Muscle Testing – “Does this mean my abs are just weak?”
This is a fairly common question I get in the office on a routine basis. We use a lot of muscle testing in the office and this isn’t to see how strong you are…Rather this is a way we can assess the nervous system. It gives us an insight into how well you can activate a muscle. You could have the strongest ab muscles in the world, but if your brain struggles to find those muscles during a simple muscle test, the strength doesn’t matter all that much.
This is not to say that you cannot fire that muscle at all, but more likely that the nervous system is firing the muscle through very inefficient means. We want to see the muscle fire and engage immediately, instead of either:
1) delayed firing
2) painful engagement of the muscle,
3) significant inability to engage the muscle at all
4) a combination of options 1-3.
Once we find a muscle (or several muscles) that are weak, or inhibited, it helps us to identify issues in the movement patterns and especially and insight into why there is pain and discomfort in the first place. Using Proprioceptive Deep Tendon Reflex (P-DTR), we can figure out which receptor is causing this inhibition and correct it.
So the short answer is, “No, you aren’t weak! No, you don’t need to do 1,000 sit-ups every day!”
However, if you feel like you have trouble activating certain muscle groups during a workout, you are in the right place! Common muscles that patients say “don’t feel right” or they “just can’t get it to fire” include glutes, hamstrings, latissimus dorsi and certainly the abs. Patients notice a significant change once the dysfunctional receptors are reset and the brain can easily and efficiently activate those muscle groups!