A woman stretching her legs on a blue yoga mat with her phone, weights and a jump rope

What is ballistic stretching?

Stretching is a major part of any exercise and should be performed before exercising if possible, even if you’re just running for a short distance. Ballistic stretching is one form of stretching that involves exaggerated movements in otherwise normal exercise poses. Its purpose is to push the body beyond what it is normally capable of in terms of movement.

If performed incorrectly or too frequently, ballistic stretching can result in injury. People should only practice it if they are certain of the process.

How do I practice ballistic stretching?

Ballistic stretching is intense and should be practiced with caution. It is practiced by “bouncing” toward the muscle that is being stretched. The motions involved are often uncoordinated and completely random, whereas motions in less strenuous exercises are very coordinated.

One example may include constantly touching your toes by bouncing the rest of your body back and forth. The result: the body works extra hard through difficult movements to create a reaction from the muscles that are stretching.

If not done correctly, this pre-workout stretch could have detrimental wear on the muscles instead of promoting healthy growth. In some cases, it could lead to injury.

Common people who frequently practice it include athletes like dancers or acrobats.

What are the benefits of ballistic stretching?

Most people practice ballistic stretching to improve muscle performance in sports. One study concluded it improved the flexibility and vertical jump in basketball players when combined with 20 minutes of basketball play. For athletes, these kinds of results are huge.

Ballistic stretching, however, likely has an increased risk for injury, according to the American Sports and Fitness Association. The association explains that repeated, uncoordinated stretching can tear muscles and even damage soft tissues, due to an undefined range of motion. Therefore, ballistic stretching is typically a more common practice among professional athletes, rather than non-athletes.

Final Thoughts

Because ballistic stretching can be risky, seeking professional advice from a physical trainer is a way to ensure safety while exercising. If you are considering implementing it into your everyday workout routine, you might want to reconsider. Using this type of stretch to get rid of shin splints, for example, would be too strenuous. There are alternative forms of stretching with reduced health risks, including:

  • Dynamic stretching: gradually increasing reach
  • Active stretching: holding the body in place using its natural strength
  • Passive stretching: holding reach with the help of other body parts or other people

Physical trainers or doctors will be able to provide other stretching alternatives as needed. It is safest to only practice stretching that you and your body are comfortable doing.

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