Muscle Activation Techniques are gaining popularity among elite athletes and the general population alike. Regardless of the success of Muscle Activation Techniques, there is one question that remains in some people's minds “Do Muscle Activation Techniques work?”
Before I jump into answering this question, I want to give you a little of my background and experience in the personal training industry to better answer this question of the legitimacy of Muscle Activation Techniques.
My Background Before Muscle Activation Techniques
Hello, my name is Kevin Votta. I have been in the fitness industry for over 18 years now.Over those first two years, I started as a traditional personal trainer and boot camp instructor and then progressed into a corrective exercise and Muscle Activation Techniques specialist.
Why this progression? It was simple - and came down to one statement found in the Hippocratic Oath, “do no harm”.
The Hippocratic Oath is an oath taken by graduating physicians stating they will do no harm to their patients. This oath is not an oath or promise that has any connection to personal training other than the connection I personally made. However, in my mind, if physicians are promising that they will do no harm to their patients' bodies, why would personal trainers and every other professional that works with the human body not have to promise the same thing?
This is what led me to transition to corrective exercise and Muscle Activation Techniques.
Over the two years as a boot camp instructor and personal trainer, a few things became glaringly obvious to me.
- 99% of the personal trainers out there have NO Idea what they are doing to the human bodies they are working with.
- There is a gross under-education of personal trainers and therapists, and unfortunately, even many Dr’s - when it comes to human movement, joint structure, and function.
- There is no oversight of the personal training industry- No Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.
- Personal trainers have the potential to be their client’s worst nightmare when it comes to joint longevity and overall health.
- Most personal trainers have NO idea the damage they are potentially doing to their client’s bodies.
The same held true for my services for the first two years as a personal trainer. So much so that when I finally opened my eyes, I went back and apologized to my clients that had entrusted me with their body for those first two years and the potential damage I might have caused.
Most of these clients are still with me today and forever thankful that I was introduced to Muscle Activation Techniques.
The bulk number of personal trainers working with clients today entered the fitness industry rather unimpeded. Meaning they saw something that they thought would be cool to do, they saw the potential income and right away realized how easy it was to become a personal trainer.
I equate the ease of entry into the personal training industry to that of bartending back in my early 20s.
"I can take a course on the weekend and be making a few hundred dollars next weekend? Where do I sign up!?”
Becoming a Personal trainer is not far off. “Wait, I pay $60 bucks online, take a test and BOOM! I can call myself a personal trainer. I’m in!"
That’s right. You can become a personal trainer and bartender in the same amount of time.
Both fields of work have little difficulty of entry into the said field, making it very appealing to those looking to "just" make money while saying they do something "cool" for a living.
The human body only has a few hundred moving parts and thousands of forces imposing their will on those parts every moment of our life. It would seem reason able that a 60 dollar online course would equip an individual to correctly apply force to a client’s body to elicit the positive response the client is looking for, said NO ONE EVER!
Now, look at the investment of money and time spending 20,000 dollars, plus putting in a minimum of 3 years to start to learn Muscle Activation Techniques.
Not that M.A.T. is the end all be all. It is not for me and should not be for anyone in the field, BUT it is one hell of a starting point.
If one is aspiring to be good and have a focused understanding of human movement, then their education should NEVER stop! PERIOD!
Unfortunately, there is zero oversight for the personal training industry, especially in the state of FL. It is the wild wild west in the sunshine state when it comes to personal training. If the lack of difficulty entering the personal training field was not convincing enough, you should look at what someone needs to do to brand themselves as a personal trainer.
“Do you want to be a personal trainer? Boom! So, you shall be a personal trainer. Go forth and destroy people's bodies with your grossly limited understanding of human movement and physiological processes.”
As a personal trainer, you will single-handedly have the greatest impact, for better or worse, on your client’s body and life!
This is more impactful than even your client's primary care physician! Not that they are any less important, but looking at the time potentially spent with each, and you can see how this can be so.
One individual, you see for a few hours a year, the other you see a few times a week, AND when you do see them, you are typically being asked to move heavy objects over and over in positions you don’t usually use.
That is a lot of opportunities to create problems for that person’s body.
What makes this even more horrifying, and why I felt obligated to apologize to those clients in my first few years in the industry, is that even if I did not cause pain for my client, there is a good chance that the work I did with them will cause irrevocable damage to their joints later in life.
Therefore, Muscle Activation Techniques are ONE of the keys to creating safe and sustainable results.
After 15 years and over one thousand clients serviced with Muscle Activation Techniques here at Fitness-Tek, while maintaining a 95% success rate with those clients, I too still get asked the questions, almost daily, “Does Greg Roskopf’s Muscle Activation Techniques work?”
I wanted to take a moment and answer this question (to the best of my 15 years of limited knowledge)
Yes, Greg Roskopf’s Muscle Activation Techniques work!
Having done this type of bodywork and personal training for years now, there is no tone other tool that comes close to producing the result that Muscle Activation Techniques does. I’ve looked! Even when it ˙free into the future. I have had no luck in finding something that produces the results as fast as MAT does. My clients will tell you, and others who train with a MAT specialist will tell you, “MAT works!”
Here is what just a few have had to say about their treatments:
“I sought help at Fitness-Tek for a broken arm(humerus) and shoulder injury. I was also seeing the physical therapist recommended by my doctor at the same time. Kevin Votta's approach perfectly complimented the work being done by my other PT. His approach with muscle activation technique has led me to a much more rapid improvement. Kevin has complete mastery of anatomy and an almost uncanny ability to pinpoint the nonfunctional nerve/muscle groups and get all the parts working together again.As a bonus, he has helped me with a 30+-year-old knee injury. He is very personable and easy to work with! Go see him!”
“If you are struggling with pain and/or weakness in your body, an evaluation by Kevin, Muscle Activation TechniqueMaster Specialist, will be informative and helpful. I've just turned 60 and have been treated by Kevin for the past 2 years, at first recovering from wearing a boot to correct a foot fracture, but then to allow me to continue to be active. His abilities and knowledge keep me playing tennis 4-5 times a week.Treatment and isometric exercise keep all my muscles firing. Unbelievable relief and strength. Thank you, Kevin!”
“I go to Fitness-Tek for MAT assessment and treatment. Kevin is the only Master Level MAT specialist in the area. Kevin has been the most impactful person I've worked with during my rehabilitation. My rehabilitation team included doctors, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a physical therapist, and then I met Kevin. I made more progress in one session than I had made in 12 weeks of PT. After 4 sessions, I felt the best I had in two years. MAT is simply more effective than other modalities in addressing pain stemming from imbalance, which is the cause of 90% of MSK pain. You will not be disappointed. From the insanely thorough assessment to the comprehensive video of therapy you receive to address weaknesses, everything is professional and understandable. I cannot recommend it enough. I drive an hour each way just to work with Kevin if that says anything.”
“I have been a Fitness-Tek client for a year.I've lost 43 pounds of body fat, increased my energy, stamina, and confidence, and like looking in the mirror again. Both Kristen and Kevin have done a great job of coaching and counseling on nutrition coaching, MAT sessions, and sticking to the program, and watching the results. I see the results every day in the mirror. They are real. They are tangible. This program rocks.”
“Kevin at Fitness-Tek is amazing. He takes his time to work with you and your body to find out what is causing the problem and how to fix it. I have had several people work me with a herniated disc in my lower spine pushing on my sciatic nerve. Through working with Kevin, I am well on the road to recovery from what is a very painful and serious injury. Put it simply, if you have aches and pains and physical mobility problems, I highly recommend Kevin and Fitness-Tek.”
I hate to say it but, the proof is in the pudding.
Now, being someone that values science and scientific data "the proof is in the pudding" explanation does not give me the satisfaction I needed. And even though the testimonials provided are a convincing testament, I wanted more, not just for my own appeasement but that of my clients.
So, I dug deeper into Muscle Activation Techniques, and instead of answering the question does it work, it became more of a question of "how" does it work.
Here is what I found.
The primary thought behind Muscle Activation Techniques is the principle of tightness being secondary to weakness. This tends to fly in the face of what most in the health and fitness industry have assumed. Typical tight muscles are treated as the problem, and to clear a client’s body of issues, the tight muscles are to be dealt with via tools like foam rolling, massage, stretching, and yoga (to name a few).
From Greg Roskopf’s perspective, the founder of Muscle Activation Techniques, tightness isn't bad. He believes that tightness is a good thing, that tightness is a protective phono-mime that happens in one’s body as a protective measure.
Through his work, he has found that it is the neurological weakness causing the body to create tightness as a protective response. And that by just addressing the tight muscle, the one doing the work to stabilize your joint when other muscles cannot, you expose your clients to joint instability.
With Muscle Activation Techniques Greg, and his ever-growing number of specialists seek to identify and ACTIVATE the weak muscle in the body, thereby taking away the body’s need to tighten muscles as a protective response.
Instability in the body can be the problem that leads to muscle tightness and, if gone unchecked, pain. Therefore, tightness is secondary to weakness.
Having put this thought together, Greg sought to formulate a hypothesis about what the internal neurological mechanism is that creates this response in the body. Enter "The Gamma Loop", and the sensor that drives information to this feedback loop, the muscle spindle.
I’ll keep the neuroscience here as simple as possible, and if you like, you can watch the video to learn more about this feedback loop.
So, we have several sensors in our body that feed information from the periphery of the body back to the central processing hub of either your brain or spinal column.The sensor we are concerned with concerning Muscle Activation Techniques and tight muscles that attribute to the limitation of range of motion and dysfunction is the Muscle Spindle.'
Scientists believe they have found inner muscles fibers called the intrafusal muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are what make the muscle spinal work.
These intrafusal muscle fibers are extremely susceptible to stress and inflammation.When there is an excess of inflation, the muscle spindle stops working correctly. It is this misfiring of the intrafusal fibers that lead to a tightening of the muscle and the protective mechanism.
That weakness then creates more tightness and dysfunction. In a nutshell, the muscle spindle and the intrafusal muscle fibers inside the spindle are the mechanisms by which Muscle Activation Techniques work.
Clients come in all the time saying it just feels like they cannot fire said muscle.This is a good example of what it feels like when the muscle spindle is not working correctly.
By activating these small intrafusal fibers, the muscle spinal can send the correct information back to the nervous systems, and in turn, back to the surrounding muscles.
How do we know what muscles need to be activated?
After completing the initial range of motion assessment, the practitioner of Muscle Activation Techniques will form a thought process behind the reason for the limitations that have presented themselves, along with the assimilation of the information provided by the client to their symptoms and goals.
Using this information, the practitioner can decide where to start looking. From weak, miss firing muscles relating to the limitation in range of motion the client presents with. Once a joint and range of motion have been identified the practitioner will utilize muscle testing to confirm the intactness of the gamma loop (i.e., the muscle is firing, and the spinal is working correctly.) Positions of weakness have associated muscles that are potentially identifying a weakness. Once a weakness is found the next step begins.
How do we activate muscle with Muscle Activation Techniques?
*Insert video ACTIVATING MUSCLES*
There are several techniques employed when implementing Muscle Activation Techniques with a client. Each of these techniques has its place with different clients and situations.
The first and often most overlooked of these techniques is the use of specific isometric contractions or PIC (positional iso-angular contractions.) PICs are isometric contractions in very specific joint positions with very specific angles of force application. The intended effect for the PIC is to stimulate the intrafusal fibers within the muscle spindles. This creates a stretch on the spindle and will jumpstart the gamma feedback loop between muscles. Once stimulated, the muscles involved can return to their normal function and length-tension relationship.
The second and more advanced and potential invasive technique used to activate muscle within the muscle activation techniques paradigm is the manual palpation of the muscle attachment sites.
The intention behind this form of activation is to place an internal stretch on the muscle spinal via the application of external force. This allows the mechanically gated ion channel inside the spinal to be placed under stretch, allowing ions to pass through, completing the feedback loop and firing the associated muscles. (more in the video)
Do Muscle Activation Technique’s work? Yes!
Is it working the way we hypothesized? Maybe. Not because of any lack of result but based on the complexity of the human body and our inability to fully understand the neurological connections that play apart in this feedback loop.
We are creating more stability and therefore, more range of motion by applying Muscle Activation Techniques to the body. Without a doubt, based on my experience (personal and that of myself and other practitioners and their clients), Muscle Activation Techniques are working!
What about that 5% of clients I did not have success? Why did Muscle Activation Techniques not work for them?
First and foremost, I would look at the practitioner’s skill level, in this case, myself. Did I have the skill level to be working with the client at that moment? There is a chance I did not. Muscle Activation Techniques are a learned and mastered skill that takes years. As I grow as a practitioner, I have gotten much better at identifying clients whom I will not be able to help. And there will still be times when I miss something.
Here are some other reasons why Muscle Activation Techniques could not work:
- Emotional stress of the client is too high for the client to see the results in the time frame allotted.
- Client’s unwillingness to alter given lifestyle patterns.
- Actual structural changes that have taken place in their body that have been far too compromised.
- Unwillingness of client to follow exercise prescription and alteration of their current program if needed.
- The clients’ issue may not be a muscle weakness/miss firing issue.
- Too little time is given to the process.
- Chemical stress- i.e., food allergy or drug interaction.
- Interaction of other treatments causing increased mechanical stress.
How do you find out if Muscle Activation Techniques will work for you?
If you have read this post and feel you are a good candidate for Muscle Activation Techniques, the next step is setting up an assessment.
Your assessment will typically take about an hour and a half. During that time, we will go over in detail the inner workings of your nervous system and the role MAT will play in creating a favorable environment inside your body for healing to occur.
Once you are comfortable with the process, we will start to assess your joints for limitations in range of motion and beg into formulate a road map of the weaknesses that could be present in your body. Then based on time and how you are feeling, we will begin the activation process on the areas we deem are weak.
If you are ready to get started, click here: Get Started With My MAT Assessment NOW!