How To Improve Your Flexibility Using PNF Stretching Exercises

PNF stretches are a great way to not only improve your flexibility, but they can also help you increase your mobility, and strengthen your body overall.

If you know how to do them, and which ones work best for you, you can improve your health vastly.

In this guide, we will take a look into PNF stretching exercises, and how they can benefit you if you use them properly.

So, let’s get started!

How To Improve Your Flexibility Using PNF Stretching Exercises

What Are PNF Stretching Exercises?

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, also known as PNF, is a stretching method that can significantly increase the range of an individual’s motion. 

PNF is a form of exercise that can improve one’s endurance, range of motion (ROM), and mobility. It can also improve both a person’s passive range of motion (PROM) and active range of motion (AROM).

After an accident or surgical procedure, numerous physical therapists have advised using PNF to assist patients restore their range of motion. Sportsmen and women, performers, and even amateurs can utilize it to increase their general flexibility. 

It can be risky for non-athletes to attempt PNF without official guidance and advice, however, as it can prove to be dangerous if not performed correctly. It is important that the person attempting PNF knows exactly what they are doing, and how to do it.

The History Of PNF 

Proprioceptive facilitation, a phrase coined by Dr. Herman Kabat in the early years of the 1940s, was the precursor of what is now known as PNF.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a term that has been well-known since Dorothy Voss attached the word ‘neuromuscular’ to its definition in 1954.

The theoretical foundation for PNF developed by Dr. Kabat was based on his knowledge of neuropsychology and medical practice. 

From the beginning, Kabat was influenced by the writings of Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian nurse who rehabilitated polio victims with specialized stretches and endurance exercises. 

Kenny’s approach, at that time, was regarded as a deviation from conventional medicine, and her work was considered to be lacking a solid neuropsychological foundation.

Sister Kenny’s physical technique was eventually combined by Dr. Kabat with Sherrington’s discoveries of sequential induction, bilateral innervation and inhibition, as well as the irradiation phenomena. 

His objective was to create an interactive therapy method that would allow physicians to evaluate and analyze the way a patient moves while also promoting more effective productive movement techniques.

Dr. Kabat started looking for a physical therapist to collaborate with him, treating patients with his new ideas, in the middle to late 1940s.

Maggie Knott started working for Dr. Kabat as a physical therapist in December 1945, and Dorothy Voss joined them in their research seven years later. 

Early in the 1960s, Voss and Knott wrote and published the first book on the subject, and the three of them later worked together to further develop and perfect the core ideas that would later become known as PNF.

How Do PNF Stretching Exercises Work?

Now that you are familiar with the background of PNF, we can now dive into the specifics of this physical technique, and why it is considered to be so effective for so many people, in terms of physicality and flexibility.

PNF is a sophisticated form of stretching that concentrates mainly on engaging and stretching specific muscle groups to improve muscular mobility. 

When performing PNF stretches, a companion is typically recommended to assist the person. The individual doing PNF might, however, get the identical outcomes by utilizing a yoga strap for assistance, or by resting on some furniture.

PNF stretching always follows the same sequence: a 10-second stretch, a 5-second contraction, and a 30-second passive hold to finish. 

The person executing a PNF stretch will depend on a companion or other type of support for the initial ten seconds to help them modify and locate their level of discomfort.

While it is crucial to get there, it is as crucial to avoid pushing past the threshold of pain because doing so can result in injury.

A 5-second isometric contraction follows. By applying 50% of their maximum effort to pushing towards their partner, the individual resists the stretch. 

The 30-second hold comes next, which involves a passive stretch during which they concentrate on maintaining a steady breathing pattern to let their muscles rest.

At this point in the stretch, the person should be capable to move past their original range of motion.

As we mentioned previously, it is important that the person performing PNF stretching exercises is careful not to push past their boundary of pain, as this will result in them injuring themselves.

However, if done correctly, they will feel a lot looser and more relaxed afterward. 

The Benefits Of Using PNF Stretching Exercises

Before we get into the best PNF stretches to try out for yourself, let’s take a look at the benefits of using them. If you are on the fence about giving this form of exercise a try, maybe these statements will convince you to give it a go.

PNF Increases A Person’s Athletic Performance

Performing PNF stretching with an exercise buddy or other form of support can be highly helpful for enhancing athletic ability after an intense training session. 

PNF helps people become more flexible, but it also strengthens their entire body, increasing their capacity for endurance and general strength.

PNF can assist in restoring the damage done to a person’s muscles as a result of a strenuous workout. Stretching also speeds up the healing process and gets your muscles ready for the next session.

PNF Improves A Person’s Flexibility And ROM

The amount that a person’s joints can move in a certain direction while still feeling comfortable is known as their range of motion (ROM). The more advanced a person’s ROM is, the more flexible they are.

A person’s elasticity and range of motion can be significantly increased by regularly performing PNF stretches.

Even better, PNF stretching can be performed in place of or in addition to conventional static stretching. In actuality, some research implies that PNF is more effective at boosting ROM than static stretching.

PNF Prevents Injury And Encourages Rehabilitation

Last but not least, PNF stretching can lengthen your muscles, improve the circulation of your blood, and reduce stress throughout your entire body.

This is fantastic to do before exercising because it will lower your danger of getting hurt while playing sports or doing any demanding activities.

During the recovery phase for some severe sports injuries, some PNF stretching exercises are also beneficial. In reality, numerous medical specialists, particularly those in the field of athletics, have advocated PNF.

PNF can be extremely beneficial in the form of rehabilitation in addition to helping someone with their warm-up regimen. PNF can be useful if you’ve been hurt while playing a sport, or if you just need to relax after a particularly taxing session.

The Risks Of Using PNF Stretching Exercises

As we mentioned earlier, PNF does come with its share of potential risks, especially if the person trying it out is not fully clued-up on what they are doing.

It is very important that you do extensive research beforehand to ensure that you avoid any form of injury.

A Partner Is Often Required To Perform PNF Stretches

While it is true that you can use a sturdy piece of equipment, e.g., furniture, to support you while you try out PNF stretches, it is far easier to just have a training buddy around at that time.

If you are the kind of person who prefers to work out alone, this may not be the best kind of stretch for you. Additionally, if you cannot find someone who will help you out during PNF stretches, it will be a lot more difficult for you to perform alone.

Therefore, having a buddy around is something that you will need to keep in mind. It will be a lot more difficult to use a piece of equipment instead (although it is not impossible if you are sure in what you are doing).

Negligence During PNF Stretching Will Lead To Nasty Injuries

Anyone trying this type of stretch for the first time should exercise caution, as it is all too simple to strain and rupture your muscles unintentionally. It is best to prevent twisted muscles and torn ligaments at all costs.

We strongly advise that you seek out a competent trainer in advance to ensure that you understand what you’re doing before undertaking PNF stretching if you have never done it before. 

Additionally, before attempting anything on your own, you should take into account your preexisting flexibility and motor abilities, since most PNF techniques are not advised for anyone who is not an experienced dancer or sportsman.

PNF Stretching Can Damage Young Children’s Bodies

Finally, it is not at all recommended that anyone under the age of 18 should attempt PNF stretching. Children and teens should avoid trying it until they have gotten old enough to give it a go.

This is because your bones are still developing and growing during your adolescence and teen years.

While children and teenagers are generally more flexible than adults by nature, attempting certain stretches may damage their developing tendons and muscles.

So, if you are under the age of 18, we recommend that you wait a little while before attempting PNF stretches. Alternatively, you may speak to your doctor, or a medical professional, to work out what your options are.

4 PNF Stretching Exercises That Will Improve Your Flexibility

Now that you are fully aware of both the benefits and the risks of PNF stretching, we are ready to take a look at some of the best stretches to improve your flexibility and mobility.

Below, we have listed 4 PNF stretching exercises that will improve your physical fitness, providing that you are very careful while performing them.

Once again, we recommend speaking with a medical professional before attempting any of the following stretches.

So, let’s get started. Here are 4 PNF stretching exercises that will improve your flexibility.

1. Partner Calf Stretch

You have to sit on the ground with your legs out in position in front of you for the partner calf stretch, and your partner must provide pressure on your feet for 10 seconds. 

As an alternative, you can perform this stretch by encircling both feet with a yoga belt or towel, and pulling inward.

You will push back against your partner or the yoga strap for five seconds while they push your feet towards your body. After the contraction, take a 30-second break and pull your toes close to your body.

2. Partner Chest Stretch

You must sit on the floor with your spine straight and your hands beneath your head to perform this stretch. Standing behind you, your partner should place their hands on the insides of your elbows. 

You ought to sense something stretching in your chest after 10 seconds of letting your partner gradually push back on your elbows.

Before eventually reclining and enabling your partner to draw your elbows back for 30 seconds, resist for 5 seconds by forcing your elbows in towards one another.

3. Partner Groin Stretch

Your feet should be together, and your knees should be apart while you lay on the ground for the partner groin stretch, with both arms lying along your sides.

Your partner must kneel in front of your feet, and place both of their hands on the inside of your knees. 

Your thighs and groin ought to extend as your companion applies pressure. Give them ten seconds to press downward.

After the 10-second period is up, push your inner thighs together to push back into your partner. Hold on to it for an additional 6 seconds. Once you’ve completed the contraction, you can unwind and let your partner gently press your knees into the floor.

4. Partner Quad Stretch

To try the partner quad stretch, your arms should be by your sides as you lie on your tummy on a mat. Your partner needs to kneel by your right side while assisting you by placing one hand on the bottom of your back and the other firmly on your ankle. 

When you’re all set up, your partner will push your ankle in the direction of your thighs. You ought to experience some tension in your quadriceps as this happens. Give your buddy 10 seconds to press against you.

Following those 10 seconds, push your foot firmly into your partner’s hand for 5 seconds while picturing lowering your foot to the floor.

Rest your muscles after the contraction, and let your partner continue to press your ankle downward for an additional 30 seconds.

Once you are done, you can repeat the process.

Final Thoughts

So, there we have it. Now that you are aware of the benefits and the risks of PNF stretches, and you know how to do them yourself, you can begin your journey to becoming more flexible, mobile, and physically healthy.

However, as we stressed earlier, we highly recommend that you speak to a medical professional before attempting any of these exercises for your own safety.

We hope you found this guide helpful.

Laura Simmons
Latest posts by Laura Simmons (see all)