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Ballistic vs Static Stretching: Which is Best?

 
 
Back in the day if you walked past a track field you would see endless athletes stretching. They would be sitting on the ground reaching for their toes or pulling their feet toward their butts to stretch out their quads. In all they would be engaging in static stretching, the classic image of what people used to think was the best way to prepare for physical activity. Today however the current opinion is that static stretching is bad; instead people are advised to go with ballistic stretching. In today's article we'll take a look at what ballistic stretching is, and whether it really is superior to static stretching.
 
First off, why stretch? Simply put, it's the best way to prevent injury. By stretching you warm up the body, get the blood flowing, and prepare your muscles and joints for strenuous activity. Stretching improves your performance, keeps you healthy, and maintains flexibility which is crucial as you become older.
 
From the description above, can you already begin to guess why static stretching might not be the best for you? Static stretching is where you basically hold a stretch, seeking to elongate the muscles and tendons so as to loosen them up. However, studies have shown that this elongation can actually weaken the muscles, hampering their effectiveness in exercise. Further, this weakening can make you more prone to injury, so that you actually hurt yourself more for stretching this way.
 
What is ballistic stretching? Ballistic stretching involves warming your body through a series of light exercises that get your core temperature up and your blood pumping. These can involve any combination of activities from jumping jacks to jogging on the spot, from swinging your arms as you hug yourself to doing squats with no weights. The goal with ballistic stretching is to activate the muscles that you will soon be using by engaging them in light, full range of motion exercises that get them prepped for the workout.
 
Does that mean there is no place for static stretching in your workout? Hardly! Instead of beginning your workout with these stretches, try ending them with them instead. After a workout your muscles will be pumped and feeling tight, and that is the perfect time to give them a gentle static stretch. Take the opportunity to do what you normally would do before to lengthen and relax your muscles. Doing so can help ease potential future soreness and improve your long term performance by helping you maintain a high level of flexibility.