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June 13, 2022 5 min read

Stretching exercises are commonly thought of as slow movements that lengthen a muscle to help increase flexibility and range of motion. Although this can be true, there are different types of stretching that serve different purposes. Static stretching is the act of holding a stretched position for a short period of time and is typically done after exercise. 

Another form of stretching is ballistic, similar to dynamic stretching.

This stretching technique involves quick swinging or bouncing movements to stretch your muscles through an intense range of motion.

It's considered controversial because the ballistic movement can put your muscles past their normal range of motion, which also puts them in a more vulnerable state. 

What is the Purpose of Ballistic Stretching? 

Ballistic stretching is meant to be used as a warm up before your workout and is often used by athletes.

The goal is to stretch the muscle groups with quick movements past their natural full range of motion in order to help improve flexibility and enhance movement performance.

It is intended for warming up instead of cooling down because the forceful stretching of the muscles can help you prepare for athletic activities, especially those that involve explosive movements.

This technique is a type of passive stretching because an external force, or the momentum caused by your movement, provides a pull for the stretch. Ballistic stretching inhibits your stretch reflex, which is the body's natural defense mechanism from muscle strains and tears. For this reason, it is sometimes frowned upon due to the risk of injury, however there can be a time and a place for it.   

Benefits of Ballistic Stretching 

Although it may not be for everyone, ballistic stretching can be of benefit to certain types of athletes. 

Increased Range of Motion 

For athletes like gymnasts, basketball players, and martial artists, poor flexibility or range of motion could be detrimental to their performance. Ballistic stretching can help improve the range of motion even more than static or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation can.

This type of stretching can have acute effects on vertical jump or kick performance, which can be essential for athletes in a competition.  

Improved Athletic Performance 

Warming up with quick movements can help mimic the actions used in sporting activities and prepare the muscles for powerful, explosive movements. Using more dynamic or ballistic stretching can help improve strength and power performance, and athletes that jump, sprint, or perform explosively can use this to maximize their ability.  

Hamstring Flexibility 

Hamstrings muscles are one of the most commonly injured muscles in athletes, and one of the causes can be due to tightness of the muscle or an improper warm up. Leg swings are some of the more popular ballistic stretches and are intended to loosen the hamstrings and hip flexors. By doing so, you can improve your hamstring flexibility and better prepare the muscles for impact.   

 

Better Blood Circulation

Keeping your muscles flexible can help improve your blood circulation, and this type of passive stretching can help increase blood flow.

If you have poor blood circulation, you can be at a higher risk for joint pain and stiffness, digestive issues, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cognitive function. Improving your blood circulation is essential for organs like your heart and brain to function properly.   

Tendon Elasticity 

Tight tendons can result in inflexibility and poor joint movement, which can lead to injury. Particularly in sports, one of the more common tendon injuries involves the Achilles tendon, and they can be severe and painful. Ballistic stretching can help increase tendon elasticity, which not only helps reduce a risk of injury, but it can also increase the capacity of energy. 

Reduced Muscle Soreness 

Stretching before or after exercise is important for recovery and helping reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Static stretching or foam rolling can be beneficial for after your workout, but ballistic stretching before a workout can help reduce DOMS even more than other stretching techniques can. Muscle soreness is caused by muscle damage, so taking a recovery aid like Adabolic can help speed up recovery.    

Drawbacks of Ballistic Stretching 

All of these benefits sound great, but there can be a downside to ballistic stretching. 

Stretching can be used as a physical therapy approach to helping reduce shoulder, neck, and back pain, but only if used properly and safely. 

Ballistic stretching may not be intended for everyone, in particular individuals who are recovering from a musculoskeletal injury or new to fitness.

The quick, sudden movements can cause damage to the muscles or ligaments by stretching them too far.

Damaging soft tissue too much can lead to an injury, inflexibility, or poor movement.   

This stretching technique can inhibit the stretch reflex, but it can also trigger it. If the stretch reflex is triggered, the muscles can tighten, putting you at a higher risk of injury.  

Common Ballistic Stretching Exercises 

Whether you implement static or ballistic stretching into your stretching routine, it's important to understand how crucial stretching is for your body and overall health. If ballistic stretching is right for you, check out some of the more common ones. 

Standing Toe Stretch 

In a standard toe stretch, you might just reach down to your toes and stay there to stretch the hamstrings. In the ballistic version, you still reach down to touch your toes, but you bounce your body to stretch your hamstrings past their normal range. 

Lunge Stretch 

The lunge stretch is a good way to loosen your hips and glutes. You'll lunge forward like you normally might for the exercise, but you'll push your hips forward more to stretch the hips farther.  

Arm Circles  

Arm circles can be beneficial for athletes such as baseball players who need to warm up their shoulders before a game. Stand up straight with your arms abducted and extended out to your sides. Repeatedly rotate the shoulders, making circles with your arms. 

Leg Swings 

Loosening your hip flexors and hamstrings can be done with leg swings. Brace yourself on a wall and have one foot planted on the ground. The other foot will swing back and forth in front of your body. You can also do this laterally where the leg swings at the side of your body.   

So is Ballistic Stretching Safe? 

The simple or maybe more complicated answer is yes and no. 

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) deemed it unsafe due to the bouncing movements pushing muscles past end range. However, it is said to increase flexibility more than other stretching types, which can help prevent an injury.    

Determining the safety of ballistic stretching is based upon the individual. This stretching method is typically reserved for experienced athletes, and if you're unsure, consult with a knowledgeable coach or personal trainer.