For flexibility concerns & mobility related issues that impact how we move, train, or walk, some schools of thought view muscle testing as a way to gain & offer some valuable insights.
I’ll begin by attempting to simplify some very complex processes to help you clarify some things that may be involved if you think tight muscles are an issue for you.
It’s quite possible, that when we feel tight or inflexible that some muscle weaknesses are present. Sometimes for many years. Undetected muscular weakness, over time, can result in what we feel as tightness and or inflexibility.
Our Nervous system makes neuromuscular coordination decisions based on externally imposed demands & responds with internal torque generating forces via muscles on bones which then influence joints to allow for or limit motion, and at the same time insure that those joint surfaces stay in contact & remain congruent or together as we move.
This intricate regulation oriented system is how the nervous system creates, monitors, and if need be, limits motion given the forces the body is being exposed to at any given time for the activity at hand. If muscles create forces when contracting (by pulling on bones) in response to external forces, whatever patterned (compensatory) choices are made to influence stability & motion will be made in a protective manner in order to guard against potential risk as we move in order to keep going. This being determined by joint position and the forces the joint may be encountering. High velocity motions & heavy loads added to motions as seen in group fitness settings, boot camp classes and gyms, ballet studios, dance performances, some yoga studios in sports events etc, will challenge the response timing of this protection oriented internal guarding system. Muscle tightness, a component of compensation, may be associated with muscle weaknesses and is typically frowned upon, but without it, stability to a joint, series of joints in a position or the body overall may be compromised. If muscle weaknesses are present, your body will tighten other muscles to protect and keep you going. Tightness can be seen as a way to maintain joint congruency for how we move. Compensation (in this description, tightness resulting from weakness) of the system during a movement can also result in changes to internally generated forces in response to those external forces. This can lead to what is often called mal-alignment and joint contact surface changes over time. Long term, this may end up leading to more mechanical stress throughout the body. From a mechanical context, compensatory joint management is a result of the nervous system centering you or your center of gravity in order to keep you from falling over and to keep you moving. It can also be seen as a protection mechanism when your nervous system senses weakness. Depending on what kind of stressor we are encountering, these positional changes may lead to wear & tear on some aspects of joint contact surfaces which can alter the centering efforts of connective tissues. Your metabolism & state of health play into this as well, however we’ll touch on this in another article in an effort to stick to the context we opened with, that being a mechanical one. The body will then model bone, joint capsule tissues, muscle tissue tension responses & fascial network tensions along those new patterns of force in its effort to create stability and we likely won’t know about it until it starts to limit motion or performance efforts. The initial weakness that offsets one way of functioning for another to maintain stability or centering of your gravity so you can walk or move may not initially be felt. This adaptation mechanism is present in all of us and can seem more obvious in some than others and there are many factors that contribute to our ability to change or influence it. Most of us often only take action when we feel painful symptoms, unaware of what led up to them. At the point where the body tightens muscles, stresses tendons or other components of a joint, or wears cartilage down, as a compensatory response to altered joint & muscle forces, (again this is protective) weaknesses may have been present long beforehand only never addressed or even noticed or detected. Many use pain killers or muscle relaxers to alleviate what are often painful compensatory efforts by the body to keep us upright & mobile. Although they may provide relief to these symptoms, they may miss some underlying causes. These sorts of discomforts, when seen as “check engine” lights, as on the dashboard of your car, can be clues to possible underlying causes of compromised movement.
It helps our understanding to view the body as not make mistakes. It can only respond to our actions and choices and attempt to tweak, modify and adapt accordingly and create a best case scenario in order to keep you centered, moving & weight bearing. These are attempts to create efficiency in response to everything you do, including exercise, yoga, pilates, golf, tennis, walking etc. Coordination changes in the hip can influence pelvic and spinal forces and all of the bodies musculature must then adapt and reorient how to respond. Unaddressed, compensation patterns can become the normal way of functioning and eventually not feel so good. This can impede progress in an exercise program, yoga practice, sports effort, or just walking and partaking in normal daily activities.
Muscle Testing offers an opportunity to assess the contractile capabilities of the muscular system and its role in posture, joint mechanics, flexibility & mobility on an individual basis for their exercise and lifestyle pursuits. This can offer valuable insights as to a persons own training opportunities in a gym, a yoga class or sport when devising an exercise program.
We employ M.A.T. which is Muscle Activation Techniques, developed by Greg Roskopf.
This protocol employs a Comparative Assessment of Mobility (CAM) to witness possible movement restrictions then applies Active Muscle Contract and Sustain (AMC &S) testing to look for isolated muscle positional weaknesses. MAT helps us to devise exercises which are tailored to an individuals specific needs.