What Is Ballistic Stretching? Should You Do It Before Exercise?

by Charushila Biswas
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition

Ballistic stretching is a warm-up stretch that involves fast and sudden movements to increase flexibility. It is mainly used byathletes to increase muscle power and range of motion (1).

However, is it safe for non-athletes? Is ballistic stretching the best option to warm-up or prep your muscles before a workout? Find out all about ballistic stretching in this post. Get to know what’s best for you to reduce the risk of injuries. Let’s begin!

What Is Ballistic Stretching?

Ballistic stretching is extending or forcing a part (or parts) of your body beyond its (their) range of motion. It is done by bouncing and using the momentum to do a hyperextended stretch.

Ballerinas, basketball players, and other athletes perform ballistic stretching to improve flexibility and increase jump momentum. But there are some red flags that studies have found. Scroll down to know more about them.

What Are The Dangers Of Ballistic Stretching?

Ballistic stretching may be useful for athletes and ballerinas. But it can be dangerous for an average person looking to just warm-up before exercise.

Several studies show that ballistic stretches cause hamstring weakness and muscle injuries. A long duration of ballistic stretching may cause hamstring to quadriceps imbalance (2).

A study states that static stretching is more useful in increasing hamstring flexibility than ballistic stretching (3). Another study shows that static stretching delays the onset of muscle soreness post-exercise compared to ballistic stretching (4).

It is probably because the muscle sensors pull back when the muscles are stretched beyond their normal range of motion. The sensors do so to prevent muscle injuries due to excessive tension.

Ballistic stretching is dangerous for non-athletes. It may cause injuries, muscle weakness, muscle sores, and tendon tears. Instead, you may perform static stretching to warm up your muscles before exercising. Here is why static stretches and ballistic stretches are different:

Difference Between Ballistic And Static Stretching

Ballistic stretching is dynamic stretching and involves a sudden bouncing movement. It hyper stretches the target muscle and may lead to injuries. That is why it is no longer recommended for non-athletes.

Static stretching does not involve bouncing or jerky movements like ballistic stretching. It also does not force the movement beyond the range of motion. It helps lengthen the muscle and improves flexibility over a period.

Alternative Safe Warm-Up Stretches

Here are the stretches you can do before working out:

  • Arm circles
  • Neck tilts
  • Neck rotations
  • Shoulder rotations
  • Side lunges
  • Toe touches
  • Downward dog pose
  • Calf stretches
  • Yoga stretches

Doing static stretching to warm up your muscles before exercise is better. But you may do ballistic stretching if you fall under the categories discussed in the next section.

Who May Do Ballistic Stretching

You may do ballistic stretching if:

  • Your doctor or trainer has approved it.
  • You are an athlete.
  • You are a ballet dancer.

Conclusion

Warm-up stretches are important before exercise. They help prep the muscles for rigorous exercise and reduce the risk of injuries and muscle soreness. Butstretches like ballistic stretchingare not for the average person. Moving your limbs and core beyond their normal range of motion is risky and may cause muscle weakness. Try static stretches, spot jogging, and jumping jacks instead.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What is an example of a ballistic stretch?

A simple example of ballistic stretch is rolling down and bouncing up and down, trying to touch your toe.

Is dynamic stretching the same as ballistic stretching?

Ballistic stretching is a type of dynamic stretching. It is risky and may cause injuries. It should only be practiced by athletes and ballet dancers.

Which type of stretching has the highest risk of injury?

Ballistic stretching has the highest risk of injury in an average person. It may cause muscle weakness and soreness.

Why should you not bounce when stretching?

Bouncing stretches the muscles beyond their normal range of motion. Doing this regularly can lead to muscle weakness.

4 sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
  • Woolstenhulme, Mandy T et al. “Ballistic stretching increases flexibility and acute vertical jump height when combined with basketball activity.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 20,4 (2006): 799-803.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17194248
  • Lima, Camila D et al. “Effects of Static Versus Ballistic Stretching on Hamstring:Quadriceps Strength Ratio and Jump Performance in Ballet Dancers and Resistance Trained Women.” Journal of dance medicine & science : official publication of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science vol. 22,3 (2018): 160-167.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30139422
  • Covert, Christopher A et al. “Comparison of ballistic and static stretching on hamstring muscle length using an equal stretching dose.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 24,11 (2010): 3008-14.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20375742
  • Smith, L L et al. “The effects of static and ballistic stretching on delayed onset muscle soreness and creatine kinase.” Research quarterly for exercise and sport vol. 64,1 (1993): 103-7.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8451526

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. This prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.
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