What is Ballistic Stretching?
Newer and power packed methods of exercises are becoming increasingly popular among both professional athletes and amateurs. Ballistic stretching is one such special form of exercise. The word ballistic comes from the Greek word “ballein”, which means “to throw or hurl.” Ballistic exercise is characterized by repeated rapid and jerky bouncing movements. These repetitive rapid and bouncing movements are used to stretch the targeted muscle group and joints beyond the normal ranges of movement. The momentum which is generated by rapid rebounding movements forces the body to surpass its normal range of movement [ROM].
The muscles during ballistics act like a spring alternating between a stretched stance and quick contractions. This results in an explosive muscle action and aims to extract a better performance in professional sports. Ballistic exercises are a series of eccentric contractions [active lengthening of muscle] followed by concentric contractions [active shortening of muscle]. Most active sports such as gymnastics, martial arts,weight lifting, football, basketball require ballistic movements.Hence ballistic stretching enhances sport-specific flexibility.
It is understood that if a muscle is stretched immediately before it is shortened concentrically, then the force generated is greater than a concentric contraction alone. This is due to the energy stored in the muscles and tendons.
For athletes, such as football players, martial artists, golf or basketball players, ballistic stretching can help increase their range of motion, which may be beneficial for their performance. An athlete may use ballistic stretching to jump higher or kick with more force. Plyometric exercise also known as "jump training" is very popular among youngsters.
In other forms of stretching like dynamic stretching, it is not required to stretch the body beyond the usual range of motions. It does not involve movements of jerking and bouncing either. In static stretching, one stretches the muscles past their comfort zones and holds the body in the stretched position for a few seconds unlike ballistic exercises where there is a repetitive movement.
The downside in doing ballistic stretches is that, without properly warming up the muscles, the jerky movements can cause sprain or a tear in the tendons or connective tissue that joins the muscles. It can also result in joint instability, dislocation and subluxation, if the ligaments are continuously overstretched. Also, repeatedly triggering the myotatic reflex [stretch reflex], which is an automatic response of the body to stretch stimulus to prevent muscle tear, may cause the muscles to tighten up. Hence, amateurs and the older age groups are advised to refrain from such exercises.
- The Standing Lunge- This stretch is beneficial especially for the gluteal muscles and quadriceps.
Keep one foot forward, with the arms loose at the sides or above the shoulders. Now bend the foot forward and plummet forward rapidly trying to outreach the normal movement range. The other foot should be bent behind, and the body weight should be on the heel of the forward foot. Return to the initial position and repeat the stretch with the other leg.
- Standing Toe Stretch- This exercise stretches the hamstrings. Standing upright, start bouncing and jerk down to touch the toes repeatedly trying to exceed the normal range of movement.
- Sitting Toe Stretch- Sit on a mat or floor with the upper body straight and legs stretched out in front. Now, touch the ankles with the hands with repeated and quick movements.
- Shoulder Rotations- This is very useful for baseball pitchers to improve chest muscle flexibility. Stand in an upright posture and extend both the arms to the sides and straighten them. The palms should face the roof and elbows should be a little flexed. Now, flex the shoulders to move the arms behind repeatedly.
- Swinging Exercises for Arm- This is another pose that is not too hard to try out! You need to stand with both legs slightly bent. The feet should be hip-width apart. Ensure the back is straight. Now, swing both the arms on the sides and next cross them in front.
- Swinging Exercises for Legs- Stand sideways and keep an arm’s distance from the wall. Now, put the body weight on the left leg and keep the right palm on the wall to maintain balance. Then, swing the right leg forward and backward for several rounds. Repeat with other leg.
- Swinging Exercises for Chest Muscles- Stand with the legs a foot apart and both the legs kept bent. Maintain an erect back. Now, swing both the arms repeatedly to an overhead position. Then swing the arms forward and backward.
- Forward Bending Exercises with Elevation- Stand upright and put right leg on elevation to front. Keep legs straight. With back straight, bend over and repeatedly reach forward to touch toes of right foot. Repeat with left leg.
- It challenges athletes to continuously improve upon their abilities and set newer records. The body gets pushed beyond its comfort zone. Ballistic exercises are ideal for physically intensive activities.
- Increased Levels of Flexibility: Sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, martial arts and gymnastics demand increasingly high levels of flexibility. Ballistic stretching helps to improve flexibility by pushing muscles through a wide range of motions. A pre-workout ballistic stretching session trains the muscles for high impact activity. Hence for physically intensive activities, a quick warm up of ballistic stretches is highly beneficial. One study investigating the effects of ballistic stretching combined with basketball activity on vertical jump (VJ) height discovered that VJ increased significantly.
- Improved Tendon Elasticity: Research in sports medicine indicates that ballistic stretching is helpful for people with tight hamstrings. Also, research on Achilles tendons shows that ballistic stretching exercise results in a significant reduction in Achilles tendon stiffness.
4. Less Muscle Soreness than other forms of stretching exercises. Stretching studies show that ballistic exercises induced significantly less muscle soreness than static stretching.
5. Enhances Motor Performance of the Muscles. A 5-10 minute warm up routine is very important before engaging in ballistic stretching. Athletes who perform ballistic stretches suffer less muscle soreness than those who practice static stretching. The exercises emulate actions specific to one’s sports. This helps in improving upon one’s performance. Over time, this tones the muscles and joints to fire faster and with more force and power. Ballistic stretching is viewed as the best form of warm up workout by many athletes, According to athletes, the best time to give static stretch a shot is after the muscles have been made flexible enough.
6. Improved Blood Circulation: Ballistic stretching warms up the body through a series of rigorous exercises, which increase the rate of blood flow in all parts of the body. This supplies the body with higher levels of oxygen, promoting faster healing of tissues. Some trainers are of the opinion that one should start with static stretches and then switch to ballistic stretches.
7. Banishes Feeling of Lethargy: When one feels tired or groggy during the day ballistic stretches pep you up and charge the body with more energy. They increase the body’s energy levels. Also, the high intensity workouts have high calorie burn outs which keep one’s weight in check as an increase in weight also makes a person lethargic.
Start the routine with slower and smaller ballistic movements. Gradually increase the speed with larger ballistic movements. The transition from low velocity to high velocity will let the body get accustomed to high impacts and make one less vulnerable to injury.
- What are the different types of stretching techniques? - (https://www.acefitness.org/blog/2966/what-are-the-different-types-of-stretching)
- Yoga Is as Good as Stretching-Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26297940)
- Effects of acute static, ballistic, and PNF stretching exercise on the muscle and tendon tissue properties. - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27367916)
- Acute Effects of Static vs. Ballistic Stretching on Strength and Muscular Fatigue Between Ballet Dancers and Resistance-Trained Women. - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27548798)
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Dr. Sunita Chowdhary. (2020, July 30). Top 7 Benefits of Ballistic Stretching. Medindia. Retrieved on Dec 08, 2022 from https://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/top-7-benefits-of-ballistic-stretching.htm.
Dr. Sunita Chowdhary. "Top 7 Benefits of Ballistic Stretching". Medindia. Dec 08, 2022. <https://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/top-7-benefits-of-ballistic-stretching.htm>.
Dr. Sunita Chowdhary. "Top 7 Benefits of Ballistic Stretching". Medindia. https://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/top-7-benefits-of-ballistic-stretching.htm. (accessed Dec 08, 2022).
Dr. Sunita Chowdhary. 2021. Top 7 Benefits of Ballistic Stretching. Medindia, viewed Dec 08, 2022, https://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/top-7-benefits-of-ballistic-stretching.htm.
Latest Publications and Research on Top 7 Benefits of Ballistic Stretching
- Does stretch training induce muscle hypertrophy in humans? A review of the literature. - Published by PubMed
- Effects of Strengthening and Stretching Exercises on the Temporospatial Gait Parameters in Patients With Plantar Fasciitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. - Published by PubMed
- Effects of perioperative pelvic floor muscle training on early recovery of urinary continence and erectile function in men undergoing radical prostatectomy: a randomized clinical trial. - Published by PubMed