Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a time-tested and unique method of lengthening muscles developed by Kinesiotherapist and rehabilitator Aaron Mattes. By isolating specific muscles and applying techniques that use physical principles to enhance the effectiveness of the stretch, AIS works quickly to restore soft tissue health and to prevent injury.
What Makes it Unique?
For decades the standard method of stretching has been to hold a stretch for up to one minute. This “static stretch” activates the Stretch Reflex that actually inhibits lengthening and prevents efficient blood flow. The older style of bouncing, or “ballistic stretching,” can automatically contract the muscle enough to injure it.
Performing an Active Isolated Stretch for only two seconds allows the target muscle to optimally lengthen without triggering the protective reflex that naturally resists the stretch by contracting the very muscle that is elongating. AIS also teaches how to assist that stretch to take it farther than it can go without assistance. Thus, length is achieved more quickly. AIS pumps blood in and waste products out with it’s short repeated movements that warm and soften the connective tissue, so it can be used effectively as a warm-up exercise. “Active” means that you are not passive. You are actively contracting muscles, moving your body through its range of motion to stretch opposing muscles, and you are extending the stretch by assisting it at the end range. “Isolated” means that specific muscles are targeted with specific techniques, making the stretch more effective.
Stretch first, using your own muscle power. Go as far as you can.
Assist slowly, using your hands or arms to press, a rope or strap to pull, or an object like a doorway or chair back to push against. Fast or jerky motions are counterproductive.
Keep actively stretching as you assist.
EXHALE as you assist.
Hold the stretch for no more than 2 seconds.
It’s OK to feel moderate pain at the end range.
Release to your starting position or to a place where the muscle relaxes to allow the blood to flow into the tissue and the waste products to be pumped out.
Repeat up to ten times or until you no longer feel an uncomfortable pull when you are at full range of motion. After a rest, the set may be repeated.
What to Expect at an AIS Appointment
Come to your session in loosely fitting clothes to allow stretching in all directions. You will be working, not passive, so be hydrated and fed. You will be treated fully clothed on a massage table. The therapist may use automobile seat belts to hold parts of your body stable while stretching other parts. Assisted AIS will be a deeper stretch that you can achieve by yourself. You will learn the basic principles behind AIS and how to apply them to your fitness regime. You will learn specific stretches and strengthening techniques to treat your problem areas. We have Mattes’ instruction books to guide you at home with both self-stretching and assisted stretching. Until you have learned how to stretch, it is best to schedule 90 minute appointments. Length of appointments after that depend on your reason for coming.
Effectiveness – AIS gets results faster than traditional methods.
Injury Prevention – AIS prepares muscles to do work by increasing blood flow and by softening fascia (connective tissue) to increase range of motion. It thereby reduces the risk of muscle strains and tears.
Healthy Muscles – AIS increases blood flow to provide the oxygen and nutrients necessary for movement, and for repairing and building healthy new tissue. It reduces muscle spasms that lead to chronic pain.
Overall Health – AIS aids in maintaining all body processes and, if performed consistently, will contribute to a healthier body with increased longevity and independence.
Decreased Soreness – AIS serves as a pump for the lymphatic system that removes the metabolic waste products that cause soreness.
Flexibility – AIS warms and thereby softens the connective tissue that restricts movement and causes friction and “gluing” in the joints. It separates and realigns the collagen that forms scar tissue and breaks down adhesions that can result from trauma or inflammation.
Posture – AIS gets to the internal muscles of the spine that prevent upright posture, increases fluids to the discs, loosens the ligaments where they hold the joints too tightly, and lengthens muscles that are pulling the skeleton out of balance.
Performance – AIS restores balance to muscles that work together to create movement. It increases muscle length, allowing greater range of motion, which decreases fatigue and increases power and agility. Athletes reach peak performance sooner and sustain it longer.
Rehabilitation – AIS helps improve results of rehab from injury, disease and surgery by adding a dynamic dimension to traditional physical therapy. AIS can restore free movement.
Quality of Life – Movement will be more enjoyable, activities more varied with pain levels and stress greatly reduced.