There is often confusion between the two types of stretching methods. As I work with young athletes, I get to explain the fundamental difference between static stretching vs dynamic stretching.
Why do we perform stretches in the first place?
Our goal with stretching is to lengthen the muscle and surrounding connective tissue in a safe and effective manner. This will help us improve our joint range of motion (ROM) which will subsequently help us minimize our risk of injury.
There are two main methods of flexibility training. This is where we come to the classic static stretching vs dynamic stretching comparison.
First thing you need to remember is that these stretches are more effective after a thorough warm-up, when the body temperature is elevated. When your muscles are warmer, they are more pliable.
We’ll start with static stretching. During this type of stretch, you want to take a specific joint (i.e. your shoulder joint) through a ROM to a comfortable end point. You want to hold this stretch for about 20-30 seconds. Static stretching will help you overcome the stretch reflex-this is the automatic tightening of a muscle you feel when you stretch. The muscle usually relaxes after roughly 20 seconds.
Advantages of Static Stretching:
- Very safe
- Can be done in any environment without any equipment
- Can be used by anyone
Disadvantages of Static Stretching:
- Only improves flexibility at a specific body position
- Not effective for those wanting to increase flexibility in multiple ROMs
Next, we need to take a look at dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching uses dynamic movements to take a muscle through its full range of motion. When performed correctly, dynamic stretching warms up the joints, maintains current flexibility and reduces muscle tension. This method of stretching is best prior to any activity that is movement-based.
Advantages of Dynamic Stretching:
- Extremely useful for people warming up for an activity that requires wide ROM (i.e. athletes), especially when speed is involved
Disadvantages of Dynamic Stretching:
- Not safe for everyone. Should be used only by those who have been shown the proper movements
- Injury is more common during this type of stretching technique
My recommendation is to perform dynamic stretches before a workout and static stretches after the workout. Studies have shown that static stretching before a workout deactivates muscles and makes them weaker. This is not what we want prior to resistance training.
Hopefully this has helped you understand the difference between static stretching vs dynamic stretching.
Read more about the benefits of flexibility training.