If you are a serious athlete, pre-exercise stretching will certainly be a major part of your routine, especially if you are about to take part in a big game.
There are countless approaches to stretching and each technique works in a different way. The most widespread approach is static stretching, which we are all taught from an early age when engaging in any sort of exercise.
But have you ever heard of ballistic stretching? You might be surprised by its many benefits.
What is ballistic stretching?
Ballistic stretching uses the momentum of a moving body or limb in an attempt to force it beyond its normal range of motion. In a nutshell you stretch by bouncing into or out of a stretched position.
What are the benefits of ballistic stretching?
The core purpose of ballistic stretching is to increase your range of motion, hence why the approach is extremely popular amongst dancers, basketball players and footballers.
By increasing your range of motion you’ll be able to jump higher and kick with more force, amongst other things, so the benefits of ballistic stretching can certainly lead to improved performance within the sporting arena. This is why ballistic stretching is particularly popular amongst professional athletes.
How it works
Rather than remaining static, in ballistic stretching you use your muscles as a springboard to pull you out of a stretched position. A common example of ballistic stretching is to repeatedly bounce up and down while bending over and touching your toes.
How is it different to other stretching methods?
Ballistic stretching is different to other stretching routines primarily because it pushes muscles beyond their usual range of motion.
Other methods like dynamic and static stretching don’t involve any bouncing or jerking and they are designed to purely heat muscles up rather than increase your range of motion.
What exercises can you do?
Now that you know more about ballistic stretching and the benefits it can present in your life, it’s time to dive right in and give it a go.
(Note for caution: Ballistic stretching pushes you to your limits, but if you start to feel pain during any of these exercises, stop and check your form. If pain persists, consult your GP or physiothearpist.)
Toe touching swing
Place your feet shoulder width apart and slowly bend down to touch your toes. Unlike a static stretching routine where you would hold this position for a few seconds, you need to repeatedly bounce down to touch your toes in a spring like motion.
Forward leg swing
Hold onto something that provides you with both support and enough room to swing your leg back and forth in front of you. Flex and extend one leg and slowly swing it back and forth, gradually doing larger swings with each rep. Once you have done it ten times on one leg it’s time to switch it up.
Find a piece of equipment that you can rest and elevate your leg on in front of you – a table is a good choice. Once your leg is stretched out, straighten your back and repeatedly reach over to touch your toes. After you have felt a good stretch, switch to the other leg.
Bent over torso swing
This stretch is designed to prepare multiple muscles for improvement. Simply place your legs shoulder width apart and spread your arms so you are in a star-like position. Bend down and touch your right leg with your left arm and then rotate your torso so you touch your left leg with your right arm. Repeat this processes until you start to feel looser.
Ballistic stretching presents a wealth of benefits to athletes by increasing their overall performance and improving dynamic flexibility. Try it out today!
Featured photo credit: IM Free via flickr.com