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Injury Prevention through Active Isolated Stretching Featured

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stretchingStretching has been promoted for years as an essential part of a fitness program as a way to decrease the risk of injury, prevent soreness and improve performance. 

To Stretch or not to Stretch

Should You Stretch to Warm up the muscle and prevent injuries? Recommendations to stretch or not to stretch change from year to year and from expert to expert. And there is limited evidence to sort out these conflicting opinions. Stretching has been promoted for years as an essential part of a fitness program as a way to decrease the risk of injury, prevent soreness and improve performance. But what does the evidence support?

YES, if Using Active Isolated Stretching!  Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is one of the methods of stretching most used by today's personal/athletic trainers, athletes, massage therapists and physical therapists. Active Isolated Stretching allows the body to repair itself and also to prepare for daily activity. The Active Isolated Stretching technique involves the method of holding each stretch for only two seconds. Active Isolated Stretching is also known to work with the body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints and fascia

NO,if you are using the ‘Gold" Standard of holding stretches for15-60 seconds. Now I have read the study that states:

    Fowles, J. R., & Sale, D. G. (1997). Time course of strength deficit after maximal passive stretch in humans. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 29(5), 
It was found that repeated maximal stretching decreased voluntary strength for up to an hour. This was caused by impaired motor unit activation and impaired contractile force in the early stages of the deficit, and by impaired contractile force throughout the entire period of deficit.......

You may not believe this as a Stretching Advocate, BUT I totally Agree with this. 

Why?  Because they are using Static Stretching in the study.  Prolonged Static (passive) Stretching actually decreases blood flow within the tissue creating localized ischemia and lactic acid build-up.

"This (passive static stretching) potentiates irritation and/or injury of local muscular, tendonous, lymphatic, as well as neural tissues, similar to the effects and consequences of trauma and overuse syndromes."  -Aaron Mattes

Dr. Inoue takes it even a step further. Most Disease in its simplest definition is due to Ischemia- lack of blood flow to any soft tissue!  "My research has convinced me that lack of oxygen is the root of most or perhaps even all disease".

So now you may be confused.  Should or Shouldn't I Stretch to Warm up the muscle and prevent injuries? 

YES, if Using Active Isolated Stretching!  AIS warms the tissues by Increasing local blood flow, oxygen and nutrition to the tissues before activity.

NO, if you are using the ‘Gold" Standard of holding 15-60 second stretches (Static stretching- and yes this includes PNF)  

Static Stretching, the Gold Standard 

What science is Static Stretching based on?  Seriously- I am Asking, because I have found no reasonable explanation other than that's just what we have always done.One major reason performance will be decreased with passive stretching  (Holding stretches between 15-60 seconds), is because of the Localized Ischemia* built up in the muscle, which turn increases the waste products in the muscle.  So Now the body has to work and spend energy to get rid of the lactate and other by products that are produced in the muscle when there is not enough oxygen in the muscle. When stretching 30-60 seconds or longer YOU are Starving the muscle! 

By choking off the Oxygen and nutrient rich blood due to the muscle tension. You're asking or waiting for the starved muscle to hold on until it can't any longer and submits to your request from fatigue, etc..  Yoga calls it ‘surrendering'.  

Examples,  (If you have ever had the unfortunate sight of seeing someone choking. The airway gets blocked off and they can start turning blue due to the lack of oxygen.  And the when foreign object gets dislodged they gasp for air in attempt to get Oxygen levels back into the system as soon as possible and rid itself of the Carbon dioxide builds up. This in essence is what is happening inside the body in the muscle when doing Passive Static Stretching.Make a light Fist with one hand. Take a finger from the other hand and try to push a finger through the fist between thumb and your hand (or index finger).  Doesn't go through very easily, if at all, does it?  Does this sound like working WITH the Body? Sound healthy?  Then why are Most of us doing this with 30-60 second stretching?  Why has it been the so-called Gold Standard?  

Do you enjoy stretching this way?   More Importantly have you become flexible in a short period of time?

Think about what happens when your leg falls asleep from sitting in one position for a length of time (Static Stretch).  Due to ischemia you may feel needles, tingling, pain, numbness, etc., Causing lactic acid build inside the muscle due to lack of oxygen to the muscle.

Can u move the muscle quickly?  NO.  But this is exactly what we are doing with long static stretching or even PNF Stretching.  Many athletes try burst into action.   Think you are performing at your peak??  How could you.

Think you maybe susceptible to an injury?   Remember, you could hardly move when your leg fell asleep and now you're trying to burst into action.

Active Isolated Stretching works synergistically with all the bodies' systems- Muscular, cardiovascular, lymphatic and nervous systems. With Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) you feed the muscle fresh nutrient rich blood.  Fresh Blood that is carrying fresh oxygen and nutrients in well nutritioned meals with each repetition of the stretch!!  Yes, I said repetition of the stretch!  
With AIS, you only hold the stretch for 2 seconds while using the opposing muscle move the joint.  Then you start over from the beginning.  Repeating about 10 times.

The Laws and Science of Stretching

Unlike any other stretching program it uses science to cultivate a flexibility program based on Physiological Laws or principles of the body.    

  1. Sherrington's Laws of Reciprocal Inhibition/Innervation- When a muscle on one side of a joint   is contracted, the muscle on the opposite side sends a neurological signal to relax or release.  Muscle can ONLY do 2 things: Contract or Relax
  2. Wolf's Law- Fibers are laid down along lines of stress within the body.  If you try to stretch a muscle or tendon outside the proper planes of attachments, tension and friction is increased and resistance is encountered that will prevent full flexibility. 
  3. LEDERMAN 1997- GTO's able to reset their muscles' length during dynamic contractions.
  4. JAMI 1992- Passive myo-fascial stretching does NOT stimulate GTO's (Static)

"Even more detrimental is the increased potential for injury to the muscle or tendons".  - Aaron Mattes

"Muscle fibers are laid in patterns that correspond to the attachment points. Utilizing this plane of myofascial tissue allows for optimal stretching without friction, cross-friction or activation of other muscle groups".  Dr Kochno.  

  • Definition of Ischemia - Tissues in the body Not Being properly fed with oxygen and nutrients due lack of blood flow to that particular area of the body. Most Disease in its simplest definition is due to Ischemia- lack of blood flow to any soft tissue!
  • Stretch Reflex - "When a muscle lengthens beyond a certain point, the myotatic reflex causes it to tighten and attempt to shorten. This is the tension you feel during stretching exercises. The term "myotatic reflex" was coined by Sir William Richard Gowers 1845-1915) in the 1880's.

Stretching and Muscle Soreness After Exercise

New research suggests that Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) can also prevent muscle soreness after exercise and assist with faster recovery.  This is accomplished by flushing the lymphatic system and the waste products are produced by working out.  While at the same time with AIS you feed the muscle fresh, nutrient rich blood.  Fresh Blood that is carrying fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.  The more flushing and nutrients you can get to the muscle the faster the recovery!  Light exercise promotes a better supply of blood and oxygen to the muscles.

Active Isolated Stretching   before exercise can prevent either overuse or acute sports injuries by properly preparing the muscle for activity.  Michael Johnson Did NOT warm up in the traditional way on the track.  He would do about 45 minutes of AIS before getting into the blocks.  Light exercise promotes a better supply of blood and oxygen to the muscles.

Warming up Vs. Stretching

Active Isolated Stretching can be the Warm Up.  As it is active. warms the tissue to prepare them for activity.  Increase local blood flow, oxygen, and nutrition to tissues before and after activity. The contracting muscles are major vehicles used to deliver blood and oxygen. Repetitive isotonic muscle contraction delivers greater amounts of blood, lymph, and nutrition to specific regions more rapidly than static or isometric muscle contractions. Numerous repetitions are an important consideration in a thorough warm-up or post activity recovery process.

What Stretch is Best?

Active Isolated Stretching is the only flexibility program that is based on the Laws and principles of the body.  Works synergistically with all the other body systems, as well as warming up the tissues and preparing them for activity. In general, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching only works the nervous system in one direction. Remember the Nervous system is a two way street from the Brain to the muscle and the muscle to the brain.

PNF has resulted in greater increases in range of motion compared with static or ballistic stretching, though some results have not been statistically significant. Static stretches are a bit easier to do, but I think we have clearly covered why prolonged static or isometric stretching isn't your best option.

Stretching Guidelines

  • Regular breathing during muscular exertion decreases fatigue.
  • Breathe regularly and avoid holding your breath-even for short periods.
  • Establish the following breathing rhythm when stretching.
  • Exhale on the exertion or end phase of the stretch and Inhale while returning to the Starting position.
  • For maximum safety, stretch the muscles and connective tissue (fascia) to the degree where the myotatic (stretch) reflex is activated and move beyond to the point of light irritation.
  • Stretch gently for 1 ½ to 2 seconds (provide less than one pound or assistance) then release the pressure. 
  • Return to the starting position, and repeat the prescribed number of repetitions.
  • Releasing the pressure on the tissues being stretched at the point of light irritation helps prevent the reversal contractions of the tissue triggered by the stretch reflex. Intentional prolonged violation of the stretch reflex may result in soreness from overstretching or scar tissue from tissue tearing.
Last modified on Monday, 06 August 2012 02:12
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