01 May 2011 ~ 2 Comments

Dynamic Versus Static Stretching

I love the Health and Fitness Industry because things are always changing and (mostly) improving.  Guidelines that we took as gospel in the early days of fitness and weight-training were blown away a few years later with a new theory, only to be refuted itself with new research a few years after that; and so the cycle goes.  

  • The best way to do sit-ups (straight back and legs) became the surefire way to hurt one’s back, and we found out about better “core” exercises;
  • The perfect way to stretch (bouncing) turned into a guaranteed way to pull a muscle, and we learned about safe stretching.

 We are constantly learning (if we choose to).

In previous posts I have brought new ideas and research to you; and this post is going to discuss the current thinking on stretching.  To be honest the research on Dynamic versus Static stretching has been around for a few years but mostly among athletic coaches /universities and not really in the mainstream.  It needs to be!!

I will preface this with a couple of points:

  • We all know we need to stretch to avoid injury in sport and to remain flexible into our advanced years. 
  • There are many variations of stretching – going beyond the two types in this post.  Since almost everyone does static stretching these days, I will not over-engineer this post with all the other variations.  I will focus on Static and Dynamic and why and when to use each.
  • Don’t be surprised if the examples of Dynamic Stretching are familiar – somewhere in the recesses of your memories of high school PT class.  What’s old is ‘sort of’ new again?

Why do we even care about a new kind of stretching?  Don’t we ignore the single kind we know about already?  Now we are told there is another type of stretching  –  something else for us to forget to include in our workout schedule.

Well read 0n.  Dynamic stretching makes so much sense I feel sure you will relate to it.


Static Stretching – consists of stretching a muscle (or group of muscles) to its farthest point and then maintaining or holding that position.  It increases flexibility and specific range of motion (ROM). In static stretching, you hold a stretch and try to go beyond the initial stretch position.  You ease into it – nothing forced!

Dynamic Stretching – involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both.  Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion;  there are no bounces or “jerky” movements. An example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists.  Again nothing is forced.

Why the attention on dynamic stretching now – and why not continue to use the static stretches?   There is  a very good reason to do dynamic and avoid static stretching prior to athletic training/performance.  This is especially true if your choice of sport is running, jumping, soccer, football, resistance training etc – any sport/activity that is movement based. 

To be honest, having viewed a number of examples of dynamic stretching it looks like the activities we would do prior to school sports;  what we called “warm-ups”.  

There is now scientific research to back up this type of warm-up, and more important to identify good and bad warm-up exercises.

Research has shown that static stretching prior to athletic event, not only can decrease performance, it can also increase the chance of injury;  that static stretching  before a workout deactivates muscles and makes them weaker.   Quite the opposite of what we believed, and quite a revelation.   The same studies showed that dynamic stretching generally increased performance and reduced the occurrence of injury.

The US Army study which looked at the effect of stretching on selected measures of power and agility,  showed that with dynamic stretching “ injury rates over the 9-week training period were significantly decreased compared with both a control battalion and historic trends. Performance on physical fitness testing generally was improved”.   (KNAPIK, et al  – Injury and fitness outcomes during implementation of physical readiness training. Int. J. Sports Med. 24:372–381. 2003.).

This does not mean that Dynamic Stretching should replace Static Stretching; it does mean that each has its place and value.  And the general consensus from the articles and studies I came across is that you should:

         Do  dynamic stretching prior to the exercise session/athletic activity; and

         Use the static stretch following the activity to relax the muscles and keep one’s flexibility.

I think of Dynamic Stretching more as “Dynamic Warm-up”  and the Static Stretching as the “Cool-down Stretching” .

In the next blog post I will give a set of dynamic stretching exercises and also mention some to avoid.

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