Ballistic Stretching

What is Ballistic stretching?

Ballistic stretching is a type of stretching that uses the momentum of a moving body or a limb in an attempt to force it beyond its normal range of motion. This is stretching, or “warming up”, by bouncing into (or out of) a stretched position, using the stretched muscles as a spring which pulls you out of the stretched position. (e.g. bouncing down repeatedly to touch your toes.)

Ballistic stretches force the limb into an extended range of motion when the muscle has not relaxed enough to enter it. It involves fast “bouncing” movements where a double bounce is performed at the end range of movement. Ballistic stretching should only be used by athletes who know their own limitations and with supervision by their trainer. This form of stretching may be done to improve limits of a workout opposed to static stretching that may decrease the limits of a workout.

The purpose of ballistic stretching is to take your muscles past a point of reflexive control in order to achieve a greater range of motion which may not be achieved with normal dynamic or static stretching.

 

What are examples of ballistic stretching?

Should you wish to try ballistic stretching out, here are some stretches for you:

 

Lower back/hamstrings

Stand up tall with your legs straight. Bend over at your hips. Repeatedly reach down and relax.

 

Hamstrings

Stand up tall and put each leg on elevation towards the front. Keep your legs straight. With your back straight bend over and repeatedly reach towards the front and relax.

 

Chest

Stand up tall. Extend your arms out to your sides. Let your palms face up and keep your elbows slightly flexed. Repeatedly flex your back and shoulders in order to move your arms behind you.

 

When ballistic stretching is recommended?

Like all types of stretching, ballistic stretches definitely have a time and place where they can be beneficial. Because of the high speeds at which you are moving your body to perform this type of stretch, the use of this becomes much more specific. Ballistic stretching involves the use of speed and momentum to achieve greater ranges of motion.  It should be used with caution and is typically only recommended prior to performing some type of high-intensity activity that involves going into these greater ranges. Some examples include a gymnast who is preparing to perform a split kick, a martial artist who needs to kick something overhead, or a pitcher trying to throw a fastball at high speeds. Since all of these motions involve a quick change of position in and out of an extreme range of motion, a warm-up involving ballistic stretches may be beneficial to prepare your muscles for these activities.

 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ballistic stretching?

Ballistic stretching may be useful for some people, as long as it’s done properly. A study found that ballistic stretching was better, as opposed to static stretching, at improving the flexibility of hamstring muscles in sportsmen and women with tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings are a common cause of sports or exercise injuries.

However, this type of stretching is not considered useful and can lead to injury. It does not allow your muscles to adjust to, and relax in, the stretched position. It may instead cause them to tighten up by repeatedly activating the stretch reflex.  Before trying this stretching 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.

You should always be careful when performing a new and unfamiliar type of ballistic stretch.  There is a risk that you may place your body in a position that it is not ready for. This can potentially be painful and lead to injury. Also, be sure to always start off at a slow speed and lesser range of motion and work your way into a greater speed and greater range of motion once your body begins to warm up and get familiar with the motion. This will allow you to get the most out of your ballistic stretch while ensuring you stay pain and injury-free!

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