Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Thoughts on Muscle Activation Seminar

A few weeks ago I finally had the opportunity to go to a Muscle Activation seminar in Chicago.  I'm not really sure how much I'm allowed to say as I was made to sign a waiver limiting information release .  I did ask what it was for and the instructor said it was simply a way for them not to be liable if I was injured as it was partially a hands on instruction.  I believe they just don't want the specific tests published as this would pretty much hinder their ability to get more attendees.

I was pretty excited to go and learn about muscle activation.  I had started to do some bastardized work a little while ago after working with a tremendous massage therapist from Toronto named Jeremy Grahm.  He had highly recommended it.  I had seen some strength coaches doing it with their athletes as well (not M.A.T.) and it makes sense to me philosophically.

The general basis is you take a person through joint ranges of motion looking for asymmetries.  When you find one you muscle test certain muscles.  The test is more sensitive then general muscle break tests. This method of gentleness you are really testing the ability to quickly contract and stabilize, not hold against a large force.  After finding weakness or instability, you use isometrics to "activate" the muscle.  Move on and repeat.  The basis is that "tight" muscles come from something else being inhibited.

You can't make an inhibited muscle strong.  Get an inhibited muscle activated, then make it strong.  I've always believed in those two sentences.

I'm just going to list the stuff I liked and the stuff I didn't like, so please excuse my randomness.

 I thought it was priced pretty fairly for a two day seminar.  I've seen so many seminars these days getting into the 2-3000 dollar range.  At this point, I think it limits students and professionals from exploring different modalities and tools.

My instructor really knew the technique and was engaging.  I've been to some, where they just were not good teachers.   He was able to fully communicate the information.

For better or worse, you don't need any type of license to take the seminar.  The seminar I was at, I was the only one with a license of any sort.  Everyone else were personal trainers and Pilate's instructors.  (on a side note, I wonder what would happen to the fitness industry if every personal trainer needed a college degree)  While this is neither good nor bad, for me it was a bit tedious.  The first half of day one was going over some basic science.  4 hours not wasted, but not learning anything.

I felt it was a bit slow paced.  I like feeling overwhelmed with information.  I want to feel like I'm barely staying afloat, not thinking, let's move on.  I honestly think with some motivation we could have done the course in 5 hours.  This was probably my biggest negative to the seminar.  I value my free time more then anything these days.  So to give up a weekend away from family, friends and nice Michigan weather (it was 80 degrees and sunny and I was in a windowless classroom for two 9 hour days) is pretty hard.

There are three modules with M.A.T.  I have taken the lower.  I have not decided if I will take the upper.  I went out of my way to take lower, I will probably only take upper if it fits into my schedule.

They also offer a 3 day, 8 weekend course where you will become M.A.T. certified.  I have no use for this.  This would end up costing close to 10,000 dollars.  I don't need more letters after my name.   When asked the difference between the courses we take and the internship program, was told that the internship go over every specific muscle that can be tested.

Like many, many systems out there.  This is a combination of many older modalities that have come before it.  Read Thomas Hanna's works with Somatics and you will understand the science M.A.T. uses.  Alpha and Gamma coactivation and testing the muscle in a shortened state.  Isometrics have been used for who knows how long to bring about strength gains.

This though isn't a knock on on M.A.T.  They have put it together in a nice flowing way.  I practice Active Release Technique a ton in my practice.  I went through all their modules and have spent well over 12,000 dollars to get accredited and keep the accreditation.  Even A.R.T. though was based on things that came before it.  Trust me, people were doing specific soft tissue work before A.R.T. was invented.  But, what I like about A.R.T was that there is a very nice flow and thought process to it.  They have also marketed it extremely well.  So I don't have to market as much.  It sells itself.

Just as A.R.T isn't pin and stretch as some people think.  Their is an art to the ART.  M.A.T. isn't just find a weak muscle and do an isometric.  Their is an art to all manual therapy.  The key is in the practitioners delivery.  In then end, I see M.A.T as a nice tool to add to my tool box.  I'm glad I went.

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