Ballistic stretching involves using the momentum of a moving limb or other body part to force it briefly beyond its normal range of motion. While static stretching involves a slow, controlled motion that gradually pushes the body towards its natural range of motion, ballistic stretching goes beyond these limits to challenge your body in a different way.
While they are both different approaches to stretching, they can be complementary to each other, and both have their own positive and negative attributes.
When Should You Use Ballistic Stretching?
Ballistic stretching is best used as part of a warm-up for any activity which requires any kind of explosive movement. While static stretching is a great way to bring your body back to a state of rest at the end of a workout, ballistic stretching helps to prepare your body for the type of movements expected in high impact exercise.
A study on the impact of pre-workout stretching on basketball players found that flexibility was improved through both static and ballistic stretching, and the ballistic stretching group showed improvements in their acute vertical jump. The study recommended that coaches implement a ballistic stretching routine before playing basketball, thanks to the marked improvement in vertical leap performance.
Is Ballistic Stretching Safe?
As with any form of exercise, the safety of ballistic stretching largely depends on how the movements are performed. Pushing your body way beyond your current limit when you’re completely cold can lead to injury, so perform a few lower impact movements before really pushing yourself to the next level.
Try some lower impact exercise, such as running on the spot, to get the blood flowing and warm your body up a little before moving on to your ballistic stretching routine.
A Basic Ballistic Stretching Routine
Alternating Lunges – This will help to loosen your hips, as well as warming up your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
Alternating Side Lunges – This movement will also help to open up the hips and engages most of the major muscles in your legs
Straight Leg Kicks – Bringing your straight leg up in front of you as high as you can helps loosen up your hamstrings and engages your core
Arm Circles – your shoulder is one of the most important areas of your body to warm up properly, and arm circles are one of the best ways to do it
Including a ballistic stretching routine as part of your warm-up won’t be for everyone, but for anyone competing in explosive cardio like basketball or football, it’s a great way of preparing your body properly for the workout.