The Benefits of Muscle Activation for....

Improving exercise and sporting performance

Controlled range of motion is vital to ALL sports.!  Joint and muscular stability means the ability to hold or transform from one position to the next with a natural ability to control elements of balance, speed, strength and power.  This ability has a big impact on performance, training, recovery and injury prevention allowing you to be at your best.

Role of stability in training and performance

Stability in the body is often more noticeable when it is lacking because when it exists we tend to observe the effects of strength, control in motion, and power.  When it is lacking we can see, the veteran with tight muscles and joints, the golfer or tennis player who cannot produce power with club or racket as they are unable to transfer force through the body or the performer who starts to lose their form towards the end of a race, game or event whose performance drops and becomes prone to fatigue and injury. 

There are methods of stability training out there in different forms and using different tools including pilates, core boards, swiss balls, isolation and integrated training etc.  Where these work well is in working under trained muscles that are under used in day to day life where we over use external support in the forms of chairs (driving) and we limit ourselves in direction and types of movement.  For the athlete or regular exerciser, these methods may present missing phases in their training methods.   

What these methods miss and where Muscle Activation Techniques comes in, is a system of checking individual positions and muscles for instability.  This is also at a sub-conscious level e.g. we may be able to add stability to the mid-section by consciously bracing our abdominals when we lift (which can help immensely especially if you can form a habit of doing so) but the support should be regulated constantly at a sub-conscious level all the time so that we are supported even when ‘relaxed’ in standing or sitting and when we move without thinking or simply sneeze. 

 If these weaknesses and instabilities are not corrected then there may be a tendency for the body to simply strengthen and train the existing working muscles.  Therefore the strong muscles get stronger and the weak remain weak and the compensations continue to exist albeit they may be more effective.

 The approaches of strengthening compensations can falter over time as the muscles fatigue more easily as they ‘splint’ and work to do their primary role and that of another muscle e.g. the hamstrings primarily have a role in knee flexion and lower leg stability but also extend the hip and through a fascial attachment via the sacrotuberous ligament also help stabilise the low back.  It is proposed that if other muscles are not functioning well in their primary role (such as the glute maximus for hip extension and the deep abdominals for pelvic stability) then the hamstrings will tighten to add that support and movement as well as their role for knee flexion and lower leg stability.   It is this system of having muscles cross multiple joints that makes the body so good at compensating for lack of stability at one joint by using muscles that work at another.  It is also for this reason that many exercise and stretching protocols actually make the client feel worse as the added stress of the exercise is too much when the muscles are already working hard to do a job in either movement or stabilising and protecting the joint.  Importantly it is also why the symptom we aim to ‘fix’ in one area may have a source or cause in the instability of an apparently completely unrelated joint.        

Once stability is restored to the body and you can observe notice able improvements in a number of areas e.g.

Strength and balance

For those of you that lift weights in the gym you will notice that you can move heavier weights when supported in a machine compared to free weights and then further more heavier with a barbell compared to dumbbells.  This is the effect of added stability at a joint allowing you to produce more force in movement.  For those of you that haven’t then there are everyday examples such as how well you are able to run, jump and move on a stable surface such as the floor compared to doing the same thing on an unstable surface such as ice!

Range of motion

An effect of increasing stability at a joint through muscle activation techniques is an increase in range of motion.  Range of motion changes are seen and felt day to day in terms of a warm shower, stretching or massage however the effects of this tend to be more short term as they relax the tight muscles but don’t add the stability so they resume back to their normal set point.  The importance of range of motion is obvious in such pursuits as gymnastics, martial arts or yoga but is equally important in other sports to prevent compensations that may decrease performance and lead to joint wear and tear.  An example of this is the golfer who cannot effectively rotate at the hips and torso in the swing so they may compensate by shifting their weight, moving out of posture, buckling the knee or over using the arms in the swing.  This will mean an ineffective transfer of power through the body and possible strains at the knee, back, shoulder or of course golfers elbow. 

Recovery

Part of being an athlete or fitness enthusiast is the expectancy of higher levels of health but in respect of joint wear and tear this is not always the case.  Lack of joint stability is often masked more in fitness and sport because of the manner in which well trained muscles can compensate at a joint for an unstable associated muscle performing a similar role. This is why it is not uncommon for an athlete to pick up a bunch of injuries after their initial one as time out of training means a decrease in the all over support that has been masking the underlying instabilities. Muscle Activation Techniques works between events and training sessions to ensure stability is restored when you have been stressing your body.  This means you can recover faster and gain more from the next one!

Muscle Activation Techniques fills a gap in conventional training methods.  It acts as a pit stop between games and training sessions complementing your existing training, allowing you to work harder and recover faster to raise performance levels and keep you in the game.  

For more information on the differences between conventional exercise and MAT see the FAQ section and how does MAT work?

See also:

MAT for bridging the gap between Treatment, Fitness and Lifestyle

MAT for Everyday Living

How does MAT work?

Improving Exercise and Sporting Performance image

Testimonial:

I would like to thank you for your time you have spent with me over the last few weeks in improving my strength and agility using the muscle activation techniques that you employ. There has been a noticeable improvement in both my lateral movement on the tennis court and in recovery with less joint stiffness after long matches."
Mark. F

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