Ballistic stretching is a popular type of stretching among athletes. The question is: Is it safe for normal people in everyday life? The answer might be surprising, so stay with me till the end of this article and enjoy the reading.

What we’re going to cover in this article:

  1. What is ballistic stretching
  2. 7 benefits of ballistic stretching 
  3. The dangers of ballistic stretching 
  4. Is ballistic stretching better than static stretching?
  5. Top 8 Ballistic stretching exercises

So let’s get started by giving you the best explanation of what ballistic stretching is.

Ballistic stretching is a warm-up stretch method that involves quick and sudden movements to increase flexibility. It is mainly used by athletes and people who exercise in a daily basis to increase muscle power and range of motion.

It is done by bouncing and using momentum to do a hyperextended stretch. Ballerinas, basketball players, dancers, martial artists and other athletes perform ballistic stretching to improve flexibility and increase jump momentum.

Whereas static stretches are performed slowly and gradually, the ballistic stretch as we said is completely the opposite. You can do many of the same stretches as ballistic or static stretches. For example, the ballistic stretch of touching your toes (also static stretch) would be to bounce and jerk toward your feet. Static stretching should always be avoided in warming up the body you can read more about it here.

People often confuse ballistic stretching with dynamic stretching. While both methods involve movement during the stretch, they are different. Dynamic stretching doesn’t push muscles past their normal range of motion and there is no bouncing or momentum involved. Some examples of dynamic stretches are arm circles, walking knee to chest, lunge walk with twist, straight leg kick and so on. Dynamic stretching is more widely recommended by doctors than ballistic stretching.

The 7 benefits of ballistic stretching 

Benefit #1

It challenges athletes to improve gradually their abilities and set newer records. The body gets pushed beyond its comfort zone or it’s normal range of motion. Ballistic stretching exercises are ideal for physically intensive activities.Dramatically increases flexibility: Sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, martial arts, dancing and gymnastics demand increasingly high levels of flexibility.

Benefit #2

Ballistic stretching helps to improve flexibility by pushing muscles through a wide range of motions. A pre-workout ballistic stretching session trains the muscles for high impact activity. Hence for physically intensive activities, a quick warm up of ballistic stretches is highly beneficial. One study investigating the effects of ballistic stretching combined with basketball activity on vertical jump (VJ) height discovered that vertical jump increased significantly.

Benefit #3

Decreased tendon injuries: Research in sports medicine indicates that ballistic stretching unlike static stretching results in a significant reduction in Achilles tendon stiffness.

Benefit #4

Less Muscle Soreness. A study made in twenty males showed that static and ballistic stretching induce significant increases in DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness) and CK(creatine kinases). 

Benefit #5

Enhances Motor Performance of the Muscles. A 5-10 minute warm up routine is very important before engaging in ballistic stretching. Athletes who perform ballistic stretches suffer less muscle soreness than those who practice static stretching. The exercises emulate actions specific to one’s sports. This helps in improving upon one’s performance. Over time, this tones the muscles and joints to fire faster and with more force and power. Ballistic stretching is viewed as the best form of warm up workout by many athletes, according to athletes, the best time to give static stretch a shot is after the muscles have been made flexible enough.

Benefit #6

patellofemoral pain syndrome stretching

Improved Blood Circulation: Ballistic stretching warms up the body through a series of rigorous exercises, which increase the rate of blood flow in all parts of the body. This supplies the body with higher levels of oxygen, promoting faster healing of tissues. Most trainers and athletes say that before performing ballistic stretching you should start with static stretches.

Benefit #7

Banishes Feeling of Lethargy: When one feels tired or groggy during the day ballistic stretches pep you up and charge the body with more energy. They increase the body’s energy levels. Also, the high intensity workouts have high calorie burn outs which keep one’s weight in check as an increase in weight also makes a person lethargic.

The dangers of ballistic exercises

As I promised, now we’re going to talk about the dangers. From what we talked earlier in this article you can notice that, ballistic stretching is not for everyone because it can cause injuries.

The main risks are:

  • Forceful and sudden stretching movements can hurt the soft body tissues and ligaments.
  • The muscles and tissues can become more susceptible to injuries.
  • It can trigger stretch reflex mechanism, which actually tightens the muscles.

Static stretching is better in this case as it stretches muscles more gently without risk of pulling them. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons warns against bouncing stretches, as does the American College of Sports Medicine who is totally against it.

Stretching movements that are too forceful can damage the soft tissues around the joints, such as ligaments and tendons. This can develop into tendonitis. Over time, small muscle tears can develop and can lead to reduced flexibility and movement.

Is ballistic stretching better than static stretching?

The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. When comparing static and ballistic stretching, the main things to remember is that each stretch is appropriate in different situations based on level of activity and age each person has. Static stretching can be appropriate for all individuals, including older adults, due to its controlled nature and its effectiveness at maintaining and improving range of motion, particularly when performed following an exercise routine.

Ballistic stretching, on the other hand, isn’t appropriate for all because it’s way more advanced. As such, it should be limited to more advanced athletes, dancers, sport players or those with lots of practice performing the method safely. If you’re not sure whether you fall into the category, hedge your bets and stick with static stretching.

Top 8 Ballistic stretching exercises & examples

The Standing Lunge

This stretch is beneficial especially for the gluteal muscles and quadriceps. It is useful as a warm-up or cool-down exercise. It also helps stretch tight hip flexors, which many have from sitting too much, running, or cycling. Be careful not to bend your knee too far, let one hip sag or bend your back too soon. 

Here’s how:

Standing Toe Stretch

This exercise stretches the hamstrings. Standing upright, start bouncing and jerk down to touch the toes repeatedly trying to exceed the normal range of movement. When done properly, standing toe touches not only work your hamstrings muscles, but stretch and work your abdominals, calves, your butt and your shoulders.

Sitting Toe Stretch

Sit on a mat or floor with the upper body straight and legs stretched out in front. Now, touch the ankles with the hands with repeated and quick movements.

Shoulder Rotations

This is very useful for baseball pitchers to improve chest muscle flexibility. Stand in an upright posture and extend both the arms to the sides and straighten them. The palms should face the roof and elbows should be a little flexed. Now, flex the shoulders to move the arms behind repeatedly.

If you are susceptible to shoulder pain you may want to read 3 ways to reduce the risk of shoulder pain for overhead athletes.

Swinging Exercises for Arm

This is another pose that is not too hard to try out! These exercises warm up and stretch the shoulders, arms, chest and upper back and prepares the muscles, tendons and joints for a workout. This exercise also gives you a great cardio boost and increases your flexibility. You need to stand with both legs slightly bent. The feet should be hip-width apart. Ensure the back is straight. Now, swing both the arms on the sides and next cross them in front.

Swinging Exercises for Legs

Stand sideways and keep an arm’s distance from the wall. Now, put the body weight on the left leg and keep the right palm on the wall to maintain balance. Then, swing the right leg forward and backward for several rounds. Repeat with other leg.

Swinging Exercises for Chest Muscles

Stand with the legs a foot apart and both the legs kept bent. Maintain an erect back. Now, swing both the arms repeatedly to an overhead position. Then swing the arms forward and backward.

Forward Bending Exercises with Elevation

Stand upright and put right leg on elevation to front. Keep legs straight. With back straight, bend over and repeatedly reach forward to touch toes of right foot. Repeat with left leg.

That’s all I have for you today!

Ballistic stretching may be helpful to some people, as long as it’s done correctly. 

Start the routine with slower and mini-ballistic stretches. Increase the speed gradually with larger ballistic movements. This transition will help your body get used to these stretches and therefore reduce the risk of injury.

If you are wanting to use ballistic stretching for your flexibility routine check out my top four example exercises.

Before trying this technique on your own, speak to your doctor about the risk versus benefits for your individual needs. Remember that while you should be able to feel a stretch, it should never be painful. Respect the limits of your body.

Which of the 8 ballistic stretching examples & exercises did you find helped you the most?

If you need some motivation or personal feedback you can always join me for a Flexibility & Contortion Class.

In happiness and health,

Vanessa Barthelmes.

Check out my flexibility classes and online coaching.

Related Articles:

21 Relieving Upper Body Stretches

21 Core Exercises For Beginners

How To Measure Hamstring Flexibility

ballistic stretching examples & exercises
ballistic stretching examples & exercises

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