Disclaimer: I received 3 treatments in exchange for blog & social media exposure.
I am sore all the time. Whether it’s my insatiable love for obstacle course racing or just pushing the limits in my weekly fitness challenges. My body is definitely used to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). At times I have learned how to rest and at other times I seek out professional help so I can fix problems that may be surfacing. For the majority of 2015, I lived with a bruised left ankle bone that didn’t allow me to run all year (except for racing). I would run a race and then recover and let my ankle heal. In September, it had fully healed and I was able to get back into running. My hip flexors however have been extremely tight and sore throughout the past few months. I didn’t think much of it and started stretching consistently & continuing with my nightly Epsom salt baths. And then a new form of self-care popped into my life.
I was tagged on Instagram in a post about trying out the ISOPHIT machine at Striation 6 (near Yonge & Davisville). One of my fellow Magnum Nutraceuticals sponsored athletes, Taylor Rose, trains there so I messaged her and suggested we do a leg workout together. While at the facility I was testing out my deadlift form on the ISOPHIT machine and met Sam. Sam Trotta, one of the gym’s co-founder introduced himself and was showing me one leg lifts on the machine to activate the quad (see picture below). I couldn’t even feel my quad activating as my hip flexor was screaming in pain. He asked if he could quickly assess me and try a MAT treatment on me. The results were kinda crazy! We tested my side glute strength (similar to the picture at the bottom of the post) and found imbalances on my right side. I lay on my back and we tested my ability to keep my leg held out to the side while being pushed in by Sam with my head straight up, turned to the left & turned to the right. We found some muscle imbalances & weaknesses when I tried doing the test with my head turned to the right. He then proceeded to activate specific muscles in my upper body (traps & neck) and after re-testing I had regained strength in my leg again. I then tried the exact same exercise below on the ISOPHIT but this time my quad actually fired and I wasn’t using my sore hip flexors to fire. Mind blown!
Ok so let’s take a step back…
What is Muscle Activation Therapy or Techniques?
According to this website Muscle Activation Techniques is:
- A revolutionary approach to the assessment and correction of muscular imbalances, joint instability and limitations in range of motion within the human body
- A non-invasive technique designed to balance the muscular system of people of all ages.
- A unique systematic format is used to “jumpstart” the muscles in order for them to function with maximum efficiency.
I sat down with Sam after our 3rd session to pick his brain on this “new to me” technique that has already helped me run almost pain-free over the past few weeks as I train for my next half marathon (2nd ever in life) in January.
Robyn: Why did you decide to get certified in MAT?
Sam: I enrolled in the MAT Specialist program after experiencing the treatment first-hand. Its effectiveness absolutely blew me away. I was out of pain and noticeably stronger immediately after it. Before learning MAT, I was also constrained to a certain kind of Personal Training clientele – people who had no pain or abnormal physical limitations. Learning MAT allowed me to open my services to a wider variety of clients; it allowed me to help more people through exercise & treatment.
Robyn: If you had to describe what MAT is in 3 sentences how would you?
Sam: Muscle Activation Techniques is an investigative, source-oriented body treatment process that aims at providing clients with optimal muscular stability. By improving the ability of muscles to contract, MAT can create long-term changes in a person’s ability to perform work, move, exercise to lose weight or increase strength or improve athletic performance and most importantly understand the root cause of their muscle and joint-oriented limitations. Although MAT is not a pain treatment, those who engage in MAT treatments tend to be successful in having their pain reduced or eliminated via improved muscular system capabilities.
Robyn: What’s the best kind of client you want to work with?
Sam: I am always grateful to help people – it is why I do what I do. If I cared about money, I’d have been a stockbroker (or something like that). With that said, I tend to get the most out of experiences with clients who are both committed to their exercise processes and who understand their roles in the process. Ownership is key – I cannot really help anyone who is unwilling to help themselves. I will always offer homework to clients through restorative isometric exercises based on what I observe during individual treatments. Those who do their homework have far more success than those who do not. I should also say clearly that I view MAT as part of the exercise process given its direct effect on the muscular system. My most successful clients are the ones who engage in exercise with me alongside their MAT treatments. Training frequencies vary so that clients work within their body’s current settings allowing exercise to be a healthy part of life rather than something that hurts or sets a person back.
Robyn: If you had to recommend what other therapy works well in conjunction with MAT what would it be?
Sam: Appropriate exercise. People can shout “FIX ME!” as loud as they can, but until they take ownership of their pain or physicality through exercise, any therapeutic “fix” is extremely limited. The exercise part does not have to be extreme – in fact, it shouldn’t be; it needs to be based on a person’s specific goals. My mantra these days has been that if I had to pick between consistency and intensity in the context of exercise, consistency wins every time. We live in a society where overly aggressive intensity of exercise is revered; that is stupid. As exercise enthusiasts, we are often victims of our own egos and the “more is better” mindset. Intensity has to be gauged within a certain context. If people continually break themselves either through too much or too little physcial activity and expect someone else to fix them, they will likely be unsuccessful in the long run. In that context, I have also found that meditation, psychotherapy and other mind-based treatment modalities work wonders in conjunction with MAT.