What is Assisted Stretching?
Stretching is any action you take to deliberately improve your muscle’s flexibility and elasticity. It’s an important part of any workout and should never be neglected. So, assisted stretching is simply this same activity, but done with the help of a friend, team mate, or physical trainer. This is different from most stretching which is typically designed to be done by yourself.
Why do it?
Sometimes, an advanced athlete or person who exercises frequently will reach a point where they can stretch themselves no further. They reach a barrier where they are so flexible, normal stretches are no longer are able to improve their flexibility. Sometimes it’s due to body shape, physical strength, or environment. Whatever the reason, the fact is that the person is unable to reach their full potential on their own. In this case, they need an assistant to help them stretch their muscles beyond their personal capacity. This is most common with athletes that regularly do lots of stretching: dancers, gymnasts, martial artists, and yogis.
How Does it Work?
Assisted stretching is actually pretty simple. Do a normal stretch, and then have someone else move your body parts a little bit further until the desired stretch is achieved. Hold it there for a normal amount of time, and then relax.
Despite the simplicity of the concept, assisted stretching is usually a very delicate process. If you’re at the point where you can’t stretch yourself further on your own, then you’re body is definitely nearing its limits. Pushing beyond those limits can cause extremely painful and permanently damaging effects. So, if you ever want to be involved in this kind of stretching, you want to be sure that both you and your partner know your bodies’ capabilities and have received physical training for the activity.
Here’s an example of assisted stretching that is simple and easy. It’s one of the exceptions that can be done without any training if your careful.
Straighten your arms and clasp your hands together behind your back. You should feel your shoulder blades coming together behind you. Attempt to raise your hands; you probably won’t be able to make them go very high on your own. Ask your partner to take your hands and slowly raise them. When you feel a moderate tension, tell your partner to stop and slowly lower your hands when you’re ready. This is a great way to stretch your shoulders and work out aches there.
Stanziano, D., et al. “The effects of an active-assisted stretching program on functional performance in elderly persons: A pilot study”. Clin Interv Aging. 2009; 4: 115–120.
Weerapong, et al. “Stretching: Mechanisms and Benefits for Sport Performance and Injury Prevention”. Physical Therapy Reviews. 2004; 9(4): 189-206.
Kokkone, J., et al. “Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2007; 39(10): 1825-1831.