PNF stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching, is an effective type of stretching that increases range of motion. Because the hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint, the type with the greatest capacity for range of motion that can move in all directions, stretching to increase range of motion is necessary to perform daily functions. Tight hip stretches limit movement, so you should stretch the hips often, but no more than once every 48 hours.
PNF stretching uses isometric contractions and relaxation to elicit autogenic inhibition and reciprocal inhibition. Both autogenic and reciprocal inhibition describe states of relaxation in the muscles. Autogenic inhibition happens when you contract the muscles you wish to stretch and hold them before releasing the contraction. The release after a hold results in relaxation of the muscle group you are stretching, in this case the hips. You can then contract the opposing muscle group so that when you release that contraction, the muscles relax further, and your stretch increases. Generally, a partner provides resistance to give your muscles the opportunity to contract.
PNF Lying Crossover Stretch
The PNF lying crossover stretch targets the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles of the hips. These muscles are part of the hip abductor muscles that move the leg sideways from the body. To perform the PNF lying crossover stretch, lie on your back with your arms relaxed out to the sides. Let a partner bend your right knee and cross it over your left leg with the foot on the floor. Your partner then pushes your knee toward the floor and holds your left shoulder down. Maintain this stretch for 10 seconds, then begin to push outward against your partner's hand. Ask your partner to give you equal resistance for six seconds, then relax and let your partner push your knee toward the floor again for 30 seconds. Switch sides.
PNF Hip Floor Stretch
The PNF hip floor stretch increases flexibility through two isometric contractions. First, lie face down with the knees slightly bent. Push your hips forward into the floor to isometrically contract the front of your hips. Push for three seconds. Next, have a partner lift your right leg by the ankle as you point your toes down and relax your hip. Tell your partner when you feel a stretch, then pull your leg down toward the floor. Your partner should provide resistance so that your leg does not move. This is the second isometric contraction. Hold for three seconds, then relax your leg to the floor. Switch legs.
PNF Hip Flexor Floor Stretch
The PNF hip flexor floor stretch starts with you lying on your back. You do two opposing isometric contractions during this exercise. Begin on your back with the knees slightly bent. Pull your knees toward your chest and grasp the soles of your feet. Straighten your legs and bring your hips forward against resistance from your hands. Then relax your left leg straight onto the floor. Let your partner grab your right leg with the knee bent. As you resist, your partner pushes your knee toward the floor. Push for up to 30 seconds.
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