Stretching is important for athletes and beneficial for anyone interested in improving their fitness level. No matter what sport you play or exercise activity you do, flexibility will improve your athletic performance. It's also important to stretch after working out or playing sports to promote healthy muscle cool-down and recovery. Assisted stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, involves two people assisting each other in stretching. PNF allows for deeper stretching because of more resistance, helps with stretches that are too difficult to reach by yourself and improves your motivation and helps you hold your stretches longer.
To do the assisted overhead triceps stretch, sit on a bench or chair, with your partner standing behind you. Lift one arm over your head and have your partner bend your forearm to your upper arm and push your elbow back behind you as far as it will go. You should feel the stretch in your triceps, which are the muscles on the backs of your upper arms. Hold and repeat on the other side. Switch places and repeat with the other person.
For the assisted behind-the-head chest stretch, sit up tall on a bench or chair, with your head facing forward. Raise your hands above your head and place them behind you with your palms facing outward. Your partner should stand behind you, lift her knee to her chest and place her knee between your shoulder blades. Your partner should open your chest by pulling back your elbows. Hold, feeling the stretch across your chest. Switch positions to stretch the other person.
Do the assisted overhead lat stretch for your back. Sit on a bench or chair with your partner standing up behind you, and raise one arm above your head. Have your partner hold your wrist and place your forearm behind your head, then reach the stretch by pulling your wrist toward the back of your shoulder. Your torso should lean to the side opposite of your raised arm, so you feel a stretch along your armpit, shoulder and the side of your upper back. Hold the stretch, repeat on the other side, and do the other partner.
You can also do assisted stretches to stretch your legs, including the groin, which can be difficult to stretch on your own. To do the straight leg groin stretch, lie down on a mat with your legs straight up in the air, with your feet apart slightly. Have your partner hold your legs apart by pressing down on the insides of either your ankles, shins or thighs, depending on how flexible you are. Your partner's resistance combined with gravity makes this a challenging inner-thigh stretch.
The assisted lying glute stretch stretches your gluteal muscles, which make up your butt. You'll want to lie down on a mat and have your partner kneel next to you at your hips. Bend one knee to your chest and turn out your hip so that your knee now points to your side. Have your partner push your knee forward toward your shoulder to stretch one side of your butt. Your partner should help you get your knee as close to your shoulder as you can get it. Repeat on the other leg, then switch positions to stretch your partner.
Communicate with your partner to tell her how much force to use when helping you stretch. When stretching your partner, do not apply force on her by pushing down on her; this could put strain on the joints. Always push in a direction parallel to her body and increase the amount of force gradually until your partner tells you it's enough pressure. Especially if you're not familiar with your partner's flexibility, be cautious not to apply too much pressure.
- ExRx.net: PNF Overhead Triceps Stretch
- ExRx.net: PNF Behind Head Chest Stretch
- ExRx.net: PNF Straight Leg Groin Stretch
- ExRx.net: PNF Lying Glute Stretch
- ExRx.net: PNF Overhead Lat Stretch
- FlexibleStrength.com: Partner Assisted Stretching
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Safe And Effective Stretching
Lindsay Haskell enjoys writing about fitness, health, culture and fashion. She is a contributor for "Let's Talk Magazine" and "The Wellesley News." Haskell is completing her B.A. in philosophy at Wellesley College. She's also a fiction writer whose work can be read online.