Human movement is more enjoyable when the body is flexible and capable of performing without restriction. Many tend to relate stretching to Yoga or Pilates. Some experts have advocated prolonged 60-second stretching as the gold standard for individuals and athletes.
We lose flexibility due to underlying medical or physical conditions, chronic abnormal posturing, muscle imbalances, effects of aging, rapid growth periods etc. These are all factors contributing to the need to stretch. However sometimes, stretching may do more harm than good.
Physiological finding proves that static stretching for longer than 5 seconds actually decreases blood flow within the tissue, creating localized de-oxygenation in the tissue (lactic acid build up). This can cause irritation, injury and potential damages to the tendons and neural and lymphatic system. This is also why some athletes go without stretching before a race.
Aaron L.Mattes developed Active Isolated (AIS), a technique that has been very successful with athletes with chronic and acute injuries.
How does it work?
AIS uses the body’s own law, to facilitate results. This means that the stretch is held no longer than 1.5-2 seconds. Repetition is done through the motion. This short hold eliminates the stretch reflex mechanism (myotatic stretch reflex). Although the myotatic stretch reflex is a natural response to stretching, it is not desirable in a scenario where there is a need to improve elite performance or enhance rehabilitation.
The concept of Wolff’s Law is used with AIS. It states that bones grow and remodel in response to the forces that are placed upon it. After a fracture, placing specific stress in specific directions to the bone can help it remodel and become normal healthy bone again.
If you have suffered a fracture, bone healing occurs while you have been immobilized with a cast or splint. After immobilization, gentle range of motion and stress can help improve the overall strength of your bone. This can help ensure that your bone is able to tolerate the loads and stresses that you may encounter during normal functional activities.
With AIS, there is always an active movement throughout the motion. The active movement causes reciprocal inhibition (Sherrington’s Law) which means that when a muscle contracts (agonist), the opposing muscle can then shut off stretch and relax (antagonist).
Active Isolated Stretching has helped many world-class athletes including the famous sprinter, Usain Bolt, and basketball player, Jeremy Lin. It has helped people of all ages. AIS rehabilitates acute and chronic injuries.
AIS is one of the most specific and targeted ways to stretch . Being one of the only two Active Isolated Stretch therapists in Singapore, I think a lot can be done to help the people living in Singapore. Having worked as a manual therapist in for over 10 years, I combine AIS, soft-tissue work and exercise prescription to achieve ideal mobility and posture.
If we do not move well, all activities, general health and strength training are compromised.