Dynamic vs. Ballistic Stretching

What is the difference and which one should you avoid?

So, what is the difference between dynamic and ballistic stretching? Although both methods of stretching require movement and both are usually passive methods, one is safe and one is not. Dynamic stretching refers to stretching by controlled, coordinated movement with a defined range of motion. Ballistic stretching refers to stretching in uncontrolled, uncoordinated movements, usually involving momentum and bouncing.  As should be clear by the definitions above, dynamic stretching can be safely employed and is often recommended as a warm-up prior to sports activity. This form of stretching is ideal for pushing blood to specific muscle group and making them more elastic prior to dynamic movement. So, what about ballistic stretching?

Many years ago, ballistic stretching was promoted. Prior to our current understanding of exercise physiology, many institutions promoted bouncing lower at the end of each stretch and utilizing momentum to force elasticity. Of course, the result was an increased risk of injury. When stretching without a defined range of motion, and bouncing with momentum to increase beyond your normal elastic threshold, an individual can tear muscle and damage soft tissues.

There is often confusion between dynamic and ballistic stretching because they both involve stretching while in motion. Unlike dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching utilizes muscle activation through fast, jerky movements which can overload the muscle, increasing the risk for potential injury. Ballistic stretching can increase range of motion quickly, but has a higher risk of injury than othe effective techniques.

Stretching properly and safely can help you reach your health and wellness goals. So maybe it is time to consider stretching alternatives--Static, Dynamic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching are all beneficial, and for most populations safe. To learn more, check out our Stretching and Flexibility Instruction certification today!

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