Ballistic stretching is the act of bouncing at the end of a stretch position. When I played youth sports, we would warm up and then perform ballistic stretching. In physical therapy school and the early years of my career as a Physical Therpist (PT), I learned ballistic stretching was harmful. Since then I have kept up with stretching related research, and in general, ballistic stretching can be both good and bad.
Potential benefits of ballistic stretching include:
- Stretching muscle beyond standard stretching techniques
- Improved tendon elasticity
- Less soreness than static stretching
- Increased levels of blood circulation
Sounds great, and it has tremendous support in the medical literature to be used with healthy individuals. However, individuals that are rehabilitating an injury may be better served using slow active or static stretch techniques. Ballistic stretching can harm muscle, tendons, and potentially ligaments that are in the process of healing following an injury. Play it safe and avoid ballistic stretching to any injured muscles or body parts. When an injury is well healed and you have reached your prior level of function, then ballistic stretching may be a good stretch option. The amount of bounce at the end range should be related to your overall age and activity level. Stiffer and older individuals should initially perform smaller bounces. Any stretch is better than no stretch, so if you are having trouble with rehabilitating an injury or unable to comfortably stretch a tight area, contact a physical therapist or call OrthoKnox Physical Therapy (865)251-3044.
Written by: Michael Hoag, PT, DPT, MBA, OCS, MTC