Ballistic or static stretches? Discover the differences

The stretches are a crucial part of any workout, no matter how light it is. Both at the beginning and at the end of the session, we should spend a few minutes stretching. When we do it at the beginning we get the muscles and joints to warm up, it helps us to activate the body, while the stretching after training serves to relax the muscles after the effort made. In both cases, they help prevent injuries, but … are ballistic stretches better or should we give priority to static stretches?

What are ballistic stretches?

If we get technical, we can say that ballistic stretches are those where the inertia of a part of the body is used to achieve a range of motion higher than normal in one or more joints.  In other words, they are a series of bounces or oscillations where we execute the maximum possible range of movement at a certain speed (throws, swings, jumps and bounces). They are active stretches, where in addition to the muscles and joints involved, the tendons also intervene, something that is not achieved with static stretching.

They are also known as kinetic stretches precisely because of that energetic movement, but we cannot confuse them with classic dynamic stretching. In both stretches we move, but the movement is different: the dynamic does not go beyond the range of movement of the muscle, the ballistic does. One of the most popular examples of ballistic stretching is where we touch our toes by bouncing off that position and exerting a new pull towards the feet.

And what are static stretching?

Unlike what happens in ballistic stretching, static stretches work the muscle at rest, paced with adequate breathing, and are perfect for recovering after an intense workout. It is true that as we exhale we must try to stretch it a little more, but it is a static exercise, where the movement will be minimal. In fact, the muscles practically do not intervene, and the energy expenditure is almost zero in contrast to that of ballistic stretching, where there is energy consumption.

With these static stretches we get the muscles to relax at a deep level, which gives way to an increase in blood supply. Here it is convenient to establish the differences between active and passive static stretching. When we talk about an active static stretch, we work with the antagonistic muscle; if it is a passive static stretch, the help of an external element such as a wall, a chair, a fence or a partner is used. In both cases, the goal is to bring the muscle to a comfortable limit.

Ballistic or static stretches: which is better?

Now that we are clear about the differences between ballistic and static stretching, it is time to decide which of the two is better to follow a perfect stretching routine. The answer may be surprising, but there is no better type of stretch than another: depending on the person and the circumstances, it will be preferable to do one type of stretch or another. Depending on the time of the session in which we are, it will be preferable to perform some stretches or others, but other issues such as the sport that we do also influence.

For example, a priori performing cold ballistic stretching, where the muscle goes beyond what is usual, can even be counterproductive since we are demanding too much of it. However, in sports such as dance or martial arts, they seem more suitable than static stretching. In any case, they are two perfectly compatible types of stretches, which you can include in your dynamics and daily routines of pre and post training stretching. The important thing is to stretch well both before and after training to perform at your best and avoid the appearance of the dreaded injuries.