PNF Stretching Techniques

PNF Stretching Techniques
PNF Stretching Techniques (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/GettyImages)

Don't let PNF's long name—proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation—intimidate you. It's a simple stretching strategy that effectively builds flexibility, making it a smart choice to incorporate into your exercise routine.

You're take advantage of the way your nervous system works when you use PNF stretching. It's also called contract-relax stretching because you pull a muscle into a stretch before flexing it. When you contract a muscle, your brain is telling it to tighten. When you relax that muscle, your brain sends it signals to relax. When your muscle relaxes, you quickly pull it into a stretch and, because your brain is still telling it to relax, you can pull it even further.

These stretches work so well that you should try not to use them right before a workout. Your muscles will be very loose and limber, which can make them weaker. Try to use PNF stretching after a workout or on your days off.

Banded Leg Raise

Lie down on your back and put a resistance band around your foot. Your legs should be straight. Hold the resistance band with both hands. Pull your leg back, keeping your knee straight. Keep the other leg on the ground.

Pull the leg back as far as you can until you feel a stretch. Hold it for 5 seconds. Push your leg back down to the ground, resisting it with the band. Pull it back up and bring it back slightly further than before. Hold it for another five seconds before driving it back down to the ground. Repeat five times.

Kneeling Quad Stretch

Put a pad or other soft surface on the ground in front of a workout bench or chair. Stand in front of the pad, facing away from the bench or chair. Stand on one leg and plant the top of the other foot flat on the object behind you.

Your other foot should still be planted in front of the pad. Drop your back knee down to the pad. You might already feel a stretch in the front of your rear leg. Lean your body back to the leg on the bench and feel a stretch. Then, press your leg into the bench as hard as you can for 3 seconds. Relax and lean back farther.

Keep alternating between pressing into the bench and leaning back into the stretch five times. Try to lean back farther every time.

Towel Glute Stretch

Grab a towel and lie down on your back on the ground with your legs straight out. Bring one leg in toward your chest with the knee bent. Put the towel around the back of your knee and hold one side in each hand.

Pull back with the towel with both hands to stretch your glute. Then, drive your leg forward into the towel for 3 seconds. Relax and pull your knee in close to your chest. Repeat five times and then switch legs.

PNF Calf Stretch

Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of you. Put a band around one foot and grab the band with both hands. Pull the band back, pulling your toes up towards= your shin, feeling a stretch in your calf muscle.

Push back against the band with your foot, pointing your toes down as far as you can. Then, relax and pull your toes back farther than the previous time. Hold for 5 seconds and flex your calf again. Repeat five times total and then switch legs.

TRX Chest Stretch

Grab the handles of a TRX and face forward. Put your hands out as wide as possible with your elbows straight. Step forward with one leg and lean forward with your torso, stretching your hands behind your shoulders.

Stick your chest out and stay tall with your upper body. You should feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Press forward with your hands, pulling your torso back, for 3 seconds. Then, lean forward again and stretch even farther. Repeat five times.

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