Sports Stretch Massage, Fascial, Fascial Stretch FST & Self Stretching

Sports Stretch Massage, Fascial Stretch FST & Self Stretching
Sports Stretch Massage, Fascial Stretch FST & Self Stretching

What is Assisted Stretching? 

In simple terms, assisted stretching is a technique where one person helps another person stretch. It has been used in athletic training settings for many years and has recently made its way into gyms, spas, and stretch centers available to the general public.

Assisted stretching uses specific techniques to increase the mobility and flexibility of a muscle or group of muscles. It requires advanced training in the way the body moves and is often done by massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers. Assisted stretching is a gentle technique that can be used not only on generalized clientele but also on children, adults, the elderly, and those with physical disabilities.

A typical session will include an extensive assessment of an individual’s physical health. A therapist conducting a session will look at a person’s range of motion, flexibility, limitations, alignment, pain, and discomfort levels. They will also take into account their client’s goals and develop a stretch program that will gradually help them reach those goals.

With the assistance of a trained stretch therapist, a client can go deeper into a stretch safely, effectively, and without injury. These sessions are fully customizable and act as an enhancement to a client’s current wellness program. Clients who are stretched often experience improved posture, pain relief, a reduction in stress, rejuvenation, and an overall feeling of well-being.

Stretching’s Benefits

Stretching is an essential component in maintaining optimum health. It supports our joints and muscles as well as our emotional health by reducing stress levels in the body. People who were once stiff and considered inflexible are reaping the benefits of fluid movement and improved posture, among other results, according to many published research studies.

A few of the most prominent benefits of stretching include increased range of motion and flexibility, improved circulation, improved posture, stress relief, and pain relief. Let’s look at each of these benefits.

Increased range of motion and flexibility. The range of motion and flexibility go hand in hand. Having a greater range of motion provides joints and muscles supporting them greater flexibility and movement. Studies have found that static stretching increases the range of motion and the length of the muscles connected to the specific joint. (See “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation,” published in 2012 in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, for example.)

Some research indicates that it’s not the length of the muscle that is affected by stretching, but rather a person’s tolerance to stretching that allows them to stretch further. In both cases, the range of motion is positively affected, and its increase allows for greater flexibility, mobility, and prevention of injury. Stretching also reduces joint stiffness. making activities like walking or participating in physical tasks more comfortable for the body.

Although research has been focused on stretching, there isn’t yet a consensus on stretching benefits in a generalized sense.

In “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation,” a review of 101 stretching studies, the authors noted:

“Many exercise studies on older adults include stretching exercises as part of a well-rounded exercise program. Unfortunately, there is no clear dose response for flexibility training in older adults because stretching interventions are often combined with strengthening, balance, and cardiovascular activities, making it difficult to isolate stretching’s effectiveness.

“Older adults may need longer stretch times than the recommended 15 to 30 seconds … 60-second holds of static stretches were associated with greater improvements in hamstring flexibility in older adults compared to shorter-duration holds. Ten weeks of static stretching of the trunk muscles was able to increase spinal mobility (combined flexion and extension ROM) in older adults. Static stretching of the hip flexors and extensors may also improve gait in older adults.

“Furthermore, the effectiveness of the type of stretching seems to be related to age and sex: men and older adults under 65 years respond better to contract-relax stretching, while women and older adults over 65 benefit more from static stretching.”

Still, we can begin with the assumption that stretching augments massage by helping clients feel more flexible and relaxed.

Improved circulation. Low-intensity stretching done routinely can increase blood flow to tissues and reduce blood pressure. The increase in circulation to muscles brings oxygen and nutrients to tissues and plays a role in decreasing muscle soreness post-workout.

Improved posture. Well-stretched clients will stand taller after stretching — or at least they will feel like they are. The act of lengthening muscles followed by a strengthening exercise program encourages proper alignment in the body and supports good posture.

When tight pectorals or anterior deltoids pull the shoulders forward, for example, this creates curvature in the upper back that makes a person appear hunched over. By lengthening those muscles and strengthening the antagonist’s muscles, a client’s posture can be corrected or improved significantly.

Stress relief. Everyone has experienced tension in their body as a result of mental and emotional triggers. Our body reacts to stressors by contracting or tensing up. The longer tension remains in the body, the tighter the muscle tissues get.

Stretching alleviates tension by slowly opening up the muscles on a cellular level. “Our muscles are made of thousands of muscle spindles — like hairs in a ponytail — that give the muscle cell the ability to stretch and contract by sliding past each other in a coordinated fashion,” said Michael Jonesco, an assistant clinical professor of sports medicine and internal medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, in an article titled “Do you need to stretch? Science weighs in,” reported in 2018 in the Chicago Tribune.

Stretching also stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system to release endorphins, our body’s feel-good hormones. As a result, many people feel calmer and have a clearer mind after stretching.

Pain relief. Stretching has been used among athletes and rehabilitation centers to alleviate pain caused by anything from sports injuries to car accidents. Restricted movement can cause pain, inhibit movement, and create stiffness and achiness in our bodies. Stretching has been found to counteract these effects.

Studies have found that a routine stretching and strengthening exercise program reduces pain and improves the function of associated joints and muscles. (See “Effects of a stretching protocol for the pectoralis minor on muscle length, function, and scapular kinematics in individuals with and without shoulder pain,” published in 2017 in the Journal of Hand Therapy, for example.)

Now let’s look at some of the established stretching techniques available for massage therapists to learn.


Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation

In proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), range of motion and flexibility are gained by passively stretching a muscle while engaging in an isometric stretch. This method follows a specific protocol of contract-relax-stretch, as well as hold times, and is recommended to be performed after a warm-up.

“Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation is a technique of stretching that combines both passive and isometric stretches to promote or hasten the neuromuscular mechanism through stimulation of the proprioceptors,” he said. “Simply put, PNF stretching fools the nervous system into relaxing the myotactic reflex, [or the] muscle contraction in response to stretching, allowing the targeted muscle to stretch further than with more traditional styles of stretching.”

The massage therapist passively stretches the intended muscle to its comfortable end range while offering resistance to contraction, said Myers. The client uses approximately 25 percent of their strength. After a count of eight to 10 seconds, the client relaxes and takes a breath as the therapist stretches the muscle a bit further, holding for 10 to 15 seconds. This is generally repeated three times.

Herman Kabat, MD, Ph.D., and Maggie Knotts have been credited with developing PNF during the mid-1940s in the U.S. It is often included in sports massage training programs or certification courses.

Active Isolated Stretching

Active Isolated Stretching is a gentle assisted-stretching method that holds a stretch for no longer than two seconds and is then repeated. The antagonistic muscle is contracted while the targeted muscle relaxes.

Aaron Mattes, LMT, and author of Active Isolated Stretching: The Mattes Method developed the technique over the past four decades. He based it on Sherrington’s Law, which states that a muscle will relax when its opposite contracts. His system’s motto is “lengthen and strengthen.”

Mattes said that Active Isolated Stretching increases the range of motion and flexibility and also increases blood, oxygen, nutrition, and water to cells in the body — and in turn, benefits the function of the brain’s receptors.

“This is a powerful application of the body’s physiology, and it’s done gently, Mattes told MASSAGE Magazine. “We found that holding a stretch for longer than two seconds activated the stretch reflex, so if you’re holding it longer then you end up in a fight-or-flight situation where muscles that you were trying to stretch by holding longer are contracting to protect themselves.”

Stretch Therapy

Stretch Therapy is a system that includes stretching, fascial remodeling, strengthening, neural re-patterning, and relaxation. It was developed by Judy Stowers, LMT, a certified Stretch Therapy instructor based in Arizona. Stretch Therapy is rooted in various stretching disciplines, including Kit Laughlin’s mind-body holistic approach to stretching.

Stretch Therapy is floor-based and performed on a mat versus a table. Stowers conducts a thorough assessment of each client and develops a specific program of stretches to teach clients what it feels like to stretch on their own. She trains them to do stretches at home once they’ve learned the technique and positions.

“I focus on how they can feel those sensations in their body, [and] how to do the stretch safely and effectively, and that in turn helps them to create a pattern and habit of stretching on their own, which leads them to a healthier and more productive life,” said Stowers.

Dynamic Body Stretching

At the start of her career more than 20 years ago, personal trainer and fitness professional Loretta McGrath noticed her clients were requesting stretching more than personal training, and so she soon shifted her professional focus.

She created the Dynamic Body Stretching method, a style of active isolated stretching, that includes easy-to-learn stretching sequences to improve the range of motion, flexibility, and strength of a client. McGrath is also the author of Body Alignment for Life.

The Dynamic Body Stretching method is supported by a software program developed by McGrath to gauge a client’s range of motion and flexibility. The report gives the therapist a visual picture of the muscles that are weak or imbalanced, what sports might be hindered, and what areas represent a high risk for injuries.

“Understanding the physical health of your client is imperative to create a corrective program,” said McGrath. “We do a range of motion and passive stretching to get the gradings to log into the software. Then once we get all the data, it allows us to apply our knowledge to correct their imbalances.”


Resistance Stretching and Why It Works

Resistance Stretching is the most effective and efficient stretching technique in the world.   It will improve health and overall body function.

We often underestimate the importance of stretching. But incorporating stretching, not just into your daily workout,  but into your day’s routine, does wonders for your health, body functioning, and even your outlook on life.

Proper stretching is important for flexibility, range of (joint) motion, and injury prevention.  It relaxes body muscles, reduces anxiety, removes internal scar tissue, breaks down excessive layers of Fascia, and it improves the circulation of blood and nutrients to your cartilage and muscles.

However, it is a rare occurrence that a person is stretching effectively and efficiently.

If you have already integrated stretching into your routine, I have good news for you. It can get even better and more beneficial. If you haven’t integrated stretching into your daily routine,  then, pay attention.

The Most Effective Stretching Technique In The World – It’s Revolutionary!

New Found Strength Fitness specializes in a revolutionary technique that aims to give you maximum flexibility and mobility.  In a nutshell here is how it works:

After assessing and identifying tightness in your body, we provide guided resistance while you contract target muscle groups while they are being elongated at the same time.   I know this sounds a little complicated, like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, but it isn’t.  The key is that a skilled individual is providing guided resistance and controlling the path of the elongation to ensure the movement provides an actual stretch versus a useless struggle against another person.

The Details: What Is Resistance Stretching?

Resistance stretching is a technique developed by Bob Cooley.  This style of stretching movements is called Resistance Flexibility Stretching Techniques or RFST.  RFST was developed out of the need for a more effective way of rehabilitation through stretching.

In 1978, Bob Cooley was involved in a very serious car accident.  In his quest for rehabilitation, he discovered that muscles only truly stretch when they contract while being lengthened.  He found that this is the natural way that muscles stretch and you can see examples in animals.

This technique of contracting muscles while lengthening them has come to be called Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training (RFST).   RFST is rehabilitative and is a perfect adjunct to physical therapy when a person is released from formal PT.

The system restores balance in the body in incredibly deep ways and the stretches coincide with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) meridians.   RFST affects deep changes in the body beyond the muscle groups and even the mind, but we’ll leave those details for another article soon.

 What Is PNF Stretching?

PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation.  This is an advanced stretching technique that entails both contracting and relaxing particular muscle groups while in specific positions to acquire a stretch.

PNF was initially developed and used in rehabilitative therapy in the 1940s.  It was intended to help in the recovery of people who suffered a stroke or paralysis and returning war veterans. However, PNF gained the attention of physiotherapists and fitness experts because of its efficacy, not only for people who are stroke or paralysis victims but for all people aiming to improve their health through stretching.

Advantages of Resistance and PNF Stretching

The general result of Resistance and PNF Stretching is an increase in one’s comfortable range of (joint) motion due to tissue flexibility. This means improved and easier movement patterns, an increase in muscular strength, and performance enhancement. It also contributes to decreased pain, tension, movement compensation/deviation, and risk of injury and re-injury.


Increase in:

  • Tissue flexibility

  • Comfortable range of motion

  • Optimal posture

  • Functional and athletic performance

  • Core strength

  • Performance enhancement

  • Blood circulation

  • A General feeling of well-being

  • Myofascial release

Reduction of:

  • Muscular tension

  • Chronic Pain

  • Aching joints

  • Weakness and imbalance

  • Stress and tension

  • Initial injury

  • Re-injury

Fascial Stretch Therapy – FST

The Stretch to Win Institute’s Fascial Stretch Therapy program uses four key principles to gain results for clients seeking a good stretch, among other health benefits:

• It is a traction-based system that focuses on opening the joints before moving into a stretch;

• It is based on stretching the body from the core out;

• It uses gentle, smooth, rhythmic movement;

The Fascial System

Many people complain of pain and health issues but are often unaware that a lot of these stem from problems with the facial system.  The fascia, of late, is a hot buzzword in the health and fitness industries.  But what is it?  How does it affect the body and its functions?   Why is it important to consider your overall health?

Fascia, in Latin, means band or bandage. It is also called connective tissue.  In as early as two weeks after conception, the fascial system develops as a 3-dimensional web.  It is made up of collagen and elastin fibers surrounded by a gel-like material.  Collagen gives fascia its strength while elastin fibers, extensibility, and resilience.

As the fetus develops, muscles, bones, and organs are formed within this web.  The fascia provides the framework for the entire body.  It helps support, as well as, protect organs, muscle groups, and essentially the entire body as a unit.

Fascial System Details

The fascial system consists of three layers of connective tissue that move and glide over one another.  The three layers are:

  1. Superficial fascia. This is the loose, fibrous layer found under the skin.  It also envelops organs, glands, nerves, and blood vessels.

   2. Deep fascia.  In contrast to the superficial fascia, the deep fascia is dense and fibrous tissue.  It not only envelops but penetrates deep into muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels.

Part of the deep fascia are the fascicles, tissue compartments that divide up groups of muscles.  This deep layer of fascia also includes:

    • Tendons that connect muscles to bone

    • Ligaments that connect bone to bone

    • Joint capsules that surround the joints

    • Aponeurosis refers to layers of broad flat tendons

     3.  Visceral Fascia.  This layer keeps the various organs in their cavities and groups them

     into substructures and protects each organ by surrounding it in 2 layers of connective


In summary, the fascial system intertwines through every part of the body.

The Fascial System and Kinetic Chain

The fascia, however, is more than a connective element through the body and its organs.  It plays an important, supportive role in the kinetic chain and how the body moves.

The Kinetic chain is a system composed of the nerves, muscles, bones and of course, connective tissues or fascia.  In a kinetic chain, movement at one part produces or affects movement at another part in the kinetic link.

The fascial system makes it possible for a person to perform activities from something as simple as sitting to standing, to being able to engage in sports or play a musical instrument.

What is amazing about the fascia and the fascial system is that it is not a system composed of separate coverings.  It is one continuous form enveloping the entire body without breaks.

What does this mean?  It means that each part of the body is connected to every other part.

Perhaps an interesting analogy is this – it’s like the yarn in a sweater.  If you tug at one part of the sweater, you feel it in the other parts of the sweater.

Each Part of the Body Is Connected To Every Other Part

In plain language, this means that because the fascial system connects body parts; one cannot have something happen to one part and not feel its effect on some other part of the body.

If a person experiences a fascial distortion or adhesion due to abuse, overuse, neglect, or accident, it can cause a change in the kinetic chain.  The manifestations of this can include poor blood flow, weaker nerve impulses, limited flexibility and range of motion, pain, and a host of other physical ailments.

Understanding the fascia and its role in the kinetic chain enables us to effectively treat pain and other ailments.  By identifying the source of dysfunction within the kinetic chain, it is possible to treat the source of pain and prevent symptoms from reoccurring.

Why It Is Important To You

Fascial adhesions are more common than most would expect, you might call it by another name, muscle-knot.  They are so common that in 2015, $15 Billion was spent on massage therapy.  This means that millions of people have issues with their fascia.

Everyone can benefit by knowing how to perform some basic techniques to maintain their own fascia.   Anyone can learn these techniques.  Some of them are; Self-Myofascial-Release (SMR), Self-Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), and Resistance Stretching (RFST).


Therapeutic Deep Tissue, Swedish Massage, Sports Massage Therapy in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Ca.

*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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