Static Stretching and Dynamic (Ballistic) Stretching
Why you should stretch, what is the difference, and which one should you do?
Why should you stretch?
A mistake that many exercisers and athletes make is forgoing stretching and directly engaging with workouts cold. While stretching isn’t the most enjoyable thing, the benefits of stretching are well worth the time. Such benefits include increased range of motion, but more importantly enabling optimal safety and performance!
What is the difference between STATIC and DYNAMIC stretching?
Think back to PE classes in elementary, middle, and high school. You would sit down, extend one of your legs and grab your foot to stretch your hamstring and calf. Or you would bring both feet together while standing, and reach for the ground. This is your classic static stretch. The primary goal is to “elongate the muscle” in order to lessen the likelihood of a strain or pull. On the other hand, dynamic stretching involves movement based stretching such as light cardio, or ballistic movements such as quick and repetitive jumps to “get the blood flowing”. Classic movements involve jumping jacks, air squats, and windmills. For Crossfitters particularly, using the rowers, bikes, or ski ergs as part of our light cardio is perfect for increasing the blood flow and getting a light sweat in.
Which one should you do?
I’ll cut to the chase and skip the science; while stretching in general is better than not stretching at all, dynamic stretching should be done BEFORE the workout, and static stretching should be done AFTER workout. This is because dynamic stretching increases blood flow, which is a direct cause of increased body temperature and tendon elasticity. This also decreases the risk of injury by 35%, per a 2008 study of 2000 athletes. Furthermore, a 2011 study showed that 20 minutes of dynamic stretching yielded a “65% reduction of gradual-onset injuries, 56% reduction of acute non-contact injuries, and a 66% reduction in noncontact ankle sprains”.
We know that static stretching elongates the muscle, but once you engage in the workout (lifting, Hiit, etc), you contract your muscles; essentially, you are stretching the muscle only to tighten it back up.
Furthermore, a recent study suggests that static stretching while cold (that is, without ample blood flow paired with cold body temperatures) can increase the chance for a muscle tear. This makes sense, as elongating the muscle weakens it, which can cause microscopic or even full blown tears if the muscle tissue can’t handle the weight load.
Thus, static stretching should be done AFTER your workout, as it can provide recovery benefits, such as muscle recovery, muscle relaxation and increased joint mobility, but in a much safer environment as your body is still warm and your blood flow is at its peak.
Conclusion (my warm-up/stretch routine)
I can safely say that switching to dynamic stretching (if you don’t do it already) is essential, and I strongly urge you to do so. Whether that be using the rower, bike, air squats, leg swings, just start MOVING AROUND and get that blood flow and sweat going!
Personally, I have found that starting off on the Assault Bike, and biking 200m is sufficient enough to stimulate blood flow. From there, I hop on the rower and accumulate ~250m, which should be enough to get some sweat. Afterwards, I use the PVC pipe to roll out specific areas that needs to be stretched, and the lacrosse ball to target the thoracic region of my back to increase my overhead range of motion (snatches, for example).
– Intern Sean Hu