Every athlete, from a casual jogger to a professional football player, has a minor (or major) injury every once in awhile. Greg Roskopf, who was a football player at William Penn University, wasn’t even on the field when he got hurt. He was working a summer job when he fell 20 feet into a rock quarry and fractured a vertebra. The fall ended his football career and started a laundry list of issues with his knees, hips and feet. Over the next 18 years, Roskopf — who now has a master’s degree in physical education with an emphasis in exercise science — was his own guinea pig, putting together his training and knowledge, testing ideas and finally coming up with Muscle Activation Therapy in 2000.
Over the years, there have been many success stories from MAT clients. Perhaps most famously, retired quarterback Peyton Manning credits his success and longevity to MAT. After his neck injury and subsequent surgeries, Manning flew Roskopf from Denver to Indianapolis once a week for treatment. But Manning isn’t the only pro athlete that Roskopf works with — he treats the entire Broncos football team and the Nuggets basketball team, among others.
WHAT IS MUSCLE ACTIVATION THERAPY?
When an injury occurs, Roskopf’s theory is that we need to “correct the way in which the brain ‘talks’ to the muscles. If the signal can’t be sent, the muscles can’t fire.” MAT is based on the theory that injuries stem from muscle imbalances and a limited range of motion, so it’s about finding the root cause of that imbalance. For example, if your right hamstring is tight, a MAT specialist would look at your right quadricep and even your core to see whether everything is contracting the way that it should be.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A MAT SESSION?
The initial session with a MAT specialist involves explaining your training and injury history. Then there’s a quick examination of your range of motion, like raising your legs, twisting your waist, etc. Once your biggest limitation is discovered, the specialist will do muscle tests within that area.
I went in for an evaluation with Carolyn Giese, a MAT specialist at the headquarters in Englewood, Colorado. After checking my range of motion, she discovered that my right knee flexion was my biggest limitation. Giese did several muscle tests, which meant I had to resist her pressure on my leg in certain positions, and if I didn’t appear to be strong in that area, she would treat it. The treatment involves pushing on certain points along the muscle (also called palpating the muscle), including where it attaches to the bone. It’s meant to remind the targeted muscle to contract and work properly.
THE BASIC PHILOSOPHY OF MAT
“There are several things that can cause a muscle to shut down,” Giese explained. “Physical stress, emotional stress and chemical stress.” Physical stress can be overuse of a muscle, or sitting in a chair at an office all day. Emotional stress can have a multitude of negative effects on our bodies, and chemical stress has to do with what we put in our bodies.
“People think it’s weird when we ask them to go back to their very first injury,” Giese says, laughing. “But everything is connected.” Instead of looking at your knee for a knee injury, a MAT specialist will look at everything to see where you have a muscle imbalance or range of motion limitation, and address the issue from there.
Each time that Giese had to work on a muscle, she would repeat the muscle test. Every time I went from being so weak that she could easily push down my leg with one hand, to being able to solidly resist her pressure. It worked. Obviously, everyone is different, and some people may see a difference after just one session, while others may need a few sessions.