Active-Isolated Stretching (AIS) was developed by kinesiotherapist and massage therapist Aaron Mattes, and is the current gold standard of stretching among both athletes and therapists.

In this method, the person being stretched actively moves the targeted (isolated) muscle, thereby contracting the antagonist muscle. For instance, if one is attempting to stretch the hamstring, one lies supine with the opposite knee bent, and raises the straightened leg to be stretched by contracting the quadriceps muscles on the front of the leg. This brings about an automatic relaxation of the hamstrings in opposition to the contracted quadriceps, thereby facilitating the stretch. When the leg is raised as far as it can comfortably go, the assistant (or the person himself, using hands or a strap) applies a light pressure to stretch the muscle further, but only for two seconds, and this procedure is repeated five to ten times.

In our experience AIS is an improvement over other methods of restoring length to shortened tissues, and because it is so gentle-an effort is of course required, but no pain is allowed-it is particularly appropriate for painful muscles. It can be used as a treatment in itself, or as an adjunct to other modalities, for it is a natural companion to other techniques. In addition, the recipient of a session of AIS takes home more than the results of the treatment: he takes home a way to help himself.

For further reading, we suggest:The Whartons' Stretch Book, by Jim and Phil Wharton.

On the internet:

Therapists with training in Active-Isolated Stretching (AIS): Sandy Levy, Sheri Bergen