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Active Isolated Stretching for Enhanced Flexibility and Strength

Focusing on Plantar Fasciitis


Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a unique and effective approach for improved flexibility. Unlike traditional stretching methods that often involve holding stretches for extended periods, AIS employs a series of gentle, targeted movements that actively engage the muscles.


Imagine yourself embarking on an AIS session. As you prepare your body, you'll notice the emphasis on shorter hold times, typically just 1-2 seconds. This brief engagement allows you to gently coax your muscles into a state of relaxation, avoiding the discomfort and potential injury associated with aggressive stretching.


With each stretch, you'll repeat the movement 8-10 times, gradually deepening the stretch and allowing your muscles to adapt and lengthen. The key to AIS lies in the active contraction of the muscle opposite the one being stretched. This reciprocal inhibition technique helps the targeted muscle to surrender its resistance, permitting a more effective and comfortable stretch without worsening the damaged tissue.


AIS places a strong focus on specificity, targeting individual muscles and muscle groups with precise movements. By isolating these areas, you can address specific imbalances and tightness, promoting a well-rounded improvement in flexibility.


Throughout your AIS journey, you'll incorporate mindful breathing, exhaling as you stretch and inhaling as you return to the starting position. This rhythmic breathing not only enhances relaxation but also promotes oxygenation of the muscles, aiding in their recovery and rejuvenation.


The beauty of AIS lies in its ability to not only enhance flexibility but also strengthen your muscles. By actively engaging them throughout the stretching process, AIS fosters a harmonious balance between flexibility and strength, reducing the risk of injury and improving your overall physical well-being.


As you embrace AIS, you'll embark on a transformative journey towards greater flexibility, enhanced strength, and a more vibrant, pain-free body.


Image showing leg muscles

Active Isolated Stretching for Plantar Fasciitis

One area where Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) can be a very effective tool is in managing plantar fasciitis, a common condition characterized by pain and inflammation in the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot.  Increased stress to the bottom of the foot causes micro-tearing of the fibrous tissue that originates on the front of the heel/bottom of the foot.  

AIS targets the calf muscles, particularly the gastrocnemius and soleus, which are often tight and contribute to plantar fasciitis. By gently stretching these muscles using the AIS technique, you can help to:

  • Reduce tension and tightness in the calf muscles, allowing them to absorb more shock

  • Improve ankle flexibility and range of motion

  • Promote blood flow to the plantar fascia, aiding in healing

  • Relieve pain and discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis


To perform AIS for plantar fasciitis, follow these steps:


  1. Gastrocnemius stretch: Back of the calf

  • Sit with the affected leg out in front of the body.  

  • Keep the knee locked by contracting the quadriceps muscles. 

  • Pull the foot back with the anterior foot/ankle muscles (active ROM).  

  • Assist the muscle lengthening with a strap, rope or hand for a hold of 2 seconds in the stretched position (passive ROM). 

  • Repeat 8-10 times.

  1. Soleus stretch:

  • Sit with the knee flexed to 90 degrees and the heel in contact with the ground.

  • Lift the ankle and toes with the muscles on the front of the leg (dorsiflexion).

  • Place hands under the ball of the foot. 

  • Provide assisting stretch with the hands for a count of 2 seconds.  

  • Repeat 8-10 times.

  • Standing Soleus Stretch

It's important to perform AIS gently and gradually, avoiding any sudden or forceful movements.  This technique will re-educate the muscles to lengthen more efficiently and thus take stress off the injured tissue and redirect that stress to the larger muscle groups that are meant to absorb repetitive forces.  Listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain. Regular AIS practice can help to improve flexibility and reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis over time. 

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