As a Muscle Activation Techniques® practitioner, I often get asked the question, “What is MAT®?”.  This is then usually followed up by, “How do I know if I need it?”.  Fortunately, there are many signs that you may benefit from MAT®.  While some signs and symptoms may appear after needing MAT® for years, I want to discuss four early warning signs that may present themselves before you experience any bigger issues.  If you notice any of these warning signs within yourself, that can be a clear indicator that your body is in need of Muscle Activation Techniques®.

Early Warning Sign #1 – You are experiencing localized tightness within your muscles.

One of the top complaints new clients come in with to their MAT® sessions is feeling like certain muscles are tight.  While tightness itself is not a bad thing, it can be uncomfortable and is often an indicator from your central nervous system that your body is stressed.  Most modalities look to alleviate the tight areas by addressing those areas or muscles directly.  Muscle Activation Techniques® is going to ask the question, “Why are these muscles tight in the first place?” and try to find an underlying reason.

Many times, the muscles that are tight are actually functioning well.  In fact, they are functioning so well that they are picking up the extra slack for muscles that are not working as well.  Imagine this: you have two ropes holding up a 20-pound dumbbell.  Each rope would then be holding 10 pounds of the dumbbell.  However, if one of the ropes were to get cut, all of a sudden the remaining rope now has to hold all 20 pounds.

That remaining rope is going to feel tighter, even though it is the rope that is working well.  If you cut the remaining rope, the dumbbell will drop.  On the other hand, if you find the rope that isn’t working well and get it working better so it can hold up its half of the weight, now the tightness in the single rope decreases as it goes from having to hold all 20 pounds of the dumbbell back to holding 10 pounds.

Muscle Activation Techniques® is looking for which “ropes” or muscles in your body have fallen offline and are not doing their job.  Because of this, other muscles have had to pick up the slack.  These other muscles may be feeling tight.  Despite this tightness being uncomfortable, these tight muscles may not actually be the issue.  By asking the question, “Why are these muscles tight?”, looking for which muscles may not be working well, and then getting those muscles stronger, the tight muscles can relax.

If you are experiencing tight muscles throughout your body, that is an early warning sign that your body may need MAT®.

Related:  What does muscle have to do with it?

Early Warning Sign #2 – The right side of your body moves differently than your left side and/or your body does not move as well as it used to.

Imagine lifting your left arm straight up overhead.  Now imagine doing that with your right arm, but your right arm only goes part of the way up.  This difference in motion may be an indication that your body is in need of MAT®.

These differences can be seen with any joint motion throughout your entire body.  Everything from how well your toes bend to how far you can turn your head can be assessed and addressed with Muscle Activation Techniques®.  The difference with MAT® is how we go about interpreting these motion differences between the right and left sides of your body.

Going back to the arm example, if you cannot lift your right arm as high as your left, many professionals are going to look at the muscles on the backside and underside of your shoulder as being too tight.  The assumption is that the tightness of the muscles is what is limiting the range of motion.

MAT® is going to go one step further and ask the question, “Why are these muscles tight?” and then follow that up with, “Are these muscles tight because the muscles on the front and top of the shoulder are too weak?”.  Often, we see that when certain muscles are too weak, other muscles tighten up in response to try to protect and stabilize the joint.  As such, addressing the muscles that are too weak not only improves the function of these muscles, it also then allows the body to relax the tight muscles.  As a result, joint motion often improves and, most importantly, it is accompanied by stability.

If you notice that the right side of your body moves differently than the left side, that is an early warning sign that your body may need MAT®.

Related:  What makes a Muscle Activation Techniques® practitioner unique?

Early Warning Sign #3 – Your output on your right side is different than your output on your left side.

Imagine yourself doing a dumbbell chest press exercise where you are lying flat on your back on a bench, holding dumbbells in each hand, and pushing the dumbbells straight up towards the ceiling by squeezing your chest and shoulder muscles.  Now imagine you are going to do this exercise for 10 repetitions, but on rep number 7 your left arm starts to get a little bit shaky.  Rep number 8 feels way more difficult for the left arm than it does for the right.  Rep number 9 has you barely getting the left dumbbell up.  And on rep number 10, your left arm can’t move the dumbbell at all.

Now imagine that all the while, your right arm was able to do each of the reps easily.

This is an output difference between the right and left sides of your body.  With Muscle Activation Techniques®, we are going to be looking to see which muscles are not working as well as they should be and then get them working better.  As a result, the output of the muscles often improves.  I once had a client tell me that her squat increased by 60 pounds (60 pounds!!!!) after one session of MAT®.  That is insane.

The idea is that MAT® is not necessarily building more muscle for you, but rather it is allowing you to access all of the output your muscles already have.  Imagine you have a sports car with a massive engine but the battery cables are disconnected.  Your engine can have all of the torque and horsepower in the world, but it won’t be able to access it.  As soon as the battery cables get reconnected, though, VROOOOM, now you can access everything your engine already had.

Muscle Activation Techniques® helps to metaphorically reconnect the battery cables between your muscles and central nervous system so that when you go to exercise, be physically active, or just use your muscles in general, you are able to access all of the strength your muscles have.

If you notice the output is different between the right and left sides of your body, that is an early warning sign that your body may need MAT®.

Related:  Can’t feel the exercises you are doing? Read this.

Early Warning Sign #4 – You are having difficulty “feeling” the exercises you are doing.

Let’s use the chest press example again.  This time, your right and left arms seem equally as strong, however, when you push the dumbbell with your left arm, you have difficulty feeling your chest muscles squeeze.  In fact, the more reps you do, the more you are feeling the exercise not in your chest muscles, but in your shoulder muscles.  By the end of your set, your chest muscles on your left side feel completely fine but your shoulder muscles are really fatigued.

Muscle Activation Techniques® will assess your body to try to figure out which muscles are not working well and, as a result, which muscles are having to do too much.  In this example, your chest muscles may need to get brought back up to speed because your shoulder muscles are having to do extra work for them.  As a result, the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of your workouts will improve because you are actually training the muscles you are trying to work.

Other common areas that may be difficult for you to feel squeezing are your abs and your glutes (butt muscles).  A lot of times with abs, people will just feel a general sensation of fatigue on their front side.  However, once their abs get activated, many people can feel each individual ab of their eight-pack (hidden or not) working.  Additionally, with glutes, a lot of people may just feel their hamstrings or quadriceps working.  Once their glutes get firing, though, their leg exercises are completely transformed.

If you notice that you are having difficulty feeling the exercises you are doing, that is an early warning sign that your body may need MAT®.  You can find a local MAT® practitioner in your area here on the MAT® Headquarters website.

There you have it – four early warning signs that your body may need MAT®.  If these early warning signs go unaddressed for an extended period of time, they may develop into greater signs and symptoms such as achiness and pain.  By addressing issues within the muscular system early on with infrequent but consistent MAT® tune-ups, you may be able to keep these much more severe issues at bay, allowing you to continue to do all of the physical activities you love to do for as long as you want to do them.

Charlie Cates

Charlie Cates is the leading consultant to high-level professional, college, & high school basketball players in the Chicagoland area for injury prevention, recovery, & muscle performance. As a certified Muscle Activation Techniques® MATRx practitioner & former college basketball player, he uses his personal experience & understanding of the game & player demands to create customized exercise options for his clients to recover faster & perform their best. He is certified in the highest levels of MAT®, including MATRx, MATRx Stim, and MAT® Athlete. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!