Ballistic Stretching – Is It Safe?

If you’ve never heard of ballistic stretching, it’s probably because it’s done mostly by athletes, but has now become part of the average person’s exercise world. It uses the benefit of bouncing movements to stretch the muscles beyond the normal range of motion. Is it safe for the average person to do? While athletes, such as football players and dancers, find this exercise beneficial, they’re in far better shape than the average person working out in the gym.

Unlike traditional stretches, ballistic stretching is performed faster.

You may use the same stretching exercises to perform both traditional stretching and ballistic stretching, but the way you do each will differ. Unlike the slow, gradual stretching most people do, ballistic stretching is done rapidly with a bouncing type rhythm to push even further. If you’ve ever tried to touch your toes and only gotten half way there, so stood up and tried a second time, you’ll see improvement. The person using a ballistic stretching technique doesn’t stand up and slowly try the stretch again, but uses bouncing motions to extend the reach to their feet.

Ballistic stretching takes a shortcut to flexibility.

Every muscle has a neuro-style sensor that tells when there’s too much tension on it. The minute the signal goes off, the muscle contracts and protects the joint from injury. You short circuit that process when you do ballistic stretching and bypass the sensor by using quick bounding movements. The muscles then stretch further than they would under normal circumstances.

Static stretching—normal stretching—is better for non-athletes.

Athletes are in better shape, it’s part of their job to be that way. The average person doing ballistic stretching is normally not in that good of shape. Forced stretching movements can cause injury to the soft tissues, ligaments and tendons, at the joints. It can cause smaller tears in the muscles that reduce the flexibility or even cause tendinitis. Both the AAOS—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the ACSM—American College of Sports Medicine—recommend against the bouncing style of stretching.

– Certain stretches can actually be more beneficial when using the ballistic technique, if done correctly. Stretching the muscles at the back of the legs this way can help people with tight hamstrings.

– If using the ballistic technique, get proper guidance on form to prevent injury.

– If you feel pain when using the ballistic technique to stretch, stop. Pain is an indicator you’re doing something wrong or pushed the muscle too far.

-Stretching the muscles too fast and too far can cause the muscle to contract involuntarily. That makes it counterproductive to the concept of stretching.

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