Static stretching is a great way to cool down after a workout. It enhances recovery, reduces muscle soreness, and increases flexibility and range of motion. However, you might not be getting the full benefits of this type of stretching with the traditional method of holding a stretch for an extended duration.
A type of static stretching called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) has been found to be effective for increasing flexibility and range of motion. It may sound complicated, but it's actually quite simple.
Instead of performing a standard static stretch routine, alternate between stretching for 20 seconds and contracting the target muscle against your hand, partner or resistance band for 10 seconds. This tricks your body's natural protection mechanisms into allowing a deeper stretch and increased range of motion.
This method can be used for virtually any stretch (learn more static stretches), but here is an example so you can get an idea of how the technique is applied.
PNF Quad Stretch
- Stand on one leg
- Wrap towel around opposite ankle and pull it toward butt; place hand on wall for balance
- Stretch quad for 20 seconds; keep knees together
- Drive foot against towel for 10 seconds
- Release and repeat sequence
Sets/Reps: 1x3 each leg
This type of stretching is very beneficial for athletes, but it should never be performed before a workout. That would sabotage your performance and put you at risk for injury. (Learn how to perform a dynamic warm-up.)