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    Active Stretching for the athlete and non-athlete


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Photo of The Flexibility Manual and Flexibility Sets You Free! video

THE FLEXIBILITY MANUAL represents the aim by the authors to address the problems with current flexibility/stretching programs and to present their ideas for achieving appropriate levels of flexibility safely and without potential for injury. This book is written for the general public and athlete. It provides some concepts for clinical discussion and consideration as well.

The focus of this book is the presentation of the authors' new stretching concept, which they title "active" stretching. This program is based on the principles of reciprocal innervation first described by Sir Charles Sherrington around the turn of the 20th century. The basis of the program is that when an agonist contracts, the antagonist relaxes or is inhibited."Active" stretching was designed to eliminate force from stretching. Also, the authors believe passive stretching should be used only for therapeutic purposes by trained professionals and should not be a part of any general flexibility program. The book provides a very reasonable and well-planned flexibility program that is easy to follow and is in a logical progression. The lay reader and serious fitness enthusiast would be well-served by this book. It also provides excellent ‘food for thought’ for clinicians involved in designing flexibility and exercise programs, both therapeutic and preventive. Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone involved in fitness or athletic endeavors. It provides excellent instruction, clear photographs and is based on fundamentally sound principles. Also included in this book is a section titled the ‘Instructor's Guide’ for those wishing to lead a stretching group. It provides the appropriate verbal cueing to take a group through the entire flexibility program.

(ADVANCE Magazine for Physical Therapists 9/4/95)


Physical therapists, Jean and Pete Peters, have just made Bob Anderson's stretching paradigm obsolete. They declare an end to static stretching in regard to pre-exercise warm-ups. In this 42-minute presentation, you're taught the principle of active stretching and convinced static stretching makes no more sense than shredding your muscles before the big race. The research behind this revolutionary concept is based on the neurophysiology findings of Charles Sherrington. His work in reciprocal innervation, a study of muscle and nerve response, led to conclusions that active stretching is far safer, and yet saves time - two distinct advantages rarely seen together. Mobility is increased, injury prospects are reduced and over-stretching is eliminated.

Briefly, when muscles are stimulated, they contract - they are not stimulated to relax. However, they do relax when opposing muscles are stimulated to contract. This relaxation or "inhibition" occurs as a natural, neuromuscular process of the body. If you want the muscles in the front of your lower leg to relax, then contract the calf muscle by standing on your toes. Learning how to use your body's own reciprocal innervation processes requires a step-by-step re-training. This video produced by Sports Kinetics, Inc. is an excellent way to discard an entrenched "modus operandi" and reprogram real mobility.

(American Fitness Magazine 1/90
COPYRIGHT 1990 Aerobics and Fitness Association of America)




Selections from our list of "14 Tips for Safe & Effective Stretching"

Three pictures of Active Stretching

#1 Active Stretching – Voluntary muscle contraction of those muscles which oppose the tight ones. To inhibit stretch reflexes, relax while stretching. Tension should be noticeable only in the active muscles and the muscles being stretched. Relax in the other areas. Do not hold your breath. This leads to unwanted tension.

#3  No Bouncing – To prevent unwanted stretch reflexes.

#5  Repetitions – 3 times for 10 seconds in most exercise positions.

#6  Daily – And again before warmup which precedes your activity.

#7  Cooldown – Stretch again, following your activity, those muscles most subject to tightness as a result of that activity.

#10  Don’t Compete – Your body has its own peculiarities and is not to be compared with anyone else’s.

#12  When to Stretch – On some days you may be tighter than others, and you will notice you are tightest upon first arising because body heat from resting metabolism is at a low level. It might take longer, but don’t neglect to stretch preceding participation in a morning activity.

For the complete list see p.73 of The Flexibility Manual!