Flexibility is of prime importance. A flexible body can perform activities efficiently and keeps injuries at bay. Stretching is the way to improve and maintain flexibility. There are numerous ways of stretching. Proprioceptive neuromuscular stretching (PNF) is a very effective way to stretch muscles and gain flexibility. It involves stretching and contracting targeted muscles in a specific order.
Theoretically, various mechanisms have been mentioned that result in the functioning of PNF stretching, including-autogenic inhibition, reciprocal inhibition, stress relaxation, and the gate control theory. PNF makes use of rotatory-diagonal movements or more functional movements. These are multiplanar movements that are a combination of two or three planes.
The benefits of PNF Stretching are-
- Effects on active and passive range of motions, thus improving functional ROM.
- Flexibility increases.
- Improve coordination.
- Better posture.
- Prevent any stiffness and tightness of muscles.
- Muscle’s neuromuscular efficiency improves.
- Enhance biomechanics.
- Boost sports performance.
- Prevent overuse injuries.
- Help in gaining strength after musculoskeletal injuries.
Techniques of PNF stretching- Involves stretching and contraction of the targeted muscle.
- Contract-Relax method (CR)- In the lengthened or stretched muscle position, do isometric contraction (contracting the muscle without movement). Hold for 6-10 seconds, followed by relaxation in the form of passive stretch that is crucial to work through the gained range of motion. 2-5 reps are good, with rest periods in between to allow muscles to relax completely.
- Contract-Relax-Antagonist-Contract method (CRAC)- In the lengthened muscle position, do isometric contraction and hold for six seconds, followed by the contraction of the antagonist’s muscle.
Large muscle groups like hamstrings, back extensors, and quadriceps should be the target to gain overall flexibility in the body.
Rhythmic initiation, repeated contraction, slow reversal, slow reversal-hold, and rhythmic stabilization are the techniques of PNF strengthening.
Warm-up is essential before PNF stretching. For best results, do PNF stretching post-exercise. When done before exercise, it results in the decreased maximal effort. To gain all the benefits of PNF stretching, practice it consistently.
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