What is active isolated stretching?

Active Isolated Stretching


The Mattes Method:

What is Active Isolated Stretching?

Over the past two decades, many experts have advocated prolonged stretching up to 60 seconds. A prolonged stretch up to 60 seconds means that a person would move into a stretching position and keep it there for a longer period.

For many years this was used as the gold standard for all individuals and athletes. However, after 30 years of research by Aaron Mattes, it was found that a stretch greater than 5 seconds actually decreases the blood flow within the tissue thus creating localized ischemia and lactic acid build up. This also increases irritation and change of injury of local muscular, tendonous, lymphatic as well as neural tissues, similar to the effects and consequences of trauma, overuse syndromes, and metabolic disease states. This phenomenon indicates that there has to be a better technique for proper stretching. And indeed it was found, now called Active Isolated Stretching.

Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a stretching method developed by Aaron L. Mattes. AIS utilizes precise movements to isolate a specific area to be stretched. Once in the proper position, the stretch is held for 1.5 to 2 seconds, released, and then repeated 8-10 times in a set. AIS has been used by thousands of professional and amateur athletes to increase flexibility and performance while reducing the risk of injury. It is also effective in reducing pain in the human body caused by incorrect posture, injury, and inactivity.

Active Isolated Stretching: How it Works

There are two primary principles that provide the basis for how AIS works. The first is called reciprocal inhibition, which means that if you want to lift your arm, your nervous system has to shut off the muscles that bring your arm down. This means that AIS involves your nervous system in the stretch, making it easier for the muscles to elongate. The second principle is to hold the stretch for 1.5 to 2 seconds, and no longer. Research shows that holding a stretch for longer than 2.5 to 3 seconds will cause your body to engage a protective reflex. This stretch reflex will cause a muscle contraction in the muscle you are trying to stretch. It is therefore important not to hold any stretch to long, not even 3 seconds.

By not “tripping” the stretch reflex, you are able to get a gentle stretch, without the body fighting itself. The stretch is repeated 8 to 10 times in a set. The repeated “pumping” action of the muscle allows for increased circulation to the area. Because the stretches target highly specific areas of the body, AIS provides an efficient and effective stretch.

These specific movements also help relieve symptoms of stress. Stress touches all of our lives. Gentle stretching movements can invigorate the circulatory, respiratory and neuromuscular systems, which help alleviate many of the symptoms of stress.

Benefits of Active Isolated Stretching:

  • Improves flexibility
  • Helps to relieve muscle soreness
  • Reduces muscle spasm
  • Helps to address and reduce chronic pain
  • Reduces the risk of muscle strain and tearing
  • Helps recovery from injury
  • Helps to increase athletic performance
  • Helps to relieve stress
  • Improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to cells
  • Helps stimulate lymph circulation and elimination of cellular waste
  • Helps to maintain good posture
  • Helps to regain and maintain the full range of motion of a joint
  • Promotes balance in the body
  • Promotes healthy growth in children and youth
  • Prevent postural problems in pre-adolescent growth spurts.



By applying all these principles to any soft tissue injury, inflammation and muscle damage one can accelerate the recovery process of the body up to 3-4 times the normal recovery rate. Both professional and amateur sports people can now tell many success stories. AIS changed their lives, optimizing their performance in a new and dynamic way.

Even in our own clinic we could see the drastic changes to Ankle strains and sprains, shoulder immobility, inflammation in the knee joint and lots more. This is not only a revolutionary way of preventing of all injuries, but also in helping in effective exercises to regain optimal performance in the sports arena.

For you as a health care professional, AIS can be very beneficial. Instead of immobilizing many soft tissue injuries, tears, sprains and localized swellings. It can now be mobilized effectively and without reoccurrence of these injuries. This is not only effective for sports people, but can be applied to all human beings at any age, the elderly, and paraplegic and populations with disorders. To regain their ROM optimally, would help them to regain their lives.


Hans de Wit is a qualified Sport massage therapist (2002), Sport and Exercise technologist, exercise physiologist and accredited Mattes stretching therapist. He studied at the Tswane University of Pretoria and received a Diploma in 2002, from where he continued in getting a B-Tech degree in Sport science and exercise physiology 2003. He received personal education from Aaron L. Mattes in 2005, and gained experience at his clinic in Sarasota, Florida in the USA. De Wit is a member of the South African Sports Medicine association and presents seminars and workshops in active isolated stretching too many health care professionals, athletes and trainers around the country. He currently directs stretching & rehabilitation clinics in Pretoria, South Africa.

J.W de Wit – Sport & exercise Technologies

426 Cliffendale-Drive

Faerie Glen, Pretoria, South Africa

Phone (012) 991-8710

Fax (012) 991-8700


One comment on “What is active isolated stretching?

  1. Ek is n manlike persoon 68 oud en het in 2005 ‘n linkerknie vervanging gehad en ondergaan 26/02 ‘n volledige regter knie vervanging. Sal dit raadsaam wees om na die operasie vir behandeling kom en sal dit die herstelproses bespedig

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