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

Get your muscles ready for a workout by performing these warm-up stretches.

By Charushila Biswas, MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist

Ballistic stretching exercise is a warm-up stretch that preps your muscles for a workout. Stretches with fast and sudden movements help improve flexibility. Dancers and athletes mainly use ballistic stretches to increase range of motion and muscle power (1).

However, ballistic stretching may not be safe for everyone. Continue reading to know all about the ballistic stretch exercise, if it is the best form of warm-up, and its safety concerns.

What Is Ballistic Stretching?

An athlete doing ballistic stretching to warm up.

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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 cause hamstring weakness.

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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

Woman doing static stretching

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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

Yoga stretches are safe alternatives to ballistic stretching.

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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
StyleCraze Says
Keep breathing while holding the static stretching positions for a long time as it helps release tension from the body.

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

Athletes may do ballistic stretching.

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You may do ballistic stretching if:

  • Your doctor or trainer has approved it.
  • You are an athlete.
  • You are a ballet dancer.
StyleCraze Says
It is recommended to start ballistic stretching with slower and smaller ballistic movements and gradually increase the velocity to higher impacts for the body to get accustomed and prevent injury.

Maintaining a healthy and fit body requires regular workouts. Warm-up stretches prepare your body for strenuous exercising. If you do not do them, you may suffer an injury or increased muscle soreness. Ballistic stretching exercises are common warm-up exercises for professional dancers and athletes. However, they are not recommended for everyone as they may lead to tendon tears and muscle injuries. These stretches include moving your limbs and core beyond the normal range of motion, which can be risky if not done properly. Make sure you are doing the exercise correctly and under the guidance of a professional to prevent the risk of injuries.

Frequently Asked 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.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Check out our editorial policy for further details.
  • 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 is an ISSA certified Fitness Nutritionist and a Physical Exercise Therapist. Over a span of 5 years, she has... more

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