New Method of Stretching: "Active Isolated" (Excerpted from Chapter 3 -The
Development of Strength, Power and Flexibility)
The ballistic, static and PNF methods of stretching have
already been discussed. All of these methods have their place in flexibility training.
Now, one final method of stretching deserves some attention. Referred to as
"active-isolated" (AI), it has gained in popularity among runners in recent
years. It shows significant promise for improving flexibility in a manner that avoids the
most of the drawbacks of ballistic or static stretching.
When using AI training, the athlete stretches his or her body as far as possible and then assists himself or herself to go further, until a point of mild irritation is achieved. That position is held for two seconds or a little less. The athletes then returns to the starting position, relaxes for two seconds and repeats the exercises. Two sets of eight to twelve repetitions are generally performed in this manner, often at the beginning and end of the workout. Using the exercise that was previously used to illustrate the other kinds of stretching as an example, an athlete doing this seated hamstring stretch would bring the torso toward the legs as much as possible. The athlete might then place the hands underneath the thighs and use the arms to pull the torso closer to the legs (alternatively, the athlete would place a rope at the bottom of the feet and pull against the rope to bring the torso closer to the legs). This stretch would be held for two seconds or a little less, and then the athlete would relax and let the torso return to a relaxed position (even as far back as the floor). After relaxing for two seconds in that position, the athlete would repeat the stretch (for up to eleven more repetitions). Many athletes who have found passive stretching to be painful or ineffective have benefited significantly from AI stretching.
I have found this stretching method to be very useful for increasing a weightlifters flexibility in very weightlifting specific areas. For example, an athlete might increase his or her flexibility in the low squat position by squatting down with a fixed pole or railing in front of him or her. The athlete would squat down to a comfortably low position, grasp the railing or pole and use it to push himself or herself into a lower position, which would then be held for two seconds. The athlete would then stand up from the squat, squat down again and repeat the stretch 7 to 11 times to complete a set of stretches.
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