For many of us, P.E. class in elementary and middle school involved stretching of some sort, and usually involved stretches such as reaching down to touch your toes, or doing a hurdle stretch.
While there is nothing wrong with these stretches, the bouncing motion that was often involved can actually be more harmful, if not done correctly. For decades, that seemed to be the correct way to stretch, as it seemed to really be warming up the muscles, but there is a better and improved way of stretching that helps keep the muscles and tendons safe called the dynamic stretch.
While ballistic stretching could be compared to dynamic stretching, in that they both are complicated movements and are a stretch that athletes or athletic people can do, they are very different, and should not be confused with each other.
Ballistic stretching is an “intense stretching method using bouncing movements to push your body beyond its normal range of motion.” The bouncing is usually done several times over the span of the stretch. An example would be reaching down to touch your toes, and instead of staying in that position for 30 seconds and giving those muscles a long stretch, you bounce up and down in a jerking sort of manner. While this does stretch the muscles, if not done properly or carefully, it can tear small muscle fibers and damage the muscle tissue around joints and tendons, causing stiffness or pain.
Dynamic stretching involves movement just like ballistic stretching, but the big difference is that it is a controlled movement and does not push the body’s limits like ballistic stretching can. Dynamic stretching is widely popular with athletes and professionals as it involves movement that is similar to movements that will be used in the following activity or sport.
There are several benefits of this type of stretching. It engages similar muscles that will be used in the workout, it can improve a person’s range of motion and increase flexibility, it can improve one’s awareness of their body’s limits, and it can also enhance a person’s muscular power (meaning doing a dynamic stretch can help the body lift more weight or perform better compared to doing a different type of stretch).
Overall, each person knows their body the best and what works well for them, but it is always good to do some research and try new things. Making sure that we are helping our bodies reach their full potential is important especially if you’re an athlete or enjoy being active.
Finding a good stretch that keeps your muscles and ligaments healthy and working properly is going to really improve a person’s overall performance and flexibility, and keep you healthy and ready to work hard at whatever exercise or workout you put it through.
Marlena Vargas De Leon is a recent Walla Walla University graduate and currently the Wellness Center Intern for the summer. Graduating with a degree in Fitness Management, she plans to continue on and join the Army.