Practitioner-assisted stretching may be just the ticket to keep your body in balance.
Jorden Gold was working as a traditional personal trainer in Miami when his grandfather lost his mobility to diabetes. Gold hated that his grandfather needed a walker to get around, so he took his massage table to his grandfather’s house and started stretching him to see if it would increase his range of motion.
“He went from not moving at all to walking on his own to dancing,” Gold recalled. “And that’s when I realized, if it works for him, why can’t it work for everyone?”
Gold dedicated himself to the science of stretching, and he soon let his clients know that he would be switching from traditional methods of exercise to a focus on stretching. “I didn’t lose a single client,” he said.
In what’s become known as practitioner-assisted stretching, a trainer works with an athlete to ensure a stretch is done properly—and targets the muscles that an individual needs to lengthen. Active isolated stretching (AIS) and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) are two of the more common methods that have migrated from physical therapy to more mainstream trainers.
Once the primary domain of world-class athletes, practitioner-assisted stretching is becoming more accessible to the masses through health clubs, massage therapists and people like Gold, whose company, Stretch Zone, focuses exclusively on stretching.
“Stretching was out of fashion for a while,” Gold said, “Because some studies didn’t show the relationship between stretching and performance. But they focused on static flexibility. And that doesn’t really work. But if you do dynamic stretching, with multiple paths of movement, it can make a big difference.”
With practitioner-assisted stretching, a trainer is able to assist and isolate muscles to produce better results.
For endurance athletes, muscle imbalances lead to injuries, and practitioner-assisted stretching can do wonders to solve those problems. Hip flexors are the most common problem Gold sees in runners, most of whom spend their day in a chair.
“People tell me, ‘I can’t believe how much better I’m running.’ And I tell them, ‘Of course. You’re using all of your muscles now.’”
This piece first appeared in the October 2011 issue of Competitor magazine.