Have you heard about PNF? Stretching on steroids

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By SarahJane Jackson

What is PNF?

PNF, otherwise known as Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, is an active style of stretching. Static stretching is the opposite, a passive style, and also the most widely known. It involves holding a stretch for an extended period of time (ideally longer than 20 seconds) in order to allow the body to relax into it.

PNF is undertaken by going into a stretching posture, then contracting the muscles against resistance whilst in this position (See Figure 1). 

Figure 1 – Benefits of PNF

PNF, like any form of stretching, increases your mobility and flexibility, increases circulation and decreases risk of injury. Mobility in the long term is incredibly important as staying on top of it can help reduce pain from chronic conditions.

When PNF is paired with deep breathing exercises, however, there is an added psychological benefit. The neurological connection involved with this style of stretching means that it also promotes increased relaxation and de-stressing. Your body is encouraged into something known as a parasympathetic state, meaning that substances associated with stress found throughout the body, such as cortisol and adrenaline, decrease. 

Stretches you can do at home 

See below some examples of stretches you can do yourself at home. Don’t overdo it with the stretches. Leave the intensity around a 6 or 7 out of ten. Hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds.

Quad Stretch

Kick your foot up behind you as shown above. Grab your foot with the same arm as the leg off the floor (if left leg is lifted, use left hand). Ideally reach the other hand around to hold the foot also but if you need to hold it out or on a wall for balance, that’s ok as well. 

Hamstring stretch

Sit as shown above. Use a strap if you have one. Once in position, sit up as straight as possible. To increase the stretch, begin hinging forward from your hips until the stretch is at the intensity you want. 

Abductor stretch

Step your legs apart into a straddle as shown above. Ensure your feet are facing forwards. Stand up as straight as possible and then begin to hinge forwards from the hips similar to the hamstring stretch above. 

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