Stretching is the underestimated part of training. Why? Because the lack of flexibility will contribute to injury. Stretching will allow one to recover quicker, attain goals earlier and when incorporated into one’s exercise routine will allow a safeguard from injury. Stretching will allow one to age gracefully, muscles work more efficiently and show signs of aging much slower.
In my sojourn as a kick boxing coach and professional trainer, approximately 40 years of experience, I have learned to treat injuries and help athletes avoid injuries. In my opinion the science of stretching has allowed the athlete to attain peak performance. Research behind the physiology of stretching has provided new insight on static stretching, allowing me to advance into a new paradigm in the field of stretching. This knowledge base was attained through the research provided by Dr. Mercola, Al Meo and Aaron Mattes. Coupled with this stretching advancement known as Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is the work out on power plates, which will be a topic for a future article.
Before discussing AIS let’s begin with some foundational principles. Safety principle number one is to warm up with light aerobic exercise before stretching. The athlete will attain better performance by introducing a stretch routine before and after exercise. Stretching before will assist in lengthening the range of movement. Stretching after exercise will relax the muscle fiber, assist in ridding the muscle of waste and allow the muscle to become more pliable. However, different therapists/trainers/kinesiologists afford stretching programs specific to their training/expertise, meaning you have to choose a stretching program that will resonate with your goal of achieving excellence.
When you hear individuals talk about bad and good stretches recognize there are too many variables to one’s physique to believe these myths. One stretch could be good for one individual and not for you. For example, with my expertise in martial arts and trainer in kick boxing it was more often than not I would have a client come and ask me for training tips so they could be like Bruce Lee. When I asked them to describe their flexibility training I was disappointed in how little time they worked on flexibility.
To emulate a professional sports figure one needs to be told that strength and flexibility are critical in their training program. Further, that it is important to develop skills attuned to one’s physique, recognizing physical limitations and training to move beyond limitations in order to gain excellence. In other words, use the individual’s will to improve based on their physical gifting. Not everyone can kick over their head; and/or have the coordination for speed and power as Bruce Lee did. But, as I trained these individuals, they were trained to reach their potential, to excel in the movements attuned to their stature, flexibility, coordination and speed. In other words, the skill set that was developed in them made them competent with the body they were gifted with, understanding that flexibility is integral to the program for their success.
Enough about why stretching is important and an example on individuals that believe in instant success without affording time to stretching. Let’s begin with the common types of stretching before introducing AIS which has been instrumental in treating muscle injuries, allowing one to regain peak performance. But, I would be remiss in this discussion if I did not afford the concept and need of stretching to the office worker, which will be discussed below.
The categories that one commonly associates with stretching are static and dynamic stretching. Static stretches will allow one to get in a specific position and hold for 30 to 40 seconds. Dynamic stretching allows for swing motions, actively increasing one’s range in motion specific to horizontal, vertical and sagittal angles. It is suggested that static stretching be revisited; and for reasons discussed below I have replaced static stretching with AIS.
“Prolonged static stretches actually decrease the blood flow in tissues, creating localized ischemia and lactic acid build up, potentially causing irritation or injury of local musculature, tendinous, lymphatic as well as neural tissues.” Al Meo gives the physiological reason behind the cautions on static stretching and makes emphasis to a different paradigm called AIS. “The reason for this is that when a stretch is held for longer than two seconds, a protective mechanism called “myotatic stretch reflex” is triggered. This reflex happens in your body under many normal circumstances. However in elite performance, injury rehabilitation or the desire to instill lasting changes in the body, this reflex is undesirable.” ” the myotatic stretch reflex is initiated (by holding stretches for more than approx. 2.5-3 seconds), the muscle being stretched will begin to contract, creating what is known as an eccentric contraction – something we do not want to happen.”1
AIS was developed by Aaron Mattes. Refer to Dr. Mattes Utube video demonstration on AIS found under: The new dynamic stretching is “Active Isolated Stretching” creator Aaron Mattes.
AIS allows ‘Sherrington’s Law’ to take place. Simply put, stretching a muscle will cause the antagonistic muscle to shut down. With AIS you do not have impingement of the fiber leading to ischemia and lactic acid buildup, leading to irritation and possibly injury.
Al Meo defines the benefits of AIS which are :
“Neuromuscular re-education occurring as the repetitions are done. Every time a new range of motion is achieved, new neural pathways are produced.”
“By using repetitions, great amounts of lymph are moved through your body. This is of great benefit in wound and injury healing, as well as detoxification of your body.”
“AIS can result in an enhanced immune system, as well as improved feeling of well-being because of increased flexibility.”
Make sure to check back next week for the wrap up!
1, 2Al Meo. Active Isolated Stretching (AIS): Failure to Include this Will Sabotage Your Exercise Program. Peak Fitness. www.mercola.com. August 19, 2010
3Brad Walker. The Stretching Handbook (ISBN: 978-0958109338).
4Brad Walker. The Anatomy of Stretching (ISBN: 978-1556435966).
5Brad Walker. The Anatomy of Sports Injuries (ISBN: 978-1556436666).
6, 7When It Comes to Stretching, the Best Time to Stretch is to Prevent Injuries, but What if, You Have an Injured Muscle Now? DECEMBER 8, 2011 By Roman Paradigm Massage-Therapy
8,9Stretching May Offer Extended Benefits. Arnold Nelson. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. Jacqueline Stenson, MSNBC Contributor © 2008 MSNBC Interactive
10, 11Dr. Michael Bracko, Institute of Ice Hockey. “The Science of Hockey” October issue medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, ACSM
12Dr. Nicholas DiNubile. Framework: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints. Rodale, Inc. Publishers, Emmaus, PA. June 2005
13Dr. Mercola. Static Stretching: How This Common Type of Stretching Can Damage Your Muscles and Tendons. Peak Fitness. March 15, 2013.