Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a technique that helps people maximize the effectiveness of stretching without causing the sort of discomfort that keeps a lot of us away from it.

How do we isolate a muscle to be stretched?

Isolate the muscle to be stretched by actively contracting the opposite muscle. In other words, if you are aiming to stretch the hamstrings, (the muscles on the back of the thigh) you must first actively contract the quadriceps (the muscles on the front of the thigh). Then, the brain sends a signal to the hamstrings to relax. This provides a perfect environment for the hamstrings to stretch.

What is the purpose for repeating each stretch?

Repeat each stretch in order to increase the circulation of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscles being stretched. This technique will help you gain the most flexibility per session. Remember, the more nutrition a muscle can obtain and the more toxins a muscle can release, the faster the muscle can recover.

Each stretch is held for a maximum of two seconds in order to avoid the activation of the stretch reflex. The stretch reflex (also called the myotatic reflex) prevents a muscle or tendon from overstretching too far or too fast. This is our body’s natural protection against strains, sprains, and tears. By holding short-term stretches, we increase our range of motion with each repetition and eliminate any fear of pain.

Breathing is an essential component to decrease fatigue in the muscles. Muscles need oxygen to function well. If there is not enough oxygen, lactic acid is created. Lactic acid creates that sore feeling in our muscles. If our muscles are sore, they are less powerful, more fatigued, and more prone to injury.

Top 10 Benefits of Stretching

1. Decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion. Stretching helps improve your range of motion, which may also slow the degeneration of your joints.

2. May reduce your risk of injury. A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured if you have to make a sudden move. By increasing the range of motion in a particular joint through stretching, you can decrease the resistance on your body’s muscles during various activities.

3. Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains. After a hard workout, stretching your muscles helps keep them loose and lessens the shortening and tightening effect that can lead to post-workout aches and pains.

4. Improves posture. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest helps keep your back in better alignment and improves your posture.

5. Helps reduce or manage stress. Well-stretched muscles hold less tension and, therefore, can help you feel less stressed.

6. Reduces muscular tension and enhances muscular relaxation.  Chronically tense muscles tend to cut off their own circulation, resulting in a lack of oxygen and essential nutrients. Stretching allows your muscles to relax.

7. Improves mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance. Because a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements.

8. Prepares the body for the stress of exercise. Stretching prior to exercise allows your muscles to loosen up and become better able to withstand the impact of the activity you choose to do.

9. Promotes circulation. Stretching increases blood supply to your muscles and joints, which allows for greater nutrient transportation and improves the circulation of blood through your entire body.

10. Decreases the risk of low-back pain. Flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexors and muscles attached to the pelvis relieves stress on the lumbar spine, which in turn reduces your risk of low-back pain.

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