulnerability to mechanical forces. The goal of the MAT assessment process is to find out where the body displays these positions of vulnerability or weakness as a function of the loss of symmetrical motion for a given mirror image set of limb or trunk motions. (The MAT CAM)
After identifying these areas of protection, the second goal is to attempt to improve the stability of the joints via their muscles. This is a process of restoring the input and the resulting ability of the muscles to contract on demand when placed in a shortened position (AMC&S MMT). The third goal of MAT is to provide a checks and balances system to make sure that any time joint motion is increased (mobility) that there is appropriate input (demonstrated as muscle contraction in a relatively shortened position via the AMC&S MMT = stability) through the increased motion.
Can MAT have a positive impact on arthritis and the aging process?
MAT is an exercise-based process and research on exercise and its ability to improve health is well established. So – Yes – MAT may have a positive impact on arthritis and aging related losses in physical performance. It is acknowledged that muscles are designed to stabilize and support the joints so any improvement in muscle function may support or prevent the loss of physical performance often associated with arthritis and aging. All that is needed is to establish proper information to the muscles. Muscle Activation Techniques can often do this. It provides the ability for the body to function the way that it was designed to function. Just like with a malfunctioning car battery, inefficient muscle contraction can be "jumpstarted". Just like a car’s battery cables must be secured before the battery can function properly, the information from the central nervous system must be secured for the muscle to function properly.
In simple terms, through the MAT Process, muscles that have altered communication (neurological information transfer) leading to muscle contraction inefficiency are identified by the CAM, then "jumpstarted" by the PIC or DFAMAT creating the ability for the muscles to efficiently contract. This carries over to improved stabilizing and managing the joints under the stresses of mechanical loads (like running, yoga, weightlifting, etc.). This may reduce joint stresses that lead to, or exacerbate, arthritic conditions.
What are the indications of muscle weakness – how do I know if I have a ‚Äòweak’ muscle?
The first and major indication is that something may not feel ‚Äòright’. This can manifest as joint pain, muscle tension or instability of a joint: tight hamstrings, tight lower back, shin splints, aching knees, a hyper-extending joint, progressively losing motion in a limb ‚Äîthese are signs of possible muscle weakness. Remember it is always important to have a medical provider evaluate you prior to seeing a certified MAT Specialist in order to rule out serious structural issues or other pathology. (I.e. torn muscles, joint damage, fractures, etc.)
How do I determine for myself which muscles are creating the unusual tightness, discomfort or loss of physical performance in my body?
We recommend that you visit a qualified MAT Specialist and have them 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. Check out our Specialist Page to find a specialist near you.
If you do not have access to an MAT Specialist, then be sure to check out the Self-Test section of this CDROM. This section has a number of ROM (range-of-motion) tests for you to try and self-assess your own weakness. Short of having a professional test your individual muscles, this is the best way to determine which muscles may be inhibited. These ROM tests instruct you to move your body into specific positions and take note of what you feel. If it is difficult to move into the position (such as hip flexion with internal rotation), then you can assume that the muscles that put you there may be weakened. Try the exercises for this position. If you still feel tension, weakness or discomfort after performing the corrective exercises for two weeks, then try the exercises for the muscles that help to put you into that position. The Self-Test section will explain how to link into the correct exercises.
What about strength training, stretching, or even yoga – Can’t these correct weakened muscles?
The answer is – maybe. If you have muscles that have been weakened due to prolonged stress or sudden trauma, then moving into a position of vulnerability (meaning a position that needs the weakened muscle to contract) may result in other muscles taking over the job of the weakened muscles. This leads to the weak staying weak and the strong getting stronger. We tend to mask our weakness by developing strength in those muscles that already contract efficiently. 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 is a checks and balances system that will allow you to determine which postures, exercises, and activities involve positions of vulnerability. It will then give you the tools to improvement your specific muscle weakness so that you can move back into these postures, exercises and activities more safely‚Äîfrom a position of strength.
So MAT is really a special form of exercise?
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 medical interventions and rehabilitation for certain conditions when deemed appropriate by medical providers.
If I am currently exercising should I do these MAT exercises before or after my workout?
Before and after would be ideal. They do not take very long and they prepare the body for the specific activity. They also may help to increase recovery after the activity.
How often do I need to do these exercises and for how long?
We recommend that you do the exercises two to three times per day for two weeks to restore the connection of a weakened muscle. Of course this varies with every individual. 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. The exercises should help you to restore the connection and return to your normal exercise routine safely.
If I have an injury, should I try the exercises or do you recommend that I see my doctor or a MAT Specialist first?
By all means, see your physician if you have an injury. You want to make sure that you have a proper diagnosis or evaluation before beginning MAT or any exercise routine.
What if I am an athlete will MAT help improve my performance and keep me healthy?
MAT is a technique that not only helps athletes to recover from competitive stress quickly, but also may help them prevent injuries from happening in the first place. 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 a high level of intensity. 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. These athletes can be an injury waiting to happen. When they train at a high level, the inefficiencies are magnified, and the body can no longer handle the stress. It eventually breaks 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. If an athlete has muscular inefficiencies, the inefficiencies result in increased stress on the joints and muscles.
The goal of MAT is to address the weakness before an injury occurs. Injury may just be an indication of a deeper issue. The indication is only part of the issue. It is a result of the overstressing of an area of the body, due to muscular weakness. Conventional therapy will typically treat the symptom. This means that the cause of the problem may not be addressed. 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 participation in their respective sport sooner. The end result is improved athletic capabilities.
"The benefit of MAT is that the changes can be immediate" says Greg Roskopf, the founder and developer of MAT. "A professional baseball pitcher increased his throwing velocity by 10 mph, immediately following a MAT session. This was due to improved mechanics combined with pain free motion. We see these types of changes every day."