As athletes, we’re always trying to maximize our athletic performances, so it’s important to have a comprehensive approach to training that addresses both strength and flexibility. While static stretching is great for increasing flexibility, there's another type of stretching we can incorporate into our recovery and warm up protocols to enhance performance: ballistic stretching.
What is ballistic stretching?
If you’ve never really looked into ballistic stretching before, here’s the basics. Ballistic stretching is a type of stretching that involves rapid and repetitive bouncing movements. This type of stretching involves using the momentum of the body to push the muscles beyond their normal range of motion. Ballistic stretching is often used by athletes in activities that require explosive movements, such as running, jumping, and throwing.
The benefits of ballistic stretching for athletes
Research has shown that ballistic stretching can lead to significant improvements in flexibility, power, and performance. One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that athletes who incorporated ballistic stretching into their warm-up routine were able to jump higher, run faster, and perform better on agility tests compared to athletes who only did static stretching.
Another study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that athletes who did ballistic stretching exercises for their quadriceps had a significant improvement in their vertical jump height, suggesting that ballistic stretching can lead to increased power output.
Additionally, ballistic stretching has been found to increase the elasticity of the muscles and improve neuromuscular control, both of which can help reduce the risk of injury during athletic activities.
A ballistic stretching protocol for athletes
If you're looking to incorporate ballistic stretching into your training routine, here's a protocol you can follow:
- Warm-up: Begin with a light aerobic warm-up to increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles for stretching.
- Static stretching: Perform 5-10 minutes of gentle static stretching to help loosen up your muscles and prepare them for the ballistic stretching.
- Ballistic stretching: Choose 2-3 ballistic stretching exercises that target the muscles you'll be using during your workout or competition. For example, if you're a runner, you may want to focus on exercises that target your legs and calf muscles. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute, focusing on using the momentum of your body to push the muscles beyond their normal range of motion. For some inspiration on ballistic stretching for runners we found this great video… link
- Cool down: Finish your workout with a few minutes of light aerobic exercise and static stretching to help your muscles recover.
It's important to note that ballistic stretching can be more intense than static stretching, so it's important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your stretches over time. Additionally, ballistic stretching should be avoided if you have any injuries or joint issues.
Ballistic stretching is a powerful tool that can help athletes improve their flexibility, power, and performance. By incorporating ballistic stretching exercises into their training routine, athletes can gain a competitive edge and reduce the risk of injury during athletic activities. To get started with ballistic stretching, follow the protocol outlined above and remember to start slowly and listen to your body. With practice, you'll be on your way to explosive gains in no time.