Improve the Effectiveness of PNF Stretching

April 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Stretching

Article by George James

PNF stretching is one of the most effective ways to increase an athlete’s range of motion . Standing for “Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation,” this technique involves taking a limb to it’s end -range of motion, performing and isometric contraction against resistance, relaxing the muscles by moving the limb slightly backwards, then moving the limb to a new and improved end-range of motion.The isometric contraction sets off a reflex (the inverse stretch reflex) that produces a high degree of relaxation after the contraction is released, allowing the limb to be moved to a new end-range of motion.This method of stretching is tried and true, but here are some new and improved ways to perform PNF stretching-methods that make it even more effective.CONCEPTThese improvements take into account the fact that connective tissue and joint stiffness often contribute greatly to inflexibility. Several measures are taken in order to increase flexibility in these areas:• Traction is applied to the joint before, during and after stretches.• The limb is moved in a different plane each time the stretch is increased or tension is released. This also involves more muscle fibres in the stretching.• If possible, the opposite limb (i.e. non-stretching leg) is stabilized-possibly with straps.EXAMPLEHere’s how to apply these new concepts, using hamstring stretching as an example.1. Athlete lies on her back on the massage table (if you have one). It’s optional, but the effectiveness of the stretch will be improved if you can anchor one leg to the table. Velcro straps are ideal for this purpose.2. Take the other leg and gently pull backwards on it, while slowly rotating it in small circles (about a foot in diameter)-five to ten times, first clockwise, then counterclockwise. This will help to loosen the joint capsule at the hip.3. Pushing upwards on the bottom of the ankle (to apply traction to the joint), slowly push the leg forward-keeping the knee straight-to its end-range of motion. When the athlete can feel the hamstring begin to stretch, stop the movement. 4. The athlete then pushes the straightened leg downward against the resistance provided by the partner. Hold for the count of six.5. The partner then shifts the leg slightly sideways (moves it in a different plane) and releases pressure on the leg by pulling the leg slightly backwards. Then, moving it to a different plane again, pushes the leg gently forward until the new end-range of motion is reached.6. The process is repeated for a total of 3-4 repetitions. Step #2 can then be repeated (traction), and three more stretching repetitions can be performed.You’ll notice the increase in range of motion. This same concept can be applied to other limbs and joints, such as the arm and shoulder.SUGGESTED MINIMUMIf you don’t have access to a massage table or straps, be sure to at least move the limb in a different plane of movement every time range of motion is increased, or tension is released.

The author has written dozens of articles about flexibility and stretching. For more information, see Improve the Effectiveness of P, Improve the Effectiveness of P, <a href=”

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