Joe Marso is a Muscle Activiation Techniques specialist, aiming to alleviate and prevent chronic pain and injury. His background in athletics and expert knowledge biomechanics allow him to help clients of different backgrounds and fitness goals. Learn about how he became a MAT specialist and his advice on stretching and injury prevention!
Occupation: Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) Specialist, Biomechanics Expert
Resident of Santa Barbara since: August 1968
Favorite Local Restaurant: Opal, Elements, Ca Dario
Music you are currently listening to: The 20’s and 30’s courtesy of “Happy Day’s Radio Show”
Idea of a dream vacation: Fun and laughter
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Training others in MAT and traveling to lead workshops on the principles of physics and biomechanics. I really enjoy sharing these principles with my clients during a MAT session
How did you first become involved in the fitness industry? It was over 30 years ago now when I started my first strength training program to enhance performance in my sports. In 1986 I started taking aerobics classes at Gold’s Gym, where just a couple years later I became an instructor. From 1991-1998, I toured as an International Fitness Presenter in Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, and Mexico teaching in three languages. By 2000 I had earned yoga and Pilates certifications.
What made you decide to specialize in Muscle Activation Techniques? MAT is a system of checks and balances that can instantly show someone whether or not his or her exercise program is actually doing what they think it’s doing, or if it’s just reinforcing compensations and inadvertently tearing the person down. With MAT, there’s no guesswork involved. It has over 200 very specific muscle tests that check your reflexes and your body’s ability to react to unexpected loads. During a session, if muscles are unable to respond to a load, one by one they are immediately “jumpstarted”, thus eliminating the need to compensate. Unless compensations are addressed, the strong muscles get stronger and the weak stay weak… and you magnify the imbalance!
What do you love most about your job? I love sharing the unique concepts behind MAT that make it so successful. Seeing the instant gratification and delight on a client’s face throughout a session as muscles, which moments before were inhibited, return once again to full output. There are many rewards that come from helping others.
Why do you think MAT can help anyone in the community? Everyone has some degree of muscle imbalance and positions of vulnerability. MAT will reveal and correct them! Who wouldn’t benefit from increasing their mechanical efficiency? In fact, the more active you are the more important it is to have good alignment and to be “firing on all cylinders”. Try riding your bike with the handle bars loose, bent rims and low tire pressure…you can do it, but it’s unsafe and inefficient!
What do you think is the best way to prevent injury? Three things. First, eliminate asymmetries and compensations in your body. Second, avoid loads that are beyond your bodies tolerance…micro-progress with all your activities. And third, stop stretching now! (that should have gotten your attention!) If you love stretching, find out all you can about it. Passive stretches have a “wonderful” analgesic effect and temporarily (or permanently) weakens tissue. Have you ever wondered why the muscles you stretched are tight again the next day? The central nervous system instructs certain muscles to “tighten up” as a result of weakness and instability sensed around a joint. So, until you address the weakness, the same muscles are instructed to protect the area over and over again. By stretching alone, you are overriding the body’s innate protection mechanism and opening up vulnerabilities.
What advice would you give to people who have chronic pain or injuries? Pain is our body’s way of telling us that there is dysfunction in the system. Just because your left knee hurts, it doesn’t mean that you have a left knee problem. The problem might be in the left hip and/or the foot, or even on the right side! So applying ice, heat, ultrasound, and other modalities to the painful area is often just treating a symptom. If the tires on your car wear out every 3,000 miles, you can keep changing them or find out why. The body will heal itself if you give it an environment to heal in. Therefore, you must find out what is causing the irritation, not just treat the pain. It is MAT’s philosophy to address all muscle inhibitions and imbalances and the pain will fade or disappear.