Active-Isolated Stretching (AI) by Australian strength coach Gary Matthews

Olympians have been employing Active-Isolated Stretching (AI) now for many years, but it has only recently been brought to the public’s attention. I have used this technique on my clients for quite a while now with great success, while adding renewed life and spring to tired out muscles. AI stretching prevents injury, as conventional stretching can cause real harm such as muscle pulls and tears.

AI stretching does what stretching is supposed to do; it transports oxygen to sore muscles and quickly removes toxins so recovery is faster. It also works as a deep massage technique because it activates muscle fibers during the actual stretch.

How to Stretch:

Before stretching, dress in loose clothing and try and acquire a five-foot length of rope and tie a loop in the end. The purpose of this is to loop the end of rope around the exercising appendage to squeeze the last couple of inches of stretch from the exercise.

Find a comfortable place to stretch either on your bed, a carpeted floor or on a mat.Isolate the muscle or group you want to stretch then contract the muscle opposite. This causes the isolated muscle or group to relax straight away and when it does it is ready to stretch.

Gently and quickly stretch the isolated muscle until it can’t be stretched any further; now give yourself a gentle pull with your hands or rope. Go as far as you can and then hold the stretch for no more than 2 seconds then release, do this for a total of 5 repetitions on the isolated muscle or group.

The reason for just a 2-second stretch is because when a muscle realizes that it is being forced into a stretch it contracts to protect itself from being overstretched. If you can beat this contraction you’ll be well on the way to a greater Range of Motion.

Remember to hold for no more than 2 seconds, release, return to the normal position and repeat for the five repetitions. Try not to have any hesitations between stretches and make it as fluid as possible. Try to stretch every day if possible, remember to:

  • Work one target muscle at a time.
  • Contract the muscle that is opposite the targeted muscle, which will relax in preparation of its stretch.
  • Stretch it gently and quickly.
  • Release it before it realizes that it has been stretched and goes into its protective contraction.

Below are two exercises that can be done straight away even while you are at work to stretch that tension and stress from of your body.

Lie down on the floor with your buttocks against a wall and your legs straight up the wall. Slowly flex your toes towards your knees, hold for two seconds and repeat five times. This will loosen up your lower back and stretch your hamstrings and hips giving instant relief for tired backs.

This exercise can be done while at the office anytime you start to feel that stress and tension building up.

Sitting in a chair and putting one leg out straight, flex your toes towards your knee, now lean towards that foot, stretching your hands towards it and letting your head and shoulders follow, hold for two seconds and repeat five times. This will create a stretch right across your lower back and neck.

A flexible body is:

  • More efficient
  • More easily trained for strength and endurance
  • Enjoys more range of motion
  • Stays balanced more easily and is less prone to injury
  • Recovers from workouts more quickly, and feels better.

Your goal? To start utilizing these exercises every day and say goodbye to your stress and tension.

Gary’s professional career began in the Royal Australian Air Force where he was employed as a Fitness Instructor. He has over 20 years of experience. His duties consisted of training recruits in various disciplines including strength training and conditioning techniques. He was soon posted to Penang, Malaysia where he was primarily responsible for creating and maintaining a commercial gymnasium used by service personal and civilians alike. During this time, Gary is also fluent in the Malaysian language, and was an essential player in re-leasing negotiations with the Malaysian and Australian governments. Gary continued to utilize these skills when he returned to Australia and began his tenure with the ANA and Sheraton hotel chains where he lead a cultural staff exchange between the ANA hotel Gold Coast and Manza Beach Resort in Okinawa, Japan. Gary used his expertise to develop their leisure and sports club and also gained fluency in the Japanese language.

Gary has continued to build upon his gym instruction and personal training experience throughout his entire career. By developing client routines and noting their frustrations with time intensive training regimes, it became apparent that the more people train, the slower their respond to the training. Gary steered away from volume training and developed a fitness technique that requires people to be in the gym for only 20 minutes a week. When Gary introduced this element into his clients’ fitness routines, they began to make rapid progress while increasing functional muscle and dramatically decreased body fat levels. When Gary further combined this technique with a more nutritional diet, total transformations were achieved in as few as ten weeks. Gary currently directs a very successful personal training business on the Gold Coast of Australia and promotes abbreviated training as the preferred fitness method. He also continues to run a fitness consultancy for off and on-line businesses.

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