PNF Stretching 101
WHAT IS PNF STRETCHING?
PNF or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation is an advanced form of flexibility training. PNF involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted.
PNF stretching was initially developed as a form of rehabilitation and has also been shown to give excellent results whilst targeting specific muscle groups as a means to increasing flexibility and improving muscular strength.
Certain precautions will need to be taken when performing PNF stretches This is due to the added stress placed on the targeted muscle group. This can increase the risk of soft tissue injury. To help reduce this risk, it is important to include a conditioning phase before maximum, or intense effort is used.
HOW TO PERFORM A PNF STRETCH
A PNF stretch involves the following. The muscle group to be stretched is positioned so that the muscles are stretched and under tension. The individual then contracts the stretched muscle group for 5 – 6 seconds while a partner, Personal trainer or immovable object or area, applies sufficient resistance to inhibit movement. The contracted muscle group is then relaxed and a controlled stretch is applied for about 20 to 30 seconds. The muscle group is then allowed 30 seconds to recover and the process is repeated 2 – 4 times.
Here are a few examples:-
PNF CHEST STRETCH
Client should sit on floor or bench and place hands behind head, facing forward. Instructor or partner to stand behind the client and position leg behind their clients torso. Place hands on participant's elbows.
Ease clients elbows back. Begin the Chest Stretch by a passive pre-stretch that is held for 10 seconds
The client will then be asked to resist and hold for a further 6 seconds
The client will then be asked to relax and then take the stretch passively through a further range of motion for 10 seconds
It is important that that interaction and feedback is upheld throughout to gauge clients comfort and reduce the risk of injury.
PNF HAMSTRING STRETCH
Lie on your back with your legs and arms on the floor. Lift one leg and allow your Instructor/partner to ease against it until you feel slight discomfort in your hamstring, and stay in this position for 10 seconds.
Next, push with your hamstrings against your Instructor/partner's resistance for 6 seconds. Think about driving your heel towards the ground.
Follow that contraction by relaxing into a passive stretch by your partner for 30 seconds. After the contraction, you should be able to move your muscle into a greater range of movement during the passive stretch.
Stretching with a partner may feel a little intrusive at times and may not be suitable for everybody. Please ask your instructor for alternatives that best suit your needs.