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PNF Stretching: What is it? How It Should Be Used?

Athletes and sportsmen to have flexible muscle while playing mostly adapt proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching (PNF stretching). PNF stretching is not only applied when the sportsmen expose to severe leg cramps or sprain but also should be carried out on a regular basis to do activities such as running, jumping, diving or whatever is needed in the field.

Though you can do PNF by yourselves with the help of PNF stretching PDF document available online for free, it is advisable to take the support of a sports physician who knows the nuke and corner of dealing with PNF stretching.

Today, in this blog, you will be taken through the PNF stretching benefits and how does PNF stretching work in real.

What is PNF stretching?

PNF stretching is used to treat neuromuscular conditions that include polio and multiple sclerosis. You have three techniques in PNF stretching which gained popularity among physiotherapists and many fitness professionals because they believe that PNF stretching improves the range of motion in every sports aspect.

Read Also: Morning Stretches: Start Your Day with These Simple Stretches

How does it work?

PNF stretching prevents your muscles from experiencing a tear because it might damage your entire sports career sometimes. It is neither an easy one to take it light nor difficult to deal with. There are three techniques that rely on stretching a muscle to a certain limit. It stimulates two types of reflexes present in the muscle such as inverse myotatic reflex and protective reflex, calm down the muscle and prevent the injury.

PNF stretching techniques

There are three types of PNF techniques applied by a physical therapist to a sportsman– a) Hold-relax b) Contract-relax and c) Hold-relax-contract.

  1. Hold-relax: This is one such best PNF technique that stimulates the reflex, and it involves the following.
  • Here, the muscle is positioned for stretching, and the term is called passive stretching and holding it at least for a few seconds.
  • Now contracting the muscle without giving any movement, in other terms called isometric, i.e. by pushing slowly against the stretch with no movement. This happens when the reflex is actually triggered and you find a 6- to 10-second window of a chance than the control of normal PNF stretch.
  • The third is to relax your stretched muscle twice- one the final relaxing and the other one stretching again while exhaling. Note that the second stretch you perform should be deeper than the regular stretch you carry out.
  1. Contract-relax: This stretch is similar to the hold-relax technique. In the hold-relax technique, you stretch the muscle without movement, whereas in the contract-relax technique, you contract the muscle while already movement is into force. This technique is also called isotonic stretching.
  2. Hold-relax-contract: Even hold-relax-contract is identical to hold-relax. In hold-relax, when you push against the stretch, you do not relax the muscle instead you get into a passive stretch, whereas, in hold-relax-contract, the physio makes the athlete actively push into a stretch. When you look into the technique followed in a hamstring stretch, it means that engaging your muscles to raise the leg further. Irrespective of any of these PNF stretching techniques, the PNF stretching can be used on any muscles of your body for relaxing. A few of such stretching can be performed alone without the need of a physical therapist or a partner to support.

Read Also:Bicep Tendonitis: What You Need To Know?

Dos and don’ts to use PNF stretching

Before you learn how to do PNF stretching, it is important that you consider the following factors before applying.

  • Understand the movement properly: It is best recommended to check with a physician or personal trainer whether stretching your muscles may not harm it further. In case you have any previous injuries on your muscle, far-stretching may not be recommended. So it is always required that you understand if your stretching movement happens properly and you do not expose to any deep injuries.
  • Think twice if you need stretching at first: You might be an athlete but may not have experience in participating in many games but require a simple muscle stretch; in such cases, a simple static stretch may help you gain strength and relax. There is nothing wrong in trying out any of these techniques, but when you do it independently, there are chances of you going wrong in applying any of them.
  • Limited muscle groups: PNF stretching may not work well on shoulder muscles because stretching it something where you have enough muscle to relax. PNF stretching on shoulder muscles may lead to joint dislocation due to overstretching. It can be applied only to long kinetic chains such as hamstrings, glutes, back and hip flexors.
  • Use PNF stretching with mere attention: Dedicating more time on muscle stretching improves the range of motion on your body and muscular performance in the long-run. Few studies state that PNF stretching increases the muscular function after you perform your regular exercise and decreases the function that is carried out prior.

Read Also:Upper Back Stretches: List of 10 Stretches For Pain Relief

Simple steps to perform PNF stretching

Step 1: This is the starting position where you will lie down flat with your feet spread little wide and the core muscles in a relaxing position.

Step 2: In this step, you have to perform the active stretch. Lift your left leg by exerting pressure on your quadriceps, and bend it towards your body until you experience the stretch in your hamstrings. Wait for at least 5 to 8 seconds holding the contraction and ensure that your knee is completely locked.

Step 3: In this step, you will have to do a passive-static stretch by grabbing your leg using a resistance band and continue doing it.

Step 4: Push down your leg towards the floor holding the resistance band with your hands.

Step 5: Keep your leg stretched and free the tension for a few seconds.

Step 6: Remove the band and perform step 2 and step 3 followed again by step 2. Hold the position for 15–30 seconds until the stretch pain decreases.

Read Also:Dorsiflexion: What You Need to Know?


Hoping you had a great learning today about PNF stretching and why and who require it and how it can be carried out individually. You can write to us about any suggestions.