PNF stretching

How to do PNF Stretching

How to do PNF stretching!

By Mike Brennan – BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise Sciences

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a form of stretching commonly utilised by athletes and therapists. As with other forms of stretching, it is used to increase range of motion. PNF has been shown to be particularly effective at achieving this and has been shown to outperform other forms of stretching (such as static stretching) at increasing range of motion (Funk et al., 2003). PNF has also been shown to improve athletic performance in untrained populations (Nelson et al., 1986) as well as stride length and rate in trained populations (Caplan et al., 2009). Certain variations of PNF can also help improve medial/lateral postural stability (Ryan et al., 2010).  Therefore, PNF stretching can be used for a variety of applications and can be beneficial for many types of people.

 

PNF is most commonly completed with the assistance of a partner however, it can also be done without a partner. The three video demonstrations below show PNF being completed on the hamstrings but it can be used on several other muscles.
There are many variations of PNF stretching. We will now look at 3 different variations:  hold relax, contract relax and contract-relax-antagonist contract methods:

 

Hold Relax: How to do it

  • Take the target muscle to the point where a slight stretch is felt. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Perform an ISOMETRIC (muscle length does not change) contraction of the target muscle with around 20% of your maximum strength for 6 seconds then relax.
  • After relaxing the target muscle take a deep breath in and then increase the stretch on the target muscle whilst exhaling. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the above steps 3-4 times, slightly increasing the range of motion each time.

 

Contract Relax: How to do it

  • Take the target muscle to the point where a slight stretch is felt. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Perform a CONCENTRIC (shortening the muscle) contraction of the target muscle whilst the person assisting you provides a small amount of resistance as you perform the contraction.
  • After relaxing the target muscle take a deep breath in and then increase the stretch on the target muscle whilst exhaling. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the above steps 3-4 times, slightly increasing the range of motion each time.

 

Contract-Relax-Antagonist Contract: How to do it

  • Take the target muscle to the point where a slight stretch is felt. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Perform an ISOMETRIC (muscle length does not change) contraction of the target muscle with around 20% of your maximum strength for 6 seconds then relax.
  • Immediately CONTRACT THE ANTAGONIST (opposite) muscle with around 20% of your maximum strength for 6 seconds and relax before increasing the stretch on the target muscle.
  • Repeat the above steps 3-4 times, slightly increasing the range of motion each time.

Further Consideration

PNF stretching should NOT be performed BEFORE exercise as it has been shown to decrease muscular performance, particularly during explosive forms for training if performed pre-exercise (Bradley et al., 2007). Therefore, it has been suggested that PNF should only be completed AFTER exercise.

In addition, it should also be completed at least TWICE A WEEK in order to ensure maintenance of the increased range of motion facilitated by this technique (Hindle et al., 2012).

References

Bradley, P.S., Olsen, P.D. and Portas, M.D., 2007. The effect of static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on vertical jump performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(1), pp.223-226.

Caplan, N., Rogers, R., Parr, M.K. and Hayes, P.R., 2009. The effect of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and static stretch training on running mechanics. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(4), pp.1175-1180.

Funk, D.C., Swank, A.M., Mikla, B.M., Fagan, T.A. and Farr, B.K., 2003. Impact of prior exercise on hamstring flexibility: a comparison of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and static stretching. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 17(3), pp.489-492.

Hindle, K.B., Whitcomb, T.J., Briggs, W.O. and Hong, J., 2012. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF): Its mechanisms and effects on range of motion and muscular function. J Hum Kinet, 31(1), pp.105-113.

Nelson, A.G., Chambers, R.S., McGown, C.M. and Penrose, K.W., 1986. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation versus weight training for enhancement of muscular strength and athletic performance. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 7(5), pp.250-253.

Ryan, E.E., Rossi, M.D. and Lopez, R., 2010. The effects of the contract-relax-antagonist-contract form of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on postural stability. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(7), pp.1888-1894.