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Active Isolated Stretching can
Prevent Injuries

Active isolated stretching (AIS) is an effective method of stretching developed by Aaron Mattes. It is more effective than traditional or static stretching as it stretches the muscle when it is maximally relaxed. Scientific evidence has determined that only a relaxed muscle can be stretched effectively.

With static stretching stretching, the stretch is held for approximately 20-30 seconds. Holding a stretch for 3 seconds or more can result in a self-protective reaction by the nervous system which actually contracts the targeted muscle and ultimately defeats the purpose of stretching.

When practicing active isolated stretching, the stretch is held for a maximum of 2 seconds to prevent the contracting defensive reaction from occurring. AIS stretches are designed to contract opposing muscles to allow targeted muscles to relax and stretch, i.e. quads are contracted to stretch hamstrings.

AIS stretches may be aided by a rope or partner. An aid will help you achieve the maximum stretch possible for optimal results. Stretches include gentle, fluid repetitive movements with a 1.5 to 2 second hold for about 10 repetitions. Each stretch targets only one muscle.

Recent studies have determined that static stretching before running doesn't prevent injuries and isn't beneficial to the runner. Another study suggests that runners may be less efficient after static stretching.

The video below demonstrations a number of AIS stretches that may be beneficial to runners. 

The Fascia must be Stretched

One of the reasons that AIS is so effective is because it works with the body's natural movements to stretch the fascia. The fascia is a dense layer of tissue that encases our muscles, organs, nerves, bones, joints, veins and blood vessels. It supports and protects our entire body from head to toe with its uninterrupted web of connective tissue.

As fascia covers the entire body, we sometimes feel pain in an area that is unrelated to the area that is causing the restriction. Static stretching targets the area of pain, which may not be the source of the problem.

AIS is more effective as it takes a holistic approach and works not just the muscles, but tendons, ligaments, soft tissue and fascia too.

Active isolated stretching is used by many professionals today including massage therapists, personal trainers, coaches, physical therapists and others. For athletes this method has aided in recovery from injuries through increased blood flow and oxygenation to the area. Other benefits include:

  • Increased performance
  • Reduced muscle strains and spasms
  • Increased muscle and tendon growth
  • Improved circulation and flexibility
  • Increased elasticity of muscles joints and fascia

To learn more about AIS, check out Aaron Mattes comprehensive book: Aaron Mattes' Active Isolated Stretching

This book will teach you how to actively stretch and alleviate injuries. It will also help deal with most over-use injuries, such as carpel tunnel, tennis elbow, etc.

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