We’ve all heard that stretching is a great way to calm our bodies. It promotes breathing and relaxation, making it a smart way to redirect nervous, anxious, and/or stressed energy. A few simple yoga poses at your desk can do wonders for both your body and your outlook!
It’s no wonder that I’m a huge fan of incorporating stretching into my routine. A form of it that I can’t say enough good about is PNF stretching. PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. It’s a form of flexibility training that involves stretching and contracting of targeted muscle groups. PNF stretching can also improve muscular strength and is excellent to target specific muscle groups.
As with anything, please check with a licensed professional before and during any new exercise and stretching routines. Doing things safely is the goal!
If you do decide to take on this or any other kind of stretching routine, make sure your muscles are warm, meaning do a dynamic warm up where you are increasing your body temperature slightly. Your muscles will respond to that and be better able to perform. You’ll also decrease your risk of injury.
Benefits of PNF Stretching
When you have stretched in the past, are you familiar with that feeling of your muscle being tight, sometimes feeling a bit too painful to continue on? That’s your body trying to protect you from stretching the muscle too far. It’s a twinge of pain saying, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”
With PNF stretching, you’re able to move past that point of discomfort. As such, it will improve your performance and range. It’s proven to be better than static stretches where you hold a stretch for a certain length of time; that can actually pull or strain a muscle. It’s also superior to static stretches when it comes to improving range of motion.
Athletes love PNF stretching. Because it’s excellent at targeting one muscle group, it quickly increases range of motion in a specific area. While you’re improving your flexibility, you’re also improving your muscle strength.
Another benefit to PNF stretches are how they help your body recover after a workout. It’s believed to prevent knots and tight areas. It also has been proven to realign muscles and connective tissues that typically get damaged during high-intensity workouts.
How to Perform PNF Stretches
Luckily, it’s really simple! You just need a partner or a stable object (and yourself, of course)! Basically, you will be stretching a muscle then forcefully contracting it and stretching it out again.
This creates length in the muscle. You’ll see that you’re able to stretch the muscle further than you were able to stretch it before. You’ll also be able to improve upon that range of motion each time you perform these stretches. Hello, flexibility!
Here’s how to do it: position yourself so the targeted muscle is stretched and under tension, meaning it is as far as it will go before you feel that twinge saying, “That’s it! Don’t go any further!”
Then, you contract the stretched muscle for about five seconds while your partner or an immovable object holds the muscle in place. They should apply sufficient resistance so you don’t move the muscle you just stretched out of a contraction.
Finally, relax your muscle and stretch it out again to the point of tension. This is where you’ll notice you’ll be able to stretch the muscle farther than you just stretched it. Hold his for about 20-30 seconds.
Allow for a period of recovery (about 30 seconds) and repeat the process roughly three more times.
While there is some debate on the length of time to hold each part of the stretch, the same structure is followed.
Take care not to push yourself too far. The goal, as I mentioned before, is to condition your muscle and improve the range of motion, not to hurt yourself!