Ever questioned — what’s PNF stretching? This method is also called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and is often utilized in train and harm prevention. Chances are high, whether or not you’ve heard of it or not, you’ve in all probability seen it earlier than.
However first, what does stretching do to your physique (opens in new tab)? In easiest phrases, stretching relaxes, strengthens, and elongates muscle groups to enhance vary of movement and cut back the chance of harm. Dynamic (shifting) stretches are historically used pre-workout to organize muscle groups and joints for train, whereas static (non-moving) ones are helpful post-workout to help restoration — although they are often integrated into warm-ups, too.
There are many methods to stretch, however PNF stretching is claimed to be a extra superior methodology favored by athletes to realize a deeper stretch. Nevertheless you determine to train, PNF stretching may enhance your efficiency and support restoration.
We spoke to consultants to seek out out extra. Uncover the various advantages of stretching (opens in new tab) to your physique and the perfect yoga mats (opens in new tab) to carry out them on, or learn on to study extra about PNF stretching.
What are PNF stretches?
Rami Cannabis, Ph.D
Rami Cannabis obtained his PhD in biomechanics from the college of Southern California in 2014. He then labored as a medical teacher of bodily remedy for a number of years earlier than founding the nationwide biomechanics institute.
In line with Rami Cannabis (opens in new tab) (PhD, DPT) physique efficiency and harm professional, the contract-relax methodology is arguably the commonest PNF stretching approach and facilitates a deeper stretch to enhance vary of movement.
“With this methodology of stretching, a passive stretch is utilized to a muscle or muscle group, then energetic contraction is carried out by the muscle being stretched,” explains Cannabis. “This ends in a little bit of short-term fatigue to the muscle. The muscle is then relaxed and assisted right into a deeper stretch.”
Cannabis explains that constant PNF stretching can improve vary of movement and general flexibility, resulting in enchancment in muscle and sports activities efficiency. And the analysis, like this research printed within the Journal of Human Kinetics (opens in new tab), agrees.
Hope Choplin, licensed medical train physiologist and coach at Noom, provides that PNF was initially developed within the late Nineteen Forties for individuals with neurological circumstances earlier than additionally being adopted for musculoskeletal circumstances. “Now it’s generally utilized by therapists, athletes, and dancers,” she says. “In recent times, it’s also common in gyms due to its affiliation with ‘fast outcomes.’”
“As an ACSM Licensed Scientific Train Physiologist, “train is drugs” resonates with me, and I’ve frolicked working with either side of the wellness spectrum. I spent 10+ years creating and implementing medical group train programming for individuals with cardiac and peripheral artery illness, utilizing cognitive conduct remedy and motivation interviewing to assemble significant well being and wellness objectives. Moreover, I’ve private coaching experience with post-stroke and TBI (traumatic mind harm) people. Whereas I feel post-event remedy is necessary, offering intervention earlier than a serious medical occasion is a shift within the wellness continuum that’s lengthy overdue. As a well being coach, I really like impacting this important juncture for a lot of.”
What are the three kinds of PNF stretches
In line with the Worldwide Journal of Sports activities Bodily Remedy (opens in new tab), PNF stretching falls into three classes. However earlier than we delve into them, let’s shortly cowl the commonest stretching strategies:
- Static stretching: Includes holding a muscle underneath pressure with out motion, with or with out utilizing a prop or companion. Passive stretching requires a prop so as to add resistance, like a wall or resistance band.
- Dynamic stretching: This sport-specific warm-up stretch contains energetic and ballistic stretching. Lively entails shifting a limb by way of its full vary of movement, like leg swings. Ballistic stretching entails a speedy ‘bouncing’ motion (like a bouncing toe-touch) on the finish vary of movement, nevertheless it isn’t advisable as a stretching approach anymore.
PNF sits underneath pre-contraction stretching and is a passive type of stretch that requires contraction and rest of muscle groups to their restrict in opposition to a prop or companion, carried out repetitively.
PNF is assumed to set off an inverse myotatic reflex. Primarily, this tells your muscle groups to chill out earlier than they get injured. Consider it as a protecting chat between your mind and muscle groups. Unusually although, analysis — like this research (opens in new tab) talked about above — says it’s nonetheless a working concept.
Regardless, PNF is split into three sorts: contract-relax, hold-relax, and contract-relax agonist contract (CRAC) — which we break down beneath.
Different advantages of PNF stretching
We’ve already coated advantages like an elevated vary of movement and suppleness, however PNF may also assist strengthen muscle teams and enhance efficiency.
“Elevated power isn’t generally thought-about with stretching,” Choplin says. “Nevertheless, research (opens in new tab) have proven that performing a PNF stretching routine earlier than exercising for a few months (two occasions per week for eight weeks) can double the effectiveness in joggers and actions resembling a vertical bounce and throwing distance.”
Chartered physiotherapist, Ben Lombard, focuses on treating sports activities accidents and agrees it’s a helpful approach.
“It really works on the precept of gently holding a sustained contraction of a muscle that’s being gently stretched,” he explains. “This motion stimulates particular receptors in your joints, referred to as Golgi tendons, which helps the muscle to chill out.”
However Lombard advises utilizing it as a part of a cluster of therapies quite than standalone, and likewise together with dynamic stretching and strengthening of goal muscle groups for finest outcomes; it is because the approach isn’t very dynamic when carried out by itself.
Ben Lombard is a personal Chartered Physiotherapist working in London. He focuses on sports activities accidents however over the previous couple of years has broadened his scope to develop into a specialist marketing consultant in postural rehabilitation and the therapy of scoliosis.
How do you carry out PNF?
It’s price reiterating that to completely profit from PNF stretching it must be carried out rigorously with an individual or prop, like the perfect resistance bands or a pal. Cannabis agrees that implementing it into a daily stretching and train routine may maximize your outcomes.
“The hold-relax approach entails stretching the goal muscle, then holding it for a couple of seconds,” explains Cannabis. “The muscle then performs an isometric contraction the place the muscle contracts with out shifting. After enjoyable the contraction, the passive stretch may be repeated, deeper.”
For instance, if a coach helps you stretch your hamstrings when you lie in your again, they might passively stretch you right into a straight leg elevate till you’re feeling resistance. After holding the passive stretch, you’ll contract your hamstrings by urgent in opposition to the coach’s resistance; the coach would apply ample resistance to forestall any energetic motion of your leg. After this contraction, you may chill out, and the coach deepens the passive hamstring stretch.
“The contract-relax methodology is almost similar to hold-relax, however the muscle contracts whereas shifting,” provides Cannabis. “For instance, as you contract your hamstrings, the again of your knee would transfer nearer to the bottom as you push in opposition to the coach’s resistance. You then chill out because the coach stretches you right into a deepened place.”
Contract-relax-contract is just like contract-relax, however after enjoyable the contraction, the opposing muscle group contracts whereas the coach assists in deepening the stretch.
In different phrases, after pushing in opposition to the coach’s resistance in order that the again of your knee will get nearer to the bottom, you now reverse the motion by bringing your nonetheless straightened knee nearer to your chest whereas the coach assists in deepening the stretch.
Unsure the way to stretch your hamstrings (opens in new tab)? Ensure you study some primary stretching methods first, together with the way to stretch your decrease again (opens in new tab), too.
What are the drawbacks of PNF stretching?
Cannabis warns that performing PNF stretching earlier than train could lead to lowered efficiency. In line with a research within the Journal of Human Kinetics, this will lower muscular efficiency in plyometrics, sprinting, weightlifting, and high-intensity coaching the place maximal muscle effort is required, presumably resulting from an ‘inhibiting impact’ after stretching.
Nevertheless, performing it after (or with out) train was proven to considerably improve efficiency when carried out a minimum of twice per week, with results lasting round 90 minutes post-stretch.
Use this methodology with warning, particularly in case you’re a newbie to exercising or PNF as a way. Choplin tells us that PNF stretching hasn’t constantly been proven to be superior to ‘common’ stretching and requires a companion who is aware of the way to carry out it — one thing that may in any other case trigger muscle tears and harm to novice stretchers.
She advises a couple of easy methods to scale back your dangers:
- Don’t start a PNF stretching routine with out being proven the correct process by knowledgeable coach
- Kids and youths shouldn’t try PNF stretching as their bones haven’t completed rising, they usually’re typically extra versatile than adults, which may lead to the next threat of connective tissue or tendon harm.
- Extra superior PNF stretching strategies ought to solely be utilized by skilled dancers or athletes.
“Whereas PNF stretching has a spot, particularly for superior exercisers, athletes and dancers, or within the realm of remedy, it is probably not a sensible type of stretching for everybody,” Choplin provides.
“PNF stretching may be extraordinarily troublesome with out a expert companion. People can relaxation assured that leaning into extra conventional types of stretching — energetic, passive, or dynamic — will nonetheless profit from improved flexibility and vary of movement.”
It’s additionally advisable to keep away from unstable joints, like your shoulders, and use the stretch to your again and decrease physique.