PNF Stretching

As a general rule you want to increase mobility before strengthening. Because you will never own stability with joints that have limited range of motion.

PNF is a manual technique that was developed in the 1950′s by Herman Kabat, MD and two physical therapists, Margaret “Maggie” Knott and Dorothy Voss for treating patients that were paralyzed.

Today, PNF stretching has been adopted by the medical and athletic community for increasing ROM (range of motion) and for treating dysfunction joint movement patterns that occur in the muscle-tendon region. PNF stretching is partner assisted; a partner is needed to provide the resistance to the muscular contraction and to apply the stretching force.

PNF Stretching

pnf stretching definition

The basis of PNF is that normal movements as seen in sports and physical activities do not occur in a straight line but occur in a “spiral-diagonal” pattern such as in throwing or kicking.

And your movements also consist of exercises that are not only active and passive but also concentric, eccentric, and isometric. PNF capitalizes on these functions for improving your range of motion and movement patterns

  • Proprioceptive = having to do with sensory receptors that give information concerning movement and position of the body
  • Neuromuscular = involving the nerves and muscles
  • Facilitation = to make easier
  • “Training = Rehab | Rehab = Training” Charlie Weingroff

PNF stretching does not use straight lines of movement because it is thought that joint movements combined with diagonal movements activate the central nervous system more effectively. Balance and improve movement function in the neuromuscular system is the aim of PNF stretching.

To see and feel this idea at work, try lying on your back, take your right leg and raise it as far as you can go. Are you at a 90 degree angle? If not it is because your quads are not strong enough or are inhibited to overcome the tightness of your hamstrings.

How it works:

What is PNF Stretching Definition

PNF stretching is only one component of techniques that involved using an isometric contraction prior to the stretch to achieve greater gain in ROM that static stretching alone has not.

For example a PNF technique called, contract and relax takes advantage of the resulting muscular reflex relaxation that happens after a muscular contraction. This is called a inverse stretch reflex. There are receptors in the tendons called Golgi Tendon Organs or GTO’s.

These GTO’ measure the tension of the muscle-tendon unit and when the GTO’s feel excessive tension a reflex relaxation occurs as a protective measure. PNF stretching takes this opportunity to go further/deeper into your stretch.

In action 3 steps (hamstrings)

  1. While lying on your back, your therapist will lengthen your hamstrings to the end point of your resting range of motion. This is when we first feel resistance of your hamstrings.
  2. Under our guidance, you will then begin to use a percentage of your strength to resist against the stretch by contracting your hamstrings. You will hold this stretch from anywhere between 7-30 seconds breathing normally.
  3. As you release your contraction, your therapist will begin to move you further or deeper into your stretch. Thus increasing your resting range of motion.

Thanks for reading. Hope this article on PNF stretching will help you to learn more about this condition.