Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is one of the methods of stretching most used by today's athletes, massage therapists, personal/athletic trainers and professionals, particularly in the United States, where it originates.
Active Isolated Stretching allows the body to repair itself and also to prepare for daily activity. The Active Isolated Stretching technique involves the method of holding each stretch for 1.5 to 2 seconds. This method of stretching is also known to work with the body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints and fascia.
The Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) method of muscle lengthening and fascial release is a type of Athletic Stretching Technique that provides effective, dynamic, facilitated stretching of major muscle groups. More importantly, AIS provides functional and physiological restoration of superficial and deep fascial planes.
As such, AIS is a more effective form of assisted stretching due to several factors that differentiate it from other stretching methods:
- Specificity: AIS focuses on isolating and stretching individual muscles or muscle groups, rather than stretching multiple muscles at once. This targeted approach leads to improved flexibility and range of motion in each specific muscle or muscle group.
- Dynamic stretching: AIS involves dynamic, rather than static, stretching. Dynamic stretching requires the participant to actively move their muscles through their full range of motion, which has been shown to be more effective at improving flexibility and reducing the risk of injury than static stretching.
- Shorter duration stretches: In AIS, each stretch is held for a shorter duration (typically 1.5-2 seconds) and is repeated multiple times. This approach has been shown to be more effective at increasing flexibility compared to longer-duration static stretches.
- Reciprocal inhibition: AIS takes advantage of the principle of reciprocal inhibition, which states that when one muscle contracts, its opposing muscle (the antagonist) is forced to relax. By actively contracting the opposing muscle during a stretch, AIS helps to facilitate a deeper and more effective stretch.
- Increased circulation: The active, dynamic nature of AIS promotes increased blood flow, oxygen and nutrition to the muscles being stretched. The contracting muscles are major vehicles used to deliver blood and oxygen. Repetitive isotonic muscle contractions deliver greater amounts of blood lymph and nutrition to specific regions more rapidly than static or isometric muscle contractions. Numerous repetitions are an important consideration in a thorough warm-up or post activity recovery process. This increased circulation can help to remove metabolic waste products, reduce muscle soreness, and improve overall muscle function and recovery.
- Customization: AIS can be easily tailored to the specific needs and goals of the individual, making it an effective and customizable form of assisted stretching for people of all fitness levels and abilities.
Overall, Active Isolated Stretching's unique approach to flexibility training and its focus on targeted, dynamic stretches make it a more effective form of assisted stretching compared to traditional methods.
Here's an example of an Active Isolated Stretching exercise for the hamstrings, which are the muscles located at the back of your thigh:
Straight Leg Hamstring Stretch with a Strap
- Lie on the floor with both legs extended. Keep your feet relaxed.
- Place a stretching strap or a towel around the ball of your left foot, holding the ends of the strap with one or two hands.
- Engage your left quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thigh) to initiate the stretch. This will cause reciprocal inhibition, allowing your hamstrings to relax and lengthen.
- Gently pull the strap to raise your right leg while keeping it straight. As you raise your leg, exhale and actively contract your quadriceps to help facilitate the stretch. Aim to bring your leg as close to your chest as possible without causing pain or discomfort.
- Hold the stretch for 1-2 seconds, then slowly lower your leg back to the starting position while inhaling.
- Repeat the stretch 8-10 times on your left leg, and then switch to your right leg and perform the same sequence.
Active Isolated Stretching: Straight Leg Hamstring Stretch
Remember to keep the stretches gentle and controlled, and avoid pushing into discomfort or pain. The key to Active Isolated Stretching is to perform multiple repetitions of short-duration stretches, allowing the muscle to gradually lengthen and increase its range of motion.