While there's nothing revolutionary about PNF stretching, partner stretching, or assisted cool-down routines, having someone on call to help with pre-workout or post-workout stretches—whatever you choose—has been an effective and popular method for years to name.
Stretching isn't exactly fun, which means many of us ditch it in favor of a gentle jog on the treadmill or similar. But while the effectiveness of static stretching before or after a workout has been debated, it has been supportedPNF stretch(opens in new tab)It has been shown to increase flexibility and range of motion and improve athletic performance.
I ventured overStretchLab(opens in new tab)— a one-to-one stretching setup for anyone brave enough to contort into questionable angles — and attended a 50-minute stretching session to see if PNF stretching could help me . You don't need to see a professional to reap the benefits of stretching, but it can be helpful if you find yourself skipping recovery, avoiding cool-down periods, or recovering from an injury.
Grab one of thebest massage gunto recovery and find out what happened.
What is PNF stretching?
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (or PNF) stretching is a form of rehabilitation and flexibility training that involves lengthening and contracting large muscle groups. The many variations of assisted stretching help increase range of motion around your joints, increase flexibility in target muscles, improve muscle strength and performance, and even improve posture.
Unlike partner stretching, where two people gently stretch together, this stretching method recruits one person to put more intense pressure on the other person's muscles. AccordinglyResearch(opens in new tab), PNF stretching is one of the most effective methods out there, helping you reach deeper positions and target muscles that you may not be able to reach on your own.
StretchLab Studios was created to provide "relief and recovery" before or after a workout, using these methods as a self-care routine so you stay "loosened and relaxed" afterwards. Here's what happened to my body while participating in assisted stretching.
I tried stretching with StretchLab to increase flexibility and total body mobility - and wow
Here's what happened to my body when I was stuck doing assisted one-to-one stretching.
1. I felt wired
I felt like I had five cups of coffee in just one 50 minute session. I felt energized for about an hour and then fell straight into exhaustion. It turns out this is quite normal.
AccordinglyHopkins medicine(opens in new tab)Stretching breaks the fascia that causes muscle pain and tightness and releases tension from your muscles. Releasing muscle tension can also lead to emotional relaxationWAS(opens in new tab)says.
2. It was intense
I didn't know what to expect when attending a one-to-one assisted stretching session, but it was very intense and required taking a lot of deep breaths. During the session, your “stretchologist,” as they are known, will begin using aTheragun-Massagepistoleall over the body and then works the full body through a series of intense assisted stretches similar to those found in yoga.
I'm ticklish so I had to grit my teeth trying not to kick my stretchologist as the gun dug into my sensitive hamstrings. My stretchologist didn't make it easy for me either, asking me to inhale fully and then stretching further as I exhaled. Imagine a tonic for all the yogis out thereYin-YogaCourse on steroids - breathing through deep, long and uncomfortable practical holds with no way out.
3. It got me emotional
I felt super emotional during the heavier stretches around my hips and lower body, but according to some, this is normal. Such stretching releases tension and releases fascia, which can release "stored emotions" in some people. My hips and hamstrings get tight from the workout, which is why I found those areas particularly difficult to get through, and that may be why I felt so relieved.
InYoga(opens in new tab), practitioners refer to the hips as the “seat of emotions” – a storage place for stress and anxiety. When I recommended thatone movement each day to reduce hip flexor pain, I mentioned that the adrenal glands (responsible for unleashing the stress response) are at the top of the kidneys. This is where the fasciae that surround the deep hip flexor muscles connect.
The hips are called the "fight-or-flight" muscle for exactly this reason: they respond by tightening in response to stress and relaxing after the stretch.studies(opens in new tab)have shown that holding stretches reduces stress and anxiety, in part through meditative breathing, ieExactlyhow that felt to me.
4. It felt meditative
Although there is a lack of robust evidence for the "seat of emotions" theory, I felt calmer afterwards. Like any guided meditation, this session is used deeply and in a controlled mannerbreathing exercisesto regulate my nervous system while moving through a series of held stretches. For a short time after that, my stress and anxiety were relieved.
Even though I was twisted into a pretzel at the time, I was effectively participating in a 50-minute meditation—just from a headlock position and not in my bed.
5. I felt taller and looser
After working on my upper body, my posture immediately improved and I felt great. In contrast to thestretch reflex(opens in new tab), which keeps you from over-stretching, the Golgi tendon organ (GTO) engages when a stretch is held for more than 15 seconds, basically overriding your muscle spindles and allowing you to find a deeper stretch position more confidently.
I felt looser and taller and felt more reach around my shoulders, hamstrings and hips. This was especially helpful during my strength training program afterwards; I was able to get deeper squats and overhead positions faster. Although I was back to square one the next day (it only provides a short-term flexibility boost), regular stretch reflex training can improve flexibility, range of motion, and muscle engagement during exercise over time, improve athletic performance, and build strength.
6. My lower back hurt
It's hard to say if that was good or bad, but my lower back hurt a few days after the session. The lower back stretch should be done with caution as the assisted stretch puts stress on the muscles under pressure. Too high an intensity can increase the risk of soft tissue damage, so consult a qualified professional before attempting it for the first time.
Next Up:Try these movesHip flexor pain, These are thebest resistance bandsfor self-assisted stretching at home, and this ishow to do the cat-cow stretchfor lower back pain.Inspired? Cashwhat happened when our fitness editor tried Chris Hemsworth's 250-rep dumbbell workout. These are thebest adjustable dumbbellshere in the market.
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Staff Fitness Writer
SamHopes is a Level III Fitness Instructor, Level II Reiki Practitioner, and Resident Fitness Writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. Having been trained to work with the mind and body, Sam is a huge proponent of applying mindfulness techniques to sports and fitness and their impact on performance. She is also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods. When she writes about her experiences with the latest fitness technology, she writes about nutrition, sleep, recovery and training.
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