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PNF Stretching vs Resistance Stretching

by Rocco Castellano

Difference Between PNF Stretching and Resistance Stretching

There have been methods such as PNF stretching, which stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It has also been called relax, contract. You may have seen people doing stretches on the sidelines, like putting an athlete’s leg in a hamstring stretch and kicking against it, letting go, pulling the other way, letting go, and then going further-an example of a PNF stretch. And I think the most significant difference between a Resistance Stretching exercise and a PNF one is how and why we get results in real life.

In traditional PNF, first used for stroke patients in the 1950s or before, the goal was to help people regain muscle control by using their range of motion or what they could move. Then, when the contract, relax came along, scientists and kinesiologists figured out a trick they could play on the body’s nervous system. For example, if you contract your hamstring, hold the contraction, and then contract the opposite muscle. There’s a reflex in the brain called reciprocal inhibition that turns off part of the hamstring, so when you go back to stretch the hamstring, it all works. Right?


Three Types of Muscle Contractions

Resistance Stretching is all about using three different types of muscle contractions to make a physiological change in the muscle or fascial tissue, unlike PNF Stretching. What I mean by that is that we stress these tissues in a way that causes them to change in a way that isn’t relatively permanent slowly. It will make a difference right away. Then, if you do nothing, you’ll return to where you were before. But if you stick with it, it will change your body’s physiology in a specific way and for good.

Most exercises have three main parts. If we look at the bicep and you lift weight toward the shoulder. You can see your bicep contract, as it gets shorter. The next step is the muscle recruitment phase, also known as concentric strength training. This part of the exercise is about getting muscle fibers to join in on the fun.

As you discover more about a Resistance Stretching exercise, you’ll know how to focus on one muscle and find a burn or concentric fatigue. That tells you that your brain is connected to the muscle you want to resistance stretch. So, once you feel that burn, we’ll stop at the shortest position where you can keep the contraction, and you’ll hold it isometrically. That means you’re getting smaller but not going anywhere. We call that the transition phase because it doesn’t make sense to recruit muscle fibers just to let them go and lose them during the stretch. The transition phase holds that isometric contraction so you don’t lose the burn.


Eccentric Contractions are the Cornerstone

And then you move on to an active stretch. It’s called an eccentric load or an eccentric contraction. An eccentric load stretches the muscle while loaded with resistance/weight. It’s also what we call the phase of letting go of tension. When I shorten my bicep and then apply a force stronger than my resistance, you can see how my bicep is pulled into a more extended position even though it is still trying to shorten-also known as a negative in weight training. What it does is make the muscle grip itself from the inside. Then, keeping that tension inside and forcing it to pull apart breaks the bonds between the stuck fibers. They’ve been stuck for a long time because, if you think about it, we’re usually taught to train concentrically.

Lifting weights is primarily concentric; we aren’t trained to go slow on the lowering phase of an exercise. Everything in life boils down to training in a circle. Resistance Stretching will teach you how to do very focused eccentric loading to release tension and rebalance the strength across your body or your joints. So, we’ll use this three-phase system, or a version, in almost every Resistance Stretching exercise. We won’t use the principle of reciprocal inhibition. We’re not trying to fool your nervous system so you can move more. It will be hard to do the work we have to do. It’s not going to hurt as a typical stretch does. Instead, a Resistance Stretching exercise will feel like an active stretch, more like weightlifting or hard work, than the painful feeling you get from passive stretching or other posture-based stretches.

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