Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching

HumanWindow Staff
By HumanWindow Staff
Updated on October 17, 2020
Expert Content

There are several different types of Stretching, all of which can be great for improving flexibility and other things. But what about Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching?

If you’re trying to work out whether Dynamic Stretching or Static Stretching is right for you, then you’ve landed on the right page.

In this article, we’re going to take a detailed look at both of these two forms of stretching, point out the main differences, and help you to make a decision about which one to adopt and when.

We’re also going to bring you tips and tricks from a range of selected experts about the main differences between Dynamic Stretching and Static Stretching.

So, with the introductions out of the way, let’s get cracking and start taking a closer look at Dynamic Stretching and Static Stretching.

What Is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Dynamic Stretching is a functionality focused form of stretching where there is some movement involved.

Unlike Static Stretching, where you simply hold positions for prolonged periods, Dynamic Stretching usually involves large movement to help stretch your muscles and help you warm up.

Dynamic Stretching does not involve holding the stretch at the endpoint. Instead, it incorporates a number of repetitions (usually around 10 to 15), and returning to the starting position every time.

Because of the movement involved, Dynamic Stretching is often performed before starting a workout. That’s because it can help to warm up your muscles, as well as stretching them.

Dynamic Stretching also helps to warm up your joints and ligaments, which is important before periods of exercise.

“Dynamic Stretching is positioning the body in a way that provides length to a specific muscle or muscle group while keeping the body in motion,” explains Michelle Pualani Houston, a Certified Applied Functional Science Coach.

“This could mean holding onto something or placing the foot in a particular location while continuing to reach the arms or drive the hips, for example.

“Dynamic stretching is recommended prior to your workout, which will begin warming up the muscles in a way that is conducive to the type of movement you have planned.

“By moving dynamically through a multidimensional stretch, you are creating more elasticity in the muscle, increasing its ability to absorb impact, and preparing for safely moving through your exercises.”

What Is Static Stretching?

Static stretching

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Static Stretching is probably the more common form of stretching and is the type you’re likely to already be familiar with.

Generally speaking, it’s considered to be more effective at improving flexibility than Dynamic Stretching.

With Static Stretching, you hold a position for a prolonged period of up to about a minute to help stretch your muscles and improve your flexibility.

This is then repeated around two to four times before targeting a different muscle group.

Unlike with Dynamic Stretching, Static Stretching is about holding stretches for prolonged periods and does not involve dynamic movements.

Because Static Stretching does not really warm your muscles up in the same way Dynamic Stretching does, so it is sometimes a popular choice for people after workouts or periods of exercise.

“Static Stretching includes any stretch that you hold in relative stillness while performing,” explains Michelle Pualani Houston.

“This is meant to give the muscle a chance to release in a given span of time, and maybe even allow you to progress deeper into a stretch.

“I find that more people are incorrectly stretching in static postures than dynamic, so they are not quite as user-friendly – especially as they give the illusion of doing something, while sometimes being useless.

“Static Stretching is oftentimes reserved for the close of workouts when your muscles are already warmed up or more limber.

“Finding yourself in stillness or a static stretch should typically last anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes in order for the muscle to release.

“Although Dynamic Stretching is also a beneficial way of cooling down at the end of workouts, if your goal is to enhance flexibility then Static Stretching may help to improve your results.”

Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching

So, which is the best one for you, Dynamic Stretching or Static Stretching?

There is no simple answer to this question. It really depends on what your goals are and what you are looking to achieve from your stretching.

For example, if you’re an athlete warming up before a session, Dynamic Stretching may be the most appropriate option for you, because you’ll stretch some key muscle groups while also warming yourself up at the same time.

You’ve probably seen professional athletes performing Dynamic Stretches together on the pitch before a big game. That’s because it can help to stretch muscles and also warm you up at the same time.

If your sole goal is to improve overall flexibility, then Static Stretching may be the most effective option for you. It is also less taxing on the body and requires less thoughtful coordination than Dynamic Stretching.

Static Stretching can also be turned into a good exercise for mindfulness, as it can encourage you to focus your attention to sensations within your body.

Dynamic Stretching or Static Stretching? What The Experts Say

Kat Cynewski, founder of Be Well Events: “To determine which one is better for you, it really depends on the person and the situation.

“Dynamic stretching is typically best done to warm up and progressively open up for the longer static stretches.

“In an effective vinyasa-style yoga class, for example, you would warm up the body with flowing warm-ups like cat/cows for the spine and sun salutations gradually adding in larger muscle groups and deeper stretches as the body begins to open.

“Then you would move into longer-hold standing postures, balancing postures and static stretched before ending.”

Allan Misner, NASM Certified Personal Trainer: “Most people need both.

“When working with a client, I’ll generally start with some dynamic stretches and once the client is ‘warmed up’, we’ll shift to static stretching (and perhaps some self-myofascial release) to work on any muscles that are impairing their movement on any of the planned exercises that day.”

Personal Trainer and Online Fitness Coach Max Lowery: “It depends on what your goals are.

“To simplify things, here is what works for me personally and what I incorporate with my clients.

“I do Dynamic Stretching (where there is some movement involved) before a workout.

“It’s good for loosening things off, increasing body temperature and warming up joints and ligaments, which is what you want before a workout.

“To be honest, I don’t do Static Stretching at the end of a workout because you’re not going to improve your flexibility when you’re fatigued.

“Static Stretching is better for improving flexibility – but you wouldn’t want to do it cold. You want to make sure that you warm up first, and then do some Static Stretching. So I would do Dynamic Stretching to get myself warm, and then do some Static Holds.”

Fiona Perkins, Registered Yoga Teacher and ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist: “Dynamic stretching is best when incorporated into warm up or cool down portions of your routine.

“The movement helps to increase blood flow in order to prepare the muscles for activity, or help to bring the heart rate down slowly after a bout of exercise.

“Static stretching is best for after your workout. Holding stretches allows greater amounts of nutrients and oxygen to flow into the muscle and start the healing process.

“It’s also great to do on rest days or active rest days. Contrary to what you might think, static stretching isn’t recommended before exercise, as it can increase your chance of injury, as well as decrease athletic performance by decreasing tensile load.”

Hasan Adkins, Nationally Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach: “Static Stretching is great right after workouts – it reduces soreness and improves flexibility.

“It brings your heart rate down, which is key for recovery and prepares you for your day. An example of this would be touching your toes and holding or pulling your arm across your chest.

“Dynamic Stretching is used differently. Dynamic Stretching is a more active stretch. This is great for everyday people who have tight muscles in their lower backs and shoulders.

“It elongates the muscles, picks up the heart rate, and allows your body to move safely in a functional pattern.”

“This is perfect before jogging, sprinting, and weight lifting. An example of this would be back slaps or toy soldiers.”

Jordan Duncan, Owner of Olympic Spine and Sports Rehabilitation:

“Static stretching is used to increase the length of soft tissues, for example muscles. This type of stretching is best used when there is a physical limitation of mobility, especially when it results in an unwanted compensation of adjacent tissues.

“An example would be physically short hamstring muscles. During forward bending if the hamstring muscles are physically short it may lead to increased accessory movement (compensation) of the tissues of the lower back.

“In this case, the goal of static stretching targeted at the hamstring muscles would be to increase their length and reduce compensatory lumbar spine movement. This type of stretching takes time and consistent effort.

“Research has shown that in order to increase soft tissue length it requires three to five minutes of static stretching, done four to six days per week, and it takes about eight to 10 weeks before you actually start to see soft tissues increase in length.

“The reason it takes so long is that you are actually increasing the number of sarcomeres, the smallest contractile unit of skeletal muscles.

“Dynamic stretching is used for a different purpose than static stretching. This type of activity is done to alter the feeling of tightness in a muscle without causing long lasting changes in the muscle’s length.

“With dynamic stretching you are affecting muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs. Muscle spindles are stretch receptors located in muscles that help detect changes of length in muscles. Golgi tendon organs are located in the junction between muscle and tendon and when stimulated they have an inhibitory effect on the muscle.

“Muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs help to determine length and tension changes inside our muscles. These changes, however, are short term. By affecting golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles through dynamic stretching you can actually feel looser without creating structural changes in the muscle.

“Examples of dynamic stretches include contract-relax exercises, where you contract a muscle, followed by a period of relaxation allowing for greater flexibility, and reciprocal inhibition, where you contract the antagonist muscle (e.g. the quadriceps), which allows the agonist (e.g. the hamstrings) to relax.

“These can be incorporated with different movements. Even shorter duration (e.g. 10-20 seconds) static stretching (with no movement) would have a similar neurological impact as dynamic stretching, as opposed to long term changes in muscle length.

“Dynamic stretches are best performed prior to activity (e.g. a run), as a ‘wake up’ for the nervous system.

“Static stretches, as described above for the purpose of increasing length, especially when there is a physical limitation of mobility, are best done after activity.”

Anything Else to Consider?

As you can probably already tell, there is no ‘correct’ answer to whether you should be practicing Dynamic Stretching or Static Stretching.

It all depends on what your goals are and how you are training.

As always, we strongly recommend discussing your options with a trained professional, such as a certified personal trainer, as they will be able to help you to make a better decision taking into account your situation as a whole.

Wrapping Things Up – Conclusion

That brings us to the end of our look at Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching.

We’ve walked you through the basic points about both of these forms of stretching, and when they may be more appropriate for use.

Dynamic Stretching may be best used before a workout or exercise, as it can serve as a good way to warm up your muscles, joints and ligaments, while at the same time improving flexibility.

Static Stretching is considered to be better at helping to improve flexibility than Dynamic Stretching, so it may be your best choice if that is your main goal. However, you should make sure that you are properly warmed up before Static Stretching to avoid injury.

We’ve also brought you some comment on the differences between Dynamic Stretching and Static Stretching from a range of selected experts.

Whichever form of stretching you decide to be best for you, we do advise speaking to a qualified personal trainer to get some tailored advice to help support your specific goals.

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