Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation

Strength training is every so often considered a discipline kept largely to the gymnasium or sports field. Inappropriately, this can conceal the fact that it can and does appear in other circumstances which have minute direct association with sport. Particularly, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) encompasses many valuable techniques which can play a significant role in the strength training of the individual. PNF is perpetually considered by conditioning coaches to be a distinctive type of refined stretching technique; it is in reality an entire system of therapy encompassing a broad spectrum of different techniques and procedures for rehabilitating patients with several musculoskeletal injuries or disabilities. Stretching constitutes but one of many facets of the full inventory of PNF methods. PNF as a system was established by Herman Kabat from 1946-1951 on the foundation of the work of prominent physiologists (including McGraw, Pavlov, Sherrington, and Hellebrand). It fashioned a useful rehabilitative system for applying conclusions on the reflexes of the body, motor progress of the infant, and the neuromuscular responses of adults. Fundamentally, PNF identifies that all physical conditioning hinges on (primarily) neuromuscular processes concerning sensitive receptors (proprioceptors) in the muscles, tendons, and joints, which permits one to stabilise and move the body and its attachments in space and time. Appropriate enlistment of the various stretch reflexes of the body, therefore, forms a significant segment of PNF conditioning.

Officially, PNF is characterised as a system for encouraging the response of neuromuscular mechanisms by exciting the proprioceptors. As revealed previously, there are three basic types of PNF stretching techniques, hold-relaxcontract-relaxhold-relax with agonist contraction. These PNF techniques are accomplished in three phases. With each of the three techniques, the first phase includes a passive pre-stretch lasting ten seconds. The muscle actions utilised in the second and third phases diverge for the three techniques; the second and third phases give each one method its name. As an example of how each of these works we’ll use a stretch designed to increase hamstring flexibility (lying hamstring stretch).


The hold-relax practice initiates with a passive pre-stretch that is held at the point of minor discomfort for ten seconds. The partner then employs a hip flexion force and instructs the individual to ‘hold and don’t permit me to move the leg’; the individual then continues to ‘hold’ and resists the movement so that an isometric muscle action occurs and is held for six complete seconds. The individual then relaxes, and a passive stretch is implemented and held for thirty seconds. The concluding stretch should be of greater scale due to autogenic inhibition (i.e., activation of the hamstrings).


The contract-relax procedure also initiates with a passive pre-stretch of the hamstrings that is held at the area of slight discomfort for ten seconds. The individual then lengthens the hip against resistance from the partner to facilitate a concentric muscle action through the full range of motion. The individual then relaxes, and a flaccid hip flexion stretch is implemented and held for thirty seconds. The amplified ROM is enabled due to autogenic inhibition (i.e., the activation of the hamstrings). In a substitute to this practice, the individual tries to extend the hip, but the partner does not permit the movement. Because this is for all intents and purposes the same as the hold-relax system, the contract-relaxed method defined here is favoured.

Hold-Relax With Agonist Contraction

The hold-relax with agonist contraction system is undistinguishable to hold-relax in the first two phases. During the third period, a concentric movement of the agonist is utilised along with the passive stretch to complement the stretch force. To be precise, after the isometric hold, the individual contracts the hip, in so doing moving further into the new range of motion. With this procedure, the final stretch should be larger, mainly because of reciprocal inhibition (i.e., the activation of the hip flexors), and secondarily due to autogenic inhibition. The hold-relax with agonist contraction is the most effective PNF-stretching system due to expedition via both reciprocal and autogenic inhibition.


  1. 1. Increase Flexibility . The chief objective of PNF stretching is principally to move along or endorse the neuromuscular mechanism response by motivating the proprioceptors. This helps in strengthening and increasing flexibility of most muscle groups for everyday or competitive usage. In actual fact, PNF stretching is widely utilised in those sports demanding high levels of flexibility, such as gymnastics, dancing, and figure skating.

2. Heighten Motion . Since PNF stretching leads to a substantial improvement in flexibility, it helps boost motion. This is accomplished by means of isometric stretching along with passive stretching. It guarantees that both the antagonist and agonist muscle groups of particular areas are interchangeably relaxed and contracted to realise this precise benefit.

3. Rehabilitation of Injuries.  Apart from being an effective exercise, PNF stretching is also used to expedite the convalescence of injured body parts, predominantly those whom have suffered strokes. Currently, PNF stretching is the fastest and most effective method in augmenting static-passive elasticity.

4. Reduces Injury Risk.  PNF stretching depresses the risk of joint and muscle injuries during training. It also helps to amend certain muscle disproportions and helps to preserve correct functional flexibility. It has been demonstrated that cyclists that habitually engaged in PNF stretching prior to the training session had experienced less posterior chain discomfort.

Optimal flexibility for performance varies from sport to sport. For those who need to increase flexibility static and PNF stretching techniques will allow for an effective increase in ROM. These techniques are a key component of an extended training programme.



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  1. 2. Earle, Roger W., and Thomas R. Baechle. "Flexibility, Body Weight, and Stability Ball Exercises." NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training. 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2012. 255-257.


  1. 3. Fleck, S.J., and W.J. Kraemer. Designing Resistance Training Programs, 3rd edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2004.


  1. 4. Siff, Mel Cunningham, and Yuri Vitalievitch Verkhoshansky. "PNF as a Traning System." Supertraining. 6th - Expanded Version. Denver: Supertraining International, 2009. 403-408.


  1. 5. Voss, D.E., M.K. Ionta, and B.J. Myers. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation: Patterns and Techniques. 3rd edition. Philadelphia: Harper & Row. 1985.