What would you say if I told you that the way you’re stretching your muscles isn’t working? What you need to be doing is PNF Stretching. Here’s why:
We all know to become more flexible you need to stretch your muscles, so they get used to being in a lengthened range. Stretching won’t improve your ability to control your muscles at these ranges. To improve flexibility and control, you not only need to stretch, but you also need to contract. Sounds counterintuitive, right?
If this truth bomb has you scratching your head, then this article is definitely for you. Below I will quickly explain how stretching and contracting the muscles, using a technique known as PNF, can help you improve both flexibility and range of motion more effectively than traditional stretching ever could.
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What is PNF Stretching?
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is a style of stretching originally developed to help physiotherapy patients along with their rehabilitation. PNF differs to traditional stretching in that rather than hanging out passively at the end of a stretch, you alternate between contracting and relaxing the muscle to increase its flexibility and strength.
Why PNF Stretching is Better Than Traditional Stretching
PNF is considered to be a far superior method for improving flexibility and range of motion compared to traditional static stretching. This is because stretching a muscle to its limit will initiate something called the myotatic (stretch) reflex. In a nutshell, this reflex contracts the muscle when it is stretched too far or too fast; protecting it from tearing if the brain believes it to be in danger.
PNF stretching requires you to stretch the muscle and then contract and release it. This lets the brain know that you have the ability to contract and essentially control the muscle during the stretch. Knowing the muscle is safe; the brain will then relax the muscle allowing it to stretch further. It’s kind of like proving to your Mom that you can ride your bike to the end of the street. When she sees that you can do it safely, she will let you ride it further and further.
How to do PNF Stretching
There are two basic ways to perform a PNF stretch:
- Partner PNF Stretching
- Self PNF Stretching
Partner PNF stretching is great. However, I feel accidentally choosing a sadistic stretching partner may end up causing you more discomfort than you desire. Here is a video explaining how to perform a basic hamstring PNF stretch with assistance from a partner.
Self PNF stretching is easy to do with the help of tools like resistance bands or a sturdy wall. Here is a video showing you how to stretch your hips using the PNF method.