What are ballistic stretches?

Personal/Fitness Training Blog

Ballistic stretching is a warm-up stretch which involves fast and sudden movements in order to increase flexibility. It is chiefly used by athletes to increase muscle power and range of motion.

This type of stretching makes use of the momentum of a moving body or a limb in an effort to force it beyond its normal range of motion. Ballistic stretching involves stretching by bouncing into (or out of) a stretched position by making use of the stretched muscles as a spring that pulls you out of the stretched position, for example bouncing down repeatedly to touch your toes.

As ballistic stretches necessitate additional force, these extend the muscles as well as tendons through a greater range of movement. Muscles have internal sensors which can tell how far or hard they’re being stretched. So if a sensor feels that there is too much tension, it will send a signal for the muscle to pull back in order to protect the joints from injury. The pure force of movement during a ballistic stretch bypasses these sensors. In addition, it allows the muscles to stretch more than they normally would.

Is ballistic stretching safe for everyone?

This type of stretching is not considered useful by many and can lead to injury if not done correctly. 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.

While this manner of stretching may be useful for athletes, it holds the risk of injury. Ballistic stretching is generally not recommended for non-athletes people who merely want to stay in shape or improve flexibility. This is because ballistic stretching carries a risk of straining or otherwise pulling a muscle. Stretching movements which are too forceful can result in damage to the soft tissues around the joints, such as ligaments as well as tendons. This can lead to tendonitis.

Static stretching stretches muscles in a gentler fashion. This type of stretching is done at the end of your workout. It involves stretches which you hold in place for a period of time without any movement. This allows your muscles the opportunity to loosen up while increasing flexibility as well as a range of motion.

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.

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, 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.

Contact Trifocus Fitness Academy

If you would like to get additional information about stretching techniques and how to teach these to others, a good idea is doing our Personal Training Diploma. For more information, please follow this link.

Trifocus fitness academy personal training course registration