To prepare the muscles for workouts certain warm-up stretches are performed. Ballistic Stretching is one of them. The athletes and dancers usually use ballistic stretching to increase the range of movement and muscle power.
The ballistic word is derived from the Greek word “ballein” which means “to throw”. It is a unique stretching that includes a lot of rapid and sudden bouncing movements to increase flexibility.
The purpose of this fast and bouncing movement is to stretch the targeted muscles and joints beyond the normal range of motion. The body is forced to go beyond the normal range of movement by the momentum created by rapid rebounding motions.
However, ballistic stretching is not for everyone. It’s better to look out for safer warm-up stretching exercises.
This post is all about the ballistic stretching exercises, including whether it’s safe for you, and also some safer alternatives.
1. What Is Ballistic Stretching?
Ballistic stretching refers to the use body’s momentum from bouncing to force the joints to move with a greater range of motion than usual. It includes bouncing and performing hyperextended stretches while using momentum.
Ballerinas, basketballs, and other athletes usually use ballistic stretches to improve body flexibility and jump momentum. However, certain research has shown that this type of warm-up stretching is not safe for everyone.
2. What Is The Difference Between Ballistic Stretching And Ballistic Exercise?
People sometimes confuse ballistic stretching with ballistic exercise and assume that these two are the same or somehow related. However, the only similarity between these two is the term “ballistic” in their name and the meanings of these movements are completely different.
The term “ballistic” means motions of projectiles in flight or explosive events. Ballistic exercises are those types of exercises in which the trainee throws a certain object like a barbell, or a medicinal ball into the air causing it to propel. Some examples of ballistic exercise are bench throw, jump squat, and Olympic lifting derivatives. The purpose is to improve the muscle’s neuromuscular function to generate more powerful force.
Whereas, ballistic stretching is a type of stretching where the trainee propels their body to force a greater range of motion than normal.
3. How Many Types Of Stretching Are There?
To choose the type of stretching that is ideal for you, you must first have a better understanding of the other stretching options. Aside from ballistic stretching, there are three more types of stretching:
3.1 Static stretching:
When most people hear the word stretching, the type of stretching that comes to their mind is static stretching. It is an active and passive stretching in which a trainee holds a position for about 30-60 minutes to stretch the muscles and joints to loosen up.
Static stretching is the most well-known type of stretching. This type of stretching may not be an effective way to prepare your body for physical workouts. Examples of static stretching are touching your toes and arms in circles.
3.2 Dynamic Stretching
Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching refers to the movement of the target muscles with a full range of motions and holding the stretch for only 2-3 seconds.
Dynamic stretching is also known as dynamic warm-up and is usually used by athletes to prepare their muscles. Dynamic and ballistic stretching are quite similar and are sometimes mistaken by some people, considering ballistic stretching as a sub-part of dynamic stretching.
In dynamic stretching, the body moves fast but with control motions. This means that it only moves through the range of motion with the help of muscles, unlike ballistic stretching.
3.3 PNF Stretching
PNF stretching stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. This type of stretching needs a trained partner to help stretch the muscles of the trainee into a wider range of motion than normally possible.
This is the least popular one among all the other types and is usually used for therapies and by performance athletes. PNF stretching is an effective type of stretching but it needs special training and is appropriate for a selected group of people.
4. What Are The Benefits Of Ballistic Stretching?
The potential benefits of ballistic stretching are as follows:
4.1 Increases Flexibility:
Sports like basketball, martial arts, volleyball, and dancers require a high level of flexibility. So, ballistic stretching can help to improve flexibility through a wide range of motions.
Doing ballistic stretches before the exercises prepares the muscles for high-impact activity. Thus, quick-warm-up ballistic stretching results beneficial before doing any physically intensive exercises.
4.2 Less Soreness:
Ballistic stretching causes less muscle soreness than the other stretching exercises. According to stretching studies, it has been found that ballistic exercises significantly reduce muscle pain when compared to static stretching.
4.3 Improves Tender Elasticity:
Ballistic stretches are very beneficial for people with tight hamstring muscles. Furthermore, according to the study on Achilles tendons, ballistic stretching exercises significantly reduce Achilles tendon stiffness.
4.4 Banish Lethery:
If you are feeling tired or lazy, ballistic stretching can help to warm up and energize your entire body. It boosts the energy level of the body.
Furthermore, high-intensity workout also results in higher calorie burnouts which can help you to maintain your weight as weight gain makes a person lazy.
4.5 Improves The Level Of Blood Circulation:
Ballistic stretches warm up the body and also increase the level of blood circulation in every part of the body through various intense stretching movements.
This provides the body with more oxygen resulting in accelerating the repair of tissues.
Some health professionals usually suggest starting workout sessions with static stretching before doing ballistic stretching exercises.
5. What Are The Dangers Of Ballistic Stretching?
Ballistic stretching can be beneficial for dancers and athletes. As ballistic stretching needs high-velocity movement, it is suggested not to be performed by a normal person for simple stretching before exercise.
According to certain studies, ballistic stretching results in the weakening of the hamstring muscle and also results in muscle damage.
Ballistic stretching involves intense stretching of the muscles which increases the risk of muscle damage for the people who are new to training. It is very important to consider why you are stretching.
People usually think that the more our body becomes flexible the more the joints get better. However, this concept is completely wrong. Ligaments, muscles, and tendons surround a joint to provide strength. Overstretching these components might result in a reduction of the structural strength of the joints.
According to a study, when comparing static and ballistic stretching, static stretching is found to be more effective than ballistic stretching in enhancing the hamstring muscles.
Another study has found that static stretching slows up the onset of muscle soreness after exercise as compared to ballistic stretching.
So, non-athletes should avoid ballistic stretching. If you want to increase your flexibility then there are various other alternatives such as static stretching, dynamic stretching, and PNF stretching.
Ballistic stretching has the potential to cause injuries, muscle weakness, tear of tendons, and soreness in the muscles. Before deciding which stretching is suitable for you, it is better to consider your need for stretching, your current physical state, and the other stretching options.
6. Who Should Not Perform Ballistic Stretching?
If this question has come into your mind then ballistic stretching might not be suitable for you. This type of stretching must be performed under professional supervision and recommendation from a coach.
People who can benefit from ballistic stretching are elite athletes who require an advanced range of motion. However, remember that not every sport requires an advanced range of motion. Being excessively flexible may result in a reduction of athletes’ power and strength leading to a fall in performances.
Gymnasts, speed trainers, volleyball players, dancers like ballerinas, martial artists, and hard yoga practitioners are some examples of athletes who can perform ballistic stretching. But it is not mandatory that being these mentioned athletes you are required to perform ballistic stretching. These athletes compete in sports that need excessive flexibility which is impossible to achieve without the use of force.
The Bottom Line
Ballistic stretching is a type of stretching used for warm-up to prepare the body before the workout. It is not safe for everyone, not because it is bad for your health, but rather because it can be risky for your health if it is done incorrectly.
Only a small population such as athletes and dancers gets benefits from ballistic stretching without getting any injury. So, it indicates that it’s better not to perform ballistic stretching and various other stretching alternatives are available that will help to increase the body flexibility.
You can also try arm stretches, neck rotations, side lunges, yoga stretches, calf stretches, and other simple stretches to make your body flexible.
Still, if you are feeling like you want to perform ballistic stretching then it is suggested to get a few personal sessions with a professional coach who specializes in flexibility and is familiar with this form. As it is a better option to reduce the risk of getting injured.
It’s good to practice stretching and physical workouts to improve flexibility and muscle strength but you should always take safety precautions.