Muscle testing is also known as applied kinesiology (AK) or manual muscle testing (MMT). It is an alternative medicine practice that claims to effectively diagnose structural, muscular, chemical, and mental ailments.

Applied kinesiology is not a part of the science of kinesiology, which is the study of the movement of the human body.

The basic idea behind AK is similar to one of Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion, which states, “for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Applied kinesiology takes this concept and applies it to the human body. This means that any internal issues you may be experiencing would be accompanied by a related muscle weakness.

Following this thought process, you should be able to perform a muscle test to diagnose any underlying medical condition. Muscle testing conducted in applied kinesiology differs from standard orthopedic muscle testing.

Here’s an example: You have a muscle test performed and your bicep is deemed “weak.” A person performing the muscle test with a standard view of medicine might suggest working out your biceps more at the gym.

A person following the principles of applied kinesiology may suggest that you have this weakness because of an underlying problem with your spleen.

Is muscle testing legitimate?

According to several studies — including a 2001 studyTrusted Source on the kinesiology muscle test — while some standard orthopedic or chiropractic muscle tests may be helpful for specific muscle-related weaknesses, muscles tests are useless for diagnosing medical conditions (such as organic disease or mental illness).

A brief history of applied kinesiology 

Applied kinesiology began with George Goodheart Jr. in 1964 as a system of muscle testing and therapy.

Several years later, in a study conducted by Ray Hyman, a group of chiropractors wanted to demonstrate that they were able to tell the difference between subjects given good sugar (fructose) and bad sugar (glucose).

A drop of sugar water was placed on a test subject’s tongue. They then measured the strength of each test subject’s arms. The chiropractors anticipated being able to identify which subject had been given the bad sugar based on their muscles being weaker. However, multiple failed attempts later, they ended the test.

More recently, these concepts have been debunked and described as “not conforming to scientific fact” regarding medical conditions and their causes or treatments.

Who practices applied kinesiology?

In a survey conducted by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) in 1998, Applied kinesiology was used by 43 percent of chiropractic offices in the United States. Although the majority of practitioners in the survey were chiropractors, occupations also included nutritionists, naturopathic doctors and massage and physical therapists.

Currently, the Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) advocates for the use of applied kinesiology in treating allergies and other sensitivities.

However, the results of a 2001 studyTrusted Source using muscle tests as an allergy test for wasp venom states that it is no more helpful in diagnosing allergies than random guessing.


For the most part, the medical community has rejected the idea of applied kinesiology as a diagnostic tool. To quote a 2013 studyTrusted Source: “The research published by the Applied Kinesiology field itself is not to be relied upon, and in the experimental studies that do meet accepted standards of science, Applied Kinesiology has not demonstrated that it is a useful or reliable diagnostic tool upon which health decisions can be based.”

Find A Therapy has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.


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