A female client lies face down and a female massage therapist presses on the client's back and muscles tests at the client's foot, in an Applied Kinesiology session.

Applied kinesiology is a system of health care that incorporates many holistic techniques.

It utilizes muscle testing to assess and correct structural and energetic imbalances in the body. First developed by George Goodheart, DC, in 1964, applied kinesiology has developed into one of the most effective and widely used health sciences, and has spun off many other systems, including Touch for Health.

Some of the principles and techniques from applied kinesiology that can help you be more effective as a massage therapist include how to:

• Understand and correct a primary cause of musculoskeletal pain, tension and range-of-motion difficulties

• Increase athletic performance by activating muscles to perform at their peak

• Establish priority corrections the body needs to effectively resolve the problem

• Determine meridian imbalances and which acupressure points need stimulation

• Find muscles needing myofascial release

Opposing Muscle Weakness = Structural Imbalance

Goodheart discovered it was opposing muscle weakness that often caused muscles to be tight and in spasm. An example of this is, a tight upper trapezius is commonly commensal to the opposing latissimus dorsi not firing at full strength.

To test a muscle, the trained kinesiologist brings the body into a position where the muscle’s origin and insertion are close together. Then as they stabilize the body with one hand, they push the extremity that the muscle’s insertion attaches in a line of drive that takes the origin and insertion farthest apart.

Goodheart discovered several techniques to strengthen weak muscles and create structural balance. He found that muscles test weak due to stress affecting the structural, neurological and energy systems that facilitate the muscle.

The Origin/Insertion Technique

By applying firm pressure to the origin and insertion of a weak muscle, particularly if it had a recent or chronic injury, Goodheart found, it can often instantly strengthen the muscle. He hypothesized the weakness was due to a microavulsion of the tendon from the periosteum.

I used this origin/insertion technique on a ballet dancer after she had strained her hamstrings before a performance. As the featured ballerina that night, she feared she would not be able to dance. Moments before she was to go onstage, I applied the origin/insertion technique, massaging all the attachments of her hamstrings for about 20 seconds. She gained full power and range of motion to her hamstrings and went on to perform.

The Spindle Cell Technique

Another method that can immediately strengthen a muscle is stimulating proprioceptors known as neuromuscular spindle cells in the belly of a muscle. These nerve cells tell the muscle how much to be facilitated. A muscle can be underfacilitated due to its spindle cells not signaling properly.

To do this technique, the trained kinesiologist places their thumbs two inches apart in the line of the fibers in the belly of the muscle and pulls them apart several times. After treatment, the muscle should test strong and the procedure should not need to be repeated.

I applied this and other muscle activation techniques to a female triathlete before the Kona Ironman World Championship, a grueling swim, bike, and run 140.6-mile race. Because she had injured her leg earlier in the season, no one expected her to do well. I strengthened her quadriceps using the spindle cell technique, along with balancing several other muscles the day before the race. She crossed the finish line third overall and set an American record for the Hawaiian Ironman race.

The spindle cell technique can also help release tight muscles. This is done by pushing the thumbs together several times in the belly of the muscle to reset the spindle cells. Try this on a tight muscle and you will often notice quick results.

Meridian and Organ Energy

Another of Goodheart’s breakthrough discoveries was that every skeletal muscle in the body is associated with an acupuncture meridian and an organ. Blocks within a meridian of the flow of bioelectrical energy, known as chi in Chinese medicine, can cause muscle inhibition. Specific acupressure points can activate weak muscles. If an acupressure point is touched while the weak muscle is retested and it becomes strong, stimulating that point can correct the muscle weakness.

Also, if an organ is under stress or in a state of dysfunction, its associated muscle can lose strength. This creates a structural imbalance that can lead to pain, inflammation and range of motion difficulties and diminish athletic performance.

Neurolymphatic points are nerve reflexes that can be massaged for 20 to 30 seconds to strengthen a muscle and facilitate energy flow to the associated organ.

[Read “The Art and Science of Kinesiology Taping” Part One and Part Two.]

Find Where You Need to Work

Goodheart would often say, “Where you think it is, it ain’t.” The person’s presenting problem is often a compensation, not where we need to work.

Sheldon Deal, DC, who runs the Swan Clinic in Tucson, Arizona, says that most therapists spend 80% of their time working on compensations. If you only treat the compensations, either you will not fix the problem or your corrections will not last.

Applied kinesiology incorporates ways to use muscle testing to determine which imbalances are priorities.

An example of this is when Danny Varela, an advanced sports kinesiologist who operates the Deep Tissue Center in Norwalk, California, worked on Major League baseball player Matt Kemp. Matt was out of the lineup due to a problem with his left hamstring that the team trainer was unable to fix. Varela used muscle testing to determine the problem was due to muscles in Kemp’s lower leg and hip not firing properly.

After Varela switched those muscles on, it fixed the problem and Kemp got back on the field. Even though the hamstrings appeared to be the problem, resetting muscles in the lower leg and hip corrected the hamstrings.

Determine What Muscles Need MFR

Goodheart discovered if a previously strong muscle tests weak after being stretched, it indicates it can benefit from myofascial release. If a strong muscle does not test weak after being stretched, it actually stresses the muscle to have this technique applied.

Applied kinesiology increases the effectiveness of massage therapy in many ways to get faster and longer-lasting results. It helps the therapist determine where to work and what factors are priorities to correct.

Activating reflexes that affect both the muscles, organs and meridian system has far-reaching effects that improve a client’s overall health and performance.

About the Author

John Maguire is a massage therapist and the founder and director of the Kinesiology Institute. He has taught health professionals from 84 countries over the past 37 years, including participants at Tony Robbins Life Mastery University. His students are continually amazed by the rapid results they are able to achieve.