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J Chiropr Med. 2011 Sep;10(3):157-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

A narrative review of manual muscle testing and implications for muscle testing research.

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Associate Professor, Chiropractic Division, Logan College of Chiropractic, St Louis, MO.



Manual muscle testing (MMT) is used for a variety of purposes in health care by medical, osteopathic, chiropractic, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and athletic training professionals. The purpose of this study is to provide a narrative review of variations in techniques, durations, and forces used in MMT putting applied kinesiology (AK) muscle testing in context and highlighting aspects of muscle testing important to report in MMT research.


PubMed, the Collected Papers of the International College of Applied Kinesiology-USA, and related texts were searched on the subjects of MMT, maximum voluntary isometric contraction testing, and make/break testing. Force parameters (magnitude, duration, timing of application), testing variations of MMT, and normative data were collected and evaluated.


"Break" tests aim to evaluate the muscle's ability to resist a gradually increasing pressure and may test different aspects of neuromuscular control than tests against fixed resistances. Applied kinesiologists use submaximal manual break tests and a binary grading scale to test short-term changes in muscle function in response to challenges. Many of the studies reviewed were not consistent in reporting parameters for testing.


To increase the chances for replication, studies using MMT should specify parameters of the tests used, such as exact procedures and instrumentation, duration of test, peak force, and timing of application of force.

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