If you are looking for an approach to enhance your gymnastic stretches, try PNF stretching. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF, is a technique used to improve flexibility, range of motion and athletic performance. Although the exact physiological changes that occur in the muscle during PNF stretches are still to be determined, it is known that the main effect is on golgi tendon organs and/or muscle spindles that respond to length and tension changes in your muscles. During PNF stretching, the stimulus to these organs decreases, "letting go" of the muscle and allowing you to stretch deeper.
1 Stand on your mat and place one block to your right and the other to your left side. Go down to your knees and place your hands on the blocks.
2 Step your right foot forward and bend your right knee. Inch your right foot forward until both legs are as close to straight as possible.
3 Slightly bend your knees and flex your feet as you squeeze your feet, knees and hips toward each other by contracting your right hamstring and left hip flexors -- the rectus femoris and iliopsoas. Hold for three seconds.
4 Straighten your legs and relax your right hamstring and left hip flexors by contracting your right and left quadriceps and left butt -- the gluteus maximus. Hold for three seconds.
5 Repeat Steps 3 through 4 four more times. Then switch feet, placing the left foot in front and follow Step 2. Complete Steps 3 through 4 for a total of five repetitions.
Items you will need
- Yoga mat
- 2 yoga blocks
- The type of PNF technique described above is called the contract-relax-antagonist-contract method (CRAC). It commences with the contraction of the target muscles that are being stretched -- the agonists. It then proceeds by relaxing the agonist muscles and contracting the opposing muscles -- the antagonists. In any stretch you do by incorporating the CRAC method, you will assist yourself into proper alignment and protect the agonist muscles for over stretching.
- Stretching with cold muscles is a big no, no. To keep muscles healthy and intact, heat them prior to stretching, preferably with infrared heat, or warm up for at least 15 minutes.
- Never pull, push or bounce in a stretch. Pulling, pushing and bouncing can get you into a position your muscles are not ready for, which can cause them to tear.
- When PNF is performed before gymnastics practices or competitions, it decreases performance by inhibiting muscle contraction, strength and force production. However, when completed after gymnastics practices or conditioning, it increases flexibility, range of motion and athletic performance.
- In order to receive the full benefits and effects of CRAC PNF, perform them twice a week.
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