In this special guest interview, Washington D.C. fitness blogger Lexie Bohnert of the Workout Wonks interviews Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) Specialist Jennifer Schwartz-Biggle.
About Jennifer: "Jennifer Schwartz-Biggle is the owner of Impact Sport Science, a strength and conditioning specialist, a recent Masters of Science recipient, and a Muscle Activation Techniques™ Specialist. She has helped a large array of clients (Olympic level athletes, 14 year old competitive soccer players, and Moms ready to focus on their own body) gain strength, stability, and achieve their seemingly impossible goals. She oversees strength and conditioning classes and sees clients in Arlington and Alexandria. She is also a colourful girls soccer coach."
About Lexie: "Lexie Bohnert is a certified yoga and spinning instructor who loves chaturanga push-ups, om-ing and endurance rides. She has recently left the corporate world and looks forward to a year of teaching and adventuring. Lexie is the co-creator of the health and wellness blog WorkoutWonks. You can follow the Wonks and Lexie on Twitter at @WorkoutWonks and @lexie1218."
Lexie: What is Muscle Activation Techniques?
Jennifer: It is a process that involves assessing, identifying and correcting muscular imbalances. The technique is based on using range of motion and specific positional testing to target weak muscles. What makes it so effective is that we target an individual muscle’s ability to sense and detect. This gives us information on contractile efficiencies of a clients muscular system. I’m a muscle whisperer.
Lexie: How is it applied/what is involved in an MAT session/treatment?
Jennifer: We look at MAT as a process. In one session we do a comparative range of motion assessment, meaning we look at your left versus your right. From there the specialist will decide what area or joint range of motion we can improve upon. This is different than looking at tightness and assuming that there are limitations for this person - we are looking at ranges of motion and how we can improve. Once this decision is made, we see if there is a lack of communication between how the muscle responds and reacts. We use muscles tests. Essentially, a really geeky trainer helps you feel stronger in one session. You get off the table and immediately sense a difference. A common misconception of MAT is that it is primarily for injury rehab when in fact if you come in when healthy, we can prepare your body for any type of exercise or sport.
Lexie: Who it is appropriate for?
Jennifer: It was originally designed for professional athletes and people who rely on the performance of their body. Fast forward nearly 2 decades and MAT is used for Granny getting up the stairs to a brand new marathon runner and seasoned Ironman competitors alike. It is perfect for anyone that values the health and maintenance of their muscular system.
Lexie: What is the certification process?
Jennifer: The certification process is designed for career trainers, those looking to make a serious investment in their future and their clients’ health. MAT is not massage, physical therapy, or chiropractic work. It is a way to precisely assess muscle function as it relates to contractile characteristics and how it contributes to gross motion; biomechanics.
The certification process is a year-long internship process that involves over 200 hours of class time and more than 300 hours of outside practice. The exam is a 2-day practical and written exam. Annual continuing education is required to remain certified. This year I am taking at least two classes. On my summer schedule are a cadaver dissection course in Pittsburg and a practical class in Raleigh. To get started I highly recommend the Jumpstart series for any trainer or dedicated exerciser.
Lexie: Why have you connected with it?
Jennifer: At 23, I was beat up from college and amaetur soccer. I wanted to finish college so I enrolled in the Pre-physical Therapy program at Marymount. A few years later, after my second ACL tear, I discovered the life-changing practice of MAT. Immediately I knew that I wanted to bring MAT to the world of female athletes, elevate their game and physical well-being.
Instead of surgery I rebuilt my strength with the assistance of a very talented MAT Specialist. I’m so strong. This is by far the strongest I have ever been. My body has a high tolerance for exercise. Without an ACL and an arthritic knee, doctors think I shouldn’t be able to do Olympic style lifting, play tennis, and play a little soccer, but I do… a lot. MAT has given my body more and more opportunities to perform.
Lexie: How do you see MAT changing the wellness landscape?
Jennifer: Exercise isn’t just about squats and lunges anymore, it is about managing all the details. As an exercise culture we are getting smarter. The information highway is providing the exercise world with so many great perspectives. The more we learn the the more we realize how unique we are. If you know your body you know that you don’t just recover from one workout and magically become stronger. What other trainer can say that they can improve the motion of a client’s foot in minutes and then show the application in a single exercise? MAT is the epitome of micromanaging the details.
Lexie: What is your philosophy as it relates to health, wellness & fitness?
Jennifer: The sports science piece that my practice identifies with is about helping people understand that exercise and wellness is about a process. You have to be objective to be effective. I approach each client with an open mind and we will never ever pull a workout out of a magazine… it isn’t tailored towards them.
The more you learn about your own body and ask questions, the better, stronger and healthier you will become. Every time you exercise, can you say that you are maximizing your opportunity? Without MAT and an objective scientific thought-process, I don’t believe that you can fully answer that question.