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Ballistic Stretching: Definition, Examples, and Uses

What is Ballistic Stretching?

Ballistic stretching is an approach in which trainees perform more powerful, jerky movements and allow the generated momentum to force that part of the body beyond its natural range of motion. The stretch is held momentarily, allowing the muscles to stretch in a bouncing motion. This approach is sometimes used to improve flexibility more quickly but carries a higher risk.

Ballistic vs. Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

  • Ballistic stretching – using momentum generated from sudden and jerky movements to stretch a muscle to its limit. Each stretch is held for a split second.
  • Static stretching – lengthening a muscle to a point of moderate discomfort and holding the position for a longer period, typically 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Dynamic stretching – somewhat similar to ballistic stretching but with more controlled movements. The muscles are lengthened to a moderate degree, and each stretch is held for around one second.

Examples of Ballistic Stretching

  • Leg swings – while typically a form of dynamic stretching, swinging each leg with more force and pushing to increase the range of motion falls within the definition of ballistic stretching.
  • Toe touches – reach down to touch your toes with your legs straight. Once in this position, perform small bounces to reach further and further.
  • Standing offset toe touches – this is the same as the previous one, with the primary difference being that one leg is positioned in front of the other, causing the hamstring of the bag leg to stretch more.
  • Deep squat bounces – dive into a deep squat with heels planted on the floor and bounce to get as low as possible, feeling an intense stretch in the adductors.
  • Standing torso rotations – stand tall with arms straight and to the sides. Forcefully rotate to each side, trying to twist your torso as much as possible while keeping the lower body stationary.

Is Ballistic Stretching Safe?

The primary issue with ballistic stretching is the injury risk. 

Performing more forceful movements and pushing muscles, joints, and connective tissues beyond their natural range of motion can lead to pain and injuries. This is particularly true for previously sedentary people who don’t have much flexibility.

Because of that, most trainees don’t need ballistic stretching, as it:

  1. Wouldn’t offer benefits static and dynamic stretching can’t deliver
  2. Would put them at risk

Even if someone needs to increase their range of motion, safer methods like static and dynamic stretching and foam rolling can get the job done. 

Top-level athletes who need more flexibility can benefit from ballistic stretching under the supervision of an experienced coach. That said, not all athletes need this type of stretching because not all sports require an extended range of motion.


1. Who should avoid ballistic stretching?

People relatively new to exercise, those experiencing joint or muscle stiffness, and athletes who don’t need extra range of motion should avoid ballistic stretching.

2. When should athletes do ballistic stretching?

Ballistic stretching should be part of the warm-up sequence before training. That way, it can provide immediate range of motion benefits and prepare athletes for their workouts.

3. Should ballistic stretching replace static and dynamic stretching?

Ballistic stretching should not replace static or dynamic stretching but complement them. It’s also best to limit ballistic stretching, as it places more stress on the body and can lead to an injury if overdone.

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