What Is Ballistic Stretching Exercise And What Are Its Benefits? August 9, 2016

Now that everyone around you is resorting to various exercise or workout methods, is it not the time you should opt for something on the same line? On that note, we have ballistic stretching!

Ballistic stretching is one special type of stretching exercise that is performed mostly by sportspersons and seasoned athletes (1). However, that does not mean others cannot try it at all!

Would you like to know more about it? Read on!

What Is Ballistic Stretching?

Ballistic stretching involves bouncing and rapid movements done in a repetitive manner in which you need to stretch the joints and muscles beyond their regular range of motion. The aim is to improve body flexibility. It is not advised for amateurs and those who are new to stretching.

As opposed to static stretching, ballistic stretching is far more demanding on the muscles and body parts. It does improve the range of motion for athletes, which they can benefit from. For example, it helps basketball players to jump higher. However, for the best results, you should try it after becoming well versed in static stretching postures.

[ Read: Stretching Exercises To Increase Height ]

How It Is Different From Dynamic Stretching:

A lot of people often confuse dynamic stretching with Ballistic stretching. It is true that both methods of stretching require extended body movements. However, in dynamic stretching, it is not required to stretch the body muscles and tendons much beyond their usual range of motions. It does not involve movements of jerking and bouncing either.

While ballistic stretching is jerky and erratic, dynamic stretching is smooth and controlled in nature (2). Health experts often advise dynamic stretching over Ballistic stretching in most cases. The latter should not be done without the assistance of veteran coaches and trainers.

How It Is Different From Static Stretching:

Both ballistic and static stretching methods involve moving your body muscles over their comfortable ranges of motion. However, in the former, your stretching methods involve rapid bouncing and stretching of body parts and muscles. In static stretching, you stretch the muscles past their comfort zones, but do not retract them from the stretched posture quickly. On the contrary, you are required to hold the body muscles and parts in their stretched position for a few seconds. Then you can bring them back to the initial position.

Popular Ballistic Stretching Exercises:

  1. The Standing Lunge – This is one pose that can also be done in other stretching methods. It does benefit the glutes and quadriceps. You need to keep a foot forward, and the arms should be loose on the sides. You may also keep the hands totally straightened above the shoulders. Now bend the foot forward and plummet forward rapidly. The other foot should be bent behind, and the body weight should be on your heel of the foot forward. Now, return to the initial position and try the pose with the other leg.
  1. Another widely practiced ballistic exercise is standing upright and starting bouncing down to touch the toes that can repeatedly be done.
  1. There is a sitting variant of the exercise above. For that, you need to sit on a mat or floor with the upper body in the vertical pose. Now, try touching the ankles stretched in front with your hands with repeated and prompt moves.
  1. Side Arm Swing – This is another pose that is not too hard to try out! 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.
  1. You can also improve chest muscle flexibility with ballistic exercise. You need to 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 little flexed. Now, you have to flex the shoulders to move the arms behind repeatedly.
  1. Leg Swings – This is another popular ballistic stretching posture. You need to stand sideways and keep an arm’s length 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. This can be done on the other side too.
  1. Overhead Arm Swing – To try this Ballistic stretching exercise, you need to 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, you can swing the arms forward and backward. Each position can be repeated a number of times, as per your comfort level.

[ Read: Leg Stretching Exercises For Women ]

Advantages Of Practicing Ballistic Stretching:

The main advantages of ballistic stretching exercise are:

  1. Improvement in Dynamic Flexibility.
  2. Muscles get ready for high impact activity.
  3. The body gets pushed beyond its comfort zone, ideal for physically intensive activities.
  4. Enhances motor performance of the muscles.
  5. A British Journal of Sports Medicine study indicated that ballistic stretching improves hamstring flexibility. It can be particularly helpful for people with tight hamstring issues.

Risk Factors/Disadvantages Of Ballistic Stretching:

There is no denying Ballistic stretching is not a risk-free form of exercise. Entities like the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons advise against it. 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.

Before trying Ballistic stretching moves, the following factors should be considered carefully:

  • If the person is new to exercising and has some amount of exposure to static stretches or not.
  • The age and health condition of the person.
  • If the person suffers from muscle, joint or ligament related conditions.
  • If the Ballistic stretching moves can benefit the person in a professional capacity. For example, if he or she is an athlete and the exercise can enhance their efficacy level.

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