What is PNF Stretching?

PNF stretching is an abbreviation standing for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. With a full name like that, you can understand why most people prefer to use its abbreviated form, PNF. Though the concept might seem very scientific and complicated, it’s actually pretty simple. It makes use of what is known as muscular inhibition to enhance flexibility.

Actual PNF stretching can include many kinds of stretches, including active stretches, passive stretches, and isometric stretches. It’s unique from other stretches because it both improves flexibility and builds muscle tissue at the same time. This is because while stretching is done, which improves flexibility, the muscle is contracted, tightening and building it.

Uses of PNF Stretching

PNF Stretching originally developed as a method of muscular rehabilitation for those who and been seriously injured and weakened. It was extremely effective at this, but proved to be effective at other things as well. It is now used, especially by professional athletes and trainers, as a way to improve flexibility and strength at the same time.

How to do a PNF stretch

At it’s simplest form, a PNF stretch is the same thing as a regular stretch, but with the muscles contracted. For instance, practice  contracting all the muscles in your leg, one by one. Now do a toe touch, and contract the muscles at the same time. This example isn’t a highly effective PNF stretch, but it still is one by definition.

More advanced and effective PNF stretches usually involve having your body in a stretched position, theb resisting against some weight or force. Because of this, PNF stretching is often done with partner or immobile object like a wall.

PNF Safety

Because of the higher intensity level of PNF stretching, you should always begin this kind training under the supervision of a physical trainer. Once you’ve received training, you can do some of this at a moderate intensity on your own, but it’s still safest to have someone around in case something goes wrong.

Poor training and improper form can lead to injury. And because of the higher intensity involved, the injury is likely to be greater than it would be otherwise.


Young, W.; Elliott, S. “Acute effects of static stretching, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching, and maximum voluntary contractions on explosive force production and jumping performance.” Res Q Exerc Sport. 2001; 72(3):273-279.

Clucas, R., Koslow, R. “Comparative Study of Static, Dynamic, and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching Techniques on Flexibility”. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1984; 58: 615-618.

Osternig, L., et al. “Muscle Activation During Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching Techniques”. American Journal of Physical Medicine. 1987; 66(5): 298-307.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *