What is MAT?

Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) is a specific, unique, non-medical based process that evaluates and improves muscular inefficiencies that contribute to chronic pain, injury, and altered performance levels.

Due to stress, trauma, or overuse, a muscle can become less efficient. When a muscle is inefficient, other muscles will have to compensate and joint mechanics will be less than optimal. Compensation and altered mechanics over time can lead to any number of subjective complaints and/or the loss of physical capabilities. At Optimal Stability & Function, we use MAT to improve the ability of the muscle to contract more efficiently, with the goal being to provide optimal stability of joints and optimal function of the muscular system.

What happens during a MAT Session?

During a Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) session, a specialist will use detailed movement assessments to identify joint motion limitations. Next, a MAT specialist will identify muscle inefficiencies and use precise re-activation methods to improve the muscles ability to contract.

A MAT specialist will use the following techniques/strategies during a session:

What is the goal of the MAT process?

The first goal of Muscle Activation Techniques™ (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.

After identifying these areas of protection, the second goal is to attempt to improve the stability of the joints via their muscles. Specific re-activation methods are then used to restore proper input to the muscle and improve its’ ability to contract so it can better handle forces being put on it.

What makes MAT unique?

Muscle Activation Techniques™ (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 – MAT is trying to “activate” muscle – which interestingly enough as a consequence may lead to the relaxation of other muscles. It is truly a new and exciting process.

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. MAT’s intention is not to diagnose or treat pathology but to improve a specific aspect of muscle contractile capabilities and that aspect’s impact on limb motion and position maintenance as it relates to exercise and physical performance.

How does MAT help improve the stability of my joints?

Stability, in Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) context, is dependent on the muscular system being able to produce enough tension to counteract an imposed force on a joint, at any particular time, so that force doesn’t get transferred to other tissues of the joint. The muscle’s ability to counteract forces that are applied to the body is very important for the health and integrity of the joints. Irritation or inflammation of the joint can occur if the muscles are not counteracting the forces being applied to the joint. For the muscles to be able to counteract forces being applied to the joint they have to be able to sense the force being applied to the muscle, react to the force, and have sufficient contracting capabilities to be able to stop the force. MAT is about improving muscle contractile efficiency or improving muscle contractile capabilities. The end result is an increased ability for your muscles to be better able to handle the physical stresses that come with everyday activity, exercise, and physical performance.

Can MAT help improve my athletic 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. Some athletes may be predisposed to an injury, due to muscular contraction inefficiencies that place increased stress on joints and tissues. 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 help athletes in the recovery process and address muscle weaknesses before an injury occurs.

I like to participate in functional training exercises when I workout. Can MAT help me with this type of exercise training?

Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) has the potential to help with all types of training. Like the old cliché says, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” so too is your body. When you perform functional movement, that movement is only as good as the function of its isolated parts! So if you have weak links, your joint mechanics will be inefficient and your functional movement will be less than optimal. MAT is a systematic approach that draws out muscle weaknesses and helps restore muscle contraction capabilities, which improves muscle function. A MAT specialist uses a checks and balances system to improve any muscle weaknesses (weak links) you have, with the overall goal to help you move as best as you can. The MAT process has the potential to help you with your exercise training.

Can MAT help improve my mobility or increase my range of motion?

The Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) premise is that muscular tightness is secondary to muscular weakness. Meaning that if there are muscular weaknesses present, the body will sense instability, and as a protective mechanism, it will tighten up. It is like someone walking across ice. The body senses instability when on ice, and you tighten up as you walk across the ice. When there is a muscular weakness present in the body, the inhibition response that travels to the opposite side of the joint is diminished/altered and movement will be limited. Therefore, muscular tightness is secondary to muscular weakness. With MAT, our focus is on activating weak muscles so they function optimally. This can improve the inhibition response that is sent to other muscles, and clients can see an improvement in mobility. With any increase in mobility a client achieves through MAT, a specialist will always make sure that increase in mobility is stable.