There’s more to muscle maintenance than regular strength sessions and bumping up to the next weight when things feel too easy at the bench. Communication between your brain and muscles also comes into play—and that process is the focus of muscle activation technique training. Here’s how it works: When a muscle is too weak to stabilize a joint, the brain tells other muscles around that joint to tighten up to keep that joint safe. Problem is, not all muscles get the memo. When your brain only sends signals to some muscles, those areas work overtime while other areas do very little work at all, explains MAT specialist Joey Emont.
The good news: personal trainers certified in MAT training can identify weak muscles, or those that aren’t properly communicating with the brain, and walk you through exercises that target those very specific areas. Fixing the way that muscles contract and more evenly distributing work among muscles in a group can do a lot for the body. Here are five things you can expect from MAT training.
1. Increased strength
You’re not working at your full potential if all of your muscles aren’t communicating effectively with your brain. If only 50% of your muscles are functioning, then you could literally double your strength with MAT.
2. Improved coordination
Your brain wants to keep your body safe from injury, but in doing so it sometimes formulates “blind spots” in the way you move. Your brain tells your body to use the strongest muscles to get from point A to point B, even if those muscles don’t function together in a clean line of movement. MAT helps strengthen the muscles that move in a direct path, making your movements quicker and more coordinated.
3. Improved flexibility
Inhibited muscles can send the wrong feedback to your brain and limit your range-of-motion. If you’ve been stretching for years without broadening your range, MAT may help you see some improvements.
4. Lower risk of injury
MAT increases stability by strengthening weak muscles. If you find yourself landing wrong in a sport, you’ll be much less likely to tear a muscle or injure yourself. MAT may just save your ACLs.
5. Less pain
Pain is usually the result of long-term muscle dysfunction, or bad movement patterns that have been repeated for years. Combine this with improper communication between muscles and the brain, and you’re sure to be hurting. MAT improves the brain-muscle communication loop, which can decrease pain.