Active Isolation Stretching (AIS) is a technique that helps people maximize the effectiveness of stretching. It was developed by Aaron Mattes around 30 years ago. His technique is based on four basic principles:
1. Isolation of the muscle to be stretched
2. Repeat the stretch 8-10 times
3. Hold each stretch for no more than 2 seconds
4. Exhale on stretch and inhale on the release
How does it work?
There are two main mechanisms behind AIS. The first is called reciprocal inhibition. An example of this is when you want to curl your arm and shorten your bicep; your nervous system decreases its output to your triceps to let you do it. This is the mechanism known as reciprocal inhibition. It’s the same when your quadriceps need straightening your nervous system decreases its output to your hamstrings which then allows your quadriceps muscle to straighten.
The second mechanism relies on preventing the body from engaging in protective reflexes. Simply put, when a muscle contracts, another muscle called the antagonist (the opposite) muscle is shut off.
AIS stretching achieve this concept with every stretch.
The benefits of AIS can result in an enhanced immune system, as well as improved feeling of well-being because of increased flexibility. The repetitive muscle contractions deliver greater amounts of blood and nutrition to the specific regions more rapidly than static muscle contractions. This delivers better supply of blood and oxygen to the muscles which in turn speed up the recovery of that tissue. AIS are based on the laws and principles of the body. It works synergistically with all the other body systems, as well as warming up the tissue for activity.
AIS is also one of the many techniques I use during my bodywork sessions.