Ballistic Stretching: Helpful or Dangerous?

Like almost all other fitness-related subjects, stretching has as many myths and misconceptions as truths. Ballistic stretching is one subcategory which is often misunderstood, and can be dangerous if done incorrectly. You need to know the truth about ballistic stretching to avoid seriously injuring yourself or others.

What is Ballistic Stretching?

Ballistic stretching is a form of stretching that uses an outside force to move a body part beyond its normal range of motion. Usually this force is momentum created by rapidly swinging a body part in a certain direction. The momentum is able to stretch a muscle farther than it would normally be able to go, and spring back into its normal range of motion, shortening quickly. Repetition of this motion causes a bouncing motion, which is why this is sometimes called bounce-stretching.

An example would be a forward leg kick. When a person moves their leg as high as they can while keeping it straight, they’ll rarely be able to get it even waist high. However, if they kick the leg quickly enough, its momentum will carry the leg quite high and stretch the muscles beyond their normal range, as compared to normal “passive” or “static” stretching, which involves slow, gradual stretching of various muscles, followed by a period of holding the stretch.

Why It’s Dangerous

Being able to stretch your muscles extra far very quickly might sound like a good thing, but it is not. Our bodies have limits for good reasons. Ballistic stretching is a good way to pull muscles. Extreme ballistic stretching has even been known to remove muscle from the bone it is attached to. Stretching a muscle beyond its normal capacity will inevitably tear it. Any possible benefits of ballistic stretching are quickly outweighed by the dangers, especially in the sedentary population. If you are not an athlete, avoid ballistic stretching.


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