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Ballistic and static stretching, two of the most common pre-activity warmup routines, can actually be detrimental to your workouts, games, practices or matches. Both can desensitize your muscles and increase your risk of injury. Avoiding the short bounces associated with ballistic stretching and saving prolonged static stretches until after activity helps you improve your performance and fitness.
Ballistic stretching occurs when you perform repeated, rapid movements that stretch your muscles slightly past their comfortable range of motion. An example would be bending over to touch your toes and bouncing your fingertips off your shoes or the ground.
Static stretching also requires you to move your muscle just past their comfortable range of motion, but instead of quickly retracting the stretch, you hold it steady for 20 to 30 seconds. As you stretch, you might continue to move your stretch gradually forward before a few more inches. You can do static stretches with a partner who gently moves you farther than you can yourself. For example, while lying on your back, raise your leg toward your head as far as you can. When you move your leg as far as you can, have a partner put his hand on your foot and continue to slowly move your leg toward your head until you tell him to stop.
Static stretching helps lengthen muscles after they have been shortened during physical activity. This helps promote flexibility for later activity and helps some people feel less sore after strenuous physical activity. Ballistic stretching has little or no value that outweighs its dangers, according to organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine.
Static stretching can temporarily desensitize your muscles, decreasing your power and vertical leap for 15 minutes or longer. Static stretching before exercise can also relieve muscle aches and pain that might be sending a signal that you should not exercise, increasing your risk for injury. Ballistic stretching can also desensitize your muscles by repeated lengthening before activity, and because of the high speed of the movements, can lead you to stretching too far, possibly tearing or straining a muscle.
Warm up before physical activity with a variety of moderately intense dynamic movements, such as jogging in place, arm circles, skipping and jumping jacks. This warms your muscles and increases blood flow to them. Finish your workouts with static stretching, and perform stretching on days when you don't exercise to help increase flexibility.