By Stew Wild, RMT (TMANZ), CNMT
Part 2 Traditional versus AIS hamstring stretching?
In a common hamstring stretch you put your heel up on a chair and lean forward.
During this the hamstring muscle has a dilemma — to let go or not. Voluntarily you want it to let go, but the ‘gamma ‘in the muscle thinks to itself if I let go there maybe muscle strain, possibly some joint damage and, worst case, the head may bang into the chair.
In the AIS version you lie on your back. Your leg is in the air because the quadriceps puts it there; reciprocal inhibition allows the hamstring to let go and a therapist (or a rope or belt) assists in a short, gentle over-stretch. Before the stretch reflex has a chance to kick in the stretch is over.
Now, here’s the really great part. In this position you can use variations to separately stretch the hamstring either as a knee flexor, a hip extensor, or as an internal or external leg rotator. Sounds complex but it’s not. Each AIS stretch is performed 10-12 times. This forms the ‘conditioned response’ element.
Repetition may help to re-program the poorly ‘soft wired’ gamma sensori-motor system and lead to an improved deep muscle memory. Ten two-second stretches give quicker results than one twenty-second stretch. In addition to the hamstring getting a stretch, the hip flexors get a great workout and are warmed up in readiness for their turn to be stretched. The result is the quickest improvement in joint motion I’ve yet to see.
To my knowledge, no-one has ever published research comparing one stretch method versus another. The clinical proof of AIS working is provided by the list of famous athletes who have used the method — golfer Jack Nicklaus, sprinter Dennis Mitchell, US women’s soccer star Mia Hamm, tennis star Mary Pierce, and skier Alberto Tomba.
Putting the Spring Back Into Your Step I came to Florida to become a certified instructor of the American Version of Neuromuscular Therapy™. The texts written by Chaitow and DeLaney provide the only meticulously studied academic accounts explaining the efficacy of NM techniques. It has been an added bonus for me to learn the innovative AIS flexibility method. I have Judi’s endorsement in presenting this method while instructing NMT in the US. Dr Chaitow has, in correspondence, supported the method, but has slight misgivings about receiving four hours of it at a time and the possibility of hyperventilation. Small matters.
This first workshop, ‘Putting the Spring Back into Your Step’, will concentrate on the lower half of the body. In the workshop I will include a series of functional movement assessments and lower body Muscle Length Tests (MLT). These will gauge muscle imbalances and asymmetries and act as useful criteria to monitor progress. I believe that there is no point in using the same stretch criteria for a tennis player, gymnast, office worker, fireman, or back pain sufferer.
The protocol starts at the foot (the toe even) and works its way up the limb to end at the pelvis. I will also present some very specific foot rehabilitation methods (including the use of Posture Control Insoles, or PCIs). Lower body rehabilitation and conditioning is synthesised from the works of Bob Arnott, Leon Chaitow, Stuart MacGill, Brian Rothbart, and the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. This multimedia workshop is designed to increase the flexibility of both the minds and the bodies of massage therapists, movement therapists, personal trainers and other students of the body, and to improve human performance by healing the body from the inside out.
Stew Wild is a New Zealand trained RMT, CNMT and is a licensed education provider and certified NMT instructor (USA)
In the next article Stew Wild will focus on recent connective tissue (CT) research, explaining some of the terms used earlier on, and interlinking the latest theories on trigger points, movement, and stretch to support an integrated system of therapeutic bodywork and movement.
Oschman, J.L. 2000, Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis, Harcourt Brace/Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh
Oschman, J.L. 2003, Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance, Butterworth Heinemann, Edinburgh
Chaitow, L. & DeLaney J. 2000, Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques, Volume 1 – The Upper Body, Churchill Livingstone Press, Edinburgh
Chaitow, L. & DeLaney J. 2002, Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques, Volume 2 — The Lower Body, Churchill Livingstone Press, Edinburgh
Chaitow, L. 2001, Muscle Energy Techniques, 2nd Ed, Churchill Livingstone Press, London
Chaitow, L. 2004, Maintaining Body Balance, Flexibility and Stability, Churchill Livingstone Press, London
Juhan, D. 1998, Job’s Body, Barrytown Ltd., New York Mattes, A. 2000, Active Isolated Stretching — The Mattes Method, Mattes Publishing, Sarasota, Florida