ELLE tries professional stretching

In the dregs of her twenties, our Beauty Editor tries to ward off pain with pro stretching

By Grace Wong | Published: 18 Dec 2017

The Stretch Clinic
Photo: Bryan Ong

The workout
Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), RM150 for a one-on-one session

The Stretch Clinic, Plaza Batai, 8-4A, Jalan Batai, Damansara Heights, 50480, KL, 03-2011 1516

The claim
The Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) method increases flexibility, balance and strength to boost sports performance, balance posture and relieve muscle pain, inflammation, joint pain and joint stiffness.

The verdict
Stretch Clinic founder and sports therapist Liam Harkness asks me to stand in front of a posture grid and have a picture taken. It highlights my odd slump: belly out, foot behind me, head tilted forward. Poor posture is carried over from sitting eight hours a day at work, Liam explains, into workouts and even sleep, where we side sleep to mirror how we sit throughout the day.

My body is a classic example; my pelvis isn't aligned and both sides of my body are unbalanced, with my right foot caving into its arch. When guided on how I would stand with the right posture, it feels like holding a yoga pose, strange and exhausting.

Left: Actual posture. Right: Correct posture. (Photos: Bryan Ong)

Stretching and strengthening are the key strategies used in Active Isolated Stretching to regain strength and find balance. Isolated stretches – where you let your target muscle relax while contracting its opposing muscles – are held for a maximum of two seconds and repeated eight to 10 times, exhaling with each stretch. Breathing is key, as it effectively takes your mind off anticipating the pain.

The Stretch Clinic founder Liam Harkness teaching me how to strengthen my back through Active Isolated Stretching.

While I'm seated, Liam presses into my muscles to locate where the pain is. For me, it's the right pelvis, from my exaggerated leg crossing. He then passes me a non-stretchy band to hook to my foot. Lying on my back, I'm told to lift my right leg into the air and pull with my arms, extending further than I'd usually manage, exhaling with each stretch. With each lift, I push higher and higher. This combination of repetitive short stretches means I'm less scared of the pain, my muscles don't clench up and my range of motion actually increases. I'm then led through stretches to open up my hips and strengthen my back.

But I can only tell you so much as the one-on-one sessions are customised for every client. "We have a programme where we teach people how to self-care so when they come in we'll give them exercises to do at home and if they do those well the body will start to change its posture," Liam explains. "Once you reach a certain level we can give more exercises. After three or four sessions they should be able to self-care very well. We have clients who have had pain problems for many years and their spinal alignment is really poor. That does take a little bit longer."

This review first appeared in the December 2017 issue of ELLE Malaysia.

Related: Review: Angel Lash Lounge
Related: The workout diaries: Primal Express at District 13 Gym


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