Active Isolated Stretching

Back in May 2008, I had the opportunity to participate in a 3-day seminar on Active Isolated Stretching (AIS). Not being one who’s too conscientious about stretching regularly, I was intrigued with this approach and amazed at how effective it is.

“AIS – The Mattes Method” is an approach that illustrates how an individual can stretch properly without endangering the joints, muscles or connective tissues. AIS can help improve your flexibility that’s been affected by underlying medical or physical conditions (injuries, overuse, etc), chronic abnormal posture, muscle imbalances, aging, as well as rapid growth during adolescence (when muscle and tendon flexibility fails to keep up with the long bone growth).

Active Isolated Stretching was developed by Aaron L. Mattes in the 1970s as a stretching technique that is based on isolating muscles that are to be stretched by (actively) contracting the opposing muscles. It is based on the principle of reciprocal inhibition and muscle contraction: when a muscle on one side of a joint is contracted (e.g. your quads), the muscle on the opposite side sends a neurological signal to release (e.g. – in this case – your hamstrings). Holding the stretch for no more than 1 ½ to 2 seconds prevents the stretch reflex (a protective muscle contraction in response to stretching within the muscle) to be triggered. The same stretch is done 10 – 12 times in a row and the assistance given does not exceed 1 pound.

There are specific sequences of stretches that should be followed for optimal results. The stretches are based on anatomical knowledge of muscle tendon origin and insertion to provide for optimal flexibility without trauma.

AIS can be done assisted, i.e. the body work practitioner assists the client at the end range of the stretch, or it can be done un-assisted, i.e. the client performs the stretches by himself or herself.

Gentle stretching of muscles and fascia promotes improved vascular and lymphatic circulation, increased oxygenation, removal of toxins and a more efficient nervous system. Flexibility is key for enhancing athletic performance, rehabilitation and overall wellness.

For more info, please visit or ask me for more details.

As appropriate, I incorporate assisted AIS in my sessions, and I’ll be happy to instruct you on stretches best for you.

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