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October 01, 2019 4 min read

Have you ever wondered why you are not making progress on muscle gains?

Although there can be a variety of reasons, such as diet, sleep, stress, or even genetics, there is one more reason which few of us have thought of. Simply not enough of us know enough about the anatomy of the body or how our muscle system works and much less how to train it properly to yield desired results.

This lack of knowledge unfortunately leads people to injury which may also lead to imbalances in the body, causing certain muscles or joints to compensate for the weaker areas of the body that go unnoticed. We will provide you with some insightful information about how muscle activation therapy (MAT) plays a role in helping us get the best results, not only from our workouts but getting the very best from our muscles.

MAT's main goal

The goal of MAT is to evaluate the ability of our muscles to contract efficiently.

When we experience injuries, inflammation occurs and, as a result, the communication between the brain and muscles is compromised. When we get back to the gym after an injury or try to power through those sets ignoring the "tightness," our muscles will not perform to their maximum capacity, also increasing chances for future.

Since our muscles help with joint stability and “cushions” them, when they are limited from providing this support due toinflammation, well guess what? Damage and weakness will decreasethe muscles' efficiency, and by putting more strain where there is tension, we wont yield the same results from our workouts! 

Think of it as a feedback loop as the body's response in order to protect further injury.

How does this work?

Our bodies will compensate the damage done by pushing the load into other muscles. When the work we put in goes into stronger areas of the body rather than strengthening the weaker areas (the muscles we actually want to train), imbalances in muscle growth occurs.

Picture someone with a very muscular quads but much less muscular glutes or very big shoulders but a weak and flat chest.

The body is smart and has its ways to protect you! It is important to address those tension areas for maximum performance in our training routines. This is where MAT can help "put you back together" by addressing tension areas in the body resulting from heavy lifting or strenuous exercises.

The Science Behind MAT

As mentioned above, the body always responds in ways to protect us. Let's learn about the ways it protects us during muscle damage - normal tearing of muscle fibers - the normal soreness that takes place after a workout - or actual injury.

  • When we are sore after heavy lifts, our muscles lose their ability to contract efficiently which means they also lose their ability to "shorten;" this means that they lose their ability to move as they should in their natural range of motion.
  • Imagine you are flexing your bicep. When you make this move, the muscle will be in its "shortened" position. Now, the opposite muscle (tricep in this case) will lose the ability to lengthen or contract efficiently, which yields to the tightness we feel after a workout. Still with me?
  • Another way to think about this is by recognizing what the body does when it senses instability. If your lower back is strained when working out, let's say while doing deadlifts, your body will tense up and tighten in other areas and the muscles you are trying to train will not perform at their maximum capability.
  • MAT works by releasing the tightness so the muscle can resume their normal movement without restrictions. Surely, if you want to see results from your workouts it's definitely important that your muscles are working at their highest level.

Overall, MAT fixes the root problem by figuring out which muscles were overworked in your previous workout, reestablishing the brain to muscle connection. So if you have experienced or are currently experiencing pain in your joints or have muscle aches, it is highly recommended to see a trusted therapist.

What are some exercises to include in all of your workouts to improve full range of motion in our muscle groups?

Isolated muscle strengthening (training muscles in their “shortened” positions) will improve the ability to perform the best in those specific weaker areas. By focusing on the functional movements of our body, we can determine the best exercises.

The following compound exercises are key to improving your overall muscle strength and endurance. Each are matched to the body's most basic functional movements.

Vertical pushing - Shoulder press
Horizontal pushing - Bench press
Horizontal pulling - Bent over rows
Squatting - Squats
Bending push- Sit ups
Bending pull - deadlifts
Twisting - Wood-chops
Vertical pulling - Pull-ups/ Chin-ups


Performing these compound exercises or other versions of them, along with isolation exercises (as needed) to strengthen weaker areas, is one way to prevent injury, correct overcompensation, gain strength, and also optimize your time in the gym. Make sure to research how to perform the movements correctly to prevent injury!