What is MAT?
MAT stands for Muscle Activation Technique and is a specific exercise technique that increases mobility AND strength through strengthening muscle groups rather than stretching muscle groups. It was created by Greg Roskopf in the 1990’s and has been used by many professional athletes in the NBA, IFBB, and PGA.
How does it work?
Well, let’s imagine for a second that you want to touch your toes. To do that, most people would tell you that you need to use increase the flexibility of the muscles on the back side of your body: the low back, hamstrings, calves, etc. Saying so would not be wrong, either! But, there is also another way to do this: contracting the muscles on the front side of your body to pull you down to your toes!
What does that mean?
Let me give you an example:
Lay down on your back with your legs out long and reach your hand up. Now, raise your straight legs up as high as they can go and reach for them with your hands like so:
Whether or not you could do it, the process by which you attempted to get your toes to your hands was not a process of flexibility; it was a process of strength. You used the muscles on the front side of your body to connect your hands and toes (maybe). If you rotate that picture of me 180-degrees, and remove the background, you get a position that is the exact same as bending over and touching your toes, except I’m not using flexibility, I’m using strength!
See how that looks the exact same as someone trying to bend over and touch their toes? This is the basic idea behind MAT and in today’s article, I am going to discuss how you can use this technique to improve your golf game just like Bryson DeChambeau has.
Breaking Down The Golf Swing
In order to get the most out of this style of training, you really need to work on each aspect of the golf swing and train those parts individually (this is what Bryson talks about in this video). To keep things simple, I am going to take just one part of the golf swing and give you some exercises that will improve both the mobility and strength of that portion of the swing.
Today, we will focus solely on rotation, as it’s probably the most fundamental aspect of the golf swing. If you are a golfer, you should know that if you can rotate more, you will be able to generate more power from your swing and therefore hit the ball farther.
Unfortunately, getting more rotation is something that alludes many amateur goflers. Until today!
To show you how well this works and how quickly it works, take a look at the amount of rotation I have right now:
As you can see, I actually have a pretty decent amount of rotation, but there’s a huge discrepancy from side to side.
Just as before, we can approach this problem by stretching, which doesn’t address strength deficits, or we can use an exercise similar to MAT that will make our muscles move us into that position, just like I showed with touching your toes.
Rotation Workout Routine
The beautiful thing about this is that it’s incredibly simple and requires nothing but the corner of the wall!
Greg Roskopf has this beautiful saying that goes: “If you provide the body a sense of stability, it will give you all the mobility in the world.”
What that means is that you need to teach your body how to activate the proper muscles and activate them hard enough so that it trusts it’s stable to let you into that range of motion.
The muscles that we are going to be focusing on here for this exercise are the upper back, side abs, and rear shoulder muscles.
Before performing the exercise that I am about to show you, I encourage you to first get down on your hands and knees and take pictures of how much rotation you have so that after you do the exercises, you can see how much you have improved!
Okay, so, in order to do this exercise, the only thing that you need is a corner of a wall and a timer (I use my phone).
Step 1: Positioning
- Extend one arm out along the wall with the back of your hand on the wall and make a fist
- Point your feet, hips, and chest as far away from your arm as you can
You should end up in a position like this:
Step 2: Exert!
Now that you are in the correct position set your timer for 30 seconds and push as hard as you can into the wall with the back of your hand. Right away, you should feel your upper back, ab, and shoulder muscles lighting up. You will probably be shaking, and you will probably start to sweat as well; all of this is normal.
Step 3: Switch and repeat
Now do the same exact thing on your other arm.
Step 4: Repeat more
Do this exercise 3 times on each side for 30 seconds a round and then get down on the ground and retake your photos! You should see that you have way more rotational mobility, which has been accomplished through strengthening, not stretching!
Here are my before and after results doing this just one time on each side:
As you can see, I nearly have a perfect 180-degrees of rotation immediately following one round of this on both sides!
Why does this work?
Again, it goes back to what Greg said: “If you provide the body a sense of stability, it will give you all the mobility in the world.”
In doing this exercise, we are teaching the body to utilize strength to create a position (optimal rotation for a golf swing) in a stable way. When the muscles are activated in this rotated position, the body senses that as a safe position and therefore allows you to move further and further into rotation. You have to remember that the body is already able to rotate; what’s stopping YOU from being able to rotate all the way is the body recognizing that IF it lets you go that far, it won’t feel safe because you don’t have the requisite strength to safely be in that position.
By holding these positions, you are teaching the body, “when I go this way, you fire these muscles.” As you do these exercises more, those muscles will become stronger, and the body will become far more comfortable letting you go to that position because it trusts that the strength is there to support it!
While you, too, will also have immediate results from this, it will take many rounds of these exercises to have access to this level of rotation on command. Think about like when you go to the gym and do a hard weight training session. Your muscles are pumped up, and you look/feel huge. But, sadly, by the end of the night, the pump has gone, and you’re back to your normal size.
The same is true for this. Once your body calms down, you will likely lose much of the rotation you gained.
However, do not fear! Just as in the gym, you will eventually realize the strength gains over time if you are consistent and deliberate with the exercises!
While I cannot call myself a certified MAT trainer, I do have programs available that utilize exercises just like the one above that will help to improve your mobility and strength on the golf course in a way that is similar to Bryson!
If you would like to learn more, fill out the contact form below, and I will be in touch with you!