What the Heck is AIS?

By Suzie Bush

AIS is a method of stretching. My husband, Kyle, calls it ‘Absolutely Insane Stretching’ – but it’s really Active Isolated Stretching. There are many types of stretching including Ballistic, Static, Dynamic, Passive and Isolated. I’m sure we’ve done them all as they surfaced as ‘the one to do’ at some point in time. Aaron Mattes is the developer of Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) and I had the privilege of studying with him earlier this year. Aaron has worked with thousands of athletes over the past 44 years. He is a wealth of knowledge and has a pretty good sense of humor too!

AIS is a perfect addition to the practice because it requires you to work and participate with the stretch…so again no napping or flute music for this appointment either. You’ve got to be ready to work– and this stuff works!! AIS helps lengthen muscle groups and release the fascia. According to Aaron, It provides functional and physiological restoration of the superficial and deep fascial planes. Unlike some stretching where you hold for a long period of time, AIS is held for two seconds and repeated. This allows the muscle to lengthen without triggering the protective stretch reflex -since a muscle only knows how to contract or relax – this allows reciprocal inhibition– or relaxation of the muscle.

Here’s the cool part- (since I like everything to have a cool factor!) – When you assist by moving your body in the way directed – you are reprogramming your mind and body to increase the stretch – Your body currently knows ‘how far’ it can go- but by avoiding reciprocal inhibition to happen – your muscle is reprogrammed or tricked into remembering the new length as I assist at the end of the stretch. Now sometimes it’s hard to teach a new dog a trick– so the key is for you to participate and not allow me to facilitate the stretch passively– sure we will get it to lengthen passively but the muscle memory doesn’t really change since you’re not thinking and acting on the movement. A full body AIS appointment is usually 1 1/2 -hours- you can feel pretty wiped out, especially the first time. But like exercise, it gets easier each time. We usually do a shorter duration of AIS during appointments to hit targeted areas. I find in our practice we utilize primarily lower body AIS. Some stretches although lower body get the entire side chain from head to toe.

The best part- you can do these on your own with a rope to assist….and its much quieter than I am!

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