Muscle Activation Articles

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PGA Pro Martin Butcher talks to Owen Hedicker about a new system for golfers called Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT)

What is Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT)?
Due to daily routines, habits, posture, injury and the natural aging process we develop compensations in movement often associated with feelings of muscle tightness.  This may be obvious such as twisting an ankle causing it to tighten and shift your weight to the other leg or underlying a-symmetries like noticing that it is easier to scratch your back with one hand than the other or put one shoe on than the other.  MAT views muscle tightness as a form of protection by the body from joint instability caused by inhibited muscles.  By re-activating these muscles MAT introduces stability to the joint with the benefit of greater control, strength, mobility and a reduction in muscle tightness.

How does this specifically relate to golf?
Well the number one way of improving your game is by improving your swing technique either through practise or better still a lesson where you can have your swing analysed.  What this does is pick up swing faults to address.

It is increasingly being recognised that beyond bad habits a lot of swing faults are due to poor posture, poor range of motion and lack of stability in the body.  This leads to a variety of movement compensations, aches and pains.  This is why even when you ‘know what to do’ you may be unable to do it or at least do it consistently.   This can be because your body is simply putting you back into the positions it feels it can operate most effectively in.  This can stop your progression at any level or worse still, cause your game to deteriorate.   

Common postural and mobility deficits:

So how can people address these problems?
There are a number of existing ways to address this e.g. stretching, massage and exercise.  These can work by addressing a symptom e.g. the stretch or massage may release the tight muscles or you may be able to consciously engage and strengthen muscles.  But here is where the problem can remain! 

Stretching and massage:
With stretching and massage you are taking tension out of the muscle which can give you relief, but it may not be addressing the cause.  With MAT we are asking why is the muscle tight? What job is it doing?  If it is one of the few muscles adding stability to a joint and you take this away with a stretch or massage it will simply tighten up again or you may even feel worse.  That is why MAT addresses the joint instability and weakness rather than the tightness.  As the body gains more stability it releases the tight muscles.  Limitations in mobility are used as indicators for where the instability may lie but you can even find that the problem area is in an associated joint away from the symptom.  E.g. Problems in torso rotation my stem from tight hips or vice versa.         

Exercise can help strengthen a golfer and specifically core exercise is used for power generation and stability.  However the weakness addressed with MAT is not the same as with conventional exercise.  Whereas conventional exercise is based on producing force MAT tests for the body’s sub-conscious ability to regulate tension.  What we find with conventional exercise is that people often are simply strengthening their compensations so the strong muscles get stronger and the weak remain weak! 

So Muscle Activation Techniques goes beyond conventional methods?
Yes! MAT addresses and restores the body’s natural ability to regulate and produce tension when required.  Whereby other methods produce mobility MAT has the tools to ensure there is the stability to maintain and develop it. 

The effects are:

Great. How does the MAT process work?
An initial appraisal involves a postural and range of motion assessment.  This is to highlight areas of instability in the body and will be the basis of your treatment.  Following this is normally a short course of sessions to activate the inhibited muscles and develop joint stability.  This is performed through a combination of palpation techniques and you may also be given the option of specific exercises to be performed at home.        

This answers a lot of questions, thank you for your time.