I cringe to think of how I was taught to stretch back in middle school gym class. We’d run around the gym a few times, gather in a circle, and then push and pull on our muscles until they hurt a little. That’s how we knew we had a good stretch.
Nooo! The number one rule of stretching is it shouldn’t hurt!
As a runner, I’ve learned a few different methods. Most physical therapists I know use a static stretch, where you hold your muscle in a set position for as much as thirty seconds.
But static stretching isn’t the only technique. Atlanta-area message therapist Robin Rogers relies on Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) to help his clients, which range from the regular joe runners like me to professional athletes competing on the world field...
So what makes Active Isolated Stretching different? Two things.
- It’s an active stretch that isolates certain muscles by contracting opposite muscle groups. Robin says you isolate muscles “by stretching through different angles and planes of motion.”
- The second major difference with AIS is you only hold a stretch for two to three seconds.The theory is that static stretching can quickly lead to overstretching and muscle fiber damage because thirty seconds is much too long to hold a pose.
A lot of us runners have read that we can only stretch after our muscles are good and warm. But if you want to stretch before you run, you should look into AIS.
Robin says the added bonus of this technique is you can stretch before a run, and not just after. “This is the only type of method I would suggest using prior to running or any other activity because the movement creates circulation and warmth to the muscle.”
Thank goodness stretching has come a long way from my days in middle school.
Below is a good video explaining a hamstring stretch using AIS method.