You may have heard assisted stretching called by other names, for example, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, facilitated stretching or partner stretching. These involve assistance from a partner to obtain a deeper, more effective stretch for the muscles. Assisted stretching, which may also involve the use of props, is particularly suited for leg stretching.
With assisted leg stretching, you get all the benefits of stretching on your own, but at a deeper level. You'll prevent injury to your leg muscles and joints and encourage healing and muscle building. According to Ann and Chris Frederick, authors of "Stretch to Win," assisted stretching in a relaxed environment is effective because it increases your range of motion and it can even be motivating.
Types of Assistance
Sometimes, when a person thinks about assisted leg stretching, having a partner to help get a really deep, extended stretch may come to mind. Although you may do many assisted leg stretching exercises with the help of a coach, trainer or physical therapist, you may also do some assisted leg stretches with a cord, rope or even a folded towel in place of a partner.
Adductor stretching is more effective if you have some assistance from a partner. Lie on your back with your legs extended and out to the sides. Your assistant will kneel between your ankles while facing the leg you are going to stretch and place his hands on your calf and ankle. Your partner should gently push your leg out to the side, stretching your leg as far as is comfortable for you, and hold it for 10 seconds. You'll then push your leg in, resisting your assistant as he continues to push your leg out for 5 more seconds. After that, relax your leg while your partner gently pushes a bit more to deepen the stretch.
The hamstring stretch is one of the most popular assisted leg stretches. Lie on your back with one leg extended up. Your raised foot should be propped against your partner's shoulder and both of his hands should be clasped around your knee. The assistant presses against your leg in a gradual move to push the hamstrings of your raised leg to the limit. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then press your leg against your partner for 5 seconds. Relax your raised leg while your assistant gently pushes a little more to try to extend the stretch. Both these assisted stretches can be done with a cord or rope looped around the sole of your foot. By gradually and gently pulling the ends of the rope as you do the move, you will help yourself stretch more deeply.
The goal of assisted leg stretching is to help you stretch further than you could on your own, but it should never be painful. In their book, "Facilitated Stretching," Robert E. McAtee and Jeff Charland advised readers that the leg should be repositioned or the assistant should use less force when pushing if the stretches become painful. If the pain continues, try to determine its cause rather than continuing the stretch. Also, you'll reduce the risk of injury during assisted leg stretching if your assistant has the background and understanding of physiology and anatomy, for example, a trainer or a physical therapist.
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