Three muscle actions occur during PNF stretching to allow a passive stretch to happen – isometric (hold phase) and concentric (contract phase) muscle actions of the antagonist, followed by the passive stretch.
Below are two techniques for PNF stretching which can be used at home:
Each PNF stretch has 3 phases:
PHASE 1: passive pre-stretch of 10 seconds.
PHASE 2 & 3: how the technique is given its name.
- HOLD RELAX – this technique begins with a passive pre-stretch, which is held at the point of mild discomfort for 10 seconds. Force is then applied and you resist the force by holding the body part in place for 6 seconds, which causes an isometric muscle contraction to occur. Then relax and perform a passive stretch for 30 seconds. With the final stretch allowing you to move deeper into the stretch than the first passive pre-stretch. At home, we can use a towel to perform the hold portion as the towel is used to apply force and we keep the body part in place as we resist the force applied.
- CONTRACT RELAX – again this begins with a passive pre-stretch held at the point of mild discomfort for 10 seconds. You then push against the resistance which is holding the body part in place for 6 seconds which causes a concentric muscle contraction through the range of motion. Then relax and perform a passive stretch for 30 seconds observing the increased range of motion. At home, we use a towel to support the body part as we push against the towel as we pull with the towel to apply force.
Optimal flexibility varies from sport to sport, so if you are having to train from home and need to improve your flexibility and range of motion. Try adding PNF stretching to your extended training programme. However, if you are new to flexibility and mobility training, why not try one of our yoga or pilates classes online to get you started and work towards the end goal of PNF stretching.