The Art and Science of Muscle Testing


                          Arlene Green

Muscle testing as an assessment tool can be a valuable adjunct to practitioners in helping them determine the nature of imbalances and the therapeutic priority. The art and skill of muscle testing is important in having consistent, accurate and replicable results. Being a skill that underlies many of the energy kinesiology methods, learning precision muscle testing is an essential ingredient in having successful results. The art of muscle testing, the art of communicating and several of the key factors in assuring a high level of quality, consistency and accuracy in muscle testing will be explored.


Muscle testing is a kind of body biofeedback that can be used to evaluate changes in the body’s subtle energetic field. Manual muscle testing has been used for over 60 years by doctors and physical therapists to a evaluate muscle function. In the 1960s, Dr. George Goodheart utilized muscle testing as a diagnostic tool to assess muscle, nerve and meridian energy function and connections. More than just a diagnostic procedure his discoveries led to the creation of a new system of healing that we now know as Applied Kinesiology.

In addition to assessing the strength of an individual muscle’s response, we can assess the body’s energetic response to specific stimuli. All types of stress (biochemical, electromagnetic, physical, emotional, mental) impact on the body’s energy field and subsequently register on the nervous system, which will affect muscle response. We can monitored that response through muscle testing. That can be useful information when one wants to personalize a session to show someone their individualized response to stress or potential corrective technique.

The technique of muscle testing involves applying slow, gradual pressure against the body.  Specific muscles are tested starting in contraction and pushed towards extension; that is the opposite direction of how they normally function. The degree or amount of pressure applied is not as critical as the gradualness and consistency of the pressure.  Smooth, gentle pressure will give one the greatest clarity of results. The amount of time applying pressure is approximately 2-3 seconds.  This seems to be the optimal amount of time to see if the muscle is able to hold that position or whether it “gives”, without fatiguing the muscle. The purpose in muscle testing is to be able to see the difference in muscle strength and performance. It is often used as a measure of feedback on how the body is responding to a specific stimuli.


After one understands the purpose of muscle testing and how to do it, it’s important to be able to successfully communicate that to others.  When using kinesiology it is like speaking a new language and many students may not realize this until they get outside of class and try to explain it to their friends and family. Explaining what one is doing and how you want the other person to respond when being tested is as much an art as the actual physical technique.

When one muscle tests someone for the first time, in addition to explaining the purpose of muscle testing and how it is done, it is also important to let that person know what is expected of them.  Letting them know that its their job to “hold” the position as the muscle receives pressure against it, but that if the muscle “gives” that “its ok to let it go.”  Personally, I never use the word “resist” unless one wants to engage in a contest of strength.  Showing them what the muscle will feel like when it unlocks by pushing together the spindle cell in the belly of the muscle is a useful way to help them sense the difference in muscle response ahead of time.

You can also teach someone how to muscle test you. One of the most important things to remember when coaching someone, especially if it is their first time, is to always give positive feedback.  Instead of “don’t push so hard” say “push more gently and smoothly.”  Be sure to reframe what they’re not doing right, into what or how they could do it better.  Always keep your feedback supportive, as that will help to engender confidence and enthusiasm.

In the early stages of learning muscle testing it is quite helpful to get hands on supervision by an experienced kinesiology teacher. Not all kinesiologists practice the same nor do they test the same, so be aware of that. Look at their background and skill level if you are looking to learn from them. Those who have mastery with the skill will test with smooth, consistent pressure and show a refinement in their skill. Taking some classes where muscle testing is taught, not just used, is important if you are serious to learn the skill well. Repetition and getting feedback in the early stages will help one learn the basics without having to unlearn any bad habits later. My personal recommendation would be to take a class in Touch for Health Kinesiology which focuses quite a bit on the actual skill of muscle testing as a part of its basic curriculum. TFH kinesiology also teaches a lot of the basic meridian theory and techniques where many other techniques/ fields (like Energy Psychology) have evolved from.


There are a number of variables that can affect muscle testing results. Of course the physical skill is important. There can be a wide range of pressure that is used when muscle testing. In Applied Kinesiology, Dr. Goodheart used fairly heavy pressure when muscle testing, as a result, all his students learned that approach. Over the years, it has been shown that much lighter testing can be used just as effectively and with less wear and tear to both the testor and testee. What is most important when testing is the smoothness and gradualness of the pressure used. That will allow for most optimal results.

Other variables can include hydration and neurological disorganization. Hydration can affect the body’s ability to optimally conduct the nervous system’s feedback with accuracy.  Neurological disorganization can also occur for many other reasons such as dietary reactions, drugs and alcohol, blood sugar, stress, fatigue, structural imbalance, etc. There are various simple protocols that kinesiologists use to reset the body’s neurological organization that are performed prior to muscle testing to assure for greater accuracy and reliability.

As was discussed in the earlier section, communication on the part of the testor to the testee can be crucial for interpreting the results. Being able to communicate effectively how you want the person being tested to respond is critical, especially when picking up subtle changes. The person who’s muscles are being tested is really in the best position to notice the difference, if they are coached to.

More subtle variables can include the testor’s attitude that can influence results. Their level of confidence or even a strong bias can affect accuracy in results. The role of intention will be explored more in depth below.


Once a student has taken a class or classes and has gained knowledge of techniques, communication skills, and even a level of confidence, perhaps one of the most important and yet subtle keys to success in accurate muscle testing is intention.

The role that intention plays in affecting results in muscle testing may not be as obvious as the techniques used, but it can be as profound. Both unconscious intention and conscious intention can effect muscle testing.  An example of where one’s unconscious intention could influence results would be in the relationship between consistency and accuracy and the degree of confidence a tester has. Novice muscle testers often miss the subtle muscle imbalances when testing, and though that is partly due to lack of experience with the physical technique, confidence seems to play a role too. New people are more likely to have a greater level of inconsistent and therefore inaccurate results. The more confident the practitioner, the more likely they are to stay focused on ‘allowing’ for the process to happen; and less distracted by their self doubts.  Keeping in mind the adage “energy follows intention” one can see how a person who is having self doubts or confusion on an inner level might find their muscle testing results less than optimal. The more confident and skilled the practitioner can remain during the process, the more likely they are to get clear, consistent and accurate results with muscle testing.

There are numerous examples that show the effect that conscious intention has when using kinesiology. In regards to the person being tested, their thoughts create an energy pattern that can influence muscle response. We can see that very simply when we ask a person to think of something stressful and it turns off a muscle that previously held strong when muscle testing.  Holding an intention or setting a goal, creates a specific energetic pattern in the body. That specific pattern can be assessed through muscle testing, or you can simply ask the person their sense of how they ‘feel’ about that issue or stressor. Intervening with a balance or technique, with the ‘intention’ of releasing that stress, can release that pattern quickly and easily.  Reassessing that pattern through the person noticing any feeling change or muscle testing their body’s response to that stress can evaluate how things have shifted. The intention calls up the pattern, the intervention releases that pattern.

In the same way that conscious intention on the part of the person being tested has an effect on the energy of the body, so too can the tester’s intention cause an effect upon the person’s energy response.  Aside from people testing with an obvious extra push when they are trying to make a point, testers can potentially skew the results if they have an agenda to prove. If the tester has a strong bias to what they feel the results should be, whether its conscious or not,

the muscle testing results will be less than optimal. Testers need to stay very neutral in their intention when testing subjects. The more that the tester can ‘get out of the way,’ the easier it is for them to access the body/mind wisdom and get consistent and accurate results. Staying neutral when muscle testing means not having any preconceived ideas about muscle responses. Letting go of any ideas of how we think the results of the testing should look and staying unattached to the outcome both in the muscle testing and in the intervention is very important. Keeping in mind that while we may have a specific goal or intention for the session, the ultimate goal in the process is to seek clarity and allow for that which is in their client’s greatest good to unfold.

Muscle testing is a wonderful tool that can help in the assessment of imbalances and evaluation of optimal corrective procedures. It can help one to determine an individualized program particularly on individuals who don’t respond to the standard allopathic regimes. It is an art that requires a certain amount of physical skill both in its application and interpretation. The real challenge to the testor, though, is in the subtle areas of the inner communications between practitioner and client.  Confidence and clarity as well as accuracy and consistency come with practice and experience. More than just skill, quality muscle testing also involves a conscious intention to leave one’s ego out of the process and a desire to find what is truly in the client’s highest good.