Finding the weak link in your body to improve your training using Greg Roskopf's Muscle Activation Techniques™
7 Feb 2016
“A black belt only covers two inches of your ass. You have to cover the rest” – Royce Gracie
For most professional fighters and BJJ athletes, training consumes their days. They push their body to the limits in an effort to prepare for whatever is needed in battle. Technique work, strength and conditioning, nutrition, recovery and rehabilitation are some of the ways a fighter tries to address all the areas needed to "cover their ass". Their financial and professional success depends upon what they can do physically. Performing at a high level and hopefully pain free drives many fighters to seek alternative ways to keep their body right.
You are only as strong as your weakest link
Injury, poor muscle firing, scar tissue, overuse, disuse, improper mechanics, and poor nutrition are only a few “weak links” that can negatively affect your performance. What happens when you have a weak link?
· Slower recovery time
· Decreased performance
· Muscular Compensations
· Potential Injury
· Losing flexibility and having to alter guard to accommodate tight hips
· Having a tight ankle which prevents getting low for a takedown and missing an opportunity
· Being unable to create space from the bottom due to a shoulder issue
· Losing power in your punches because the spinal muscles are not as strong as they should be in the rotation
Traditional treatments such as massage, exercise therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic are very effective in rehabilitation and preparing the body. However, Kika Mela from Mela Therapeutics, Inc., has been offering fighters an innovative approach to address the weak links: Greg Roskopf’s Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT).
MAT was developed by Colorado based Strength and Conditioning Expert Greg Roskopf as a way to address compensation patterns and muscle weakness. It is a systematic approach that assesses range of motion (ROM) and uses a specific form of muscle testing to identify poor muscular contractions or “weak muscles”. MAT identifies what you can’t do and determines if your muscles are firing properly. If you can’t go there, you may be weak there. The job of a MAT Specialist is to identify the weak links that relate to poor muscle contraction, improve those weak links, thus allowing the muscles’ to contract better, contract further, improve upon their motion, and increase stability. An example would be a fighter unable to extend his elbow fully after an arm bar. This can last weeks or years if not properly addressed and can lead to compensation patterns that affect the shoulder or other areas of the body.
When you can’t extend your elbow after an arm bar: Some Science Stuff
Based on the concept of reciprocal inhibition, when the elbow extensors do not contract properly, the relaxation signal to the elbow flexors doesn’t get sent. So now you have weakness on one side of the joint (tricep side), and tightness on the other (bicep side). This results in instability in the elbow joint and the body responds by tightening up = reduced elbow extension. This tightness is part of the body’s protective mechanism. Releasing the tissue with massage or stretching may help temporarily, but at the potential loss of strength in the elbow muscles because it may now be too relaxed to generate a lot of power. This would not be helpful when you are trying to pull your opponent down or create space from the bottom. MAT looks at the problem in reverse. Instead of looking at what is too tight, it looks at what is not contracting or shortening properly: the elbow extensors.
BEFORE TREATMENT WITH MAT: The elbow is unable to extend fully
AFTER TREATMENT WITH MAT: The elbow is able to extend further after “activating” the elbow extensors.
MAT was developed to counter compensation patterns
UFC Fighter Leandro "Buscape" Silva (pictured) did not come in for treatment of his elbow. He was complaining of pain in his shoulder doing overhead exercises or pushing up from the bottom. However, the limitation in the elbow from an old arm bar injury eventually created a compensation pattern that affected the shoulder. This is what MAT was developed to combat. Roskopf was frustrated seeing some athletes excel while others got worse using traditional methods of exercise and therapy. He discovered that athletes with more muscle imbalances had a lower chance of recovery if they only did traditional protocol based programs. He found that sometimes exercise actually made things worse! By ignoring the individual’s muscular imbalances, when strength training, their compensation patterns actually got reinforced. It would make the strong muscles stronger, and the weak muscles weaker, thereby magnifying the imbalances. Because of this, MAT has been making its mark in the performance and rehab fields over the past 25 years.
Adding MAT to traditional methods has shown to complement and possibly enhance the outcomes of treatments and speed recovery. Most of the professional athletes that Kika treats, utilize MAT in order to help them get the edge they need to stay on top of their game and “cover their ass”. MAT can help fighters open up their hips for kicks or when in guard, can reduce pain created by muscular imbalances and can even improve strength and endurance.
MAT is most effective when integrated regularly into a training program
The results of an effective MAT session can last days, weeks, or months. However, just like one workout doesn’t mean that you are forever fit, one MAT session does not mean that all your muscles are forever firing properly. It is a process and is most effective when used regularly, when used with proper training, and when homework exercises are done by the fighter.
Frequency of treatment with MAT depends on the individual and their goals
Getting slammed onto the mats, arm bars, weight cutting, or throwing dozens of punches can create a tremendous amount of stress on the body. It is important to frequently re-check the system for breakdowns in order to catch an imbalance before it manifests into a bigger problem. For high level athletes, 1-2 times per week during fight camp and heavy workouts are ideal but for others the ideal frequency can be anywhere from weekly to monthly depending on their body and what it needs. Fighters such as Light Heavyweight superstar Anthony "Rumble" Johnson see Kika for MAT 1-2xs per week in training and even hours before his fights to make sure that all his muscles are firing before he steps into the cage.
It is important for the fighter to be consistent and do their homework. Your MAT Specialist should provide you with guidelines regarding activities that will help or hinder your progress. Also, your Specialist might provide at home MAT-based exercises to complement your MAT sessions.
MAT has become an integral part of many athletes’ path to a healthy and long lasting career. Several professional teams have also started to offer MAT, due to the effectiveness of the Technique and the high demand by the athletes themselves. Kika Mela has used MAT with hundreds of NFL players as well as numerous MLB players, fighters and other elite athletes. To learn more about MAT as a treatment option, make an appointment, or to learn how to apply it on your own athletes, contact our Master Level MAT Specialist Kika Mela at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her office at 954.999.2315. You can also visit the MAT website www.muscleactivation.com to learn more or find a Specialist in your area.
This article was originally published in Portuguese and as a longer version in the July 2015 edition of the Brazillian fight magazine Tatame