Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation vs. Static Stretching – A Little Thing That Adds Up for Runners
Most of us grew up attending gym classes that instructed the use of static stretching pre- and post-exercise. Stretching feels good, and it can lead to an increased range of motion. There is a time and place for it, and just like everything else in a program, we can put strategy behind the way we use stretching.
Two types of post-run stretching we recommend for our athletes:
Static Stretching –
What it is:
Static stretching is what we do when we hold a (static) position that places whatever muscle is targeted at its greatest possible length. Static stretching is the classic “touch your toes and hold it” method with which most of us are familiar.
- Easy to perform
- Feels good
- Stretches muscles (to an extent)
- If done BEFORE a run, static stretching can result in decreased muscular performance (read some of the research here)
- The “stretch reflex”* prevents the best possible stretch of the targeted muscle.
*Our muscles come equipped with a “stretch reflex” that prevents them from over-stretching and becoming injured/torn. This reflex can simultaneously prevent muscles from getting a good, deep stretch. The good news is that there are ways to overcome the stretch reflex.
Keep reading to find out how.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) –
What it is:
The “contract/relax” method of stretching. PNF is a more advanced form of stretching that uses a brief muscle contraction to inhibit the stretch reflex mentioned above, allowing for more stretch of the targeted muscle.
- A muscle contraction temporarily inhibits the stretch reflex mentioned above and leads to a deeper stretch.
- Increase in performance when performed post-run.
- Stride length increases up to 9.1% compared to only a 7.1% increase with static stretching (according to this research).
- Decrease in muscular function when performed before running.
- It can be tricky to perform without the assistance of a personal trainer/coach. We suggest using a yoga strap (like this: https://a.co/d/hBfSFEF) if you have no help.
Research also shows a more significant increase in range of motion when using PNF stretching. Static stretching post-run is encouraged, but the more advanced PNF stretching can produce a better result depending on an athlete’s goals.
Regardless of which stretching method is used, we know it’s essential to our training regimen. Take stretching as seriously as you take strides, drills, and nutrition. The little things are always worth the extra 5 minutes when they start to add up.