Active Isolated Stretching Exercises from N.Y
Active Isolated Stretching Exercises
Eight exercises from Jim and Phil Wharton
Below are 8 active isolated stretches from the father/son team of Jim and Phil Wharton. The underlying theory behind A.I.S is that if a muscle is stretched too far, too fast, or for too long, it elicits a protective action known as the myotatic reflex, causing it to automatically and ballistically recoil in an attempt to prevent the muscle from tearing. This occurs about three seconds into a stretch.
Therefore, A.I.S practitioners hold a stretch for only two seconds, before the myotatic reflex kicks in, then relax and repeat 10 times. Using this technique, the muscles exhibit a greater range of motion over the course of each set of stretching repeats.
The other key to A.I.S is to contract the opposing muscles to allow the target muscle to relax. For example, when stretching the hamstrings, the quadriceps muscles on the front of the leg are contracted, relaxing the hamstrings and making them more susceptible to stretching. A runner would lie on his back, lift his leg by using the muscles on the front of the leg, then stretch the hamstring by lightly pulling the leg back to the point of tightness for two seconds, then releasing.
This brings up the “assisted” aspect of A.I.S The muscle is coaxed through its last few degrees of motion either by a partner, or more commonly, by the use of an eight-foot length of rope that is wrapped around the foot or leg in various ways depending on the direction of the stretch.
STRETCH #1: SINGLE LEG PELVIC TILT
Lie on your back, bending your nonexercising knee. Bend your exercising knee and place your hands behind your knee/thigh. Using your abdominals and hip flexors, lift your exercising leg toward your chest until you can go no farther. Aim your knee toward your armpit, gently assisting your leg at the end of the stretch with your hands, but do not pull.
STRETCH #2: BENT LEG HAMSTRING
Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Make a loop from the rope and place the foot of the leg you’re exercising into the loop. Lift your leg until your thigh is perpendicular to the floor. Grasp the ends of the rope with one hand and place the other on top of the thigh of the exercising leg to stabilize it. Gradually extend your leg by contracting your quadriceps, causing your foot to rise to the ceiling. The goal is to lock your knee and have your foot at high noon. You may have to lower the angle of your leg from the hip at first. Use the rope for gentle assistance at the end of the stretch, but do not pull the leg into position.
STRETCH #3: STRAIGHT LEG HAMSTRING
Lie on your back. Begin with your non-exercising knee bent and with that foot flat on the floor. Make a loop from the rope and place the foot of the leg you’re exercising into the loop, locking the knee so the leg is extended straight out. From the hip and using the quadriceps, lift your leg as far as you can, aiming your foot toward the ceiling. Grasp the ends of the rope with both hands and “climb” the rope, keeping slight tension on it. Use the rope for gentle assistance at the end of the stretch, but do not pull the leg into position.
STRETCH #4: GASTROCNEMIUS
Sit with both legs straight out in front of you. Loop the rope around the foot of your exercising leg (still straight). From your heel, flex your foot back toward your ankle, using the rope for a gentle assist at the end of the movement.
STRETCH #5: LATERAL TRUNK FLEXORS
Stand with both arms at your sides. Raise one arm, placing that hand behind your head with the elbow pointed away from your body. Bend at the waist so that the arm that is straight is lowered down the side of the leg toward the knee and lower leg. This stretch can be modified by leaning slightly forward or backward before bending at the waist.
STRETCH #6: TRUNK EXTENSORS
Sit with your back straight, your knees bent, your feet resting on your heels, and your toes pointing slightly up. Tuck your chin down, contract your abdominal muscles to pull your body forward. Grasp the sides of the lower legs with your hands to gently assist at the end of the stretch. To modify this for a deep lower back stretch, bring your heels closer to your body.
STRETCH #7: HIP ADDUCTOR
Lie on your back with both legs extended straight out, looping the rope around the inside of the ankle, then under the foot, of the exercising leg, so the ends of the rope are on the outside. Lock that knee and rotate the other leg inward slightly. From your hip and using your abductors, extend your exercising leg out from the side of your body, leading with your heel. Keep slight tension on the rope and use it for gentle assistance at the end of the stretch. Do not pull the leg into position.
STRETCH #8: QUADRICEPS
Lie on your side with your knees curled up against your chest (in a fetal position). Slide your bottom arm under the thigh of your bottom leg and place your hand around the outside of your foot, or use a looped rope. Reach down with your upper hand and grasp the shin, ankle or forefoot of your upper leg. Keep your knee bent and your leg parallel to the surface you’re lying on. Contract your hamstrings and gluteus maximus, and move the upper leg back as far as you can, using your hand to give a gentle assist at the end of the stretch.